Given the production they got for their $524,000, the Houston Astros could afford to put some money into a razor for ace Dallas Keuchel. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Wednesday night, the Cy Young awards will be revealed on the MLB Network, and more than a month after the regular season concluded – and votes were due – the candidates have long since been identified. The National League race clarified over the final month of the season, with Jake Arrieta of the Cubs making a huge push to chase down Zack Greinke and, to a lesser extent, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. The American League race centered on one lefty who came up through his club’s farm system to lift it to the postseason (Dallas Keuchel of Houston) and another lefty who was dealt midseason to end the postseason drought of another franchise (Toronto’s David Price).

Each of those contenders appeared in the postseason, so they clearly had value to successful teams. But who got the best value out of their pitchers? Kershaw, at $32.6 million? Uuuuuuh.

[Fancy Stats: 2016 Cy Young Race projections]

To figure this out, we came up with a (convoluted) formula that takes the two versions of wins above replacement (WAR) – one from FanGraphs, the other from – and averages them out, then divides the player’s salary by his combined WAR. (Sabermetricians: Don’t try to poke holes in this formula. We know there are holes. We’re not worried.)

This is, to some extent, an unfair exercise because it will unduly penalize players who have put in their six years of service time and therefore cashed in on free agency. But we’ll carry it out nonetheless – both with the Cy Youngs and Thursday with the MVPs – to highlight one of the themes of 2015: there’s nothing we can’t expect from the young (and cheap!).

Final votes: The Cy Young of Value

9. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 27
2015 stats: 16-7, 2.13 ERA, 0.881 WHIP, 301 strikeouts, 232-2/3 IP
WAR: 8.6 fWAR, 7.5 bWAR
Average WAR: 8.1
2015 salary: $32.57 million
2015 contract situation: Second year of a seven-year, $215-million deal
2015 cost per WAR: $4.05 million

Kershaw’s best arguments for the actual award are built on statistics both traditional (he led baseball in both innings pitched and strikeouts) and more advanced (he led in fielding independent pitching (1.99)). In 2014, he won both the Cy Young and the NL MVP awards – but he threw 34 more innings and made six more starts this year, meaning he had a greater impact on the Dodgers’ season. He is, though, the highest-paid pitcher on the planet. And that makes it hard to win a competition in which the reward comes for being cheap.

8. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 32
2015 stats: 19-3, 1.66 ERA, 0.844 WHIP, 200 strikeouts, 222-2/3 IP
WAR: 5.9 fWAR, 9.3 bWAR
Average WAR: 7.6
2015 salary: $25 million
2015 contract situation: Third year of a six-year, $147-million deal with an opt-out clause (which Greinke exercised after the season)
2015 cost per WAR: $3.29 million

Greinke wins so many of the statistical battles over the course of the full season: lowest ERA in the game, best WHIP in the game, best ERA+ (ERA adjusted for a player’s ballpark). He started the All-Star Game for the National League, and while Arrieta gets so much credit for his post-break performance – rightfully so – shouldn’t Greinke get credit for his consistency? Before the All-Star Game, he went 8-2 with a 1.39 ERA and 0.843 WHIP. After it, he went 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA and 0.846 WHIP.

7. David Price, Detroit/Toronto

Age: 30
2015 stats: 18-5, 2.45 ERA, 1.076 WHIP, 225 strikeouts, 220-1/3 IP
WAR: 6.4 fWAr, 6.0 bWAR
Average WAR: 6.2
2015 salary: $19.75 million
2015 contract situation: Final year of arbitration eligibility
2015 cost per WAR: $3.19 million

Price’s candidacy is a bit odd because he was traded from the Tigers to the Blue Jays at the deadline, but his work with Toronto in the midst of a pennant race was exemplary: 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 11 starts in which he struck out 87 men in 74-1/3 innings. Price’s 2015 salary, though, is a great indication of the money in the game now. He settled for $19.75 million – a record for a player who wasn’t yet eligible for free agency.

6. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs

Age: 29
2015 stats: 22-6, 1.77 ERA, 0.865 WHIP, 236 strikeouts, 229 IP
WAR: 7.3 fWAR (wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs); 8.7 bWAR (wins above replacement, according to
Average WAR: 8.0
2015 salary: $3.63 million
2015 contract situation: First year of arbitration eligibility
2015 cost per WAR: $453,750

Arrieta’s case for the actual Cy Young award is built largely on his historic second half, in which he went 12-1 with a 0.75 ERA, allowed zero runs in 10 of his 15 starts and held hitters to a .148 average. That was the culmination of his establishment as a front-of-the-rotation starter – a status that will eventually get him paid. But in 2015, he was a bargain, in part because he had never before made 30 starts or thrown even 160 innings in a season, and in part because his career ERA was 4.48, his career walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) was 1.307.

5. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

Age: 29
2015 stats: 9-16, 3.49 ERA, 1.054 WHIP, 245 strikeouts, 222 IP
WAR: 5.5 fWAR, 4.2 bWAR
Average WAR: 4.9
2015 salary: $1.2 million
2015 contract situation: First year of a five-year, $38.5-million deal that bought out all three arbitration seasons and two years of free agency
2015 cost per WAR: $244,897

For all the talk about Kluber’s “disappointing” 2015 – one which came on the heels of a surprise Cy Young season the year before – the numbers don’t show much disappointment aside from the (relatively meaningless) win-loss record. Yes, his ERA was up a run, but his WHIP went down, as did his walk rate. FanGraphs had him trailing just Price and Keuchel among AL pitchers in WAR. And his long-term deal with the Indians should have Cleveland fans feeling good about the bang for their buck going forward.

4. Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 27
2015 stats: 12-13, 3.23 ERA, 1.137 WHIP, 252 strikeouts, 212 IP
WAR: 5.3 fWAR, 4.3 bWAR
Average WAR: 4.8
2015 salary: $1.17 million
2015 contract situation: Second year of a six-year, $25.5-million deal that bought out all three arbitration seasons and one year of free agency
2015 cost per WAR: $243,750

Archer has quickly developed into one of the game’s most promising pitchers and personalities. In 2015, he lowered his ERA, WHIP and walk rate and upped his strikeouts to 10.70 per nine innings, second in the American League and fourth in baseball. And he should appear on this list regularly, because the final guaranteed year on this deal (2019) is worth just $7.67 million – and if the Rays pick up the two option years, he’ll make $9 million in 2020 and $11 million in 2021. That would be a steal for a healthy Archer at that point.

3. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

Age: 27
2015 stats: 14-8, 2.54 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, 205 strikeouts, 191 IP
WAR: 5.2 fWAR, 4.7 bWAR
Average WAR: 5.0
2015 salary: $556,675
2015 contract situation: Under club control; eligible for arbitration in 2018
2015 cost per WAR: $112,460

A year after making his major league debut in May and winning the National League’s rookie of the year award, deGrom took a step toward becoming one of the National League’s best pitchers. He was among the league leaders in strikeout rate (fifth at 9.66 per nine innings), walk rate (eighth at 1.79 per nine innings) and – wait for it – strikeouts per walk (fifth at 5.39). And as the Mets try to repeat as pennant winners next year, they won’t have to fill in new pieces around deGrom’s salary – which won’t bump up through arbitration until 2018.

2. Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics

Age: 26
2015 stats: 14-7, 2.73 ERA, 1.082 WHIP, 169 strikeouts, 208 IP
WAR: 3.8 fWAR, 5.8 bWAR
Average WAR: 4.8
2015 salary: $512,500
2015 contract situation: Under club control; eligible for arbitration in 2017
2015 cost per WAR: $106,771

Gray is the third finalist in the American League for the actual award, but the fact that he played just his second full major league season – and therefore, the A’s paid him just $5,000 more than the major-league minimum of $507,500 – made his performance a steal. Though he made two fewer starts than he did in 2014, his numbers improved virtually across the board. One oddity about his case: Gray ranked seventh in WAR for pitchers according to, but just 21st according to FanGraphs – the biggest disparity among candidates here.

1. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros

Age: 27
2015 stats: 20-8, 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, 216 strikeouts, 232 IP
WAR: 6.1 fWAR, 7.2 bWAR
Average WAR: 6.7
2015 salary: $524,000
2015 contract situation: Final year before arbitration eligibility
2015 cost per WAR: $78,209

A bargain at almost any price, but an absolute steal for a guy who won’t make even $1 million until 2016, when he’ll get a raise through arbitration (unless he signs a long-term extension first). Keuchel had made just 67 starts before 2015, when there was no certainty about his standing in the Astros’ rotation. But he led the American League in innings pitched, WHIP and victories. When Houston needed him most, he came through, too, allowing two or fewer earned runs in eight of his final 10 starts to help the Astros lock down the a wild-card spot – a game which Keuchel pitched, and won (though postseason results don’t factor into regular-season awards, even made-up regular-season awards).

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