2011 NL Walter Johnson Award
It is that time, once again, to start taking a look at each of the major year end awards. As I did last year, I will be submitting a ballot here on the blog for each of the awards selected by the BBWAA. However, as a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, we use a different selection of names for our awards – our own tribute to some of the game’s greats and because the BBWAA has actually asked us to do so (to avoid confusion, I presume). Over the past two seasons the BBA and BBWAA have chosen the same recipient for nearly every award.
We’ve already taken a look at the Connie Mack Award (given to the league’s top manager), the Willie Mays Award (top rookie), and the Goose Gossage Award (top reliever). Now we’ll turn our attention to the top starting pitchers. The 2011 National League Walter Johnson Award goes to …..
With numerous superior performances seen on the mound in 2011, there is no easy place to begin when trying to determine who the top starting pitcher in the NL was this past season.
A pair of players were able to win 20+ games this season – Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw and Arizona’s Ian Kennedy. Kershaw’s overall line was impressive: 21-5 record, 2.28 ERA, and 248 Ks in 233.2 innings of work. Kennedy’s was nearly as good: 21-4, 2.88 ERA, and 198 Ks in 222.0 innings.
In all there were eight players with ERAs below 3.00 – in addition to Kershaw and Kennedy this list includes Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay (2.35), Cliff Lee (2.40), and Cole Hamels (2.79), and San Francisco’s Ryan Vogelsong (2.71), Tim Lincecum (2.74), and Matt Cain (2.88). Yes, you read that right – three Phillies and three Giants each made this list.
There were also seven players who were able to break the 200 strikeout plateau. They include Kershaw, Lee (238), Halladay (220), Lincecum (220), Florida’s Anibal Sanchez (202), and Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo (207) and Zack Greinke (201).
You’ve likely seen a trend here, as Kershaw not only appears among each of these three lists, but sits atop all three of them. Kershaw, winner of the pitching Triple Crown this year in the NL, is the easy choice for the 2011 Walter Johnson Award. His standout season should see him rewarded with this year’s Cy Young Award, a major factor in negotiations as he approaches arbitration for the first time in his young career. The Dodgers, despite their dreadful ownership and financial situation, would be wise to attempt to lock him up in a long term contract.
|2011 NL Walter Johnson Award|
Beyond Kershaw is where things get a little more cloudy as we still need to determine who comes next among the top pitchers this past season. For me, Halladay and Lee would have to come next due to their combination of low ERA, high strikeout totals, and their respective wins totals. While Kennedy had a superb season, his peripheral statistics don’t match up to the Phillies’ pair, despite the fact that he tied Kershaw for the league lead in wins.