Aug 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson (52) delivers in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
This one was a nail-biter. Easily the closest voting results for the 2015 season, with five different pitchers earning at least one first place vote.
Jimmy Nelson Total Votes: 23 First Place: 3
Francisco Rodriguez Total Votes: 19 First Place: 3
Taylor Jungmann Total Votes: 18 First Place: 1
Mike Fiers Total Votes: 9 First Place: 1
Will Smith Total Votes: 6 First Place: 1
Jeremy Jeffress Total Votes: 3 First Place: 0
An interesting thing happened in this voting season. The runner-up, K-Rod, was left off of the ballot (top 3) by four different current or former writers and editors. I think this is largely due to the stigma against a reliever winning a “Cy Young” award, assisting Nelson’s narrowly edged out victory.
Another point of interest was Fiers’ shortened season with the Crew, in which he posted a 2.0 fWAR in 118 innings. While he had a great year with the Crew, it makes sense that voters would be hesitant to vote for a non-Brewer to win the award.
That’s not to say Nelson won on any sort of technicality. The big righty was first in fWAR among Brewers pitchers, thanks to his solid average play and his work-horse mentality. Had he not missed the end of the season with an unfortunate head injury, his WAR would have been even higher.
Nelson ended the 2015 season with a 4.11 ERA and a nearly identical FIP, while striking out 7.51 batters per 9. His groundball rate was his highest since joining the Bigs, at just over 50%.
With Wily Peralta struggling throughout the year, Nelson, and later on, Jungmann, became the positive anchors to a rotation that struggled overall.
Nelson’s fastball usage decreased versus previous years, as he brought a new weapon to the arsenal: A curveball, that he promptly began using very regularly. Over 20 percent of his pitches in 2015 were the spinner.
While not proving as tough on hitters as his strong slider, Nelson held his opponents to just a .229 average on the pitch, despite an unlucky .333 BABIP.
Nelson also owned exaggerated splits on the year, holding right-handed batters to a .568 OPS (.241 BABIP) while allowing an .876 OPS (.341 BABIP) against lefties.
Both numbers will regress toward the mean, but Nelson’s curveball proved effective at neutralizing lefties, and lends itself toward future success against his opposite-handed opponents.
For his part, runner-up Rodriguez ended the year with the fifth most saves in the NL at 38, blowing just two saves opportunities all year. In save situations, K-Rod held batters to an OPS of .507 with a K:BB ratio of 36:4.
Batters with runners in scoring position hit .081 against K-Rod in 2015, an astounding stat, regardless of the supreme luck involved.
Special thanks to our voters: Editor Pete Schwichtenberg, staff writer Michael Trzinski, former editors Kyle Lesniewski, Bill Berg, Justin Schultz, Benjamin Orr, and former staff writers Andrew Vrchota and Dave Radcliffe.