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Now that I've devoured the MVP debates (albeit in June), it's on to the hurlers. The usual candidates aren't really in the discussion this year, expect for one guy (he's been...oh the best pitcher in baseball since 2003.) The NL appears to be a different story this year, with 2005 NL Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter hurt, Dontrelle Willis being mediocre, and other regulars such as 2006 Champ Brandon Webb and Roy Oswalt being good, but not spectacular. However, one old-timer is making a hell of a case for being the NL's best pitcher so far.

The NL race is really only between three guys (so far.) Padres right hander Jake Peavy, Dodgers right hander Brad Penny and (wait for it...wait for it...) D-Backs lefty Randy Johnson.

No joke.

Among all pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched (to remove relievers) who has the highest K/9?

A. Johan Santana
B. Jake Peavy
C. Felix Hernandez
D. Randy Johnson

If you chose "D", you'd be correct. Johnson appears to be thriving in the weaker NL (the AL's better, but the gap is closing) after not being nearly as dominant (he was good last year but very un-lucky) in the AL for two years.

Now, quickly...who leads the NL in VORP?

It's not Johnson (his weak innings pitched total reduces him to 12.3), it's Peavy. Who's second? Penny.

Who leads the NL in Park-Adjusted Runs Allowed? Peavy. Second? Penny.

Now, who do you think has the two lowest HR/9 rates in the NL? Peavy and Penny. (Both are incredibly low and will not stay at their current rates of .10 for Peavy and .20 for Penny.)

If Johnson had about 40 more innings pitched, he'd probably be the favorite. However, he just went on the DL with a back injury (after off-season back surgery! Good News!) and is probably un-reliable to hit 150 IP.

My money, at this point and time, is on Peavy. His K rate is very solid, his BABIP is reasonable, and although the homers are gonna come up, it'd put his ERA at around 3.25 or so, and that's pretty good.

Okay, now to the AL.

Tell me if you've heard this before, but Johan Santana is the AL's best pitcher. Better than Haren. Better than Sabathia. Bedard is closer than you'd think, but I still like Johan.

Here's why:

1. Phenomenal K rate. After his 9.25 K rate in 2005 and 9.44 last year, his K/9 has jumped up to 10.16 this year. However, his BB/9 and HR/9 are also up. Could be nothing, but maybe Santana is going for the K more than he used to. Also, his G/F (Ground out to fly out) ratio is down.

2. Fantastic RA. Among AL pitchers with at least 50 IP, Santana ranks 14th with a 3.48 mark. Now, that in of itself isn't too stellar. But, considering the high HR rate, both are likely to come down. It'll end up in a Santana-esque range.

3. H/9. Santana is 7th in the AL, allowing 7.45 hits per 9 innings. That's a good mark, right in line with his 2 previous marks.

Now, on to Bedard. He's possibly Leo Mazzone's only shining star during his Baltimore tenure so far. He's leading the AL in K/9 (10.72), has a very nice 2.97 BB/9 rate (which means he has about a 4 K to BB ratio...tasty.) A solid H/9 rate of 8.33 and a homer an inning HR/9 rate rounds out the rate stats.

Now, why am I dismissing Dan Haren and John Lackey? Haren and Lackey are 1-2 in VORP, but Haren sports a .215 BABIP and Lackey's 6.90 K/9 rate makes their RAs (2.25 and 3.01) unreliable, and likely to go up. However, if someone did give the nod to Haren or Lackey, it wouldn't be grand theft.