The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #5: The amazing NL Cy Young race

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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Sometimes the Cy Young Award goes to the guy with the most wins. Sometimes a guy posts an ERA so low that it’s impossible to ignore him. Sometimes there’s a strikeout pitcher so prolific that denying him the top vote is next to impossible. Every year the Cy Young voters balance these things. Some years it’s harder than others. It’s difficult to recall, however, a year in which it was harder to make a choice than it was in the 2015 NL Cy Young race.

Jake Arrieta led the league with 22 wins. Zack Greinke led the league with a microscopic 1.66 ERA. Clayton Kershaw struck out 301 batters and was the first to top 300 in that category in a dog’s age. The thing that made this even more difficult, however, was that each of those three category leaders were also spectacular in the other two categories and in just about every other statistical measure you could find. It was like paper-scissors-rock, writ-large, with every argument in favor of one pitcher making way for an argument in favor of another.

In pitching WAR, ERA and WHIP it went Greinke-Arrieta-Kershaw. In wins, Greinke was tied for second behind Arrieta while Kershaw posted a still-respectable 16 victories. Arrieta led the league in hits allowed per 9, just ahead of the two Dodgers pitchers. Kershaw led the league in innings pitched but Arrieta and Greinke were right behind him. Arrieta and Kershaw tied for the league lead in complete games, games started and shutouts. Arrieta was the stingiest in the league in allowing homers. Kershaw led the NL in Fielding Independent Pitching. The linear weights-based Adjusted Pitching Runs and Adjusted Pitcher Wins stats and the Win Probability Added stat said Greinke was the best in the game. Situational Wins — an adjusted Win Probability stat which takes more context into account — gave the nod to Arrieta.

Ultimately, there was no definitive answer and no wrong answer. And ultimately Arrieta won it, earning 17 first-place votes to Greinke’s 10 and Kershaw’s three.

If you wanted to parse the voters’ collective methodology it’s possible to construct an argument in which Arrieta’s very strong second half and the Cubs’ storybook surge to 97 wins carried the day while Kershaw’s slow start (at least slow for him) and the fact that he won the year before made his case somewhat less compelling in the minds of voters. For Greinke, you might argue that his second half was not as good as his first — he ONLY had a 1.99 ERA after the break, heaven forfend! — and that August, his worst month, is when voters start to think harder about postseason awards. Those are as good as can be expected as far as explanations go.

All of that is stretching things a bit, though. Ultimately, there were no wrong answers for voters, as long as those three pitchers appeared 1-2-3 on the Cy Young ballot in one combination or another. Those three pitchers who, in most other years, would each walk away with the Cy Young but, in 2015, found themselves in one of the best awards races we’ve ever seen.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.