There was a time, not especially long ago, when Jake Arrieta would not have had my Cy Young vote.
I feel more compunction about that than I probably should; after all, it was simply based on an objective analysis of pitcher performance. In early August, it seemed to me that Clayton Kershaw – not his teammate Zack Greinke – should be running away with the thing. No one was especially close to him in the best indicators of value, and, given the relatively early date in the season, I didn’t feel compelled to dig too deeply just yet.
Now, the season is but a week away, and Jake Arrieta just did this to one of the best teams in baseball, in a game in which they desperately wanted to beat him:
The start, for me, cinched it. Sure, getting obliterated in his final start paired with a perfect game from Kershaw or Greinke could shift my thinking – I won’t close any doors, as my earlier thinking leaves me feeling burned – but, as I sit here today, Arrieta would get my vote.
You can read various recent analyses on the subject, including Joe Maddon’s recent proposition that Arrieta should be considered for MVP, in addition to Cy Young. I probably wouldn’t go that far, but the extreme depths of Arrieta’s success since early August have convinced me. Considered how absurd and borderline impossible this is:
#Cubs Jake Arrieta '15 ERA
Aug 15: 2.39
Aug 20: 2.30
Aug 25: 2.22
Aug 30: 2.11
Sep 5: 2.03
Sep 11: 1.99
Sep 16: 1.96
Sep 22: 1.88
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) September 28, 2015
ERA, of course, is not the best indicator of pitcher performance, but it is a decent gauge of results (which should probably matter a great deal with respect to an award like this). More indicators:
- Arrieta is top in BP’s DRA WARP (7.55 to Kershaw’s 7.36), second in FanGraphs’ WAR (7.1 to Kershaw’s 7.9), and second in Baseball-Reference’s WAR (8.4 to Greinke’s 8.7). Take the average of the three, and Arrieta’s on top.
- That ERA, by the way, is now only a hair higher than Greinke’s (1.65), and both are in the kind of crazy zone where it’s hard to draw meaningful distinctions.
- Arrieta’s 2.40 FIP trails only Kershaw’s 2.11, and that could give you a moment’s pause. I do see that Arrieta has faced slightly tougher lineups this year, for what that’s worth.
- Arrieta’s 21 pitcher wins lap the field, which doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, but it has historically impacted these Cy Young decisions. That’s not really a point in favor of me voting for him – if I had a vote – but it does help the likelihood of his candidacy.
We’ll see what the final week brings. For me, for today, with very little time left in the season, I can honestly say that Jake Arrieta would get my Cy Young vote.
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