I have the distinct honor of being a voting member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and this season my vote is being tallied for the Walter Johnson Award for the most outstanding pitcher in the National League.
As with many of these voting processes, BBA or other body of award-givers, there can be very few restrictions or qualifications for any given award, as is the case with this one. It makes it both fun and sometimes maddening distinguishing between several qualified candidates and then having to back up your position. It’s easy to TYPE IN ALL CAPS ON TWITTER BECAUSE YOU DISRESPECTED MY FAVORITE PLAYER, but it’s much different when you have to actually listen to or use reason yourself to deem one season-long performance superior to another.
With that said, here is my ballot:
- Clayton Kershaw – If you disagree with this, I will openly mock you. Ok, probably not, that would be rude because I don’t even know you, but it’s very difficult to argue with Kershaw as the winner of this award. Almost 11 strikeouts per nine innings pitched helped result in an ERA and FIP under two, and xFIP just above it. Kershaw threw almost 200 innings and ranked in the top seven in the National League in FIP and xFIP among ALL pitchers. Those top seven lists include pitchers with fewer than ten innings pitched, to put that ranking in perspective. It’s really a shame Kershaw missed a handful of starts due to injury, for while this is already a phenominal season by any standard – we could be talking about a truly historic season.
- Jordan Zimmerman – I’ll admit, I almost used the voter crutch of “I’ve seen him more” to put Wainwright in this spot, but the statistics drove me toward Zimmerman. While not reaching the magical threshold of 200 innings pitched, likely due in part to a higher BABIP than his contemporaries on this ballot, Zimmerman did post a strong K/9 rate coupled with a low walk rate – always a recipe for success.
- Adam Wainwright – Always a bridesmaid, never the bride. Wainwright’s hiccup in the dog days of summer kept him from making this more of a contest, as he piled up wins (I know, I know), innings, and most importantly – outs. Wainwright posted a 2.38 ERA and 2.88 FIP, he was certainly helped by an improved Cardinals defense. [ED. Note: Please let the elbow be ok, please let the elbow be ok, please let the elbow be ok, please...]
- Jake Arrieta – I was surprised when this name showed up in my research. I guess that’s an indictment of my knowledge of what’s going on elsewhere in the league, or I just don’t pay any attention to the Cubs. (Probably a little of A, little of B.) Arrieta arrived with the big league Cubs in early May and proceeded to strike out almost ten per nine for the rest of 2014. He walked a lot too, but kept his pitches in the ballpark better than any other regular NL starter. If Arrieta can put together a full, healthy 2015 he will help buoy a staff looking for innings.
- Stephen Strasburg – Strasburg paired with Zimmerman to lead the Nationals to the best record in the National League, Strasburg’s performance predicated upon over 200 innings with lots of strikeouts. Unlike Arrieta, Strasburg struggled keeping the ball in the yard a little this season (what’s that old saying, faster it comes, faster it goes? – I’m dating myself…) but still posted a FIP just under 3 and xFIP of 2.56. The 14-11 record doesn’t scream dominance, but the peripherals do – a few more balls hit at fielders makes Strasburg’s season look much differently, I’d guess.
So there is my ballot. Agree or disagree? There’s a place for that below.