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September 17, 2009 at 10:57 AM

Final stretch for Felix Hernandez in Cy Young Award race

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First off, no, Felix Hernandez doesn’t pitch today. He goes on Friday against the New York Yankees on what could be a huge stage for him. The New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America only gets two Cy Young votes, just like we do here in Seattle. But some of the country’s most influential writers tend to follow the Yankees around. On a local and national scale. Another dazzling effort by Hernandez would not hurt.
By the way, speaking of Mariners pitchers, another fine effort last night by Ryan Rowland-Smith. It’s getting to the point, I think, where we can say none of this is a fluke. My only hesitation will be that I’ve never seen Rowland-Smith start off a season this way. I’ve seen him do it twice now after having a few months into a season to get warmed up. So, that side of me wants to see him do this at least once out of spring training. But on the other hand, besides Hernandez, there isn’t another guy in that rotation I feel more comfortable with heading into 2010. I should mention that Jarrod Washburn has been scratched from his next Tigers start because of lingering knee problems dating from his time with Seattle. There have been some suggestions he’s done for the season. So, if you were thinking he might be re-signed here, well, that’s probably not all that likely. He just is not pitching the same and if it’s because of an old ACL problem, like he’s been telling people, you can’t always fix those things in a jiffy.
Anyhow, back to our post, Cy Young talk is starting to heat up around baseball.
Today, we saw a story from former Seattle writer Jon Paul Morosi on the FoxSports site that discussed much of what we did on yesterday’s Talkin’ Baseball segment on KJR AM 950’s Mitch in the Morning show. Namely, that Zack Greinke of the Royals would be running away with this race if his team could win him a few more games.
Click here to listen to the segment.
My favorite line of the whole Morosi piece mentions former Seattle torch lighter Horacio Ramirez and his being one of several Royals relievers to blow a Greinke shutout game.
So, let’s ask ourselves: Do we really want Ramirez, who finished his season with the Class AAA Syracuse Chiefs, to affect how we determine the American League’s best pitcher?
Last time you’ll ever read about HoRam and “American League’s best pitcher” in the same sentence, I guarantee you.
But this is indeed the most compelling thing about the race and the biggest reason Hernandez still has a chance. Well, no, that’s not entirely fair. Hernandez still has a chance because — according to the Mariners PR department — he has a 1.91 ERA since May 24.
The Mariners, like other baseball teams with guys vying for awards, are doing their job and have begun to suggest to writers some numbers they should be considering. This morning, I received a packet of numbers and the most interesting was what came from the Bill James Cy Young Predictor.
It’s a formula James came up with based on past results and places a large emphasis on things like wins, which will obviously hurt Greinke this year. Not saying James believes wins are an important stat for pitchers. Just that he’s analyzing past voting trends, where there has been a huge focus placed on them.

Anyhow, Hernandez leads the pack in that race. Greinke is fourth. What remains to be seen is whether voters this year take the same approach as in the past. Or, whether they avail themselves to some of the newer stats out there like, as I mentioned, Fielding Independant Pitching (FIP), which is sort of the thing Morosi refers to in his FoxSports piece on Greinke.
Here are some of the other numbers mentioned by the Mariners about Hernandez, straight from their online release sent me this morning. He’s no slouch either. And the more wins he racks up, the harder it will be for some guys to vote for Greinke.
* Overall is 15-5 with a 2.52 ERA (58 ER, 207.1 IP) in 30 starts (stats as of 9/17/09).
* Leads all American League starters with 25 quality starts and has the lowest opponents batting average (.228/175×768).
* Also ranks 2nd in the AL in ERA (2.52), T3rd in starts (30), T4th in wins (15), 4th in strikeouts (193), 5th in K/9.0 IP (8.38).
* Is the only pitcher to rank in the top 5 in the AL in each of the 3 pitching “Triple Crown” categories (W, ERA, K).
* Has recorded a quality start in 20 of his last 21 starts.
* Since May 24, is 11-1 with a 1.91 ERA (32 ER, 150.2 IP), 137-45 K-BB ratio and a .213 OPP AVG.
* Leads the AL with 7 starts of at least 7.0 shutout innings.
* With 7 more strikeouts, and assuming he finishes with an ERA below 3.00, will become just the 2nd pitcher in club history to post a season of 200.0 IP, 200 K’s, 15 W and sub 3.00 ERA…Randy Johnson accomplished this in 1995 & 1997.
The one thing I’ll say is, it’s too bad Hernandez only began his exceptional run on May 24, after being called out by manager Don Wakamatsu. Greinke has been on his run since the opening bell. And in the end, his ability to go six months at full blast rather than 4 1/2 might ultimately turn the tide in his favor.
We’ll see. In any event, a lesson for Hernandez. I’d expect him to come flying out of the chute as next season’s odds-on favorite if he doesn’t win this year.



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