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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

November 17, 2009 at 7:54 AM

Felix vs. Greinke: Cy Young day of reckoning (UPDATE: IT’S GREINKE IN A LANDSLIDE)

greinkecy.jpg. Here’s another story on the outcome.

UPDATE 11:05 P.M.: Zack Greinke wins the Cy Young. Any other outcome would have shocked me. He got 25 out of 28 first-place votes., and was second on the other three ballots, for 134 points. Felix finished second, getting two first-place votes and 23 seconds, for 80 points. Justin Verlander got the other first-place vote and finished a distant third with 14. Here’s the voting.

We’ll find out who wins the American League Cy Young Award today (Tuesday) at about 11 a.m., Pacific time.

As much as I admire what Felix Hernandez did this year — and it was spectacular — here’s why I expect it will be Zack Greinke getting the call today. With all due respect to Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera, I think the race boils down to those two.

In the column, I include some comments that I solicited from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the organization that does the voting on the four major postseason awards — rookie of the year, manager of the year, Cy Young and MVP (two in each league city per award). Some, but not all, of the people quoted are Cy Young voters this year. For the record, I had an MVP vote.

There were some comments that got trimmed from the column, and some I didn’t have room to run at all, so I’m going to include them here in their entirety, so you can get a feel for what BBWAA members are thinking (hint: They’re thinking Greinke). But first, here’s a quote from Greinke himself out of the Kansas City Star on the final weekend of the season. Bob Dutton of the KC Star asked Greinke to evaluate Felix and C.C. Sabathia:

“They’re both awesome. Felix, I think he just figured out how hard it is to hit him. So he just attacks the zone a lot. He’s so nasty — and his defense is real good — it’s just not a fair challenge for the hitters. He’s just really good, and he pumps strikes. When I watch him pitch, it looks like he throws every pitch all game long like I do when I’m reaching back with a two-strike pitch with people in scoring position. That’s how good his stuff is. He can throw it over the middle where in those situations I need to hit my spots. That’s how good his stuff is.

“I think C.C. is me but left-handed. Our fastballs are about the same. Our sliders are about the same. His changeup is probably a little better, but my curveball is probably a little better. We’re pretty much the same exact pitcher. We’re just different sides of the plate.”

Good stuff. Anyway, here are the writers’ comments, starting with Jeff Passan of Yahoo! (got to get that exclamation point in there!), who is based in Kansas City and has seen much of Greinke:

“It really is a shame that Felix Hernandez’s most brilliant season yet came in 2009. Had it been 2008, he would’ve overshadowed Cliff Lee, and in 2007, he would’ve outshone CC Sabathia, and you can go all the way back to Pedro Martinez’s 2000 season to find one of comparable dominance in the American League.

Of course, Hernandez wasn’t the best pitcher in the AL this year. That honor goes to Zack Greinke. This isn’t about geographic bias or anything of the sort. A simple look at the numbers shows that Greinke was superior, which in no fashion takes away from Hernandez’s tremendous year. It just means he doesn’t deserve Cy Young hardware.

In Hernandez’s defense, he did finish the season with more victories and innings pitched than Greinke. The former is rather insignificant, as Greinke played on the worst team in the AL, and while the latter is big, the difference was fewer than 10 innings, one start, really. Greinke’s earned-run average was more than a quarter of a point better, he had more strikeouts, fewer walks, hits and home runs allowed — and did so playing for a woebegone Royals team that would crush anyone’s morale. Now, that’s not the reason to vote for Greinke, but it factors in secondarily, just as Hernandez’s helping rescue the Mariners from the AL doldrums does.

I remember a few years back seeing Felix in spring training and thinking: If this guy doesn’t start taking care of himself, he’s going to blow up into the next Bartolo Colon. The next spring, I didn’t recognize him. He looked remarkable, and ever since, he has been the pitcher everyone pegged the next great when he arrived at 19. The Colon comparison was more for his girth than the Cy Young he won. Hernandez isn’t getting fat again anytime soon. He will win a Cy Young, though. Just not this year.

Here is another KC-based writer, Joe Posnanski, like Passan formerly of the Kansas City Star, now with Sports Illustrated (no exclamation point):

I think Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez were the two best pitchers in the American League. I think Greinke was just a touch better. He had a better ERA, more complete games and shutouts, walked fewer, struck out more, gave up fewer homers and had a better WHIP. The Mariners were also a significantly better defensive team than the Royals, which I think played a little bit of a role.

Hernandez did have more wins and the better winning percentage. I don’t put a lot of stock in wins, but it’s an advantage for King Felix. He has others. I think Greinke’s advantages are more telling.

i’d take either one of them. But I think Greinke was the best pitcher in the league and (as everybody knows) he’s my Cy Young guy.

Bob Nightengale, USA Today:

“I definitely think that Greinke will win the Cy Young award, perhaps quite easily. He was in the drivers’ seat all of the way, and never had a hiccup along the way to permit Hernandez or Sabathia or anyone else to slip past him. Simply, he was on top, and he never permitted anyone to knock him off.”

Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune:

“I don’t have a vote. If I did, I would have had it Greinke 1, Felix 2. Greinke, in my opinion, answered questions about him by winning three of his last four starts to get to 16 wins. It’s not a lot but it’s the level where other guys have won. Hernandez was more consistent but Greinke’s run of unbelievable excellence in the first half set him up where the second-half falloff didn’t kill his terrific numbers. Nothing wrong with what Felix did but like Pujols in 2001, he just picked a bad year to have a great year because someone else was even greater — and so far no PEDs questions with Zach!

John Shea, San Francisco Chronicle:

“It’s all about Grienke, who did the most with less than any other candidate. Playing on a lousy team, he was undefeated in April and September with zero-something ERAs in both months, and he was special most every start in between. Of his 33 starts, 28 were quality starts. Furthermore, every candidate but Grienke played for a winner, and that includes Hernandez. The Royals’ offense and defense were awful. Greinke wasn’t as dominant as Steve Carlton the year Carlton won 27 of the Phillies’ 59 games, but the 2009 season made people talk about Greinke and Carlton in the same breath, and that’s enough off a reason Grienke deserves the Cy Young Award.”

Bob Dutton, Kansas City Star:

If I did have a ballot, I would have put Greinke first, followed by Hernandez and Sabathia. I’m sure there’s some bias in that since I covered all but one (I think) of Greinke’s starts, but he was the best pitcher I’ve seen since Pedro Martinez in the early 2000s.

That said, Hernandez was phenomenal. Even Greinke says the guy is unlike anyone else in the league. Looking back at recent Cy winners, I think I’d still vote last season for Cliff Lee over this year’s Felix but, boy, I think I’d take Hernandez over every other AL winner going back to Pedro in 2000.”

Tracy Ringolsby, Inside The Rockies.com, Colorado (formerly Rocky Mountain News):

Zack Greinke, Kansas City. He led AL in ERA, and, yes, he won “only” 16 games, but he had nine games in which he allowed two or fewer runs and didn’t get a win — six no-decisions and three losses.”

(Photo by Associated Press)

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