With the regular season in its final week, let’s look at a few by-the-numbers notes from both sides of town.
• Cubs fans have been debating whether the strongest candidate to succeed Jake Arrieta as the National League Cy Young Award winner is Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester. But if you open the pitching leaders at Fangraphs.com, the leader is Jose Fernandez.
Before his death Sunday in a boating accident, the Marlins’ ace was having a season worthy of serious Cy Young consideration. By traditional numbers, Fernandez was 16-8 with a 2.85 ERA, putting him in a race with the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard (13-9, 2.63), the Nationals’ Max Scherzer (18-7, 2.82), the Giants’ Johnny Cueto (17-5, 2.79) and Madison Bumgarner (14-9, 2.71) and the Cubs’ Lester (19-4, 2.28), Hendricks (15-8, league-leading 2.06) and Arrieta (18-7, 2.85).
By Fangraphs’ wins above replacement, Fernandez is the leader at 6.2, followed by Syndergaard at 6.1. Scherzer (5.6) is also within a win of Fernandez, with Cueto (5.1), Bumgarner (4.7), Lester (4.4), Hendricks (4.1) and Arrieta (3.7) further back.
Fangraphs wants its WAR to reflect who has pitched the best, regardless of team influences, so it uses fielding-independent pitching as a base. There are other factors, including opposition and park effects, but Fernandez (2.29) and Syndergaard (2.34) are the only NL starters with FIPs below 3.00.
Fernandez leads the NL with 12.49 strikeouts per nine innings and is third behind Syndergaard (0.56) and Cueto (0.63) at 0.64 home runs allowed per nine innings.
The Cy Young won’t be awarded strictly on the basis of fWAR or FIP. But should Fernandez win, it shouldn’t be looked on as a sympathy vote. He has the numbers to back it up.
• Among American League pitchers, fWAR leadership is a dead heat between the White Sox’ Chris Sale and the Indians’ Corey Kluber at 5.2, with the Red Sox’ Rick Porcello at 5.1.
Those are also the top three in FIP, with Kluber at 3.19, Porcello at 3.36 and Sale at 3.38. All three have strong traditional numbers, too, with Kluber at 18-9, 3.11, Porcello at 22-4, 3.11 and Sale at 16-9, 3.19.
In a pre-metrics world, Porcello’s 22-4 would have trumped all. But Felix Hernandez’s Cy Young with a 13-12 record in 2010 and Kluber’s FIP-influenced award in 2014 have shown voters today will look deeper than wins and losses.
• Chicagoans have been watching two of 2016’s top three defensive right fielders. Baseball Info Solutions lists the Sox’ Adam Eaton second in runs saved in right field with 24 and the Cubs’ Jason Heyward third with 14. The Red Sox’ Mookie Betts leads with 30.
In limited center-field play, Heyward (three runs saved) has fared better than Eaton (minus-two runs saved). Overall, though, Eaton has had by far the better season. Eaton has hit enough (.361 on-base percentage, .791 OPS) that his defense lifts him to a 6.0 fWAR, seventh in the AL.
With a .303 on-base percentage and .623 OPS, Heyward ranks 55th in the NL with a 1.4 fWAR. That it’s in positive numbers is because of his defense.
Follow me on Twitter @GrochowskiJ.