Cubs’ Arrieta edges Dodgers’ Greinke, Kershaw for NL Cy Young Award

Before the results of voting for the 2015 National League Cy Young Award were announced Wednesday, only one thing was certain – whoever finished second would could claim the dubious honor of having the best season not to result in a Cy Young Award. And the third-place finisher would have a strong case for that as well.

Making that difficult choice among historic seasons, voters narrowly gave the award to Chicago Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta edged the Dodgers’ tandem aces, right-hander Zack Greinke and left-hander Clayton Kershaw, by receiving 17 first-place votes, 11 second-place votes and two third place votes. His 169-point total beat Greinke’s 147 (including 10 first-place votes) and Kershaw’s 101 (including three first-place votes).

The 22-point difference between first- and second-place was the smallest in the National League since 2009, when San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum won another tight three-way race with a pair of teammates – Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals. Like this year, each of the three pitchers received first-place votes.

Greinke led the majors in ERA (1.66) and WHIP (0.84), posting the lowest ERA since Greg Maddux in 1995 and the fourth-lowest WHIP in the live-ball era. He never finished a start in 2015 with an ERA over 2.00. He never had a WHIP higher than 1.00 in any month nor allowed more than 10 runs in any month.

But Arrieta earned the honor by making history of his own. His 0.75 ERA after the All-Star break was the lowest since the All-Star Game was created in 1933. According to Elias Sports Bureau, his 0.27 ERA and .132 opponents’ batting average over his final nine regular-season starts was the lowest by any pitcher over a nine-start span in the modern era (post 1920).

“It’s hard to put in perspective,” Arrieta said. “It’s kind of crazy to even think about. With names like Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson and other guys who were greats in the game, to be in the same sentence with them – it’s kind of cliché but it makes you really step back and appreciate it.

“It’s special.”

After 13 starts, Arrieta was not having a Cy Young season. He was 6-5 with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP – good numbers but not great. Greatness came after the All-Star break, when he morphed into an unhittable pitcher over a 15-start stretch – literally so on Aug. 30 when he pitched a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium.

“I was locked in,” Arrieta said of his unparalleled second half. “What I mean by that is my timing, my mechanics, my release point were all as close to perfect as I could possibly be. … When you combine that every time with great stuff, it made it really, really easy on me.

“I got to the point where I expected to pitch a shutout every time out. It got to the point where not only myself but my team expected that.”

The Dodgers had a similar feeling about Greinke in 2015. Twenty-one times, he allowed one run or fewer, including six consecutive scoreless starts in midseason (tying a major-league record held by Orel Hershiser and Don Drysdale). Greinke’s streak of 45 2/3 scoreless innings during that stretch is the fourth-longest since 1961

That season-long, sustained excellence was enough for his teammates to throw their support behind his Cy Young candidacy.

“Jake and Zack were both unbelievable this year,” Kershaw said. “Just from seeing Zack day-in, day-out and watching what he was doing – you almost took it for granted. … It was pretty special.”

Kershaw’s season was pretty special in its own right. The left-hander led the majors in innings, strikeouts (with the first 300-K season in 13 years) and Fielding Independent Pitching while going 16-7 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.

That was good only for a third-place finish. Kershaw became the first pitcher to finish in the top three of Cy Young voting for five consecutive years – his first award in 2011, a second-place finish to R.A. Dickey in 2012, back-to-back awards in 2013 and 2014 and this year’s third-place finish.

“You’ve got three guys who any other year would win the Cy Young in a landslide,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said on MLB Network before Wednesday’s award announcement. “These three guys kind of separated themselves in different ways. You had Clayton, who can just kind of take over a game. You saw that with the 300 strikeouts that he had. Jake, with his array of pitches and his weapons and the second-half run that he went on was unprecedented and historical. And then Zack, who did it for the entire season.

“They’re all worthy Cy Young Award winners for the year.”

Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel got 22 first-place votes for 186 points to win the AL Cy Young. David Price drew eight first-place votes and 143 points for his split season with Detroit and Toronto and Oakland’s Sonny Gray finished third.

Keuchel led the AL in wins, going 20-8 and helping the Astros reach the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The 27-year-old had a 2.48 ERA and 216 strikeouts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact the writer:

Leave a Reply