Who is the 2015 National League Cy Young? That's the question everyone has been asking for a couple months now. When we dished out our 2015 AFITB awards last Monday, I had to hold off on choosing because it was too close to call with a week of games left. Of course, the three candidates in discussion are Jake Arrieta of the Cubs and Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers. In this post, I make my decision and give my reasoning for it, including the article and numbers that shifted my thinking.
First, the waiting is over. Here's how I'm voting:
Before I give my explanation, I'd like to stop and just appreciate what Kershaw, Greinke, and Arrieta have done. They all are well-deserving of the Cy Young. Tweets like these are unbelievable:
Below are the three candidates in 2015 matched up with the previous 11 NL Cy Young winners. I Included the average ERA and WHIP for all of Major League Baseball for those seasons, as well.
A couple things stand out from this list. First, how on earth did Tim Lincecum (2008), Brandon Webb, and Roger Clemens win their Cy Young's? Look at those WHIP numbers! Second, the years Greinke, Kershaw, and Arrieta are having would definitely win the award in every year on this list except 2013 and 2014. Yes, offense isn't where it used to be, but even after adjusting, I think they hold up very well. So, before we yell at each other for picking one of the three, can we just sit back and enjoy their greatness? Luckily, their seasons aren't done and we get to see each pitch in the playoffs.
With all that being said, here's why I picked Kershaw over Arrieta and Greinke. A couple days ago, I read this post by Dave Cameron at Fangraphs. It's great, so I'll just quote it:
I hadn’t noticed Greinke’s lack of complete games until I started looking at the game logs, and in doing so, I also noticed that the Dodgers have had a much quicker hook with Greinke than they have had with Kershaw, or that the Cubs have had with Arrieta. For comparison, here are the total number of batters each pitcher has faced while going a fourth time through the batting order this season:
With only a few exceptions, the Dodgers have almost always removed Greinke from the game after he’s faced 27 batters, so his exposure to hitters in situations where they’d be most likely to perform well against him has been significantly limited compared to his peers.
So, Greinke can attribute some of his success to the fact that he hasn't pitched deeper into games. Props to the Dodgers for handling him so well. But in my opinion, this hurts his case for Cy Young. When you look at their innings/start, Cameron's point is reinforced.
Why do the Dodgers keep Kershaw in longer? I think it's simply because he's better at pitching. He shouldn't be penalized for that. If the numbers weren't so close, this probably wouldn't be worth talking about. But, as Cameron pointed out, this is one of many separators we can use to gauge which one has had the best season.
All three pitchers (Scherzer and Bumgarner aren't bad either) have had incredible seasons. You wouldn't be wrong if you picked any one of the three. But, my selection goes to Kershaw because he has been asked to do more for his team, while doing it at nearly the same level as Greinke and Arrieta. Plus he throws curveballs like these.