The King is making his case
On June 12th the Seattle Mariners lost a baseball game to the San Diego Padres by a score of 5-4. Felix Hernandez was the losing pitcher in front of a whopping 13,084 people at Safeco Field and, apparently, after that game King Felix made it known to Major League Baseball teams that he would not lose again. He hasn’t.
Two months and 82.1 innings since that dreadful Tuesday night, Felix has a record of 6-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 11 starts.
King Felix, once again, has cemented his name in the race for the prolific Cy Young award which names the AL and NL’s most outstanding pitcher. When Felix won the award in 2010 he defied the logic that has, for so long, plagued MLB’s award giving criteria.
He finished the 2010 season with 13 wins on a last place team. No pitcher has ever won the Cy Young with fewer wins — Tim Lincecum won it with 15 wins the year before — but his gaudy pitching numbers were marred by a terrible offense.
Regardless, Felix won the Cy Young and he was, without a doubt, the most outstanding pitcher in 2010.
Has he done enough this year to become the Seattle Mariners‘ first repeat Cy Young winner?
He certainly isn’t hurting his cause
Flash back to last week in the Bronx. A complete game, two-hit, shutout in a stadium that doesn’t even have fences in the outfield against the most prolific offense in all of baseball. If Felix wins the Cy Young everyone will remember that performance as the game that sold the voters.
The 1-0 victory epitomized Felix’s tenure in Seattle. He received one-run of support pitching in the best hitter’s park in baseball and wasn’t phased as he threw just 101 pitches in as efficient of an outing as you’ll see.
It was his 10th win and his second win this season in which he had to preserve a 1-0 victory. In his four of his five losses in 2012, he has received three runs or fewer of run support and garnered just four runs of support in the other.
This offense sucks and they tend to be the worst when Felix is at his best.
Not-so-surprisingly, Felix has came away with a no-decision in five starts in which he has given up just two earned runs or less. In the majority of his wins the offense has put up decent run-support but it’s those performances where he pitches out of his mind, gets little-to-no run support, and walks away with a loss or a non-deserving no-decision that makes you cringe for the guy.
At this point every year, a handful of pitchers begin to separate themselves from the rest of the pack as we round third base in the 2012 season. This year, Felix finds himself in familiar company with some of the American League’s perennial Cy Young contenders.
Jared Weaver, Justin Verlander, and David Price have certainly made their case this year and in year’s past. But, this year’s newcomer is Chicago White Sox hurler Chris Sale.
You certainly can’t discount names like C.C. Sabathia and the surprising Fernando Rodney but Sabathia’s ERA is hovering around four and Rodney, well, he’s a reliever and no-one likes to give the Cy Young to a reliever unless it’s the ’80s or your name is Eric Gagne; who won the award in 2003.
The obvious front-runner this season is Jared Weaver — cough, who the Mariners just beat, cough — who is 15-2 with a minuscule 2.22 ERA in 21 starts. Opponents are hitting a meager .196 average against the Angels’ ace and he has yielded 0.92 WHIP in 138.0 innings.
Weaver’s ERA is 0.24 better than Verlander’s — who is second in the AL in ERA at 2.46 for those who aren’t mathematically savvy.
Speaking of Verlander, to go along with his sub-.250 ERA, he has a record of 12-7 and leads the league in strikeouts with 174 in 175.2 innings. His seven losses will be a concern to voters and matched up against Weaver, his only advantage is in the strikeout category.
Price and Sale are having similar Cy Young campaigns.
Price has a record of 15-4 with a 2.50 ERA in 21 starts for Tampa Bay while Sale has quietly put up well-deserving numbers with a 14-3 record and an ERA of 2.60.
If anyone in the last 30 days has been more impressive than Felix it’s been Price, who is 4-0 with a 1.66 ERA in the last month. In that same timeframe, Sale also has four wins but his ERA has jumped up to 3.75 during the span and also has a loss credited to his name.
Regardless, each of these resumes are right in the thick of things as we head down the final stretch.
So Where Does Felix Fit In?
At 10-5 with a 2.74 ERA, Felix is more than deserving for consideration in the race for the AL Cy Young. Aside from a rather shaky start in Los Angeles this weekend, you could make the case that Felix trails just Weaver in the American League.
Let’s break down some numbers.
If you were to give out the Cy Young based solely on wins and ERA, Felix would find himself at the bottom of the pack as his ERA is fifth out of the names mentioned. But, thankfully for King Felix, he’s the reason that there’s more to the Cy Young race as he showed us in 2010.
One thing the voters will look at is run-support, which undoubtedly affects win-loss totals. Felix has an average of 3.91 run support in games started whereas Weaver (6.38 RSGS), Price (4.52), and Sale (5.63) all receive outstanding offensive production when they step on the mound. Verlander, despite his high-profile offense, receives 3.63 runs per game.
Felix is second in the American League in strikeouts with 168 while Verlander leads the league with 174. Price (151), Sale (132) and Weaver (102) round out the top five on the Cy Young list.
The overwhelming leader in the clubhouse right now is Jared Weaver. His stats don’t lie and he has been above and beyond the best pitcher in the American League.
I think the rest of the group, including Felix, finds themeselves intermingled in that second tier of the Cy Young contenders. Weaver hasn’t pitched as many innings as the rest of the pitchers and has had injury problems in the past so that is something to think about.
It’s always been an unwritten rule that the Cy Young typically goes to a pitcher with 200 innings but Weaver, barring injury, will more than likely have 10-12 more starts that should push him over the 200 inning rule.
All in all, Felix finds himself right in the race and a strong finish could certainly make things interesting as long as the Mariners decide to give him a couple runs here and there.
He won’t win the Cy Young with just 13 wins this season so he’ll need to hang up 5-6 more wins in his locker — preferably dominant wins.
If I were to call it today Felix finishes third behind Weaver and Price followed by Verlander and Sale.
But, he’s surprised us all before.