Inside Baseball: Felix For Cy Young?

For the By the Numbers column a couple weeks ago, I wrote that Felix Hernandez should be considered for the Cy Young Award despite his mediocre record. And that was before he turned into Walter Johnson.

Over his past six starts, Hernandez is 4-1 with a 0.20 ERA. In 45 innings, he has allowed 26 hits, 13 walks and one earned run while striking out 57. He also has allowed seven unearned runs, but that’s a discussion for another time.

After all that, King Felix is 11-10, which means the rest of the Mariners are 44-75. He leads the AL in innings pitched, and is second in ERA behind Clay Buchholz.

One thing we discussed in the By the Numbers column is Runs Saved Against Replacement. Basically, it tells you how good a pitcher has been, factoring in innings pitched, ERA and their home park. Here are how the top candidates for the Cy Young Award compare:

Felix Hernandez 219.1 2.30 79.3 59.5
CC Sabathia 209.0 3.14 119.3 48.8
Clay Buchholz 151.2 2.25 107.1 47.2
Jered Weaver 189.0 3.14 86.9 34.4

Note: PE is park effect, with 100 being average. Hernandez’s park effect is 79.3, meaning that this season Safeco Field has reduced runs by about 20 percent.

Hernandez, quite clearly, has been the best pitcher in the AL. And while voters in recent years have demonstrated an improved understanding of baseball statistics, there’s no way he’s going to win the Cy Young Award. Sabathia has 19 wins, the most in baseball, but the biggest argument in his favor is that he’s doing it in the middle of a pennant race.

I can buy that. It’s much different pitching in meaningful games in August and September than it is pitching for a team that has been out of contention since April. If Sabathia remains effective for the next three weeks, he’ll win the Cy Young in a walk. But that doesn’t make him the best pitcher in the league.

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