There's a healthy debate in baseball right now about whether Seattle ace Felix Hernandez should win the Cy Young.
Hernandez is 11-11 and in the eyes of some voters, that would exclude him from the conversation.
I say it's a healthy debate because it forces everybody, not only the BBWAA voters, to consider the true value of a pitcher's won-loss record. Is Hernandez at 11-11 really less of a pitcher than CC Sabathia, who is 19-6?
Hernandez has more strikeouts, more innings and a lower WHIP than Sabathia. Batters hit for a lower average against him and reach base at a lower percentage. The advanced stats, such as WAR and FIP, also favor Hernandez.
If Hernandez played for the Yankees, do you think he would be 11-11 or 19-6? He probably would be 21-4.
The reason I bring this up was having watched the Mariners play the Red Sox last night. Outside of Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle doesn't have a player who's any good at the plate and even he's not having a typical Ichiro year.
Seattle is 55-89 and fired its manager. The GM somehow traded Cliff Lee for a package of players that included a prospect accused of sexual assault. The team CEO, Howard Lincoln, recently sent an e-mail to team employees telling them everything was great and that the beat writer from the Seattle Times was just out to cause trouble. Seriously.
That Hernandez is 11-11 is almost a miracle. Forget the Cy Young, they should rename the Space Needle after him.
The longer I cover baseball, the more I realize that a pitcher's win-loss record often has as much to do with luck, timing and teammates as it does skill.
I do think wins and losses matter for a career (at least for a starter) because luck and timing equal out. Nobody gets lucky 200 times and the best starters will overcome their crappy teams often enough to win their share. But for one season, wins and losses are almost meaningless.
By no means am I suggesting Sabathia is lucky or undeserving. He's a heck of a pitcher and I'd want him taking the ball in a big game. But if the idea of the Cy Young is to recognize the best pitcher, that's Hernandez.
Hopefully the 2010 Cy Young voting will lead to all baseball fans becoming more willing to look below the surface of the traditional stats. Having more information can only make the debate more enjoyable.