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Felix Update

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I wrote four days ago about Mariner pitcher Felix Hernandez’s excellent season, with some especially strong performances in recent weeks, suggesting that he just might deserve the American League Cy Young award, even if few are paying attention. It seems I was premature. People are indeed taking note.

On Monday, at the Sports Illustrated website, Cliff Corcoran took a look at the Cy Young candidates, ranking the Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia first and Felix second. He called Felix “the AL’s most consistently dominant pitcher of 2010.” Corcoran continues:

Unfortunately, he plays for the team with the worst offense in baseball and has received just 3.15 runs per game of support (barely more than half of what the Yankees have scored for Sabathia). Hernandez doesn’t lead the league in any major category, is struggling to keep his record near .500, and does have 14 unearned runs on his ledger, but he’s also leading the majors in quality starts (25 in 28 turns) and quality start percentage (89 percent), and he ranks second in the league in strikeouts and complete games, and third in ERA.
Since his last non-quality start on June 8, Hernandez has posted a 1.52 ERA and 4.70 K/BB in 15 starts, including four complete games. Yet, he has won just seven games over that stretch while losing five. According to Baseball Prospectus’s support-neutral wins, he would have 17 or 18 wins right now had he had received merely league-average run support. (Sabathia would have 16.) If that had been the case, King Feliz would be the hands-down favorite to win this award.

The next day — two nights ago — Felix pitched seven shutout innings against the Angels, giving up 3 hits while striking out 8. In the 8th, the Angels scored a run, but the Mariners scored 3, winning the game. Felix, however, remained at 10-10, even as he lowered his ERA to 2.38 and increased his strikeout total to 200. He leads the league in strikeouts and innings pitched, while sitting just behind Clay Buchholz in ERA.

At SI today, Joe Lemire also remarks on Felix’s recent excellence:

Hot streaks can get buried when they don’t happen at the start of the season. Everyone knew Ubaldo Jimenez was 6-0 with a 0.87 ERA and 44 strikeouts over 41-1/3 innings in his first six starts because those numbers doubled as his season stats. Mariners ace Felix Hernandez had an even more impressive streak recently that escaped attention because of poor run support and it’s late in the season. In August, King Felix started six times, but was only 3-2 even though he had an 0.82 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 43-2/3 innings, better numbers than Jimenez’s that seemed less dramatic because they merely dropped Hernandez’s season ERA from 2.79 to 2.38.

Meanwhile Sabathia won his 19th tonight against 5 losses, pitching 8 shutout innings and giving up just 1 hit, in the opening at-bat of the 2nd inning. If the season ended today, he would surely win the Cy Young. But there’s a month to go. Let’s see how it goes.

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