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Chicago Cubs: Kyle Hendricks throwing his name in the Cy Young race?

Jun 24, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) throws during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) throws during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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We’re halfway through the major league season and the Chicago Cubs remain in first place with an 11.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. While the Cubbies claw their way to their first division title since 2008, who will win individual awards?

Remember how great it felt when it was announced that Jake Arrieta was named the 2015 National League Cy Young award winner? After all that hard work, from being sub-par with the Baltimore Orioles only to be acquired by the Chicago Cubs year later.

To throwing your first career no-hitter in Los Angeles with legendary radio voice Vin Scully doing play-by-by for the home team. Surely, it couldn’t get any better for Arrieta who dominated last season with a 22-6 record, 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and his marvelous 236/48 K/BB ratio.

But this year has been somewhat bittersweet for the veteran right-hander despite hurling his second career no-no against the Cincinnati Reds during the early part of the new year.

Still, Jake has the opportunity to win back-to-back Cy Young awards but it’s not going to be easy to accomplish that goal. In fact, multiple arms on this Chicago Cubs pitching staff have a shot at receiving votes and possibly coming out on top as the best pitcher in the National League.

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Arrieta, aside from his previous struggles this season, holds a 2.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 13-5 record, 143/50 K/BB ratio and has even swatted a couple of home runs. So hasn’t Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. A man who has a great chance at making sure no one from the North Side of Chicago adds ‘Cy Young’ to their resume.

And while Jon Lester (12-4, 2.93 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 133/38) emerges as a solid competitor in that category, you have to think or at least assume Kyle Hendricks could get more votes than Lester and Arrieta. He is having himself one hell of a breakout season.

In 21 starts (22 appearances) for the 69-41 Chicago Cubs, Hendricks holds the lowest earned run average of 2.17 among active pitchers in all of professional baseball. The only man ahead of him is on the disabled list for another month, that being Los Angeles Dodgers ace, Clayton Kershaw.

After ending his rookie campaign with an impressive 2.46 ERA back in 2014, things went a little haywire for the man dubbed as ‘The Professor’ in his first full year. Opposing teams hammered him for 79 earned runs on 166 hits in 180 innings of work.

Things are a lot different for the 26-year-old in 2016. On August 2nd, Kyle spoke to The Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score and said, “I think the biggest key has been using my curveball and my 4-seam fastball a lot more. I’ve been pitching inside well with my 4-seam. I’ve been showing my curveball in good counts, showing it enough to get it in hitter’s minds. So that they’re not sitting on my 2-seam change up so much. Those are going to be my go-to pitches when I need them. I’ve learned, and I’ve developed, and I’ve been able to use those other pitches a lot better.”

Although he is tied for 50th in the league when it comes to strikeouts, Hendricks’ 32 earned runs are the second lowest among the top 10 pitchers who hold the best earned run average in both the American and National League.

Again, the man with the lowest is none other than Kershaw. So he’s beating out Arrieta, Jacob deGromNoah Syndergaard, Johnny Cueto, Julio Teheran, and Aaron Sanchez in that department.

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Yes, only one American League pitcher is in the top 10 when it comes to ERA. Not to mention, he was named the co-National League Player of the Week alongside the new Mr. 3000, Ichiro Suzuki according to MLB.com.

Pretty decent considering the fact that he has allowed only one earned run in his previous two starts. For Hendricks, he still has time to improve his stats before regular season award winners are announced. If he does, in fact, surpass the names listed above (including Kershaw), the Chicago Cubs will be the first team since the 2007-2008 Cleveland Indians to have two different pitchers (C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee) win Cy Young awards in back-to-back seasons.

And if we’re going to have someone argue that he needs to have at least over 230 strikeouts and or 20 wins to lock up this category, it’s not always the case. Back in 2006, Brandon Webb finished the year 16-8 and recorded 178 strikeouts to win his first and only Cy Young.

Kyle’s next start will be against the St. Louis Cardinals this Saturday.

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