Felix for Cy Young 2010

As the AL Cy Young announcement approaches, here’s a quick look at everyone’s favorite candidate from the northwest….

Felix Hernandez was excellent this year, Cy Young excellent. He led the league in innings pitched, ERA, games started and hits per nine, and struck out 232 batters. He pitched against the Yankees three times and the Red Sox once, winning all four of those games. Looking at his season game log, Hernandez only had four, maybe five, bad outings.

How did he do it? He showed up this season with an improved changeup, a pitch that has become one of the best single pitches in the game. I believe this had a positive effect on his fastball as well, and batters had a tough time squaring up either pitch. Both offerings get excellent sinking action and appear to duck under bats. He still spins two different breaking balls, although they seem to blend together at times. Improved deviation between the slider and curve could make Hernandez even better.

But with all these superlatives, will he win the award? Doubtful.

He struggled in what is traditionally the most important Cy Young Award statistic, wins. I guess it makes sense, since Cy Young will forever be the all-time wins leader. So, traditionally, Hernandez’ 13 wins might as well be zero when considering someone for the Cy Young award.

But it wasn’t his fault. In his 34 starts, Felix had nine no-decisions, all of which were classified as quality starts. In his 12 losses, the Mariners offense was shut out four times and scored just one run five times. Those simple numbers, numbers that every baseball fan can understand, are the reason why pitchers can’t be overly lauded or condemned for their win/loss records.

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Comments

  1. Matt said...

    Sorry but we already know all this stuff. Nothing new is presented in this post, and most writers say that he is probably going to win the award.

  2. Tom B said...

    If you start looking at “coulda shoulda” on starts for Felix, do you knot also do that for the other pitchers?  Did CC or Price or whoever not also have no decisions, shutout losses, and overall bad luck in some of their starts that would have boosted their win totals even higher?

    In the end, I don’t think you can justify voting for one guy by giving him special considerations that you are not giving those other pitchers.  They all work with what they are given.  Felix had an outstanding season.

    He won 13 games. Less than half, almost 1/3 of his starts.  I’m sure guys like Matt Cain, Zach Greinke, Clayton Kershaw… and all the other pitchers with poorish bullpens and offenses would love to get some extra credit thrown their way but it’s not about who could have had the best season, it’s about who did.

  3. Tom B said...

    I must be stupid if you just made a convincing argument, because I don’t see it.

    You can’t just argue for one player without discussing all of them.

    Felix had a great season, it was not “by far” better than everyone else. 

    He did not in fact lead the league in strikeouts, Weaver did. 
    He did not lead in WHIP either (lee and weaver).
    He did not lead in wins, obviously.
    He did not lead the league in WAR, or anything like it (surprisingly its lee even with his lack of innings and then verlander).
    He did not lead in any fielding independent or park-adjusted ERA you can find (ERC, ERA+, DIPS, xFIP… the list goes on).

    He pitched a lot of innings very well, but a lot of other pitchers had great seasons too.  You can’t just say that because he had the most innings and the lowest ERA on a crappy team that he had the best year. 

    The only pitcher that was “by far” separated from the rest was Lee, but he didn’t pitch enough innings (not something I agree with but I don’t get to vote) to win the award.

    My original post did not say that Felix shouldn’t win it, all I said was that if you are going to give him special considerations for shutouts and 1-run losses, you have to apply that consideration to all of the other pitchers in contention and adjust their numbers accordingly.  You don’t just give a guy a free pass because he got 13 wins on a bad team.

    … but you must have missed that in your angsty outlash.  Reading comprehension is good for the soul.

  4. Tom B said...

    In fact, the more I am looking into this right now, Cliff Lee is going to lose a Cy Young award that is his by rights because he has 6 less starts than Felix/Price/CC/whoever… even though he still pitched over 200 innings, actually led the league in all sorts of measurables that he controls (a 10.2K/BB? really?!), and averaged more innings per start than anyone over 200 innings.

    I agree with Dave, I liked the article… just didn’t seem fair to “assume wins” for Felix and not the others.

  5. Bob E said...

    Tom – I personally think it’s great you get to put your degree to work at home on the computer. smile  Too bad you work at Burger King…  Bahaha, don’t posture over the internet it makes you appear foolish.

  6. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Sven,

    You are 100% right. The man may not be the best in any specific aspect, but he’s the best rounded player. He possesses the holy trinity: He’s great at whiffs, great at limiting walks and Great at inducing groundballs.

