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October 2, 2010 at 12:19 PM

Felix Hernandez, Ichiro and Jason Vargas take home local BBWAA awards for 2010

Hard to believe that, with the Mariners now at 99 losses and getting outscored 17-1 on this final homestand, there were actually some signature performances this season. I hinted at it yesterday morning, but it should come as no surprise that the Seattle/Pacific Northwest chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America chose Felix Hernandez as the team’s Pitcher of the Year for the third straight season.
Didn’t think it was possible, but Hernandez actually improved on last season’s performance when, in any other year, he’d have won the Cy Young Award if not for an out-of-this-world season by Zack Greinke of the Royals. But now, Hernandez should stand alone.
He lost the strikeout crown by one to Jered Weaver. But does anybody doubt that, if he were allowed to pitch tomorrow, Hernandez could not whiff at least one batter to tie, then another to win it? Come on.
Hernandez has clinched the ERA title, since Clay Buchholz will not pitch again this season. So, he’s got the ERA title and the innings pitched crown — measuring the ability to limit runs by opponents and the amount of time he does so. Those are the two biggest, in my opinion, things that a Cy Young candidate brings to the table.
Wins? We’ve gone over that. You can’t win when your team doesn’t score. C.C. Sabathia couldn’t do it this year, and neither could Roy Halladay — the guy who will likely win the NL Cy Young. In fact, when it came to producing in the face of limited offense, Hernandez still outperformed Cy Young rival Sabathia. With apologies to former GM-turned-ESPN commentator J.P.Ricciardi, when it came to beating the best in the AL East, Hernandez also outperformed Sabathia.
Hernandez outperformed every pitcher in the AL this season. Hopefully, this was not his final award of the year.
The Most Valuable Player was once again Ichiro, who just tied Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons in a career. We’ve started to take those for granted in Seattle. But to accomplish that, in a season such as this one with everything else failing around him, was, I believe, a true feat.

The past two nights, I’ve watched the new Ken Burns documentary about the past 16 years of baseball. Ichiro features prominently in the second part of the two-part series. Watching him do what he’s done in an historical context, put forth by Burns, helps remind me what I liked about Ichiro so much when he first broke in to the majors in 2001. How he brought a unique brand of baseball to our country at a time when it was more fashionable to draw two walks and hit a three-run homer.
In the end, through the rise and fall (we hope) of the Steroids Era, it’s Ichiro’s brand of baseball that has endured. Is he perfect? No, he isn’t. But who is? All I know is, 200 hits a year is a good foundation for any team to build off of. We are witnessing history every day he’s out there, whether the team wins or loses. And we are witnessing it the way Ichiro goes about it. He is very different from what we’ve been used to in this part of the world. And that’s not a bad thing.
Jason Vargas was the Unsung Hero award winner. When he began the year, most pundits, including me, felt he’s be fortunate to land a fifth-starter’s job. Instead, Vargas spent the latter half of the year as the team’s No. 2 starter. He threw nearly 200 innings and the importance of that can’t be understated. He took plenty of toll off a bullpen that could have burned out and been impacted beyond this year had he not logged quality innings. And that kind of total with a sub-4.00 ERA is quality. Yes, there are sabermetric stats that suggest Vargas may have produced results that won’t hold up in the future. That he got lucky on some home run balls, or by playing at Safeco Field. All I know is, the results he put up are real. They are tangible. They cannot be disputed.
That’s what awards are for. We have plenty of predictive stats in baseball. But they are not absolute either. Awards are not for stats like those. Awards are for results. For what was produced, not for the likelihood of producing identical results in the future.
And no matter what is said about Vargas, he delivered results when his team needed them.
As usual, the BBWAA voters did themselves proud. I do believe they got it right for all three players, even if the first two were slam dunks. Like I said, awards are a results-based business. The voters delivered the right results.



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