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Arrieta's Cy season statistically extraordinary

Between 1893 and 2014, only one season produced three qualifiers from the same league with a WHIP below 0.900: The year was 1908, the league was the American, and the pitchers were three of the best ever: Ed Walsh, Addie Joss and Cy Young. The award named after that third hurler was 48 years away from first being distributed.

This scenario played out again this year, with Dodgers teammates Zack Greinke (0.844) and Clayton Kershaw (0.881) sandwiching the Cubs' Jake Arrieta (0.865). For Arrieta to emerge out of this abundant excellence and claim the 2015 National League Cy Young Award signifies just how deep and wide one can apply "extraordinary" to his line and narrative.

In addition to that historic 0.865 WHIP, Arrieta posted 22 wins and 236 strikeouts, allowed 5.90 hits per nine and assembled a 1.77 ERA (and 222 ERA+). For some Cy Young Award-related perspective:

• The last three pitchers to have at least 22 wins and 230 strikeouts and not capture a Cy Young Award: Curt Schilling (2002 and 2001) and Nolan Ryan (1974).

• The last three qualifying pitchers to have a hit rate no higher than 5.90 per nine and not be named a Cy Young winner: Jose Fernandez (2013), Hideo Nomo (1995) and Ryan (1991).

• Arrieta's ERA and ERA+ both came in second in the NL, behind Greinke's 1.66 and 225, respectively. Before 2015 the only pitchers since 1956 (the first year of the Cy Young Award) to post an ERA of 1.77 or lower and not win the award: Ryan (1981), Tom Seaver (1971), Luis Tiant (1968) and Sandy Koufax (1964). Before 2015 the only pitcher since 1956 to post an ERA+ of at least 220 and not claim the Cy Young Award was Roger Clemens (2005).

Back to Arrieta's WHIP and some of his other numbers -- they have significance way beyond Cy Young claims. A few contexts for some of these numbers follow.

• Among all NL qualifiers since 1893, Arrieta's 0.865 WHIP stands as the 10th lowest. The others to go this low in the live-ball era: Koufax (1965), Juan Marichal (1966), Bob Gibson (1968), Greg Maddux (1995) and Greinke (2015).

• Among NL qualifiers since 1893, Arrieta's 5.90 hits per nine comes in as the ninth lowest. Those since 1920 to go lower: Koufax (1965), Gibson (1968), Sid Fernandez (1985), Nomo (1995), Pedro Martinez (1997) and Jose Fernandez (2013).

• Arrieta's 222 ERA+ ties him with Christy Mathewson (1909) for the 10th highest for any NL qualifier since 1893. The nine pitchers ahead of them: Maddux (1994 and 1995), Gibson (1968), Three Finger Brown (1906), Mathewson (1905), Dwight Gooden (1985), Clemens (2005), Pete Alexander (1915) and Greinke (2015).

• Since 1893, Arrieta's Triple Crown numbers -- 22 wins, 236 strikeouts, 1.77 ERA -- have all been reached in a season by nine other pitchers. Walter Johnson accomplished this three times (1910, 1912-13), and Rube Waddell (1904-05) did this twice. The others to do this once: Mathewson (1908), Ed Walsh (1908), Alexander (1915), Koufax (1966), Gibson (1968), Ron Guidry (1978) and Gooden (1985).

After the All-Star break, Arrieta -- in 15 starts -- posted a .923 winning percentage, 0.75 ERA, 0.727 WHIP and hit rate of 4.61 per nine. The last pitcher with at least 15 second-half starts to have:

• A .923 or better winning percentage: Johan Santana in 2008;

• An ERA of 0.75 or lower: none; the previous lowest mark was Seaver's 1.10 in 1971;

• A WHIP as low as 0.727: Kershaw, this year (0.720). Only one other pitcher since 1933 has gone this low (Martinez, with a 0.703 in 2000);

• A hit rate as low as 4.61 per nine: none; the previous low was Ryan's 4.73 in 1972.

Among pitchers with at least 50 starts over the past two seasons combined, Arrieta is second in both WHIP and ERA (to Kershaw) and first in hits per nine and OPS against. It has been a remarkable two-season run for the righty, one punctuated by this historic and award-winning 2015 campaign.

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions.
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