    Weaver’s high K’s come with extreme flyballs.
    Verlander too.

    Felix may not be #1 in any specific category, but he’s essentially top 3-5 to EVERY category that matters. I’ve consistently ranked Felix as a top 3 pitcher in baseball, next to only maybe Wainwright and Lincecum. He’s on par with Halladay but more valuable due to his age.

    He deserves the Cy Young. A good argument may be levied for Lee/Weaver, but Felix was at least equally as good and he pitched more innings, making him the more valuable pitcher, pushing a close set of peripherals challenge in his favor.

    3.26 xFIP, 3.04 FIP, 2.93 tERA for Felix. that’s pure gold

  7. Jeffrey Gross said...

    My rank of the the AL’s top pitchers:
    Felix Hernandez
    Cliff Lee
    Jered Weaver
    Francisco Liriano
    Jon Lester
    Justin Verlander
    CC Sabathia
    David Price
    Zack Greinke
    Colby Lewis
    Gavin Floyd

  8. adam said...

    Seems like a no brainer…his team had the lowest run production in the history of the DH….it is so blatantly obvious that his Wins were a result of poor offense and in some cases defense when Milton Bradley refused to run down a fly ball that resulted in a loss and the infield seemed to tank a lot of plays….Felix is the best talent in the AL right now and was last year…in fact he has won many pitcher of the month awards and now the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year award…the only thing that is keeping him from the recognition he deserves is a Cy Young…he was the best pitcher in ALL of baseball last year..seen up close and in action many days in the bullpen…there’s something different abot Hernandez.

  9. Jon N said...

    I don’t think Tom B’s point is unreasonable, even though I do disagree with his conclusion(s). We hear a lot about how well Felix pitched in losses, but why don’t we compare the other Cy Young candidates similarly, and see how they won/lost games? Doing so, I think, only strengthens Felix’s case. For the record, I am not including Lee in this analysis (great season, but 25/35 IP fewer than either CC or Felix, w/ 6 fewer games. Price is included because, though I believe his season compares unfavorably to Lee [fewer innings in more games than Lee], he’s in the conversation for the Cy Young, for whatever reason.)

    Yes, fielding-independent, bullpen-independent, park-corrected stats are preferable. xFIP, FIP, WAR, et al., do a nice job of showing how well a particular pitcher pitched. Certainly much better than W-L record or unadjusted ERA. But they’re also somewhat opaque, and I don’t think do a perfect job of addressing Tom’s questions. On a start-by-start basis, how distorted are the given W-L records?  How lucky/unlucky did a pitcher get?

    -Before we begin, crude but useful: the Yankees scored 193 runs in games CC started – an average of 5.68 runs/game.  The Rays, 163 in games Price started, an avg of 5.26/game. The Mariners scored 104 in Felix’s games, an average of 3.06 runs per game. Almost half of CC’s run support. Less than 2/3 of Price’s. 

    -Also worth nothing: the Mariner’s runs/game while Felix was pitching was even lower than their historically terrible 3.16 avg for the season.  That’s a number worth trotting out when someone talks about the “low pressure” situations Felix had to deal with all season: basically, he had to pitch amazingly every game or risk being saddled with a loss. CC and Price did not face such pressure; their offenses could, from time to time, mask a bad start. Which segues nicely into:

    -A comparison of their wins.  We’ll get to their “bad luck” losses, which Tom B was (again, justifiably, imho) interested in.  But equally distorting are the occasions when a pitcher pitches poorly but still gets the W. I’ll be using the somewhat-rough metrics Quality starts (at least 6 IP, no more than 3 ER), Super-Quality Starts (at least 7 IP, no more than 2 ER), and then my own Crappy Start (6 or more IP, but more than 3 ER), and Dud Starts (under 6 IP, more than 3 ER).  Yes, starting pitchers ER can be skewed by bullpen performance, but this is a great way of getting a quick-and-dirty picture of how “lucky” these three pitchers were.

    -First, CC: Of his 21 wins, 12 were Super-Quality Starts, 8 were Quality Starts, only 1 was a Crappy Start, and none were Dud Starts.  Pretty great; not much distortion there (although, as always should be noted with Quality Starts, that is a somewhat poor benchmark; a pitcher could have a 4.50 ERA and pitch a QS every time.)

