Sizing up the 2013 Cy Young candidates

Big League Stew

Next on baseball's postseason award carousel is the Cy Young, given to the top pitchers in each league by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Of all the major awards handed out this week, this might have the least drama. In the National League, Clayton Kershaw is basically a sure-thing for his second Cy Young award. There are two other finalists who were announced last week — Adam Wainwright and Rookie of the Year winner Jose Fernandez — but they're fighting for second place.

In the American League, Max Scherzer is the favorite too. His candidacy comes with some detractors, though. Fellow finalists Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma were better than Scherzer in certain ways.

We'll explore those things and more below, as we take a closer look at the three finalists in each league. The winners will be officially announced Wednesday in an MLB Network special that begins at 6 p.m. ET.

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Yu Darvish — SP, Texas Rangers
In brief: Darvish, in this second MLB season, was simply dominating at times. When he was on, he was nearly unhittable. That wasn't all the time, but his highs were the highest of any pitcher in the AL. He had a no-hitter bid broken up in the eighth inning, and a perfect game broken up with two outs in the ninth.

Key stats: 13-9, 2.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 209.2 innings pitched, 277-t0-80 K/BB, 26 HRs allowed, 5.8 WAR, 145 ERA+

Case for: He led all of baseball in strikeouts. His ERA+ is just as good as favorite Max Scherzer's. Don't let the win-loss record fool you, Darvish didn't get great run support this season. Led baseball in K/9.

Case against: Had four starts in September in which he didn't reach the seventh inning, which illustrates the ebb and flow of Darvish. He has the lowest WAR of the three finalists, and allowed the most homers and walks.

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Hisashi Iwakuma — SP, Seattle Mariners
In brief: Felix Hernandez was surpassed in Seattle this season by second-year Japanese import Iwakuma, who didn't get the Darvish-like hype, but was just as stellar.

Key stats: 14-6, 2.66 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 219.2 innings pitched, 185-t0-42 K/BB, 25 HRs allowed, 7.0 WAR, 138 ERA+

Case for: MLB Network's Brian Kenny has been leading the Iwakuma-for-Cy Young charge, and his chief talking point is that Iwakuma led the AL in RA9-WAR, a relatively new stat that calculates runs allowed per nine innings in a WAR-type value. So, given that, Iwakuma, gave up he fewest runs per nine innings of any AL pitcher. He also has the lowest ERA of the three finalists.

Case against: Iwakuma didn't pitch in as many meaningful games as his postseason-contending Cy Young opponents. Gave up more homers than Scherzer.

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Max Scherzer — SP, Detroit Tigers
In brief: Scherzer had a career year, jumping from the Tigers' No. 2 starter to the winningest pitcher in baseball this season.

Key stats: 21-3, 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 214.1 innings pitched, 240-t0-56 K/BB, 18 HRs allowed, 6.7 WAR, 145 ERA+

Case for: He led MLB in wins, was second in strikeouts and had the fifth-lowest ERA in the American League, all while playing for a division winner. His K/9 was second to only Darvish.

Case against: Wins aren't the success-marker that they used to be. His ERA is higher than the other two finalists.

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Jose Fernandez — SP, Miami Marlins
In brief: Already the rookie of the year, Jose Fernandez surprised everyone with a spectacular season on a terrible team. And he was only 20 when the season began.

Key stats: 12-6, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 172.2 innings pitched, 187-t0-58 K/BB, 10 HRs allowed, 6.3 WAR, 176 ERA+

Case for: His numbers were near Kershaw-like in a few places, without nearly as good of a team behind him. For a kid who turned 21 midway through the season, that's something.

Case against: "Near Kershaw-like" doesn't get it done it when Kershaw is his competition.

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Clayton Kershaw — SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
In brief: Kershaw delivered a truly dominant season, better in many ways than his 2011 Cy Young campaign.

Key stats: 16-9, 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 236 innings pitched, 232-t0-52 K/BB, 11 HRs allowed, 7.9 WAR, 194 ERA+

Case for: Lead all pitchers in ERA, ERA+, WHIP and WAR. Talk about acronym overload. Translation: He was really, really, really good. He gave up 164 hits in 236 innings, which is almost as unfair as pitching that many innings with a 1.83 ERA. If he doesn't win, this thing is rigged.

Case against: Adam Wainwright pitched 5.2 more innings. Two NL pitchers, Wainwright and Jordan Zimmermann had more wins (if that's your thing). Not very strong cases, folks.

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Adam Wainwright — SP, St. Louis Cardinals
In brief: Rebounded from an average 2012 (after Tommy John surgery in 2011) and led a staff of young Cardinals pitchers to a World Series season.

Key stats: 19-9, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 241.2 innings pitched, 219-t0-35 K/BB, 15 HRs allowed, 6.2 WAR, 123 ERA+

Case for: Led the NL in innings pitched and tied for the lead in wins. Had the archetype season for an ace of a division-winning staff — nearly 20 wins, sub-3.00 ERA, high innings. Had the highest K/BB ratio of any Cy Young finalist.

Case against: Kershaw had a better ERA by more than a run.

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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