By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — If ever a pitcher deserved MVP consideration while perhaps missing out on the Cy Young award, it’s Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta.
Here’s a crucial statistic to keep in mind: Arrieta is 10-1 in 14 starts after team losses this season. That’s an incredible number and the essence of an MVP. After tossing seven scoreless innings in Sunday night’s 4-0 win against the Pirates, he has now won 10 straight starts. Since July 2, Arrieta’s 14-1 in 17 starts, with two no-decisions. For the season, Arrieta’s 21-6 with a 1.82 ERA, as he leads baseball in wins and is second in ERA.
The unbelievable year the 29-year-old Arrieta has had must be analyzed in a way that you dissect the impact of the performance from start to start and month to month. Since the All-Star break, he has a 0.80 ERA, the lowest for a pitcher in second half of a season in modern baseball history among those who qualify.
“Where we are at right now, he has to be in that conversation,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Arrieta’s MVP candidacy. “He has done (so much) to prevent any long losing streak. What he he done in the second half has not been done before. Nobody has ever seen it. Voters are really going to have to consider (all this) when they look at this fella. The other fellows are really good, but we have never seen anything like this. That should equal a pretty good award.”
The first argument against Arrieta or any pitcher winning the MVP award is always how can you vote for a player who starts 33 games when a player like Anthony Rizzo on the same team contributes to the other 129 games while the pitcher is watching?
It’s a great question and fair one too. Yet it’s worth keeping in mind that the BBWA has voted 10 previous pitchers as both the Cy Young and MVP winners in the same season since 1956, when the pitcher’s award was created.
The season that Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke has had is also one for the ages. He was the runaway clubhouse leader in the eyes of Cy Young voters until Arrieta’s otherwordly second half.
With Greinke, it’s worth noting that he may be no more valuable to his team than fantastic co-ace Clayton Kershaw, who won the NL Cy Young and MVP in 2014. Greinke and Kershaw may split the votes for the award season because of the dual importance to their team.
Greinke is 18-3 with a 1.65 ERA (best in MLB), while Kershaw is 15-7 with a 2.25 ERA (third in MLB).
Arrieta admits thoughts of awards have crept into his mind now and then.
“When (my wife and I) are alone and put the kids to bed, we talk abut the exciting things that go with things like (awards),” Arieta said after allowing just one hit Sunday night in seven shutout innings and adding a homer as well. “That is pretty short-lived for the moment, since we have a lot on our plate, some big tasks at hand. I think those (team goals) deserve a little more focus than (awards). We have to stay sharp mentally and keep the focus honed in right now.”
Again, Arrieta’s 10-1 record after Cubs losses is the mark of a stopper and reflective of an MVP stepping up. What he’s done for the Cubs is unmatched across baseball, and if you factor in the team success, he’s deserving of the NL MVP (as great as Bryce Harper has been for the Nationals).
The voting is assigned separately to different writers in all of the big league cities for the different awards. That means a fresh set of eyes will be voting for the Cy Young and MVP awards, with each person placing their own value on the impact on the award at hand. No writer is burdened with having to consider both awards.
Could Arrieta win both awards? It’s possible. Could he win one and not the other? It’s possible. Could he miss out on both? It’s possible too, but after a sensational campaign for the Cubs, he’s deserving of some hardware.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.