  10. Jon N said...

    {Part II; I got a little carried away:}

    -Price: Of his 19 wins, 8 were Super-Quality Starts, 8 were Quality Starts, 2 were Crappy Starts, 1 was a Dud Start.

    -Felix: This blew me away. Of his 13 Wins, 12 were Super-Quality Starts, 1 was a Quality Start. None were Crappy Starts. None were Dud Starts. And, by the way, that one quality starts was 1/3 of an inning from being a Super-Quality Start (6.2 IP, 2 ER). This just reinforces the argument that in order to win, Felix had to be close to perfect.

    -OK, onto No-Decisions, using same stats:

    -CC had 6 No-Decisions. 2 were Super-Quality Starts, 1 was a Quality Start, 1 was a Crappy Start, and 2 were Dud Starts.

    -Price also had 6 NDs. 2 were Super-Quality Starts, 3 were Quality Starts, 1 was a Crappy Start, none were Dud Starts.

    -Felix had 9 NDs. 7 were Super-Quality Starts, 2 were Quality Starts. Repeating a theme: none were Crappy Starts, none were Dud Starts.  This is where we really start to see the pro-Felix evidence. Within the NDs, Felix had 5 more awesome starts than either CC or Price, and not once did he have a bad starts in which his offense rescued him from taking the L.  Using a REALLY rough calculation here, if a pitcher “deserves” a win for a SQ or Q Start, and “deserves” a loss for a Crappy or Dud Start: CC’s NDs accurately reflected his net win total, Price should have picked up a few wins to his total (although remember the bad starts he had in games for which he picked up a W).  Felix “deserved” 9 or so.

    -Now onto the losses:

    -Of CC’s 7 losses: 1 was a Super-Quality Start, 2 were Quality Starts, 2 were Crappy Starts, 2 were Dud Starts.

    -Of Price’s 6 losses: 1 was a Super-Quality Start, 3 were Quality Starts, none were Crappy Starts, 2 were Dud Starts.

    -Of Felix’s 12 losses: 4 were Super-Quality Starts, 4 were Quality Starts, 2 were Crappy Starts, 2 were Dud Stars.  The theme continues: Felix “deserved” to lose about as many games as Price or CC but had far, far more good-to-great starts that somehow his team wound up losing for him.

    -In closing, let’s combine these tallies:

    -CC Sabathia, 34 games started: 15 Super-Quality Starts, 11 Quality Starts, 4 Crappy Starts, 4 Dud Starts

    -David Price, 31 games started: 11 Super-Quality Starts, 14 Quality Starts, 3 Crappy Starts, 3 Dud Starts

    -Felix Hernandez, 34 games started: 23 (!!!) Super-Quality Starts, 7 Quality Starts, 2 Crappy Starts, 2 Dud Starts.

    Tom, I hope this answers some of your questions.  Yes, CC and Price enjoyed the same bit of luck that any pitcher enjoys over the course of a season (yet another reason why W-L records are kind of garbage for judging pitcher performance.)  But Felix played for an historically bad offense, and as a result, suffered much worse distortion in his record.  By this analysis (as well as by more rigorous saber analyses), Felix had the far better season.

  11. Tom B said...

    Jon N – I like it, that’s certainly an interesting way of looking at Cy Young hopefuls.  The only downfall to it I see is that just looking at quality starts gives his defense credit for his cy young candidacy, something i thought we were trying to avoid.

    I don’t seem to be able to find the overwhelming SABR support of Felix that everyone else has.  Only baseball-reference’s win values favor him to the point where another player would not even be looked at. i mean, i can only assume the guys that were discrediting my opinion were looking at non-luck based pitching stats like I am, and from multiple sources not just the one that favors Felix.  Most non-luck stats outside of the baseball-reference world actually lean towards Lee/Sabathia/Weaver when you factor in park adjustments or whatever else they don’t use at BR. 

    The more and more angles I look at, the more the choice becomes cloudy.

    I’m also not as quick to discredit the 30 innings that Lee didn’t pitch.  I think once you reach ~200 innings anyone is fair game.  As much as no one will admit, i do think it is easier to pitch more innings for a non-playoff contender (roy halladay is a freak of nature).  Not having to save *anything* for the postseason has to allow some form of comfort level in pitching however many innings you want (where on a winning team starters get rested and good bullpens close out games even when starters are pitching well).  Team success alone can easily trim 20IP off of a starters season.

