Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners was named the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner Thursday. There was a time when a 13-game winner would have received little more than a polite nod in this balloting, but the evaluation of a pitchers' worth has evolved well beyond that point.
Yes, Hernandez was merely 13-12, ranking 18th in the AL in victories, trailing the leader in that category -- third-place finisher CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees -- by eight. But this vote was something of a referendum on statistics vs. victories as a measurement of pitching worth. Statistics -- and Hernandez -- won by a large margin.
Hernandez received 21 of 28 first-place votes from the voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. This total underscores the consensus that formed behind the value of Hernandez's work, as measured by his statistical achievements.
The voters correctly determined that his worth should not be measured merely by victories. In so doing, they also determined that Hernandez should not be penalized because he pitched for a last-place team that often could not generate enough offense to give him adequate run support. The Mariners scored fewer runs per game than any team since the designated hitter rule was adopted by the AL in 1973.
For the record, Hernandez led the Major Leagues with an earned run average of 2.27, led the AL in innings pitched with 249 2/3. He was second in strikeouts, with 232, and in WHIP, with a 1.06.
AL Cy Young voting
|Felix Hernandez, Mariners||21||2||3||1||1||167|
|David Price, Rays||4||15||7||1||111|
|CC Sabathia, Yankees||3||10||12||2||1||102|
|Jon Lester, Red Sox||1||9||12||33|
|Jered Weaver, Angels||1||2||6||2||24|
|Clay Buchholz, Red Sox||2||5||4||20|
|Cliff Lee, Mariners/Rangers||1||1||1||6|
|Rafael Soriano, Rays||1||3||5|
|Trevor Cahill, Athletics||1||2||4|
|Joakim Soria, Royals||1||2|
|Francisco Liriano, Twins||1||1|
|Justin Verlander, Tigers||1||1|
Tampa Bay's David Price was second in the voting and received four first-place votes. He was 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA and led the league in winning percentage. Sabathia was third, receiving three first-place votes. He was 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA, leading the league in victories and reaching the 20-victory plateau for the first time in his career.
Nothing that is said on behalf of Hernandez's work ought to diminish the value of Sabathia or Price, both of whom were essential to the success of their teams. In the same way, the remainder of pitchers who received votes also distinguished themselves. Jon Lester of the Red Sox was fourth, Jared Weaver of the Angels, who had one more strikeout than Hernandez, was fifth, and Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox was sixth. They all deserved consideration in this voting.
But by any reasonable statistical reckoning other than victories, the best starting pitcher in the American League overall in 2010 was Hernandez. And in recognizing this, the voters have made this Cy Young election a breakthrough election.
No American League starting pitcher had ever won this award with fewer than 16 victories. Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers won the National League Cy Young in 1981 with a 13-7 record, but that season was severely shortened by a strike.
In an earlier time, this award would have gone to Sabathia, simply by virtue of being the league's only 20-game winner. But this isn't that time.
Hernandez was not even named to the AL All-Star team this season. But after the break he compiled an ERA of 1.53, the third-lowest post-All-Star break ERA in the past 25 years. The fact that he was 6-7 over that period illustrates only the problems that the Mariners had scoring runs.
The vast majority of the voters recognized this and looked well beyond the 13-12 record to the essence of Hernandez' performance. This was an election in which the one major traditional measurement of pitching value -- games won -- took a beating.
But an objective analysis of the work of Felix Hernandez indicated that no pitcher in the AL matched his overall performance. The Cy Young Award voters have expanded their horizons, covered new ground and correctly determined that King Felix was their man.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.