Jake Arrieta didn’t make the National League All-Star team last July, in part because he never has and in part because A.J. Burnett never had.
It was Burnett’s last season and he gained the lifetime achievement award of an appointment, while Arrieta — 10-5 with a 2.66 ERA in the first half of the season to Burnett’s 7-3 with a 2.11 ERA — took the week off.
In the second half of the season Burnett got hurt and Arrieta got hot and now the latter will either win the NL Cy Young Award, to be announced Wednesday, or finish second. (There’s precedent: last year’s AL winner, Corey Kluber, didn’t make the All-Star team either despite a 9-6, 3.01 first half).
It’s not just teams that lose leads in the second half of the season. Zack Greinke was 10-1 with a 1.46 ERA at the break, but now he’s in a runoff that’s too close to call. Remember that next summer when you read someone’s midseason awards.
Greinke didn’t lose his advantage over Arrieta so much as the latter erased it. Arrieta had an 0.75 ERA in the second half of the season, and not once in his last 20 starts did he fail to go at least six innings or allow less than four runs.
From June 21 on, Arrieta pitched 147 innings and allowed just 14 runs, an 0.85 ERA. In 11 of those 20 starts he didn’t allow a single earned run, and in his last 55 innings he allowed just two earned runs, 22 hits and four walks.
If a strong finish is the criteria, Arrieta will win, and it says here — unconvincingly — that’s how the voters will see it. (If he does, the Cubs will have almost as many awards wins in November as they did postseason games in October.)
But the start of the season is just as important. Ask the Angels, whose 13-16 beginning probably cost them a playoff spot.
Greinke’s and Arrieta’s final stats are so close there’s liable to be more than one voter splitting his/her ballot.
Arrieta was 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA; Greinke 19-3 with an NL-best 1.66 ERA. Arrieta pitched 229 innings, Greinke 222.2. Arrieta fanned 236 batters, Greinke 200, but Arrieta walked 49 to Greinke’s 40. Arrieta had a .507 OPS against, Greinke had a .507 OPS against; Arrieta had a 222 ERA+, Greinke 225. Arrieta pitched a no-hitter; Greinke pitched a one-hitter over eight innings. Greinke pitched 45.2 consecutive scoreless innings; Arrieta pitched 34 consecutive scoreless innings. Arrieta had 12 starts in which he didn’t allow an earned run. So did Greinke.
Their numbers are so close it’s the reason you often find eight basketball players on a high school All-Area team. Because it’s too hard to make a decision.
WAR gives Greinke a curiously large edge — 9.3 to 8.6 — despite Arrieta pitching in Wrigley Field, which is more of an offensive park than Dodger Stadium. Maybe WAR is biased against strong closes. Here’s a vote for Greinke, if narrowly so.
The top two finishers will obscure Clayton Kershaw, who has won three of the last four Cy Youngs. His 2.13 ERA, NL-best 232.2 innings and 301 strikeouts and .521 OPS against were good enough to win most years. But not this one. Third place it will be.
- AL Cy Young: Greinke is not the only pitcher whose head start toward a major award disappeared. Sonny Gray had a pretty good grip on the AL Cy Young entering September, but allowed 20 runs and 34 hits in his last 26.1 innings, lifting his ERA from 2.13 to 2.73. Without that, Dallas Keuchel had an argument, given Gray’s home-court advantage in Oakland. But with it, Keuchel will win the AL Cy Young, as he should. David Price, the third finalist, had a better ERA than Keuchel (2.45 to 2.48), but Keuchel pitched more innings (232 to Price’s 220.1) and had a better OPS against (.575 to .621). Keuchel led the AL in ERA+ (162 to Price’s 161) and wins (20-8 to Price’s 18-5). It’s not a big edge, but it looks like it compared to the NL race.
Item: Kyle Blanks agrees to minor-league deal with Giants
Reaction: Make sure there’s plenty of room on the disabled list. The Giants are lucky Blanks didn’t strain a tendon signing the contract.