(Warning: this is long-winded. It's a slow work day.)
Using ERA is also flawed. It may capture some of the ability to limit HRs that is not taken fully into account by things like xFIP and SIERA, but at the cost of muddling it up with luck and variance that are mitigated with advanced metrics (BABIP, team defense, order-of-events things like LOB%, etc). Some of that order-of-events is deserved though, so guys like Greinke and Scherzer who are prone to having meltdowns might have that removed as variance. It's the nature of the beast... nothing is perfect. SIERA is also not park-dependant. Attemps to adjust for park factors resulted in effectively no changes versus using plain old SIERA, indicating that it's inherently adjusted for pitching environment. And unlike FIP/xFIP it doesn't simply use K/BB/HR, but rather K/BB and batted ball data. Which explains why it is a better ERA estimator than xFIP.
Cueto is definitely an interesting case though. Over the past 2 years he's significantly outperformed his SIERA. He, Lohse, and Vogelsong are in a class of their own in that respect (well over a run difference). Maybe they're the outer edges of normal distribution due to variance, or maybe there's a serious skill there that's not being measured. Almost certainly it's a mix of the two, but we don't know how much of each. If we go back to the previous 2 year span, Jair Jurrjens leads the league in SIERA-FIP with a mark that's pretty close to what Cueto has done in 2011-2012. Jurrjens has also had 2 recent seasons with a worse ERA than his SIERA, so how much of it was actually skill, and how much was luck/variance? I guess next year we'll see if Cueto is more like Matt Cain, or Jair Jurrjens.
Cueto's ability to hold runners is also a significant factor. He's only allowed one stolen base all season (and only one last season) and has an excellent pickoff move. This article is pretty interesting.
Overall I'd say it's still between Kershaw/Dickey/Cueto. I'd lean towards giving it to Dickey, but it'll come down to what happens in the last month.
The problem is that once you incorporate metrics like FIp and SIERA than you may end up down that slippery slope where another more comlicated mathematical formula gets applied and then an even more complicated formula and so on.
Plus you can never expect the media to go along with it. They have a hard enough time understanding why Win-Loss record isn't so important. Expecting them to look at ERA and then making a few common sense adjustments like incorporating ballpark factor is practical.
Strasburg wouldn't end up in my top 5 (largely because of the lower IP). I think I"d probably vote for Gio Gonzalez right now. Though I could easily see the argument for Kershaw or Dickey or maybe even Cueto (even though I think his is way too luck based).
Imagine a guy that is #2 overall in terms of both SIERA and xFIP, leading the league in IP per start, with a great ERA, and getting absolutely ZERO consideration for the award. Cliff Lee probably won't finish in the top 15. I dont' want to hear anybody say that the voters are smarter now and they don't just look at wins.
At this point it's still gotta be Dickey, though. Gio doesn't have enough innings and has been a bit lucky, Stras doesn't have enough ininings, Cueto's luck is normalizing and he's just not been as good as a few other guys, don't even get me started on Lohse, and relief pitchers do not deserve consideration no matter how good they are. Actually Aroldis probably would have been worthy if he was healthy all year and was used for multiple innings more often, like early April before they made him the closer. That also could have destroyed his arm even more though, which just shows that a reliever will likely never deserve the award. I don't know who will actually win it... I think Dickey also fits the bill due to the narrative he's got going for him as well as those all important wins and ERA, but I have no idea what the voters will do. I read a piece today casually talking about the AL MVP favourite being Miguel Cabrera, so the voters are still liable to amaze me.
Lee's numbers are good, he's got a very impressive 10.75 K/BB ratio in the second half. His numbers are very similar to Bumgarner's overall, aside from the huge win differential. Not really enough for me to vault him into my top 10, especially when his inning total is a bit low from the time he missed. Wins do carry SOME weight, you can't dismiss them altogether.
Also the race is really really close, Lee may be like 16th on my list or so but I can see him being in the top 10 very easily. It's really crowded at the top this year.
I can certainly dismiss pitcher wins entirely. It doesn't matter to me if the Phillies can't score runs, or the bullpen can't hold a lead, or whatever else. The factors that contribute to wins are the important thing to look at, such as going deep into games and not allowing many runs, the two things which Cliff Lee has done about as good as anybody in baseball this season. But yeah, it's crowded near the top and he did have a DL stint which hurts him. Even with missing a couple weeks he still has thrown more innigns than Gio Gonzalez though. I just think it's funny that he gets zero consideration when there's this false sense going around that voters are no longer looking at pitcher wins. It's like an alcoholic that says he's sober because he only drinks once in a while. It needs to stop cold turkey!
I can get behind the reasoning of dismissing wins. But the reason I feel they do carry some weight is because a pitcher on a non playoff team would have to have overwhelmingly good other numbers to be considered. Pitchers on playoff team are usually favored just like hitters are, and pitchers with low win totals are generally not on playoff teams. If Lee's numbers stood out more he'd have a shot. Maybe he goes on some absurd scoreless streak and gets some consideration. He may not be in the spotlight but he isn't completely forgotten I don't think.
Something interesting to ponder: These are the combined numbers of two players this season. Anyone care to guess who they are?
I personally don't see how Dickey doesn't get this now. He's leading all of the other candidates in Innings, K's, ERA & WHIP. Some of those categories by a decent margin. There have been several winners in recent years that have not been on playoff teams. I don't think that the writers are going to put nearly as much emphasis on playoffs for Cy Young as they do with MVP.
I think that a debate could be made too for Kimbrel or Chapman. I'm not really overwhelmed with the performances from any one particular NL starter. Not to the point where I get to the final body of work and be like, "Wow. That guy owned everyone this season". While I don't really agree with closers winning the award ... we had two guys absolutely dominate the league this season in the 9th inning and did some special things. Both are on playoff teams as well. My vote wouldn't go to either guy, but a very valid argument could be made.