He won't win 20 games; his earned-run average is good but not great; and because he pitches for a team that was never a pennant contender, people have a tendency to say that he enjoys the luxury of working without pressure.
But in a year when there really hasn't been a dominating pitcher in the American League, outside of Milwaukee's Pete Vuckovich (18-4), righthander Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays is at least a darkhorse candidate for a Cy Young Award. Stieb has won 16 games, with a chance at maybe two more victories, for a team so far under .500 that it probably won't finish within 20 games of first place.
''I've watched Stieb off and on all year and he's got the best stuff and the best control of any pitcher in the league,'' said California third base coach Preston Gomez. Dave also leads the AL in innings pitched (280) and in complete games (18), not as impressive as it would be in the National League where there is no designated hitter, but impressive nevertheless.
Stieb's chief competition is expected to come from Vuckovich and Milwaukee teammate Mike Caldwell, both of whom have benefited tremendously by pitching for the most productive run-scoring machine in the AL. Also under consideration are Kansas City's Larry Gura; California's Geoff Zahn; Detroit's Dan Petry; and Chicago's LaMarr Hoyt. Then there are those who might like to take a sentimental journey with Baltimore's former three-time winner, Jim Palmer, who has lost only one game since May 30 while posting 12 victories.
In the National League, the Cy Young race is primarily between Philadelphia's Steve Carlton and Fernando Valenzuela of Los Angeles, the defending champion. Carlton, the only pitcher in either league so far to win 20 games, would have had the award locked up by now if the Phillies hadn't lost out to St. Louis in the NL East race.
In fact, Carlton is probably going to win anyway. But if Valenzuela's next victory were to clinch a division title for the Dodgers, Fernando might pick up enough late votes to beat him out. Of course Montreal also has a strong candidate in Steve Rogers; Houston two possibilities in Nolan Ryan and Joe Niekro; and the Atlanta Braves a real dark horse in Phil Niekro, who has lost only four games all year. Possibly, if San Francisco continues its late surge in the NL West, relief pitcher Greg Minton, who has saved 30 games for the Giants, might win the hardware himself. A vote for Frank Robinson
Regardless of what San Francisco does in the remainder of the season, Frank Robinson gets my vote for National League Manager of the Year. Remember the Giants were nine games out of first place in the NL West as recently as Sept. 1.
Robinson's infield with 37-year-old Reggie Smith at first base; 39-year-old Joe Morgan at second; and 35-year-old Darrell Evans at third, looks like the Andrew Sisters plus shortstop Johnnie LeMaster. Frank has also been caught up in a situation where Evans and outfielder Jack Clark periodically rip management for its inefficiency. That is, when they aren't asking to be traded.
Also, in a major league first as far as can be determined, owner Bob Lurie and General Manager Tom Haller, during the off season, got rid of all five of San Francisco's starting pitchers from the previous year. Among them were such proven winners as Vida Blue and Doyle Alexander.
However since June 27, when the Giants' won-lost record bottomed out at 32-42 , the team has played the best baseball (52-30) in either league. What saved Robinson in the meantime were his patience; one of the best bullpens around; the quick maturity of rookie outfielder Chili Davis; and the clever way Frank has juggled his pitchers. One of them, righthander Bill Laskey, has a chance of being National League Rookie of the Year.
Asked how he selects his starting pitchers, Robinson replied: ''I look to see who has done well lately; guess at what I think the opposing team's lineup will be that night; and hope that my bullpen is in good working order.'' Batting fests; mound surprises
The night Philadelphia dropped out of contention in the NL East can probably be traced to a mid-September loss to Montreal, when Expo shortstop Chris Speier drove in a club record eight runs. Speier tripled with the bases loaded in the second; singled with the bases loaded in the third; and hit a three-run homer in the seventh . . . The Texas Rangers are reported to be willing to trade third baseman Buddy Bell and shortstop Bucky Dent to the Los Angeles Dodgers for third baseman Ron Cey, outfielder Candy Maldonado, and pitcher Alexandro Pena . . . Chances are if someone had told you before the season that the St. Louis Cardinals would win their division with starting pitchers named Dave LaPoint, John Stuper, Steve Mura, Joaquin Andujar and Bob Forsch, you'd probably have said ''no way,'' although Forsch had won 20 in 1977. Actually the Cards will have been in first place this year for all but 23 games of the season.
Ben Oglivie's 32nd home run for Milwaukee this season against Boston was the Brewers 200th as a team . . . Although Rafael Ramirez of the Atlanta Braves leads National League shortstops in errors, the Braves plan to stay with him because of his age, which is only 23. They think he will improve defensively and they also like his 1982 hit total, which is more than double that of last year and includes several key home runs . . . Boston Manager Ralph Houk says the Red Sox might have won in the AL East if they hadn't lost third baseman Carney Lanfford, last year's batting champion, for 28 games with injuries . . . So far September has been a super month for Baltimore first baseman Eddie Murray, who at one point was 33 for 99 and had driven in 24 runs in 24 consecutive games. Murray also had seven home runs during that stretch, plus seven game-winning hits . . . Blame the Dodgers' late-season slump on their lack of offense and not the pitching staff, whose earned run average during a recent six-game losing streak was under 3.00 . . . A pair of records for game-winning runs-batted-in has been set this year. In the National League, Keith Hernandez of the Cardinals has hit 21 winners, three more than Jack Clark had in 1980 for the Giants. In the American League, Don Baylor of the Angels also has 21, two better than Baltimore's Ken Singleton had in 1980 . . . relief pitcher Bruce Sutter of the Cardinals is just three saves away from John Hiller's major league record of 38, set in 1973 with Detroit . . . The New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians have both made offers to Oakland Manager Billy Martin, who still has three years left on his A's contract. Martin has turned them down, saying he prefers to remain in his hometown.