NEW YORK – For once, Felix Hernandez got all the support he needed for a big win.
The Seattle ace earned the American League Cy Young Award on Thursday despite a modest 13-12 record. His major league-leading 2.27 ERA and superior stats put him far ahead of Tampa Bay’s David Price and the New York Yankees’ CC Sabathia and their impressive win-loss numbers.
Victimized by the Mariners’ poor hitting all season, Hernandez found ample backing with the voters in this pitchers’ duel. They clearly recognized how little the last-place Mariners helped him – in 10 starts, they were either shut out or held to one run.
“This confirms the Cy Young is an award not only for the pitcher with the most wins, but the most dominant,” a teary-eyed Hernandez said while celebrating with relatives at the family home in Valencia, Venezuela.
Hernandez got 21 of the 28 first-place votes and 167 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The 24-year-old right-hander led the league in innings (249 2/3), was second in strikeouts (232) and held A.L. opponents to the lowest batting average (.212).
Price, who went 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA, was second with four first-place votes and 111 points. Sabathia, who was 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA, drew the other three first-place votes and finished third at 102.
“I feel like they got it right,” Price said from Nashville, Tenn. “Felix, I thought he deserved it, even though he didn’t have a lot of wins. You can’t really control all that. You can’t control the offense, and the hitters and stuff like that.”
The 13 wins by Hernandez marked the fewest for a Cy Young starter in a full season – Tim Lincecum set the record last year with 15 victories for San Francisco.
Fernando Valenzuela won the National League award in strike-shortened 1981 after going 13-7.
“It’s not only the wins, it’s the whole stats,” Hernandez said.
A month after the All-Star break, Hernandez appeared to be a long shot for the award.
He was 8-10 on Aug. 15 after 26 starts, but a debate had already begun to brew about his Cy Young candidacy. Many fans who rely on more traditional numbers – win-loss record for pitchers – didn’t think he rated at the top of the list.
Hernandez beat Texas in his last start. Even with fewer voters focusing less on win-loss records, no telling how they would’ve treated him if he’d finished worse than .500.
Once the season ended, Hernandez started hoping.
“I didn’t have the wins,” he said. “But if you look at all the numbers … wow!”
Hernandez thought he would get the Cy last year, too, after winning 19 games but finished second, beaten out by Kansas City’s Zack Greinke’s 16 victories.
But no more sighs for Hernandez now. In the Year of the Pitcher, and in the voting for the 100th overall Cy Young Award, he came out No. 1.
“This is the first of many,” he said. “Now I have to work even harder because I’m the best pitcher in the American League.”