Why Felix Hernandez Deserves the AL Cy Young Award
Before I begin, I must state two things: I am a Yankees fan and I fully believe in utilizing advanced metrics to determine who deserves certain awards.
What exactly does that mean? That means I think the individual performance should far outweigh aspects of a player's profile that are affected by their team's performance.
For example, I look at Bartolo Colon's 2005 Cy Young to be a travesty of the greatest magnitude. Why? Because I think Bartolo Colon's 21 wins should not outweigh the fact that Johan Santana had an ERA 0.61 lower than Colon in nine more innings, not to mention Santana's 81 more strikeouts and 35 fewer hits allowed (in just nine more innings, mind you!).
So why did Colon win the Cy Young in 2005? Because the Angels offense managed 761 runs (and a 93-69 record) that season compared to the Twins 688 runs (and their 83-79 record).
I've seen this argument a thousand times and, despite being right, no stat nerd will ever be able to convince an ignorant individual otherwise. Wins will always hold a ridiculous place in the public's view of a starting pitcher; it's why the award is named after Cy Young (the all-time leader in wins) and not Walter Johnson (a better pitcher than Cy Young); even though I think the Johnson Award would be a pretty cool name for the prize.
So why does any of this matter? I mean, Zack Greinke won the Cy Young last season despite the fact that he only finished with 16 wins. But last year the next closest pitchers (Hernandez, Sabathia, and Verlander) only finished with 19 wins. Greinke didn't have as many wins as his nearest competitors, but 20 wins is looked at as a magic number and nobody reached it.
As CC Sabathia nears 20 wins, the debate between traditionalists and new age sabermatricians has taken to a whole new level.
Why? Because Felix Hernandez is currently the best pitcher in the American League despite the fact that he only has 10 wins—compared to CC Sabathia's 19.
At the moment, CC Sabathia's statistics are as follows: 29 GS, 19-5, 3.02 ERA, 202.2 IP, 165 SO, and a 1.20 WHIP.
Correspondingly, Felix Hernandez has posted the following stats: 29 GS, 10-10, 2.38 ERA, 211.1 IP, 200 SO, and a 1.10 WHIP.
Without even getting into advanced metrics (and I'd hardly call what I'm about to use advanced metrics) we can see that Hernandez has vastly outperformed Sabathia in every category except for wins.
As for the "advanced metrics," I will list them for each pitcher. I believe the reader can discern what each stat means based on their traditional baseball abbreviation and an understanding of grammar school math.
Sabathia: K/9: 7.33; BB/9: 2.89; H/9: 7.90; K/BB: 2.54
Hernandez: K/9: 8.52; BB/9: 2.51; H/9: 7.41; K/BB: 3.39
So what does that mean? That means Felix Hernandez has pitched more innings than CC Sabathia while striking out more batters per nine innings, allowing fewer walks and hits per nine innings, and posting a better K/BB ratio. I won't even get into statistics such as WAR, VORP, or ERA+ (all of which Hernandez leads Sabathia in).
The only "significant" category Sabathia leads Hernandez in is wins.
Why is that?
Perhaps it's because Sabathia's Yankees have scored 740 runs against the Mariners' 435 runs. If 305 runs on offense doesn't account for the difference between 19 wins and 10 wins, I don't know what does.
However, some may say, "if all things were equal than Felix Hernandez would be pitching in the AL East, a much tougher division than the AL West." That's true...but there are also stats that make that argument seem foolish.
Here are Sabathia and Hernandez's numbers against each other's divisions.
Sabathia vs. AL West: 7 games, 6-1 W-L, 50.2 IP, 37 SO, 1.25 ERA, 0.88 WHIP
Hernandez vs. AL East: 6 games, 5-0 W-L, 49.1 IP, 53 SO, 0.55 ERA, 0.79 WHIP
Whoops...so much for that argument. By the way, Hernandez's record against the AL East includes a 3-0 record against the Yankees—the best offensive team in baseball—with a 0.35 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP.
And for those who say Hernandez doesn't have to face the AL East regularly, remember that CC Sabathia NEVER has to face the Yankees, a team that Hernandez has dominated.
Now don't get me wrong, I'd love for Carsten Charles to win the Cy Young award. In fact, I don't think there is a pitcher in the American League—besides Felix Hernandez of course—that deserves the award other than him. In fact, I'd be willing to accept the necessary evil of Sabathia winning the award as long as Clay Buchholz doesn't win it.
But that is something better saved for another article. However, just for thought—and because it relates to Buchholz's Cy Young candidacy—consider the fact that Mariano Rivera finished second in the 2005 voting ahead of Johan Santana despite the fact that Santana had 153.1 more innings pitched than Rivera. You look at the stats and figure out the correlation.
Unfortunately, I think that this season Felix Hernandez will have to suffer the same indignity Santana faced when he came in third place in Cy Young voting in 2005, despite clearly deserving to win the award.
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