With the middle of August upon us and the Seattle Mariners out of the playoff picture, it’s time to get geared up for the only important baseball event left: the race for the American League Cy Young Award. It’s important to us M’s fans because it’s the only race left where we have a rooting interest. Felix Hernandez is quietly putting together his best season as a Mariner. Even better than during his first Cy Young campaign, a season that saw him win only one more game than he lost. But Felix has long been a sabermetrician’s wet dream, dominating most advanced stats categories. Hernandez’s 2010 Cy Young campaign is often looked at as the turning point from traditional pitching stats like win/loss record and ERA to the more advanced saber metrics such as WAR, WHIP and BABIP. If you need further explanation on the previous sentence or any of the advanced stats, Google them. It’s 2013 and traditional stats for pitchers are headed the same way as the cassette tape, Razor scooters and boy bands. In another word, extinct.
As it stands today Hernandez is the front runner for the award but isn’t without some worthy competition. Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish, Hiroki Kuroda and Bartolo Colon have each built strong cases to claim the Cy Young. All of them have posted decent win/loss records with Scherzer racing out to a 17-1 record. Each has an ERA under three and they have all remained relatively healthy for the entire season. Colon has almost certainly taken himself out of the running as he has been linked to the Biogenesis scandal regarding performance-enhancing drugs. Darvish has come on strong as of late but struggled during the middle part of this season. Kuroda’s chances are hurt by his relative anonymity and people’s general distaste for the New York Yankees while many believe Scherzer is simply benefiting from one of the best offenses in the game. On top of all of that, their resumes still fall short when compared to King Felix.
An ace is expected to carry a pitching staff. The number one is supposed to eat innings and amass quality starts. A quality start is defined as a pitcher throwing six or more innings without giving up more than three earned runs. Hernandez is leading the American League in both categories. He has thrown more than 230 innings in every season since 2009, a feat that has been matched by only Justin Verlander. He has been one of the most reliable workhorses in the game and is proving that once again this season.
Without getting too analytical, Felix is dominating all advanced metrics. He is number one among pitchers in Wins-Above-Replacement (WAR), a full game ahead of the runner up while getting the least amount of run support among all contending pitchers. Hernandez is second in the league in strikeouts and second in strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s the rare power pitcher who doesn’t walk anybody. Through 173 plus innings, he has yielded an astonishingly low 33 base on balls. Throw in the 178 strikeouts and you have complete supremacy. He’s done all of this while posting a respectable 12-5 record and a league-leading 2.28 ERA.
If the season ended today, Felix Hernandez would win the American League Cy Young. But it’s the middle of August and each of the pitchers in contention will have roughly eight more starts to beef up their resumes. As the Mariners trek through another meaningless September, let’s hope our ace gives us something to cheer about and the crown is fit for a King.