Felix Hernandez wins American League Cy Young Award
Seattle Mariners right-handed pitcher Felix Hernandez won the 2010 Cy Young Award this afternoon despite only 13 wins, the lowest total of any starting pitcher to ever win the award, overcoming challenges from Yankees ace CC Sabathia, second-place finisher David Price and baseball's resistant convention.
This year's award served not only as a prize for the league's best pitcher, but also a referendum on the saturation of advanced statistics in baseball's mainstream and, perhaps, the relevance of the BBWAA's voting sensibilities. Hernandez had a better season than Sabathia in any measure aside from wins, which have been exposed by new metrics and emerging wisdom as an incomplete, borderline-silly measure of a pitcher's worth.
Hernandez went 13-12, but the record did not speak for his performance. Rather, it only served to disguise his utter dominance. Hernandez led the AL with a 2.27 ERA, 1,001 batters faced, 249 2/3 innings pitched and 7.0 hits allowed per nine innings. His 232 strikeouts ranked second in the majors, one behind Jered Weaver of the Angels, and he walked 70 batters.
More advanced measures further illustrated Hernandez's supremacy. He had a 174 ERA+, which measures a pitcher's effectiveness adjusted for ballpark effects and with 100 as the league average. He had a 3.26 xFIP, a measure of a pitcher's performance independent of defense. His 6.2 WAR (from FanGraphs.com) ranked second in the AL to Cliff Lee.
In every single category, Hernandez bested Sabathia. In most cases, it was not all that close. The vote, in a breakthrough statement, reflected that. Hernandez received 21 of 28 votes. Sabathia garnered three first-place votes, Price four. Sabathia's season should not be discounted - he went 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA, a 3.78 xFIP and 5.1 WAR in 237 2/3 innings. He had a great season, but he was not as good as Hernandez.
For the 28 writers who voted on the Cy Young Award to look beyond win total and recognize speaks to the eminence of sabermetric thinking in baseball circles. This year's vote, to many people, became as much about the pitchers as the writers casting ballots.
The vote went thusly: Hernandez, Price, Sabathia, Jon Lester, Jered Weaver, Clay Buchholz, Cliff Lee, Rafael Soriano, Trevor Cahill, Joakim Soria, Francisco Liriano, Justin Verlander.
In the end, BBWAA voters refreshingly chose not to punish King Felix for pitching for a team that scored 513 runs, the fewest of any offense that played a full season since 1972. They chose not to reward CC Sabathia for having a very good season with the best offense in the league supporting him. They chose to declare their relevance and discard misguided and clichéd notions of the past - "pitching to the score"; "stepping up in the clutch." They chose to give the Cy Young Award to the best pitcher in the American League, period.
| November 18, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
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