Thursday, November 18, 2010

2010 Cy Young for Felix Hernandez is a Special Case

The Cy Young Awards for the past two years have shown that there has been an evolution in the BBWAA. There is no way that even ten years ago, Felix Hernandez would have had a single vote. But old dogs are learning new tricks, younger dogs are replacing old dogs that die off and a season like that just pitched by King Felix would have gone nowhere ten years ago, gains the award this year. This award vote is the most astonishing. Last year, at least Greinke won more than 15 games and had a decent winning percentage. The same went for Lincecum in the National League. But Hernandez was only a  game over .500 and finished with a paltry 13 wins.

The award for Hernandez has been accomplished not just by his great pitching but also the proliferation of information every day on the Web. Writers all over the country read centralized news stories instantly after a game. Highlight shows on sports networks give instant access to what a game looked like and how a pitcher pitched. Think of ESPN's "That's Nasty" feature that daily shows some of the "filthiest" pitches thrown on a particular day.

But it goes even deeper than that. There are more than half a dozen sites where you can instantly access statistics, several of them that update on the fly (someday B-F will...sigh). These sites allow you to sort leaders by various categories just by clicking the heading on that particular stat. This is a win for technology and information. Look, this Fan knows that it is highly debatable whether technology has helped or hindered the world.. But there is no debate that it's the best thing that ever happened to a baseball fan.

Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award because more people than ever know how to measure who the best pitcher in the league is. He won the award because everyone was instantly aware that the Mariners could not score to save themselves (or King Felix). Everyone had the data to know that the Mariners didn't catch or throw the ball very well. And despite it all, Hernandez kept throwing gems game after game. His final win-loss record wasn't his fault. Oh sure, you'll hear the same old song and dance that winning pitchers know how to win. This Fan stopped believing that in 1987 when Nolan Ryan led the National League in ERA and finished the season 9-16.

If we knew then what we know now, Ryan would have taken his 5.5 WAR and would have been rewarded for his great season. Though it will really be a marvel if some pitcher with a losing record ever won the Cy Young Award.

But this is a good day. The right thing happened to the right guy for the right reasons. There aren't too many times in life that you can say that.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

Yeah, I'm glad to see that voters aren't looking at a pitcher's win-loss record anymore as the primary factor for determining who wins the Cy Young. Johan Santana should have won three consecutive Cy Young Awards. But noooo, Bartolo Colon had 21 wins in 2005.