As always, my comments are up front and Charles' responses are in italics.
Wins: Forget 20, is there a 17 game winner in the National League? Not last year. But I’m gonna shock some people by saying that there is not one, but three this year and they won a combined 31 games in 2006. I think 2007 will be a year to remember for Cole Hamels with a good Phillies team, Jason Schmidt in the friendlier confines of Chavez Ravine, and Chris Young, who is starting to look like a young right-handed Randy Johnson. Due to quality of team alone, I’m going to give the nod to Hamels – this kid has serious stuff and his Phillies team might have enough to finally get into the playoffs. 18 wins for Cole Hamels.
That's what I like about you Cory -- bold, optimistic, and stupid. Hamels is a bit away from that win total -- he's got the stuff, but not yet the guile or the stamina. The next batch of candidates all suffer from questionable bullpens, but I'll go with Roy Oswalt to win 19.
Don’t sell Hamels short – he was as good as they came for stretches last year and the Phils will win a dozen more games than Houston.
ERA: Roy Oswalt was pretty special last year and I just wonder if he doesn’t have that unique ability to keep down the ERA even when giving up a hit an inning. I mean an ERA under 3.01 in five of the last six seasons is more than a trend and 29 years old is still the meat of a pitching career. I think Jason Schmidt will push him and Carpenter and Webb will be right there, but I give it to Roy Oswalt at 2.99.
Your toughest challenge on the pitching side -- great number and great choice. I don't really see Schmidt being in the mix, but I like Carpenter and Webb to push the category. Jake Peavy, too. Of the four, I think I like Webb the best. The number is a coin flip -- lets go under, with 2.93.
Strikeouts: Four guys were over 200 last year, but no one struck out more than Aaron Harang(!) at 216. Some of the pure strikeout guys in the NL, like Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are past their prime, and some others, like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior scare the heck out of Twins’ fans hoping for the eventual best from Francisco Liriano. I think this year’s battle will come down to two guys not afraid to throw ball four in order to get a batter to whiff. The first, Jake Peavy, will get 200, but I take the other to improve his strikeout rate (which is amazing) for the seventh year running. 214 for Carlos Zambrano takes the title.
Not picking a repeat for Harang? Me neither. This is one of the most wide-open categories (well, wins is too). No one poised to dominate like Santana in the AL. I actually would pick Hamels if I thought he'd get the innings, but I don't. I like the over on this one -- 222, in fact -- and let's take a stab at a heathier Jake Peavy to reclaim his 2005 crown.
Saves: As much as my neighbors out here in America’s Finest City want me to endorse Trevor once again in this spot, I am a firm believer that the saves title – at least in terms of predictive value – goes to the #1 on the best team. To me that means Billy Wagner and Flash Gordon. The Mets will probably play fewer close games because, despite Ryan Howard, the Phils are a little bit more station to station. That formula has gained Joe Nathan a wealth of save opportunities and this year it will do the same for the Phillies’ closer. Therefore, I’ll set the number at 42 and give it to Tom “Flash” Gordon.
Flash really is a stud --wait, this is 1998, right? Seriously, even if he comes out dominant again (questionable), at 39 I don't see him being the kind of every-day closer who can break 40. Someone will get 43, and that someone will be little Billy Wagner.
Charles lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland and works underneath a photo of the greatest pitcher in "Twins" history, Walter Johnson.
Cory lives in San Diego and carries a wallet-size photo of Johan Santana in his wallet.