By Brian T. Chan, Sports Editor; Chris DeMarco, Staff Writer

From 2001 through 2005, the American League Cy Young award was all about getting wins as five different 20-win pitchers took home the hardware. But this is not necessarily the case when searching for the top pitcher in baseball.

Last year, San Francisco Giants ace pitcher Tim Lincecum picked up 15 wins, recording a lower win total than Scott Feldman of the Texas Rangers, as well as Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders of the Los Angeles Angels; Lincecum was by and large a much better pitcher than any of them or any pitcher in the National League.

Beating the St. Louis Cardinals’ duo for the NL Cy Young, Lincecum established himself as the NL’s top pitcher for the second straight year.

The competition is much stiffer this year with Roy Halladay filling in for the Philadelphia Phillies, Dan Haren continuing his solid pitching with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies’ flamethrower Ubaldo Jimenez, who already tossed a no-hitter in the first month of the season, working his way into the mix of NL elites.

In the past three years, Lincecum was valued at 17.2 WAR, the highest in all of the major leagues, with Halladay coming in second at 16.4 WAR. Lincecum also had the lowest FIP at 2.69 in that span. Ever since his rookie year, he has gradually decreased his walk total and increased his strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB); so far this year, he has a 6.14 K/BB, walking just 1.78 batters per nine innings.

It will not be easy for Lincecum to win his third consecutive Cy Young with Halladay there as a roadblock, but dominating on the mound against the hot-hitting Phillies and in front of his counterpart last week, Lincecum is the most feared pitcher in the league.

It is hard to argue that one pitcher is better than the other in the argument of whether Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum is the superior pitcher in the National League.

So far, their stats are equally stellar. It seems that Roy Halladay has been the best pitcher so far, but by only a hair.

If you look at the numbers for Halladay (4-1, 1.80 ERA, 33 strikeouts) and Lincecum (4-0, 1.27 ERA, 43 strikeouts), they are close.

What makes Halladay the better pitcher is that he is the lone ace on his team, while Lincecum is just the leader of a talented group that includes Matt Cain and former Cy Young winner Barry Zito.

Halladay does not have the luxury of a dominant bullpen, while Lincecum does.

Halladay is essentially expected to go out and pitch seven-plus innings every game because the bullpen for the Phillies is that unreliable.

Although Halladay may be on the most talented offensive team in the league, he also has no one to really back him up with Cole Hamels and the ageless wonder Jamie Moyer not being too reliable as of yet.

Facing greater pressure to start the season, the Phillies have been riddled with injuries to two of their starters, Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ, which just adds more pressure for Halladay.

More is asked of Halladay every game than any pitcher in baseball because of those behind him in the bullpen.

In all but one game so far this season, Halladay has been essentially unhittable and dominant every time.

Halladay has been consistent throughout his entire career, and now that he is finally a contender, he will be even better than he was in the past, pushing him ahead of Lincecum.