If Felix Hernandez wins the Cy Young Award today, those howls you'll hear from our nation's leafy suburbs will be coming mostly from a certain generation of baseball writers, many of whom fought like blazes to keep on-base percentage from entering the lexicon in the 1970s.
Actually, at least one of them already has a head start, just in case.
The funny thing is, this really isn't about what people think it's about. It's not about Bill James or Moneyball or new-fangled statistics, really.
Really, it's simply about wins for pitchers having become somewhat devalued in the minds of baseball's cognoscenti. Tango's already said this as well as I might:
- The only thing that is happening is that a pitcher’s W/L record is being devalued substantially. The new-fangled stats is not what is helping Felix. Indeed, if we did use the new-fangled stats, it would be Jered Weaver and Cliff Lee and Francisco Liriano that would see the most benefit, not Felix Hernandez. (Did I scare you, or intrigue you? I hope it’s the latter.)
This issue is purely one with regards to the pitcher’s seasonal won-loss record, and it has nothing at all to do with FIP, WAR, or WPA. Now, if Weaver and Liriano and Lee get strong support, then I’m wrong, and you are right that the dark side has won. Felix though? Him winning or finishing second is just a realization of the won-loss record being highly influenced by things outside the pitcher’s control.
As Tango suggests and IIATMS's Mark Smith details, Lee and Weaver and Liriano are all worthy Cy Young candidates. Justin Verlander, too. According to FanGraphs' WAR, Cliff Lee was the best pitcher in the American League, followed by Verlander and Hernandez. Sabathia clocks in at No. 8, just behind (if you can believe this) Zack Greinke.
That's just one measure. There are others, in which both Hernandez and Sabathia fare better. But the bottom line is that we're not seeing a battle between the old and the new; we're seeing a battle between the old and the old, with the slightly less old probably winning.
In the SweetSpot Network balloting, Hernandez and his Super Amazing 2.27 ERA grabbed 17 of 19 first-place votes, with Lee and Liriano splitting the other two. Lee finished second overall, with Sabathia just edging Liriano for third.
I'm sure that Hernandez won't fare nearly as well in the Cy Young balloting. I won't be surprised if Hernandez drops to fourth or fifth on at least a few ballots, because he won only 13 games. But I think he'll draw a great deal of support, and I think Sabathia and David Price will split enough of the wins-centric ballots that Hernandez will sneak in and grab the prize.