No big Cy Young complaints, but Kershaw was my choice in NL
There weren’t any big surprises Wednesday evening when this year’s Cy Young Awards were announced. Dallas Keuchel was the favorite in the American League, and he won going away, grabbing 22 of 30 first-place votes (with David Price getting the rest). Jake Arrieta was the co-favorite in the National League, and he also won convincingly, with 17 of 30 first-place votes.
As I’m sure I said somewhere, I probably would have voted for Clayton Kershaw. Then again, I didn’t vote. So I spent maybe 30 minutes thinking about this, whereas if I had a vote, I would have spent 35-40 minutes.
Just kidding. It would have been in the hours for sure. With more time, maybe it would have been Arrieta. Or maybe it would have been Zack Greinke, who did finish with the league’s lowest ERA and did garner 10 first-place votes. Maybe I even would have thought to consider this:
So close, but Arrieta pitched in tougher ballpark and Greinke threw to elite pitch-framer in Yasmani Grandal
— Travis Sawchik (@Sawchik_Trib) November 19, 2015
Gotta admit, that’s the first time I’ve seen somebody inject pitch-framing into a Cy Young discussion. But of course it’s highly appropriate. In the absence of a single number that encompasses everything you’d want to know about an award candidate, I think in terms of tie-breakers. And the skill of the man behind the plate certainly belongs on that list.
Sawchik’s right about Grandal, by the way: According to Baseball Prospectus, his framing was off the charts this season. Fourth on the list, though? The Chicago Cubs’ very own Miguel Montero. What’s more, the Dodgers’ No. 2 catcher, A.J. Ellis, doesn’t fare well at all in the same metric. And while Ellis caught only six of Greinke’s starts, he was behind the bat for twenty-one of Kershaw’s starts.
Tie-breakers? If there’s a good tie-breaker here, it’s not against Greinke but instead for Kershaw. Or maybe there’s just no tie-breaker at all, once you consider Grandal and Montero and Ellis.
Really, Kershaw never had a chance because he finished the season sixth in wins and third in ERA in the NL; all the strikeouts and WAR in the world aren’t going to outweigh the first two Triple Crown categories. In fact, one voter ranked Kershaw fifth on his ballot, and was probably tempted by Michael Wacha (who won 17 games to Kershaw’s 16).
But this isn’t the time for vote-shaming. While I certainly don’t believe that Madison Bumgarner belongs ahead of Kershaw on any list that isn’t related to October 2014, it’s not like it affected the final results. Arrieta won fair and square, with more wins than Greinke and a lower ERA than Kershaw, not to mention that tremendous second half that maybe shouldn’t count any more than the first half, but that’s never been how these things work.
Basically, if you want to argue that Greinke or Kershaw – but especially Greinke – was robbed, then show me your work. Because I will contend (as Jayson Stark has, in detail) that these three were such tremendous candidates, you’ll need at least two or three hours of substantive research to prove that one was manifestly better than the others.
I didn’t spend two or three hours. More like 20 or 30 minutes. And I’m still saying Kershaw, because I think he’s the best pitcher and also pitched the best. But if you think that’s wrong, I won’t argue much.
In the other league, they gave it to the guy with the most wins and the second-best ERA instead of the guy with the best ERA and the third-most wins. If you’re surprised by this, you haven’t been paying attention.