It seems like only a few days (hours?) ago that the National League Cy Young Award winner would be wearing a Dodgers uniform. Kershaw or Greinke, just take your pick. Amidst all the high-profile domination at Chavez Ravine, the quietly spectacular Jake Arrieta has been in the background of the conversation revolving around the game’s best pitchers.
Arrieta’s no-hitter against L.A. changed that conversation in a flash with Greinke and Kershaw watching in the opposing dugout. While he had the numbers to match the L.A. aces already, Arrieta has to be considered the frontrunner once you count the impact he he’s had on his team in this pennant race and his showcase of dominance of the Dodgers on August 30.
If you went by the old-school counting stats — and some writers who vote on the Cy Youngs still do –then Arrieta would be winning comfortably with his 17-6 record, 2.11 ERA, 183.0 IP, 190 SO, and three shutouts. Greinke has him with his impossible 1.61 ERA and world-leading 8.3 WAR (per Baseball Reference), while Kershaw has him on strikeouts (236), but neither can top the massive win total (an MLB best) or the fact Arrieta tossed a no-no in the midst of a tight Wild Card race.
At the front or end of the rotation, Kershaw and Greinke have each other to look to when the Dodgers need a win, and usually L.A. gets a dominant performance from one or both. In Arrieta’s case, the 29-year-old has no such support with Jon Lester (8-10, 3.59 ERA) having a so-so year and a big dropoff after that. Arrieta has the been the horse of the Cubs rotation by a mile, and few pitchers in the game have even approached his standard in 2015.
Need a horse to fire lock down the opposing team with the dog days of August upon you? Arrieta has fit the ace profile throughout the 2015 season, but in August he was particularly nasty with a 6-0 record and 0.43 ERA. (Greinke, for his part, went 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA.) Furthermore, only Greinke can claim more quality starts (24) than Arrieta (23) this season.
If you like drama and the aura of inevitability, Arrieta’s masterpiece in Los Angeles was the stuff you dream might happen. Only one error and one walk separated the right-hander from a perfect game against the Dodgers, who even without Yasiel Puig threw out professional hitter after professional hitter to face the Cubs hurler. He logged 12 SO and got the glorious deed done in 116 pitches.
Every start has mattered for Chicago with San Francisco breathing down its neck in the race for the National League’s second Wild Card, the last playoff spot up for grabs. Arrieta has taken the ball and been the epitome of a stretch run ace for Joe Maddon. Greinke might have a slight edge in overall, full-season domination, but the NL Cy Young Award should go to Jake Arrieta if the season ended today. He’s been that magical, and he changed the race for the league’s best pitcher with his historical showing.
Statistics, current as of August 28, were sourced at Baseball Reference.