King Felix and the Cy Young Award

Felix Hernandez was a Timber Rattlers pitcher for two starts late in the 2003 season.

On August 24 he pitched at home against the Burlington Bees.  He gave up a grand slam in the first inning, but those were the only runs he allowed in that game.  For the day, Hernandez gave up six hits, walked two, and struck out eight over seven innings.  The Rattlers rallied to win the game and Hernandez received a no decision.

On August 29 at Kane County, Hernandez pitched seven shutout innings, allowed three hits, walked one, and struck out 10.  The Rattlers offense did not score in that game and Hernandez received another no decision.

Had the Rattlers forced a Game Three in their first round playoff series against Beloit in 2003, Hernandez would have been the starter.  He would have faced Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks in a playoff game.  That would have been something to see.

Why the walk down memory lane?

Felix Hernandez is the 2010 American League Cy Young Award Winner…despite going “only” 13-12.  Larry Stone explains:

Some would say the Baseball Writers’ Association of America came of age Thursday, as well. No question this year’s AL Cy Young vote was being viewed as a referendum to see if the head-in-the-sand dinosaurs of the BBWAA were ready to join the 21st century.

As a card-carrying tyrannosaurus — but one who tries to keep his head above ground — I fretted over the repercussions if CC Sabathia or David Price, with statistics inferior to Hernandez in virtually every aspect except victories, had pulled out the Cy Young.

The grudging acknowledgment of growth the BBWAA had earned last year for giving the Cys to Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum — with 16 and 15 wins, respectively — would have surely boomeranged.

But score one for progress, as Hernandez received 21 of the 28 first-place votes from two BBWAA members in each American League city (including, in the interests of full disclosure, myself. My five-person ballot read: 1, Hernandez; 2, Price; 3, Cliff Lee; 4, Jon Lester; 5, Sabathia).

Look back up at that start at Kane County on August 29, 2003.  Seven scoreless innings, 10 Ks, no decision.  I guess the minor leagues do prepare you for the majors.

No need to quantify again the historic ineptitude of the Mariners’ offense except to point out that Hernandez received a grand total of seven runs of support in his 12 losses.

You want more? How about this from an excellent post at Big League Stew:

Hernandez’s 13 wins are the lowest for any starting pitcher that has ever won the Cy Young award over a full season (Fernando Valenzuela had 13 in strike-shortened 1981), but an overwhelming majority of the electorate realized that wins aren’t under the pitcher’s control. Felix didn’t get wins 12 times he surrendered two earned runs or less and received a paltry average of 2.4 runs of support a game during his 34 starts.

Let me repeat and bold that last part for emphasis:

Felix didn’t get wins 12 times he surrendered two earned runs or less and received a paltry average of 2.4 runs of support a game during his 34 starts.

For the record, other Appleton Professional Baseball players to have won the Cy Young Award:

Dean Chance (Foxes, 1960): MLB, 1964
Sparky Lyle (Foxes, 1964): AL, 1977
Pete Vuckovich (Foxes, 1974): AL, 1982
LaMarr Hoyt (Foxes, 1978): AL, 1983
Doug Drabek (Foxes, 1984): NL, 1990

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