Let’s start with the obvious: All three pitchers are having Cy Young seasons.
Zack Greinke will finish with the National League’s lowest ERA and WHIP in 20 years, since Greg Maddux in 1995.
Jake Arrieta has more wins, more innings, three more shutouts and more strikeouts than Greinke, all while pitching in a tougher home ballpark for pitchers.
Clayton Kershaw, by several very significant measures, is having the best season of his entire career, and he has won three Cy Young Awards.
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?”
This year, I don’t have a Cy Young vote. But if I did, as much as it pains me to say it — everyone knows I’ve been in the tank for Zack Greinke since he was a teenager — I would vote for Jake Arrieta.
Why? Well, I could give you lots of reasons why I would vote for any of those guys, but in the end the decisive factor for me would be how well they’ve pitched on the road. Dodger Stadium is a better pitchers’ park than Wrigley Field (though Wrigley, unexpectedly, does lean toward pitchers). It has been a huge advantage for pitchers going back to Drysdale and Koufax, and this year, Greinke has a 1.48 ERA there and Kershaw (as usual) has been almost unhittable there.
What about on the road, though?
Arrieta: 12-1, 1.68 ERA, 4.9-to-1 strikeout to walk, 4 homers allowed
Greinke: 9-2, 1.88 ERA, 4.2-to-1 strikeout to walk, 6 homers allowed
Kerhsaw: 5-4, 2.60 ERA, 6-to-1 strikeout to walk, 9 homers allowed
Road numbers are not everything, of course. But Arrieta’s road ERA is the lowest for any regular starter in the last decade (Greinke’s is fourth lowest, so he’s no road slouch either). All year, Arrieta has gone into some of the toughest ballparks in baseball and pitched incredibly well. His one time in Dodger Stadium, he threw a shutout.
Arrieta has been amazing at home too, let’s not forget that: His 1.97 ERA at Wrigley is the best for a Cubs starter since Greg Maddux in 1992. But in what I think is the closest and most fascinating Cy Young race perhaps ever, the difference for me is just how good Arrieta has been on the road. He’d be my Cy Young choice.