The fight for NL MVP may come down to pitchers and not position players if Matt Cain and R.A. Dickey have any say in the matter ... and they will.
Before the season started, we examined the various Cy Young odds being offered by sportsbooks. It's not that you were desperate to throw your mortgage down on the award, but it offers a perspective of who's favored to win before the season begins.
At the time, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner were all listed with their own odds; now, it's Matt Cain on a short list of possible NL Cy Young candidates.
Dickey's odds are 3/2 (which equates to 1.5/1, math majors) while Cain checks in at 8/5 (which checks in at 1.6).
The success of the Mets knuckleballer has been unreal: he's 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA, three complete games and two shutouts (and zero wild pitches, too). All of those statistics lead MLB, as does his 0.889 WHIP. The craziest stat is that Dickey, again a knuckleballer, has 103 strikeouts in 99 innings, good for a 9.4 K/9 ratio. And just for good measure, he's sporting a ridic 4.90 K/BB ratio.
Cain, on the other hand, is 9-2 with a 2.34 ERA, two shutouts (tied with Dickey), 100 innings pitched (leading the NL) and 100 strikeouts. He's got a 5.00 K/BB ratio, easily the highest of his career, and, as you might guess, a 9.0 K/9 ratio (that's what happens when you have 100 strikeouts in 100 innings).
But he's also got a perfect game on his resume: as ridiculous as Dickey throwing back-to-back one-hitters is, Cain's perfect game is above it in terms of things people will remember about 2012. That doesn't matter statistically, but it does matter when you consider who votes on these things.
Anyway, Dickey's the favorite and will win the award if the season simply extrapolates out. But Cain seems less likely to hit a big regression; he and Dickey are within .001 of each other when it comes to batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Dickey's career average is much higher.
Cain's also giving up home runs on a normal career rate (.72 per nine as opposed to .74 per nine over his career). Dickey is lower than his career total but right on his number with the Mets from 2011.
Neither pitcher has an abnormal strand rate.
If I was a betting man, I'd take Cain over Dickey. The Mets new ace has been ridiculous, but it's taken some unholy pitching to get people really talking about him. If he falters at all, Cain's got the Cy Young there for the taking with another steady second-half performance up to his standards.