We’ll see Felix Hernandez take another shot tonight at trying to break away from that pack of contenders for the American League Cy Young Award. Hernandez had a rare off day in Cleveland his last time out, but so did most of the other contenders this week.
Justin Verlander picked up his 14th win for the Tigers, but also gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings and saw his ERA drift back to 3.38.
Roy Halladay got pounded for seven runs over six innings and saw his ERA pushed back to 3.03.
Josh Beckett gave up eight runs in eight innings and his ERA stands at 3.65.
Zack Greinke of the Royals, who had just one win since June, got a badly-needed eight-inning, two-run performance and actually lowered his ERA from 2.44 to 2.43. So, that puts Greinke at a dozen wins, just like Hernandez.
In terms of ERA, Greinke is the only guy ahead of Hernandez’s 2.73 in the AL. But as we mentioned last week, ERA alone likely won’t be enough to get it done if Greinke can’t pile on some more wins. You don’t get too many 15-win Cy Young winners. And playing for the Royals — where wins are as rare as a Yuniesky Betancourt Web Gem — makes it questionable whether Greinke can obtain the minimum amount of victories needed for Cy Young voters to consider casting a ballot in his favor.
Again, that leaves the field wide open for a guy like Hernandez.
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But again, you have the same predicament going with Hernandez, who has been stuck on 12 wins for much of August thanks to a lack of run support.
One would think Hernandez’s ERA would work strongly in his favor if he finishes within a win or two of the rest of the field.
If Verlander goes 19-7 and Hernandez 17-5, but Hernandez’s ERA is a half-run better, chances are voters won’t look much further and Hernandez will be in luck. But if one guy is 19-7 and Hernandez goes 15-5, then voters will likely start looking for excuses not to give Hernandez the nod. They would likely feel his win totals are too low — there’s never been a 15-win Cy Young winner — and then, even if the rest of the pack was stuck between 15 and 19 wins, would still start looking much harder at the other considerations.
If it’s close enough that the majority of voters stat putting a heavy emphasis on Fielding Independant Pitching (FIP), then Hernandez might be in trouble.
Here are the current FIP stats:
If you’re Hernandez, you really don’t want this thing coming down to a FIP battle.
And the best way of avoiding that is for Hernandez to keep pace with the other pitchers in wins while maintaining the only ERA in the league that’s close to Greinke’s.
Speaking of wins, the other guy to pay attention to here is C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees, who is now 15-7 and could very well be the only 20-win pitcher in the AL this season. If that happens, then, opposite of the scenario we spelled out for Hernandez, the voters could start looking for reasons to give him the nod. Sabathia’s ERA is a relatively pedestrian 3.59, but there is still a month of season left to go. If he gets on a real roll, lowers the ERA much closer to 3.00 and helps the Yankees claim top spot overall in the AL with a 20-win season, he could very well claim the prize. He’s got the innings and strikeout totals to be right up there, so really, ERA is the only thing slowing his bid at the moment.
Because as I’ve mentioned, this thing truly is up for grabs.
And for Hernandez, as well as Greinke, there’s one thing they need to do more than any other these final five weeks, no matter how much out of their control it might be on certain days.
Just win, baby.