Cy Arrieta? No hitter may help case for Cubs' ace
Jake Arrieta's no-hitter against the Dodgers Sunday night seemed inevitable, if only because Arrieta takes electric stuff to the mound almost every start.
As he was emerging as the ace of the Cubs pitching staff last year, Arrieta had serious flirtations with no-nos a couple of times. He took a perfect game into the seventh inning on June 24 against the Reds. In his next start, at Boston's Fenway Park, Arrieta went 7⅔ of no-hit ball against the Red Sox.
He finally closed the deal Sunday night in a 2-0 victory at Dodger Stadium.
The question now is whether Arrieta has improved his chance at winning the Cy Young Award.
The answer is that he probably has improved his chances, but that Dodger Stadium may be the place where the Cy Young resides.
If this were the "old days" and pitchers' win-loss records mattered like they used to, Arrieta might be the front-runner. He leads the major leagues with 17 victories, as his record is 17-6 with a 2.11 ERA. It's not out of the question that Arrieta could win 20 games and be baseball's only pitcher to reach that mark. There's still some symbolic magic to that.
But nowadays, so many more statistics come into play when voters fill out their five-man Cy Young ballot. For that, you can thank the sabermetrics revolution, which has rendered pitcher wins as less meaningful because they're often dependent on the run support the pitcher gets from his hitters and the quality of team on which he pitches.
"Twenty-game winners, if you're a stating pitcher, man, I don't care what sabermetricians say, they live and die by that number," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
There's still good, old-fashioned earned run average. In that category, Arrieta is second in the NL at 2.11 to the Dodgers' Zack Greinke, who has a sparkling 1.61 ERA to go along with his record of 14-3. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, the reigning Cy Young winner, is third in ERA, at 2.24, to go with his record of 11-6.
Looking at some of categories now in vogue, Arrieta is fifth in WHIP (walks plus hits per 1 inning pitched), at 0.94. WHIP is a good measure of how many baserunners a pitcher allows. Greinke is the NL leader (0.85), and he's followed by Kershaw (0.90), the Nationals' Max Scherzer (0.93) and former Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto (0.93), who was traded to the American League's Kansas City Royals.
Another key stat, FIP, or fielding independent pitching, is set to ERA and measures the effectiveness of a pitcher on things he, and not his fielders, control, such as walks, strikeouts and home runs. In that category Kershaw is at 2.10 followed by Arrieta (2.49) and Greinke (2.62).
And in wins above replacement, (WAR) the statistical site FanGraphs has Kershaw at 6.6, followed by Arrieta (5.4) and Greinke (5.1).
Sunday night was Arrieta's 14th straight quality start, a run that dates to June 21 and includes 3 complete games. Greinke leads the NL in quality starts with 24, followed by Arrieta with 23 and Kershaw at 22.
There's also the matter of the MVP award, which usually goes to a position player, but last year went to Kershaw because of his dominance.
If the Cubs make it to the postseason and voters deem Arrieta's contributions vital to that, he could move up into the top 5 or better on the 10-man ballot.
Whatever the case, Arrieta has put his name into the mix for all kinds of postseason hardware. But as far as a no-hitter being "inevitable," he wouldn't go that far.
"It's so hard to say it's inevitable," he said. "It might seem that way just from some outings that I've had, but it's so difficult to get to 27 outs before you give up a hit. There are so many little things you just can't control."
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