While there were several superlative pitching performances in the National League -- there were five starters who had an ERA under 3.00 with at least 211 innings pitched, per Paul Hagan of MLB.com -- over the course of the 2012 season, the NL Cy Young race ultimately comes down to one question: Do you believe in the knuckleball?
If so, then the choice is simple. If not, then there are two other deserving pitchers to choose from.
Before naming the winner of the 2012 honor, the Baseball Writers Association of America named Clayton Kershaw, R.A. Dickey and Gio Gonzalez as the finalists.
The reigning winner, Kershaw didn't rack up as many wins as his fellow finalists but he he had lowest ERA and WHIP in the league. Kershaw also led National League pitchers in Wins Above Replacement.
Gonzalez led the NL in wins with 21, helping the Nationals finish with the best record in baseball. But just ask Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke (along with the sabermetrics fanatics) about wins and the Cy Young.
Dickey on the other hand, was just one win behind Gio finishing at 20-6 while also recording 230 strikeouts (most in the NL). His knuckleball was simply not hittable at times and allowed him to pitch the most innings (233.2) and most complete games (5) in the NL. He even tossed back-to-back complete game one-hitters in the middle of his 44 2/3 inning-streak of not allowing an earned run (second longest in Mets history).
Was Kershaw good enough to repeat? Will Gonzalez give the Nationals the trifecta along with Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper and Manager of the Year Davey Johnson? Or should Dickey become the first knuckleball pitcher to bring home the award?
Despite arriving in Kansas City for the 2012 All-Star Game with the gaudiest pitching stats in the game, National League skipper Tony La Russa opted not to give Dickey the start. He went with Matt Cain, a more traditional ace. La Russa did not believe in the knuckler. Should Cy Young voters?