In the tightest Cy Young race in recent memory, Chicago Cub ace Jake Arrieta deserves the nod over Zack Greinke.
By Bryan Pol
Naming the National League Cy Young Award winner is likely the toughest nod to decide this season, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark would most certainly concur.
Stark, after much deliberation, named Zack Greinke over Jake Arrieta and teammate Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young, citing Greinke’s “season long heroics,” not merely a strong second half, as reason for naming the Los Angeles Dodger de facto ace to the award.
Upon closer examination, Arrieta, who, earlier this season, no-hit Greinke’s Dodgers, is more deserving of the award.
Heading into the 2015 season, Bleacher Report listed Dodger Stadium as the second most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the majors, citing “Park Factor” in the decision.
In sixteen starts at Dodger Stadium, Greinke was 9-1 with a 1.48 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP (his major-league leading 0.85 WHIP would be a top-five mark in live ball era), and his ERA+ of 223, a figure that adjusts for the players’ ballparks, leads the majors, too (Arrieta is a mere three points behind him). For the record, Arrieta’s WHIP is 0.86.
Crazy Stat of Day: Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta’s 0.41 ERA is the lowest from August 1 on in a season since earned runs became official in 1913.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 3, 2015
In the NL West, which features the Arizona Diamondbacks (78-82), the San Diego Padres (74-86), and the Colorado Rockies (67-93), Greinke feasted on the competition, allowing four runs in 43 2/3 innings against Arizona and San Diego.
While Greinke’s 1.68 ERA would be the best since Greg Maddux’s 1.63 mark in 1995, a year in which he won the Cy Young, Arrieta will finish a mere 0.07 points behind Greinke, whose average leads the majors.
Consider where Arrieta bests Greinke (leading the league in each category): complete games and shut outs (four and three, to Greinke’s one CG and zero SHO), innings pitched (229, fifteen better than Greinke), hits per nine innings (5.9 to Greinke’s 6.0), and home runs per nine innings (0.4 to Greinke’s 0.5), and strikeouts (236 to 192).
To further reflect: Arrieta pitches in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field, where the righthander was 9-5 with a 1.97 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP. Also, Arrieta’s Cubs will be the road team in the NL’s one-game, wild card play-in matchup on Wednesday despite having the third-best record in the majors. The reason? The Cubs are in baseball’s best division (not just in 2015, but ever, based on record and playoff teams featured), behind the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals (whom Arrieta was 2-1 against in four starts with a 2.42 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP) and the top wild card club in the Pittsburgh Pirates (whom Arrieta was 3-1 against in five starts with a tremendous 0.75 ERA and a 0.63 WHIP).
In the second half, Arrieta has been virtually untouchable: he has not lost since July 25, and in fifteen second half starts, he is 12-1 with an historic and mind-numbing 0.75 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, and .148 BAA, buttressed by his aforementioned no-hitter against the Dodgers on August 30. Against the Mets, his potential NLCS opponent, Arrieta is 2-0 in two starts with a 1.13 ERA and a 0.63 WHIP (he did not allow a run in two starts against the San Francisco Giants, whom the Cubs edged out for the NL’s second wild card). The long and short of Arrieta’s awe-inspiring Cy Young resume? He wins when it matters, especially against the NL’s best.
As August and September kicked in, and the calendar featured more divisional matchups and tenser compeitition, Arrieta only grew stronger in his pursuit of leading the Cubs to the postseason for the first time in seven years.
If consistency from start to finish would decide a regular season award in the fashion many feel it should in the Arrieta/Greinke debate, then the 2006 American League MVP would be Derek Jeter’s, not Justin Morneau’s. That year, Jeter ended April hitting .398, and his batting average never dipped below .340 all season; his .343 total was second only to Joe Mauer’s .347 mark, and his first half average (.345) was nearly equivalent to his second half (.342), and his offensive Wins Above Replacement (7.1) lead the AL (Morneau did not even scratch the top 10). Alas, Morneau used a strong second half (he had a higher batting average and OBP by 42 points and 47 points respectively in the second half) to garner the award, despite Jeter’s better overall campaign (he surpassed Morneau in batting average and OBP), minus the power.
From start to finish, Arrieta has been every bit as stunning as Greinke (the difference in various statistical categories is negligible), and has been leading a club of 21 to 25 year olds in the process despite the massive contract Jon Lester signed to be Chicago’s ace in the offseason and the immense pressure of leading a team to the playoffs whose fanbase has not witnessed a World Series win in 107 long years.
Finishing second to Greinke in NL Cy Young voting would be a great disservice to Arrieta and the incredible work he has mustered for the Cubbies.[su_button url=”https://elitesportsny.com/2015/10/03/max-scherzer-no-hitter-provides-unique-scene-at-citi-field/” target=”blank” background=”#000080″ size=”10″ wide=”yes” radius=”0″]NEXT: Scherzer’s No-Hitter Provides Unique Scene[/su_button]