NL West dominates Cy Young hopefuls

NL West dominates Cy hopefuls

Last year, Trevor Hoffman finished second in the National League Cy Young Award voting. This time, another San Diego right-hander may come in first.

Padres ace Jake Peavy, who led the National League in victories, strikeouts and ERA, has built an impressive case for what would be his first NL Cy Young Award and first by a Padre since Mark Davis in 1989. Hoffman finished behind Arizona's Brandon Webb last year.

Peavy's campaign vaulted into the national picture when he struck out 16 Diamondbacks in a game on April 25. He was selected to start the NL All-Star Game after going 9-2 during the first half of the season. The right-hander won seven in a row from July 27-Sept. 1 and had a 23-inning scoreless streak during that span.

Webb figures to be on the short list of candidates again, along with Brad Penny of the Dodgers, for the award.

Last year, three relievers finished in the top eight in the voting, including Hoffman, Billy Wagner of the Mets and Takashi Saito of the Dodgers. Saito had another impressive season this year, as the right-hander went 2-1 with a 1.40 ERA while converting 39 of 43 save opportunities in 63 games.

A reliever faces an uphill battle to win the Cy Young Award, as only five times in the last 40 years a non-starter has claimed the NL Cy Young. Most recently, Eric Gagne won as the Dodgers' closer in 2003. Other relievers who have won the NL Cy Young Award include Davis in 1989, Steve Bedrosian (Philadelphia, 1987), Bruce Sutter (Chicago, 1979) and Mike Marshall (Los Angeles, 1974).

The 32 voters on the NL Cy Young Award committee were required to file their ballots, listing the top three candidates in order, before the playoffs begin.

Here's a rundown of the candidates for the 2007 NL Cy Young Award, which will be handed out on Nov. 15:

FAVORITES

Jake Peavy, San Diego Padres: The right-hander won the NL's pitching Triple Crown with 19 victories, a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts. Peavy was also among the league leaders in no fewer than nine statistical categories.

Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks: Trailed Peavy in most statistical categories, but not by an overwhelming margin. The defending Cy Young Award winner is the ace of the NL West champions and led the league in complete games, shutouts and innings pitched. Webb's five consecutive starts (42 innings) without allowing an earned run late in the season helped Arizona move to the top of the division.

Brad Penny, Los Angeles Dodgers: A key reason the Dodgers stayed in the race after losing Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf to injury, Penny's glittering record (16-4) and ERA (3.03) make him a serious candidate. In 17 of 33 starts, Penny yielded fewer than two earned runs.

DARK HORSES

Tim Hudson/John Smoltz, Atlanta: Both had outstanding years and put up similar numbers, but not totals that would put either ahead of the favorites.

Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs: Won 18 games for the NL Central champs, but the right-hander's ERA was significantly higher than Peavy's and Webb's. Zambrano also worked fewer innings, had fewer strikeouts and issued more walks than each of them.

HONORABLE MENTION

Jeff Francis, Colorado; Tom Glavine, New York; Tom Gorzelanny, Pittsburgh; Cole Hamels, Philadelphia; Aaron Harang, Cincinnati; Ted Lilly, Chicago; Roy Oswalt, Houston; Takashi Saito, Los Angeles.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.