Webb leads NL Cy Young contenders

Webb leads NL Cy Young contenders

September will definitely settle a few tightly contested playoff races. Whether it will clear up the National League Cy Young Award picture, that remains to be seen.

The current view of the field reveals one crowded with compelling candidates. Like Arizona's Brandon Webb, the league leader with 19 wins and already a very strong candidate with three more victories than he had in 2006 when he won the award.

2008 AWARDS
CANDIDATES
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• Cy Young: AL | NL |
• Manager: AL | NL |
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Chicago's Ryan Dempster, Cincinnati Edinson Volquez and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum figure to garner support.

Others, like Philadelphia's Brad Lidge and Milwaukee's CC Sabathia, should get consideration, though both have significant obstacles to overcome.

So does Philadelphia's Cole Hamels. Hamels' 12-9 record isn't as gaudy as some of the other candidates, but with nine no-decisions, a 3.12 ERA and ranking in the top five in no fewer than 10 statistical categories, the lefty is hard to ignore. A strong September could vault Hamels, or any of the hopefuls, in the pecking order.

Here's a look of the candidates for the 2008 NL Cy Young Award, listed alphabetically.

THE FAVORITES

Ryan Dempster, Cubs: The veteran right-hander ranks among the top five in the league in wins and ERA (15-6, 2.99) and leads the league in opponents' batting average (.221). Any way you care to measure his performance, Dempster has been award worthy, and crucial to the Cubs' rise to the top of the NL Central Division. And with Carlos Zambrano's recent setbacks, there is no doubt Dempster is clearly the No. 1 Cy Young candidate on the Cubbies.

Tim Lincecum, Giants: He's 16-3 with an NL-best 2.54 ERA and a Major League-leading 225 strikeouts, numbers that put him in striking distance for pitching's Triple Crown. Opponents are batting .223 against Lincecum, the second-best figure in the league behind Dempster (.221). Nit-pickers point to Lincecum's lack of complete games, but this guy's numbers alone for a sub-.500 team should keep him in serious contention.

Edinson Volquez, Reds: They gave up Josh Hamilton to get Volquez, and the Reds would do it again in a heartbeat. The youngster is currently tied with Colorado's Aaron Cook and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum with the second-most wins in the league (16). Volquez is second in winning percentage and is eighth in ERA (3.23) and third in strikeouts (184). His numbers are certainly Cy worthy, especially considering the Reds' season. But will enough voters be convinced?

Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks: Despite a recent slump, Webb is 19-7 with a 3.41 ERA. He leads the NL in wins and is among the top 10 in WHIP (ninth), ERA (ninth), innings (fourth), strikeouts (eighth) and winning percentage (third). Arguably a hands-down favorite for the award a month ago, Webb has lost his last three attempts to get that elusive 20th win and could slip in the voters' eyes unless he turns it around soon.

THE DARK HORSES

Brad Lidge, Phillies: Closers historically have had a very difficult -- though not impossible -- task in winning over Cy Young Award voters. The few who have managed to win the hardware did so with not just career years, they did it with the kind of record-setting seasons that were simply too outstanding to ignore, like Eric Gagne's 55-save season for the Dodgers in 2003. Lidge, 2-0 with a 2.11 ERA, is 35-for-35 in save opportunities, and if he remains perfect for the contending Phillies, the right-hander's Cy Young campaign could gain momentum.

CC Sabathia, Brewers: Speaking of perfection, Sabathia is 9-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 12 starts since the Brewers acquired him in July from Cleveland. Without Sabathia, the Brewers probably wouldn't be enjoying their three-game lead in the Wild Card standings. And yet it is hard to envision Sabathia winning the award on less than three months work, however spectacular the performance. But it's certainly possible, especially if some of the other candidates stumble in September.

HONORABLE MENTION

Aaron Cook, Rockies; Chad Billingsley, Dodgers; Cole Hamels, Phillies; Dan Haren, Diamondbacks; Ricky Nolasco, Marlins; Roy Oswalt, Astros; Johan Santana, Mets; Ben Sheets, Brewers; Carlos Zambrano, Cubs.

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