It was just announced that our very own Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young award this season. This is a sweet end to a season that saw the Mariners lose 101 games, and Felix receive some of the worst run support of any pitcher. This is also a victory for the push to expel wins from any conversation involving a pitcher’s ability. In comparison to the 2nd and 3rd place vote getters, David Price and C.C. Sabathia, Felix had an awful win-loss record. His 13-12 paled up against Sabathia’s 21-7 and Price’s 19-6.
Mariner and Fangraph’s blogger Dave Cameron pointed out that just 5 years ago, a tub of lard by the name of Bartolo Colon won the award based purely on his 21-8 record (3.48 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 3.90 xFIP). That same season, Johan Santana baffled hitters constantly en route to a 2.87 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 3.10 xFIP and a 16-7 record. In both 2001 and 2004, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson were two of the top pitchers in the NL. Both years Clemens won the award, but here’s how their stats lined up:
Clemens 2001: 20-3, 3.51 ERA, 3.29 FIP
Johnson 2001: 21-6, 2.49 ERA, 2.13 FIP
Clemens 2004: 18-4, 2.98 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 3.37 xFIP
Johnson 2004: 16-14, 2.60 ERA, 2.30 FIP, 2.60 xFIP
Santana and Johnson, obviously better pitchers those seasons, were denied the award because of old school thinking from the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BWAA). So the fact that Felix got the award this year with his 13-12 record represents a measurable change in the thinking of the BWAA as whole. And it wasn’t even close: the Mariner ace took 21 of 28 first place votes!
As a side note: a reader of Fangraphs mentioned that “[ESPN was] discussing the cy young, and they gave an explanation of xFIP and why it was a useful.” That makes me happy 🙂