By In Baseball

Arrieta Would Get My Cy Vote


As much as it hurts my Zack Greinke heart to say this … if I had a Cy Young vote this year, it would go to Jake Arrieta.*

*Oh, and see if you can find the sneaky little writer’s device I threw in there.

From SportsWorld

It’s tempting to say that there is no wrong choice here — but, of course, in sports there is ALWAYS a right choice and a wrong choice. That’s the allure of sports, right? Sports talk radio probably wouldn’t hold much of an audience with the hot topic — “Tom Brady and Peyton Manning: They’re both really good, right?”

The right choice for National League Cy Young basically comes down to what you value as a pitcher.

Why Jake Arrieta Would Get My Cy Vote

Postscript: I was out of pocket yesterday — I’ll be writing about why here in a little bit — so here are yesterday’s links.

Three Larry Brown Stories.

The Negro Leagues Museum is 25 Years Old

17 Responses to Arrieta Would Get My Cy Vote

  1. Alejandro says:

    I have $50 on Grienke so I´m biased. I think all 3 will have first place votes and Arrieta will end up winning it beacuase the other two in the same team will substract each other votes. Arrieta will get more 2nd place votes whereas Grienke or Kershaw will get 3rd place when a writer puts the other one in first. Fascinating though!

    • I don’t think Kershaw has a chance. There were just too many games where he gave up too many runs. I think Fangraph’s WAR is wrong because it ignores the value of defense and batting; Greinke is the best fielder of the three. But so many people think the last half of the season matters. With the Dodgers needing to go until Tuesday to clinch, I think every start Greinke made was important. It’s not Greinke’s fault that he’s older and on a tighter pitch count than Kershaw; Mattingly pulled him more than once when he could have had a shutout. In fact, the only Dodger pitcher with more scoreless starts of 6+ innings in a season than Greinke (13) is Koufax, who had 14 once.

      • No Comment says:

        Fangraphs does not ignore the value of defense and batting. Consciously or not, Joe chose to focus only on WAR from pitching when doing his analysis.

        For what it’s worth, Greinke accumulated an additional 0.7 fWAR from defense and batting, Arrieta 0.3 fWAR, and Kershaw 0.0 fWAR.

  2. Here’s where WAR has issues for me for Cy Young. Is the Cy Young based upon pitchING (which is just what you do on the mound from when the ball leaves your hand until it hits a bat or the catcher’s glove) or pitchER (which includes defense, and in the NL batting and base running). Greinke has a very slight edge in b-ref WAR over Arrieta in ING, but when you add in defense, batting, and running the bases (Greinke even has a steal this year) the edge becomes substantial. I also think WHIP is very important; swinging and missing shows up in K’s and K/9, but fooling the best batters in the world enough to make less than solid contact, and not letting them get a free ride to first base, also has meaning to me. Yes, Greinke has benefited from pitching in Dodger Stadium for his home starts, but that’s why ERA+ exists, and Greinke also leads in that category. I don’t know why you ignored that.

    Finally, and this REALLY bugs me, Arrieta is getting credit for an insanely good second half of the season, no doubt about it. But the first half of the season also counts just as much. The Dodgers were in a tight pennant race against the World Series champions all season long, and did not clinch even a playoff spot until Tuesday night. The Cubs clinched their playoff spot sooner. So you can’t say that Arrieta’s second half is worth more than Greinke’s first half; both pitchers pitched important games in both halves of the season.

    So does the Cy Young refer to ING or ER? I look at Cy Young himself. Despite pitching in the deadball era, he put up positive OPS+ numbers every season after his rookie year until he turned 44. His career average was above the Mendoza line. He even hit 18 homers. So yes, some of Young’s mystique and record comes from his ability to help his own cause at the plate. Thus, to me, the Cy Young award is for the best ER, not ING, and by that slender margin I think Greinke wins it. If they were AL pitchers, with less chance for at bats to matter and minimizing such a profound difference in peripherals, then Arrieta’s extra 9 IP would swing my vote his way.

    Thank you for an enjoyable column.

    • In that Poz put so much weight on home/away splits, you’d think ERA+ would have come up with it’s built in park adjustment. Then you have the whole thing about using home and away ERA, which is a stat he doesn’t seem to like either, being used as a decisive stat. Definitely some cherry picking of stats at the very least.

  3. heavy c says:

    I remember reading about the effectiveness of Mark Buehrle in regards to his defence and other factors that wouldn’t necessarily show up in Fangraph WAR stats. Not a particularly great K or BB ratio or HR allowed. Apparently he makes up for it with defence and ability to keep runners from running. The “what do you value?” question is appropriate. I’m not saying Buehrle has many Cy Young years, but just that pitchers need to be rated for more that just the things they do between the mound and plate. Despite less Ks Greinke has the better K/BB ratio and manages runners better. Greinke gets my vote with Arrieta a close second.

    • Wouldn’t a pitcher’s defense and ability to hold runners on show up in the “Ability to prevent runs” paradigm in BBR WAR? Presumably that’s what a pitcher’s defense and holding runners on base yields…. fewer runs. If it doesn’t yield fewer runs, then it’s not something terribly important.

      Just a comment on Maddux. He was excellent defensively. But was borderline indifferent about holding runners on base. In the end, however, he didn’t yield a whole bunch of runs, which is the main point of pitching.

  4. BrettFan14 says:

    Loved the article Joe but I think you’re selling Greinke short on the road statistics. In his road starts, Greinke allowed 0 runs 8 times. His numbers are skewed by two bad games on the road, one at Colorado and one at Philly. Arrieta only had 5 games on the road where he allowed 0 runs and he never had to pitch in Colorado. Kershaw only had 3 games on the road where he allowed 0 runs and did pitch in Colorado once where he also got lit up. You can’t just look at road numbers, you have to dig in to what they did against what type of team and in what type of ballpark. I’d go with Greinke just for the sheer consistency of his dominance this season.

