The 2015 NL Cy Young race: Two pitchers are going to get screwed


The 2015 NL Cy Young race: Two pitchers are going to get screwed

Clayton Kershaw is the 2015 NL Cy Young.

Zack Greinke is the 2015 NL Cy Young.

Jake Arrieta is the 2015 NL Cy Young.

All of those statements are true. You could also make a case that Arrieta is the National League Most Valuable Player (Bryce Harper is clearly the MVP, but he's not on a playoff team and that matters to some people).

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Two of those pitchers are going to get screwed. There's just no other way around it. Major League Baseball is not going to cut the trophy in thirds and give each of those guys their fair share.

It's a shame. All three pitchers are having absolutely wonderful seasons. Unbelievable seasons. These are three of the best seasons compiled by a pitcher in baseball history.

And yet two of the pitchers are going to be left off the award, their names kept out of the record book.

It seems there are quite a few people who are looking just at the ERA and thinking it's a two-man race between Arrieta (1.82 ERA) and Greinke (1.68 ERA). But Kershaw is pitching out of this world, too.

Kershaw tossed a one-hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night, striking out 13 and walking just a single batter. He improved to 16-7 on the season with a 2.16 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.

The 27-year-old southpaw has won two NL Cy Youngs in a row and three of the last four (he finished second in 2012). He also is the reigning NL MVP and has claimed the league's ERA and WHIP title in four straight seasons.

Yet Kershaw has actually gotten better this season. He has 294 strikeouts (46 more than his next-best season in 2011) and 11.6 K/9 (his next closest was 10.8 K/9 last season).

FanGraphs also rates this as Kershaw's most valuable season, pegging him for 8.4 WAR, better than the 7.7 mark he put up in 198.1 innings last season.

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Advanced stats also show Kershaw may be the best of the trio this season, judging by FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and xFIP (Expected Fielder Independent Pitching) which essentially boils down to just pitching, taking real-life fielding and luck out of the equation as much as possible.

Kershaw: 2.16 ERA, 2.04 FIP, 2.14 xFIP
Arrieta: 1.82 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 2.66 xFIP
Greinke: 1.68 ERA, 2.75 FIP, 3.25 xFIP

The peripherals show Greinke has been more than a little lucky, while Kershaw has actually been a bit unlucky. It's not often a a pitcher of his caliber has a FIP and xFIP below his ERA.

At the end of the day, only one of these guys will walk away with hardware while the other two are left out in the cold.

And that just plain sucks.

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

The Cubs didn't wait long to make Joe Maddon's words come true.

Roughly 5 hours after Maddon said the Cubs are definitely in the market for more pitching, the front office went out and acquired Jesse Chavez, a journeyman jack-of-all-trades type.

It's a minor move, not in the realm of Zach Britton or any of the other top relievers on the market.

But the Cubs only had to part with pitcher Class-A pitcher Tyler Thomas, their 7th-round draft pick from last summer who was pitching out of the South Bend rotation as a 22-year-old.

Chavez — who turns 35 in a month — brings over a vast array of big-league experience, with 799 innings under his belt. He's made 70 starts, 313 appearances as a reliever and even has 3 saves, including one this season for the Texas Rangers.

Chavez is currently 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He has a career 4.61 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while pitching for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers before coming to Chicago.

Of his 30 appearances this season, Chavez has worked multiple innings 18 times and can serve as a perfect right-handed swingman in the Cubs bullpen, filling the role previously occupied by Luke Farrell and Eddie Butler earlier in the season.

Chavez had a pretty solid run as a swingman in Oakland from 2013-15, making 47 starts and 50 appearances as a reliever, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 360.1 innings.

"Good arm, versatile, could start and relieve," Joe Maddon said Thursday after the trade. "I've watched him. I know he had some great runs with different teams. 

"The word that comes to mind is verstaility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen and he's very good in both arenas."

It's not a flasy move, but a valuable piece to give the Cubs depth down the stretch.

There's no way the Cubs are done after this one trade with nearly two weeks left until the deadline. There are more moves coming from this front office, right?

"Oh yeah," Maddon said. "I don't think that's gonna be the end of it. They enjoy it too much."

Jason Heyward has become an offensive catalyst

Jason Heyward has become an offensive catalyst

Expecting Jason Heyward to carry a team offensively would be thought as foolish just a few short months ago. But here in the middle of July, Heyward has turned into the offensive firestarter the Cubs have been seemingly missing since Dexter Fowler left. 

Heyward walked away from Thursday night's 9-6 win over the Cardinals tallying three hits, two RBI, two runs scored and his first stolen base of the year, as the 28-year-old outfielder continued to poke holes in the Cardinals defense. 

Twice Heyward was able to slip a ball between the 1st and 2nd basemen that off the bat looked like neither had a chance to make it through the right field side. Later, Heyward would battle through a lengthy at-bat, finally being rewarded with an opposite-field hit that drove in the game-tying run. 

"It just happened," Heyward explained. " [Carlos Martinez] is not going to give you a whole lot to do damage on throughout the game. I was able to get one pitch there and get a guy home." 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon mentioned Heyward and his ability to move the ball around the field and how it's helped him become an effective piece to this Cubs offense. So effective Heyward's batting average crept up to .290 after today's three-hit performance. 

Heyward credits his quick hands as the major tool he's utilized to create so many successful at-bats lately, which has allowed him to take advantage of certain pitches and punch them through for hits.

He's certainly not driving the ball for consistent power, but the approach has put Heyward on pace to match the 160 hit total he amassed with the Cardinals in 2015. 

"I feel like Joe's mindset on moving the ball is putting the ball in play when you got guys on base," said Heyward. "It keeps the line moving, regardless of the result." 

It might be crazy to think that Heyward's incredible turnaround this season might simply be attributed to putting the ball in play. But even just taking a look at Heyward's contact rates shows he's increased his contact on pitches outside the zone by roughly three percent.

Not a massive difference, but if Heyward's hands are truly giving him an edge at the plate, making contact with pitches that may not be a strike but are hittable pitches could explain the increased offense we are seeing now. 

"That's kinda the biggest thing," said Heyward. "The more good swings you take, the more hits you have a chance to get." 

Shooters shoot, and Heyward continues to shoot his shot and keep the Cubs offense chugging along.