With the MLB regular season coming to a close, the hottest debate isn’t over pennants. It’s over who will be the National League Cy Young Award. The race is close, with only one start remaining for each of the candidates trying to prove their point on why they should be this year’s winner.

The frontrunners are Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers, his teammate Clayton Kershaw, and Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs. Lost in the discussion is Gerrit Cole of the Pittsburgh Pirates. All four of these pitchers make a statement every time their feet touch the rubber.

Arrieta is the clear favorite. He’s been virtually unhittable since the All-Star break, posting an unbelievable 0.80 ERA with an 11-1 record in 14 starts. For the year, he has a record of 21-6 with a 1.82 ERA, and 229 strikeouts in 223 innings. On the road, he’s 12-1 in 17 starts. That single road loss came against the Cardinals, the best team in baseball.

Arrieta dominates the sport’s best hitters. In 266 at bats, the opposition’s third, fourth, and fifth batters are hitting only .200 against him. When considering all batters he’s faced, the batting average against drops to an anemic .187. This is Arrieta’s crown to lose.

Meanwhile, on the Dodgers, both Greinke and Kershaw are making their own case as to why they should win the prestigious pitching award.

Greinke has been solid all season with an impressive record of 18-3 and an ERA of only 1.68. His highest ERA by month was in August, where he posted a 2.45 ERA and a 4-1 record. He has held opposing hitters to a .161 average with runners in scoring position. And while he’s struck out and impressive 192 batters in 214.2 innings, the other contenders, amazingly, have him beat. In all, Greinke is running a close second to Arrieta.

Kershaw is contending for his fourth Cy Young in five years and third in a row. He dominated the Giants in his last outing, pitching a complete game one-hitter, and striking out 13. That game also clinched the division for the Dodgers.

Kershaw’s season began 6-6 with a 2.85 ERA. While good, these were not great numbers for the man many consider the world’s best pitcher. After the All-Star break, he got on track. In July, Kershaw was 4-0, surrendering only one earned run in 33 innings. He is 6-0 in his last ten starts, and has 294 strikeouts in 229 innings. He could be the first pitcher with 300 strikeouts in a season since teammates Curt Schilling (316) and Randy Johnson (334) back in 2002. As the reigning MVP and Cy Young winner, Kershaw can’t be counted out.

The dark horse in this year’s race is Cole. The Pirates expected him to become an ace when they drafted him with the first overall pick in 2011. With a good fastball and a late-breaking slider, Cole could be the type of ace who can win the Cy Young Award; possibly this year, but certainly in years to come.

Cole sits at 19-­8 for the season with 200 strikeouts and a 2.60 ERA. Without him, the Pirates would not have their playoff berth. After starter A.J. Burnett was injured, Cole carried the pitching staff, leading the Pirates into the postseason as their most valuable player. Post All-Star break, Cole has gone 5-­5 with a 3.01 ERA, which, while impressive, is not like his competitors. This may not be Cole’s year, but as a budding star on a successful Pirates team, his time will come.

The debate continues, and will come down to the last few games of the season.  We get to enjoy watching to see who can live up to the pressure.

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