    • I love your point. In my job, I am constantly warning about the “death by averages” point of view. Sometimes using “mean” instead of average removes the skewing of a small number of great or terrible results. A 10 run game or a zero run game, if there aren’t a bunch of them, don’t skew the results like an average would. But often, you really need to look at the raw data, especially when you have a limited number of occurrences like you would have with a starting pitcher. 30 starts is not too many to go back and look at, in detail. So, I commend your attention to detail there. Your point is superior to looking at home/away splits.

      • Kuz says:

        I believe by “mean” you actually mean ( no pun intended ) “median”. “Mean” is the average of a set of data. “Median” is the value that has an equal number of data points above and below it.

  5. bobzupcic says:

    I think it is worth noting that both Arrieta and Greinke have a higher FIP and xFIP than their ERA. Greinke is a run and run and a half higher, respectively. Kershaw has a 2.16 ERA, but a 2.04 FIP and a 2.14 xFIP. To me, he has been the league’s best pitcher. Yet, he will finish third, which I understand. I have no problem with either Greinke or Arrieta winning. However, I think Kershaw is being short changed in the debate, and somehow underrated.

    • That’s obviously because FIP is skewed towards the strikeout pitcher and Kershaw is compiling the most strikeouts in a season in the last decade. So, obviously that will make for a very nice FIP. I like FIP, except when I don’t. I certainly wouldn’t use FIP as the centerpiece of any CY discussion.

  6. No Comment says:

    A couple of things:

    1. Joe seems to suggest that Fangraphs WAR does not include adjustments to account for park or league. This is not true.

    2. There are complaints that WAR for pitchers doesn’t include things like a pitcher’s defensive aptitude or performance at the plate. This is also not true. Both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference have separate calculations for pitching WAR and batting/defense WAR. It requires an extra step, but all you need to do is add them together to get total WAR, which includes pitching, batting, and defense.

    • KHAZAD says:

      However, Fangraphs is basically using two different systems when adjusting for park, which makes no sense.

      They make an adjustment according to the run environment of the park, but any difference in the original FIP would be based solely on the home run environment of the park. These are not the same thing. For instance, the park for my team suppresses home runs, but is an above average run scoring park. I believe Wrigley is just the opposite, which means Arrieta would be penalized twice under this system. Once because his home run rate would theoretically be higher because of his home park,(I believe Wrigley has the highest home run factor in the majors this year) and then he would be penalized again because Wrigley suppresses runs overall, so his FIP would be manually raised again to adjust for park factor according to actual run scoring.

      One of the many problems I have with Fangraph’s methodology.

      • No Comment says:

        Are those mechanics new? Fangraphs’ current glossary states that the park adjustment is based solely on run scoring, not that AND home run rates. Additionally, Fangraphs’ park factors for the last several years have Wrigley at almost exactly league average in both HR and FIP.

        • KHAZAD says:

          In 2015 – halving for only having half a season in your home games, as fangraphs does, Wrigley is at 112 for home runs and around 97 for runs.

          The park adjustment IS only based on run scoring, but it is an adjustment TO the number which is reached through FIP, in which home run rate is used along with K rate and BB rate (which do not fluctuate nearly as much from park to park) and nothing else.

          Arrieta does have an awesome home run rate, but he has it in spite of playing half of his games in a park where there are home runs are hit at a rate 24.7% above the average rate, and there is no adjustment made to account for that. Then fangraphs manually decreases his WAR amount by a little more than 3% according to the number of total runs scored on average in Wrigley, despite the fact that they eschew any factor of run scoring other than HRs, BBs, and Ks on the front end of the equation.

  7. Micah says:

    This Cy Young race is fascinating and almost impossibly close to call. A reader above made a comment about how they would vote for Greinke because of how consistently dominant he has been this year. That made me consider an interesting question that I had never really thought of before. Let’s say there are two pitchers–one who is very good all year and ends up with great overall stats, and another who is absolutely unbelievable all year, except for two starts where he gets completely lit up. In this example, I’m going to exaggerate beyond anything that would actually happen, but let’s say that those two starts are just mind-bogglingly, staggeringly horrible, something like 40 runs allowed in two innings of work. But other than those two starts, his numbers are other-worldly, as in the greatest season of all time. However, his two horrific starts are so bad that they skew his numbers to look worse overall than the first pitcher I mentioned. So basically, we end up with two pitchers who look like this:

    Pitcher A: Very good overall year; nothing too dramatically great or terrible; ends up with great stats, such as a 2.10 ERA and a WHIP of 1.

    Pitcher B: If you discount the two terrible starts, his year is jaw-dropping: 0.50 ERA, WHIP of 0.6. We’re talking legitimately the best season ever. However, his two terrible starts are so bad that they skew his overall numbers to something like an ERA of 2.60 and a WHIP of 1.2.

    Obviously, this is a rather exaggerated and unrealistic scenario, but I’m trying to get at what I feel is an interesting argument. We tend to focus on overall stats, but gruesomely bad outings can greatly skew overall averages. If a pitcher is otherworldly in all but a very small handful of outings, but those outings are so horrific that they end up skewing his numbers to look worse than another pitcher’s, who truly had the better year.

    So who would get your Cy Young vote in the scenario above? Pitcher A or Pitcher B? Do you reward the historical dominance of Pitcher B, or do you reward Pitcher A for ending up with the better overall numbers? If you are a person who prefers different stats to ERA and WHIP, envision the same type of scenario, just with stats that you favor; the basic premise should be the same.

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