    IMO, the only real options are Lee, Felix and Sabathia (in no particular order).  Regardless of which one wins, they will have deserved it.

  12. debevemos said...

    Jon that was a great post and really shines some light on how well Felix consistently pitched for the Mariners this year. Felix Hernandez’s 2010 season illustrated how much impact a bad offense can have on a dominant pitchers win/loss record. A pitcher can only impact one side of the baseball and Hernandez had no one swinging the bats for him.

    He was dominant in almost all of his starts, as shown by his 30 quality starts which is a feat in of its self, but suffered heavily because of the historically bad offense he had behind him. You can argue he wasn’t first in EVERY category all you want… but he was still the most dominant pitcher in the AL in 2010.

  13. Steve said...

    He pitched a lot of innings very well, but a lot of other pitchers had great seasons too.  You can’t just say that because he had the most innings and the lowest ERA on a crappy team that he had the best year.

    My God, this is straight out of the Joe Morgan School of Reasoning. You can’t say that because he had the most innning and lowest ERA, not to mention all of the other categories he either leads or is near hte top in, that he is the best pitcher in baseball? What? Why not?

    Why on earth would you consider a team stat like wins when deciding on an individual award? What goes into a “win”? At least 50% is batting, so that right there is out of the pitcher’s hands, especially in the AL. Then you have a significant amount of the other 50% taken up by bullpen, defense. So all in all, the starting pitcher contributes less than – and perhaps significantly less than – 50% to each win. And yet you want to throw out all of the meaningful statistics for this one stupid stat that old timers refuse to let go of in this enlightened age.

    I guess we just have to wait for the old guard to die off so we can have some open-minded writers voting for these awards.

  14. kds said...

    The only reasons that I can see to vote against King Felix have to do with defense and park factors.  If you think that much more than normal of the run prevention when he pitched was due to these things rather than the quality of his pitching, then you should support someone else.

  15. Joe M said...

    Felix has no pride in the way he wears his uniform.  He wears his ball cap cockeyed and always has his shirt untucked.  If you don’t think the voter’s take that kind of attitude into consideration, you are sadly mistaken.  Even though it’s mostly about stats, they look at other stuff whether you believe it or not.  Sorry, but it’s Lee this year.  Time for Felix to square himself away.

  16. Steve said...

    Felix has no pride in the way he wears his uniform.  He wears his ball cap cockeyed and always has his shirt untucked.

    C.C. Sabathia would never do something like that.

    Seriously, did you even think about that before you posted it?

  17. Paul said...

    The only problem Felix has is the one Tom B mentioned.

    The idea is that it is Felix SABR champion vs CC (or Price or Bucholtz) TRAD champion.

    The issue is that actually (or embarrasingly) C.Lee had ‘arguably’ a better season by some metrics (specifically fangraphs WAR – fWAR where Lee laps the field).  So Felix’s problem is if the SABR voters split their vote between them, then it leaves it open for the TRAD candidate.

    Luckily, he TRAD candidates will also split votes between them.

    I can honeslty see 2 different ballots, depending on the voters preference for TRAD or SABR, which may be nearly mutually exclusive:-

    SABR
    Felix, Lee, Verlander, Weaver, Liriano (apologies to Lester)
    TRAD
    CC, Price, Bucholtz, Cahill

    All pitchers deserving of some credit for good seasons (whether by luck of skill or a combination of both)

  18. Nato Coles said...

    Hi, I thought I’d add to what Jon N wrote in his comparisons of David Price, CC Sabathia, and Felix Hernandez.  I think Cliff Lee is definitely in the discussion for Cy Young winner.  If you use the metric of super-quality starts, quality starts, crappy starts, and dud starts, here’s what you get for Cliff Lee:

    Wins:  10 super quality, 1 quality, 1 crappy, 0 dud
    No-decisions:  5 super quality, 0 quality, 1 crappy, 1 dud
    Losses:  2 super quality, 1 quality, 4 crappy, 3 dud

    Total out of 28 starts:
    17 super quality, 2 quality, 5 crappy, 3 dud

    As Cliff Lee pitched 7.575 innings per game and Felix Hernandez pitched 7.324 innings per game, you really have to give Cliff Lee a lot of credit.

