Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Felix Hernandez for AL Cy Young?

For those of you who know me personally know that I can be both modern and old fashioned when it comes to the game of Baseball. I try to stay up-to-date with the modern methods of statistical and player analysis and comparison but I also try to be old fashioned in thinking in certain areas. One of these areas is with the Cy Young Award and what it means to be a starting pitcher. I believe that an effective starter and a quality start is not one that lasts just 6 innings. No, I believe that a starter should pitch seven or more innings a game in order to be labeled a quality starter. In addition, analysis of said starter should take wins and losses into account. It is in that last sentence that I feel things are changing. Maybe it is me, but I seem to have seen a growing trend among Baseball writers to dismiss wins and losses, especially when it comes to the example of the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez. (Photo Credit Aaron Reynolds from the Hardball Times website)

For the last few weeks I've been reading how Felix Hernandez is generating Cy Young buzz and consideration with a sub .500 record. Granted, Hernandez is playing on the most under-achieving team of the 2010 season and as of late it seems that any game they win is when he's on the mound. One of the writers who believes that Hernandez is Cy Young worthy is Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.

A few weeks ago, Baker wrote about Hernandez's chances on winning the Cy Young award. As he noted in his article Felix Hernandez selling East Coast on his Cy Young Award credentials. How about the West Coast?, take the wins and losses out of the equation, then Hernandez leads (or is near the top) most of the vital pitching categories for Cy Young. After this his performace a few weeks ago on an Eastern road trip where Hernandez dominated both the Yankees and the Red Sox, Baker is even more confident in his stance of Hernandez being the front-runner for the award. I don't dispute most of what he is saying. But I don't believe that it is (his belief) an East Coast bias and a West Coast disbelief that is going to keep Hernandez from winning the award. No, I believe that his wins and losses are what is going to decide whether or not he wins the award.

Bad enough last year's Cy Young winners for the American and National Leagues won the awards with 16 and 15 wins respectively. At the very least they had a 2-to-1 win-to-loss ratio. It was always my understanding that winning games was the goal for all starters, especially the ace. Now I'm not knocking Hernandez for his losses. He's gone out there game after game and has given his all often a victim of a lack of production from his offense and/or a lack of defense behind him. In a prior post called The Resurgent Seattle Mariners, I highlight how impressive both Hernandez and Cliff Lee looked together before Lee was traded to the Texas Rangers. I'm not a Felix Hernandez hater. Far from it. Trust me, I've watched Hernandez dominate the Yankees in three starts this past season (3-0 and almost logged his fourth complete game against the Yanks in a row). But I do believe that any Cy Young winner should at the very least have an over .500 record and at the least a 2-to-1 win-to-loss ratio.

Currently Hernandez is 11-10 with a 2.30 ERA with a league leading 209 K's in a league leading 219.1 IP with 30 games started having completed five. Hernandez wouldn't be the first pitcher to win the Cy Young on a bad team. Maybe this is an unfair comparison, but Steve Carlton won 27 games during the 1972 season (27-10) while the team in total won 59 games (59-97). He won the Cy Young. Playing for a bad team shouldn't disqualify anyone from winning the award. But the pitcher should (in my opinion) fit the criteria of having over a .500 record and at the least a 2-to-1 win-to-loss ratio.

What can Hernandez do to improve his standing in the eyes of the Cy Young voters? Keep winning games and at the very least try to get his record a few more games over .500. Last season, Hernandez went 15-1 in the second half to vault himself to a record of 19-5 placing 2nd in the Cy Young vote. He has the ability to do it. I'd be more open to change my position if Hernandez finished the season strong. Whether or not the team will let him do so is another story. In the end, I just hate to think that, in this era of metrics that dissect every little statistic and reorganizes them into infinite categories, wins and losses no longer have a bearing on who wins the Cy Young.

What do you think.

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to see Felix Hernandez's game-by-game log for the 2010 season from
- Click Here to see Felix Hernandez's bio page from

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