In what has become a year-end tradition, MLB.com takes a look back at the top storylines of the year -- the Top 15 for 2015.At some point, the whole thing got ridiculous, with Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw rolling out one dazzling performance after another. They weren't just
In what has become a year-end tradition, MLB.com takes a look back at the top storylines of the year -- the Top 15 for 2015.
At some point, the whole thing got ridiculous, with Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw rolling out one dazzling performance after another. They weren't just good. The National League has seen good before. These guys were historically good, mind-numbingly good.
Years from now, another generation of baseball fans may still be appreciating how good these guys were in 2015. Sometimes baseball delivers perfection. So let's pause and salute them because we're unlikely to see something like this again.
:: 15 for '15 ::
If you had a NL Cy Young Award vote in 2015, here's wishing you good luck and peace of mind. There was a case to be made for all three of them. Come to think of it, the appropriate thing might have been to split the award into three pieces and allow them to share it.
Arrieta won the award by going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA. In the closest voting in six years, Greinke finished a mere 22 points behind with a 19-3 record and a 1.66 ERA. Finally, there was Kershaw, the best pitcher of his generation, finishing third with a 16-7 record and a 2.13 ERA.
All three of them got first-place votes. Arrieta got 17 of the 30 first-place votes, Greinke 10, Kershaw three.
All three pitched at least 228 2/3 innings. All of them had sub-1.00 WHIPs. All of them were in the 200-strikeout club.
The last time three pitchers had ERAs that mirrored Arrieta, Greinke and Kershaw was in 1985, when Dwight Gooden (1.53), John Tudor (1.93) and Orel Hershiser (2.03) did it.
"You've got three guys who any other year would win the Cy Young in a landslide," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "They're all worthy."
The 29-year-old right-hander allowed two runs in August and two more in September. Arrieta pitched a no-hitter on Aug. 30. Do you really need to know anything else?
As the Cubs were sprinting for their first playoff appearance in seven years, Arrieta was pitching as well as anyone ever has. In his last 12 starts, he was 11-0 with a 0.41 ERA. In his last 17 starts, he allowed two home runs and hit two home runs. Opponents batted .184 off him.
"I was locked in," Arrieta. "My timing, my mechanics, my release point were all as close to perfect as I could possibly be. When you combine that every time with great stuff, it made it really, really easy on me. I got to the point where I expected to pitch a shutout every time out. It got to the point where not only myself but my team expected that."
Arrieta's 0.75 ERA after the All-Star break was the lowest since the All-Star Game was created in 1933, and his 0.27 ERA in his final nine regular-season starts was the lowest for any nine-start stretch in the modern era (since 1920).
"It's hard to put in perspective," Arrieta said. "It's kind of crazy to even think about. With names like Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson and other guys who were greats in the game, to be in the same sentence with them -- it's kind of cliché but it makes you really step back and appreciate it. It's special."
Greinke's 1.66 ERA was the lowest since Greg Maddux threw a 1.63 on the board in 1995. Wait, it gets better: His ERA was under 2.00 every single day of the season. Greinke led the National League in WHIP and pitched six-plus innings in all 32 starts. He allowed fewer than two runs 21 times.
Greinke's .844 WHIP is the third-lowest in 53 years, the lowest since Pedro Martinez's 0.737 in 2000. In almost any other year, he would have been a Cy Young Award slam dunk.
"There were times I would sit back and be like, 'Wow, it's incredible what he's doing,'" Arrieta said.
Greinke's ERA by month: 1.93 (April), 1.05 (May), 1.74 (June), 0.95 (July), 2.45 (August) and 1.87 (September). He pitched seven-plus innings 21 times and allowed more than three runs twice.
"You almost took it for granted what he was able to do," said Kershaw.
Here's what a third-place finish in Cy Young voting looks like: League-leading 232 2/3 innings. First pitcher in 13 years with 300 strikeouts (301). League-leading four complete games and three shutouts. Kershaw is the first pitcher in history with 300 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.13 or better not to win the Cy Young.
This is what a Hall of Fame career looks like: In the last five seasons, Kershaw has won three NL Cy Young Awards, finished second once and finished third once. Take a good long look at this guy because this guy is accumulating numbers that will stand the test of time.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U.