Sarah's Take: NL Cy Young Award up for grabs

Sarah's Take: NL Cy Young Award up for grabs

Sarah's Take: NL Cy Young Award up for grabs
Many Dodgers fans are wondering whether Clayton Kershaw can repeat as the National League Cy Young Award winner. Many baseball people call this the "year of the pitcher," so the NL has a deep field of great starters, and many of them have had better performances than Kershaw.

Prior to last season, Kershaw developed a devastating slider that retired many hitters. But this season, he has sometimes overused the slider. Overusing the slider allows the opposing hitters to guess what is coming, especially in certain situations. This has made Kershaw less effective than he was in 2011.

This season, Kershaw has not had the same masterful control he had last season. Although he still has the third-most strikeouts in the NL, he hasn't struck out many batters in some games that he has pitched.

He also has often thrown too many pitches to go beyond the seventh inning. Despite the Dodgers having a more productive offense, they haven't supported Kershaw's efforts as well as they did last year.

At 24, Kershaw still is learning how to be an elite Major League starter. Most Cy Young Award winners have trouble repeating their tremendous feat. Barring injury, Kershaw should have many Cy Young Awards in his future, especially if he learns how to vary his pitch selection more.

Many baseball fans want to know who will win the NL Cy Young Award now. With six weeks remaining in the regular season, no one knows, but many pitchers have had career performances. Seeing which pitcher will end the season strongly adds to the excitement of the division races.

Nowadays, not many pitchers throw a knuckleball. Mastering that tricky pitch and being able to control it is difficult. Since the knuckleball is easy on the pitcher's arm, many teams like to have a knuckleball pitcher on their pitching staff, but almost no pitcher can control it. Mets starter R.A. Dickey, 37, is the only knuckleball pitcher in the Majors.

Dickey pitched eight years in the Majors before gaining prominence. Unlike most knuckleballers, he throws the unusual pitch harder, making it easier to control. He also has other effective pitches to keep the hitters off balance.

Since he is the only knuckleball pitcher in the league, opposing hitters don't have experience facing others, so they are lost when they see Dickey.

Dickey is tied for the most wins in the NL this year with 15. His ERA is the third-lowest. He has pitched one-hitters with at least 12 strikeouts twice this year, joining only Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan to accomplish this amazing feat. His four complete games and two shutouts are tied for first in the league. He has allowed the third-lowest batting average.

If he continues his domination of the NL, he should earn the Cy Young Award, shocking almost everyone because he would be the first knuckleballer to get the honor.

When manager Tony La Russa decided not to choose Reds starter Johnny Cueto for the NL squad in the 2012 All-Star Game, most people didn't comprehend how terrible his decision was. Dusty Baker, the Reds' manager, thought it was a personal snub because Cueto had a major part in a brawl with La Russa's St. Louis Cardinals the previous year.

Many players who experience an All-Star snub slump for a month after the Midsummer Classic. Cueto hasn't done that, proving that La Russa should have selected him. Since he plays for Cincinnati, he doesn't receive the national media attention that he deserves.

He is tied for the lead in wins and has the second-lowest ERA in the league. Although pitching over half of his games in homer-friendly stadiums, Cueto has allowed only eight home runs this season. If he continues pitching the way he has and can lead his team to the NL Central title, he needs to be considered for the Cy Young Award.

Although the media thinks Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg has the best quality of pitches in the league, he shouldn't be considered for the Cy Young Award.

Earlier in the season, the Nats talked about shutting him down for the month of September to protect his valuable pitching arm. Even though he leads the league in strikeouts, and his blazing fastball and huge rainbow curveball make people go, "Wow," he has the fifth most wins and seventh lowest ERA in the league. His teammate, Jordan Zimmermann, whose ERA is the lowest in the league, deserves the Cy Young Award more than Strasburg, but Zimmermann has only nine victories.

When I began writing this article, I thought the Giants' Matt Cain deserved the Cy Young Award. After all, he pitched a perfect game. Every time I had watched him this year, he has been in complete control of the game. His pitches looked sharp and almost unhittable.

However, his statistics are ordinary. Though the Giants don't offer him adequate offensive support, none of his independent pitching statistics rank in the top-five in the NL. Pitching in a stadium that favors pitchers should enable Cain to dominate more than he has.

While baseball fans root for their favorite teams to reach the playoffs, the race for the National League Cy Young Award adds more mystery to this exciting time in the national pastime.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.