Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Which Dodger Deserves The 2015 Cy Young?

ESPN.com isn't known for uniformity of thought (see: Keith Olbermann), so it's no surprise that there is dissension about which NL pitcher deserves the Cy Young Award for 2015. Luckily for us, it's a debate between two Dodgers: Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.

Jayson Stark says the award goes to Zack Greinke:

Now clearly, a lot can change over the next four weeks. But if the season were to end today, which remains highly unlikely, Zack Greinke has to be your 2015 NL Cy Young winner. And here’s why:

Because guys with 1.59 ERAs always win the Cy Young award

Greinke goes into his start Sunday in San Diego with an ERA so spectacular that only three qualifying starters in the entire live-ball era have beaten it over a full season. Perhaps you've heard of them: Bob Gibson in 1968 (1.12 ERA), Dwight Gooden in 1985 (1.53) and Greg Maddux in 1994 (1.56).

I probably don't have to tell you what Gibson, Gooden and Maddux have in common. But I'll do it anyway. They all won the Cy Young award in those seasons.

And ohbytheway, for what it’s worth, they all won it unanimously, too.

So think about that. Since baseball started handing out Cy Young Awards 60 seasons ago, not only has no qualifying starter pitcher with an ERA below 1.60 failed to win this award -- nobody with an ERA this low has ever failed to collect EVERY vote. [...]

Because the season didn’t begin in June

If the season had merely started on June 27, this would be easy. Kershaw has made 12 starts since then. Here’s how those 12 starts have gone: 0.96 ERA, a TOTAL of 10 earned runs allowed, about twice as many strikeouts (120) as hits (61) in 91 innings, a 120-to-9 strikeout-walk ratio and a 7-1 won-lost record.


Greinke in the same span hasn’t exactly been Cy Yuk himself, by the way. He’s 10-1, with a 1.47 ERA. And opponents are hitting .168/.206/.230 against him.

But head-to-head, over their last 12 starts, Kershaw has been The Man. No doubt, right?

Unfortunately for him, we’re required as voters to count all his starts this year, not just the ones where he’s been most superhuman. And that’s where this gets interesting.

When Kershaw was 5-5 with a 3.33 ERA after his first 15 starts, there were definite indicators that he was really pitching better than those numbers would indicate. But was he outpitching Zack Greinke? ’Fraid not.

Buster Olney, on the other hand, says it's Kershaw (link insider only)

Following Kershaw's effort against the Giants, I'd rank the NL Cy Young ballot this way, if I had a vote (full disclosure: I haven't had a vote for any award since 1996).

1. Kershaw
2. Greinke
3. Arrieta

There obviously are reasonable arguments to be made for all three candidates, with a month to play.

• He surpassed his career high in strikeouts Wednesday, reaching 251 (his previous high was 248 K's in 2011). This is the first 250-strikeout season by a Dodgers pitcher since Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in 1966.

• How Kershaw beat the Giants:

A) He got ahead in the count: Kershaw threw a first-pitch strike to 30 of the 32 batters he faced, his most since at least 2009 and the most by any pitcher in a game this season.

B) He didn't let up: The Giants were 4-for-25 with 13 strikeouts after being behind 0-1 in the count.

C) He kept the pressure on: Kershaw got 14 Giants to an 0-2 count, his most since at least 2009.

D) He had them chasing: Kershaw got the Giants to chase 27 pitches outside the strike zone, his most in a start over the past four seasons.

• Kershaw induced 35 swings and misses Wednesday, the most by a pitcher in a single game over the past 10 seasons. The previous high was by Johan Santana, with 32 swings and misses in a game in 2007, followed by Carlos Carrasco (30, earlier this season), Francisco Liriano (30, 2012) and Jake Peavy (30, 2006).

• Eleven of Kershaw's 15 K's were swinging.

• Kershaw threw 132 pitches Wednesday. That's the second-most pitches thrown in a game this season, behind only Mike Fiers during his Aug. 21 no-hitter. Behind them: Cole Hamels (129 pitches during his no-hitter July 25) and Marco Estrada, (129 on June 24).

• Kershaw is the first Dodgers pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to record consecutive 14-strikeout games.

• That was also Kershaw's fifth 12-strikeout game this season, the most by a National League pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2004.

Keith Law also says it's Kershaw:

NL Cy Young

1. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Zack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Jake Arrieta, SP, Chicago Cubs
4. Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals
5. Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants

Yep, I get it, Greinke has the lower ERA, and it's hard to look past that 1.59 figure. But while we might all have different opinions on how accurate ERA is as a measure of a pitcher's performance, I think everyone understands that there's at least some noise in that statistic, such as the help a pitcher might receive when bequeathing runners on base to relievers. Kershaw has the NL's best strikeout rate and a top-six walk rate (just a hair higher than Greinke's). Also, Kershaw has a long history of suppressing batting average on balls in play, while Greinke doesn't, so Greinke's .237 BABIP allowed this year appears to be at least somewhat the product of good fortune (though I don't agree with dismissing it entirely as such). I know Kershaw has done his job -- miss bats, avoid walks, keep the ball in the park -- better than Greinke so far this year, and that's why I have them 1-2 rather than 2-1.


QuadSevens said...

I had a feeling this was coming. I just hope they don't split the vote and have someone else take the award. Also, I hope both Kershaw and Greinke can keep this rolling through the playoffs.

Dusty Baker's Toothpick said...

Greinke has the superior bat flip skills.