Thursday, October 08, 2015

Keri Picks Kershaw For NL Cy Young

Jonah Keri over at Grantland gives the 2015 NL Cy Young to Clayton Kershaw, a man who seems to be less commonly mentioned of late than teammate Zack Greinke or the Cubs' Jake Arrieta. Keri leans heavily upon Baseball Prospectus' Deserved Run Average (DRA) as the determining veriable, but it's still worth a read:

Baseball Prospectus combines DRA with innings pitched to calculate which pitchers delivered the most raw value. That combined stat is then scaled to look like the various derivations of Wins Above Replacement, where a 25th man would deliver a score around zero, an average player around two, an All-Star four or higher, and an elite player six or higher. By this DRA-plus-innings measure, Clayton Kershaw was worth 7.9 wins, Zack Greinke 7.6, and Jake Arrieta 7.5. In other words, the difference between the three amounts to maybe a few hits over the course of a 162-game season.

If you believe that a pitcher who just posted the lowest ERA since peak Greg Maddux2 deserves the honor and that suppressing batting average on balls in play is an attainable skill for a select few genius pitchers, then Greinke’s 1.66 makes a great case for the title. For a different kind of historical performance, Jake Arrieta has smacked extra-base hits at the plate more frequently than he’s allowed them this year (and last year), and he also just set the record with an 0.75 ERA after the All-Star break.

Still, my vote is for Kershaw, because pitchers have more control over strikeouts than over whatever happens once a ball is put in play, and he just struck out 301 batters in 232.2 innings. That’s the highest single-season strikeout rate for any qualified starting pitcher in major league history not named Pedro Martinez or Randy Johnson. Plus, we can throw in that microscopic edge in DRA for good measure.

It’s exceedingly rare that you get three worthy candidates for one award. And really, any of these guys would be a deserving winner.

Keri also has Kershaw and Greinke 2-3 in the NL MVP race, to Bryce Harper.