    From where I stand, this year’s AL Cy Young is a two-man contest between Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez.  The question, then:  how much do you factor innings pitched for the season versus innings pitched per game?  And also:  how much does ballpark influence your vote?

    I’m at a loss.  Can we declare a tie?

  19. Ryan said...

    Tom you are an idiot. Felix by far had the best season out of any pitcher in the American League.  Everyone knows the mariners had the worst offense in baseball.  I live in Seattle and had to watch the team play every other day and saw all the times that Felix one games where we only scored one run. If Felix was on a team like the Yankees or Rangers he would easily have the most wins out of any pitcher in the AL.  If you have the most strikeouts, innings pitched, and the Best ERA then you are the best pitcher in the league period.

  20. Tom B said...

    That’s a lot of good stuff, thanks Jeffrey.

    I like to think that I wouldn’t be considering “where the team ended up” if I got to vote on the MVP award.  There is clearly still great value in losing efforts (felix only starts that conversation).  The results of the actions of 24 other players determining the perceived value of the 25th doesn’t seem right.  Especially since it’s not the type of difference that you would say Hamilton could have put Detroit in the playoffs.

    “Plus Hamilton didn’t get to drink any Champagne. Hence, he deserve the award”

    This is the best reason I have heard to date, and ends the discussion in my opinion.  Sorry Miggy, give it to Hamilton smile

  21. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Nato,

    The innings are always the tie breaker. More of the same quality is always the more valuable. Durability is an aspect of production which I feel is oft underrated.

  22. Tom B said...

    Will the “more of the same quality” argument carry over to Hamilton… who played 20 less games than anyone else up for MVP?

    Shouldn’t Hamilton be passed over like Lee?

  23. Jeffrey Gross said...

    I do not think so, no. In the AL, Hamilton was the handsdown best player, even without missing a month of the season.

    On the NL Side, I still say that Tulo deserves the award, though I will not be angry if either Votto/Pujols walks away with it. Zpacks gonna get screwed over though.

  24. Tom B said...

    I know this is way off topic but I’m bored.

    Was he hands-down the best player?  Only Fangraphs WAR/wOBA says so.  They really kill Cabrera’s defense or he’d probably be leading in WAR there, and 1B’s don’t get proper credit for alot of what their position entails.  Hamilton leads the standard rate categories… but that’s about it.

    Longoria and Cabrera basically lead all the measuables on BR, and Cabrera actually leads in WPA on multiple sites (which is literally most valuable player, no?).

    Unlike the Cy Young and the Silver Slugger awards, the MVP is all about value, right? (and it’s always about who ‘should’ win, not who will… i think hamilton will win)

  25. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Tom,

    Consider the following:
    1. Josh Hamilton’s AVG/SLG stats (.359/.411/.633) are slightly better than Miguel Cabrera’s (.328/.420/.622), but Miggy has a slight edge in OBP (which is more valuable than slugging).
    2. Even with park factors considered, Miguel Cabrera’s wOBA is .427. Hamilton’s is .447
    3. In terms of total batting production, Hamilton’s BRAR is +55.5, having missed almost a month of play. Cabrera’s is +55.3 over the 17 additional games he played.
    4. Miguel Cabrera’s 1B fielding is was indexed at -6.1 UZR/150 (take 1 year UZR with a serious grain of salt), while Hamilton’s OF fielding per 150 was +10.8. Hamilton plays the comparably more premium fielding position.
    5. Hamilton’s cumulative WPA on the season was +6.25, whereas Cabrera’s was a higher +7.42. If we keep everything constant and pro-rate Hamilton’s playing time to match Cabrera’s, Hamilton’s extrapolated WPA becomes 7.09. Thus, it’s closer than it seems, but Miggy does outedge Hamilton here.
    6. In terms of pure raw peripherals, Miggy edges Hamilton in ISO (.294 vs .274) and owns him in BB% (13.7% vs 7.5%).
    7. Hamilton was the more prodigious clipper (22.0% LD% vs 18.9% LD%) and Hamilton grounded into less double plays per AB (2.1%) than Miggy (3.1%)

    So yes, the overall end of season numbers are pretty darn close, but when you consider that Hamilton’s team made it to the playoffs and that Hamilton was just as valuable over 17 less games, you got to give the edge to Hamilton. Plus Hamilton didn’t get to drink any Champagne. Hence, he deserve the award smile

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