Ed: Please welcome Chase Howell to the Redleg Nation family. Chase will be posting occasionally here over the next few months (and maybe more), and we’re glad to have him.

With Johnny Cueto taking the mound tonight against the Brewers, it’s only fitting that we take a look at the NL Cy Young race and the major threats around the league challenging the Reds ace for the title.

Cueto leads the NL in wins-above replacement (ESPN) with a WAR of 4.6. The closest to Cueto is Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman (4.0) and New York’s R.A. Dickey (3.5). Stephen Strasburg posts a WAR of just 2.7, but multiple other factors bring Strasburg into the conversation.

From an ERA standpoint, Cueto ranks third among NL starters with a 2.52 ERA. Jordan Zimmerman has posted a 2.45 mark, and Dickey an impressive 2.82, 5th best in the NL. Pittsburgh’s A.J. Burnett is also worth discussing, as he has posted a 3.19 ERA, but more importantly, he’s tied with Cueto and Dickey for most wins at 14. Dickey and Burnett each have only three losses, compared to Cueto’s five.

Less impressive in the strikeout category, Cueto ranks 23rd in the NL with 115 on the season. Strasburg leads the league with 160, while Dickey is close behind at 156.

Only Dickey has thrown three complete games this year, while Cueto is one of seven pitchers to throw a pair of complete games. (Mat Latos also has two complete games.)

Diving into sabermetrics, Cueto leads the NL in ERC% at 1.29. In DIPS, Strasburg has thus far posted a NL second best 2.76, Dickey ranked fourth at 2.97, and Cueto eigth at 3.15. In DIP%, however, Jordan Zimmerman ranks second at 1.42, with Cueto currently in fourth at 1.25. Finally, in K/9, Stephen Strasburg leads the NL at 11.31. Dickey has racked up K/9 of 9.16 with his famous knuckleball, while Cueto is ranked 34th in the NL at 7.06.

At this point in the season, it seems that the top two candidates are Cueto and Dickey. (Strasburg would likely round out the top three, but if he is being limited on innings, it may be tough to continue to post high numbers.) The good news for Cueto is that Dickey, who has recorded two one-hitters this year, seems to have hit a slight bump in the road. Dickey has recorded two of his three losses over his last three games. Cueto, on the other hand, has won his last five starts, and eight of his last ten appearances.

The national hype this year has obviously surrounded the 37-year-old Dickey, with Cueto getting an All-Star snub. It will be a very close race as we near the postseason, but another will likely be in the back of everyone’s mind: Cueto is the ace of the team with the best record in the MLB, while the Mets are 13 games back of the Nationals in the NL East and three games below .500. The Cy Young is in fact an individual award, but let’s not pretend that such circumstances will go unnoticed.