Arrieta stacks up well among the NL’s elite

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

The National League Cy Young Award was handed out Wednesday, with Clayton Kershaw capturing all 30 first-place votes en route to his third Cy in four seasons. In total, 12 pitchers—11 starters—received votes, including Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, who tied for ninth with three fifth-place nods.

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Though the 28-year-old was well off the pace for winning the award—as was everybody else—the few votes he did receive put him in elite company. But after looking further into Arrieta’s 2014 numbers, his ninth-place finish might have been a bit of a snub.

Of the candidates receiving votes, the Cubs’ ace finished in the top six in ERA, WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and FIP (fielding independent pitching). Arrieta also finished fifth in wins above replacement, a number that indicates a player’s value over a replacement-level player. He also allowed just five home runs, fewest of any starter with at least 100 innings pitched in the National League.

Maybe the most interesting number is his FIP total. FIP attempts to gauge a pitcher’s performance by looking only at the factors he can control: strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs. It removes extraneous factors such as defense and luck. FIP runs linear to ERA, meaning if a player’s FIP and ERA are similar, that ERA total is an accurate indicator of the pitcher’s performance.

In the case of Arrieta, he was one of just two pitchers receiving votes (Stephen Strasburg being the other) to have an FIP lower than his ERA. This likely means he was either a bit unlucky or that his defense let him down at times. With a difference of 27 points, it’s not a drastic falloff, but it also means a slightly better performance behind him could have resulted in better numbers.

All said, his innings pitched totals were likely his downfall. Though he struck out better than a batter per inning (167 K in 156.2 IP), he barely cracked the NL’s top 45 in innings. If Arrieta can up that total while maintaining his greater than 3:1 K/BB ratio, it’s not hard to imagine more praise coming the fireballer’s way in 2015.

Statistics according to Baseball-Reference

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