“Below the surface of that number are other numbers”, and it’s turtles all the way down.
I asked four baseball writers at CBSSports.com and one at Yahoo Sports for their top-three Cy Young ballot if the season ended today. None of them named [Aroldis] Chapman or [Craig] Kimbrel…
Chapman is allowing four hits per nine innings. That level of stinginess has never happened over the course of a full season, not for a pitcher with at least 50 innings thrown (Chapman is at 53 2/3). Aroldis Chapman is the most unhittable pitcher in baseball—or he would be, if Craig Kimbrel weren’t having the season he’s having. Kimbrel is allowing only 3.6 hits per nine innings, which is patently absurd.
Chapman is striking out 16.8 batters per nine innings, which means he has turned the National League into Little League. That’s never been done either, by the way. No pitcher with at least 50 innings—hell, no pitcher with even 25 innings—has ever matched Chapman’s strikeout rate.
Not even Kimbrel, who’s at 15.6 strikeouts per nine innings. That, of course, has been done—three times. In 100-plus years of Major League Baseball.
So what we have here are two closers who are (A) allowing less hits per nine innings than anyone ever has while (B) striking out more batters per nine innings than anyone has…
[R.A.] Dickey, [Johnny] Cueto, [Matt] Cain, [Clayton] Kershaw—lots of starters having great seasons are on pace to throw 200-plus innings, potentially tripling Chapman or Kimbrel.
But below the surface of that number are other numbers. Kimbrel’s ERA is 1.29. Chapman’s is slightly behind that at 1.34, but against National League foes, his ERA is 0.19.
Read that again, please.
Chapman’s ERA in 48 1/3 innings against National League opposition is zero point one-nine. Again, that’s Little League stuff.
Chapman had a bad stretch in June during interleague play, which counts and matters, but still. If we’re talking about the National League’s best pitcher, well, here’s a closer who has held NL foes to 3.3 hits per nine innings while striking out nearly 20 batters per nine…
You can see who would get my vote Cy Young [sic], if the season ended today: Aroldis Chapman. But I would settle for Craig Kimbrel.
Anyone else? There isn’t anyone else.