With the announcement today that Seattle's Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young award, I wanted to provide some transparency as to the way that I voted. I voted for Hernandez for the Cy Young, followed by New York's CC Sabathia, Tampa Bay's David Price, then Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, with my ballot standing as one of two on the Cy Young from the Boston chapter of the BBWAA.
In the results, released this afternoon at 2 p.m., Hernandez (167) was followed by Price (111), Sabathia (102), Lester (33), and Jered Weaver (24), with Buchholz coming in sixth (20).
Believe me, it was not easy this season, with perhaps half a dozen viable candidates for the top spot in the rankings. And I spent a lot of time poring over the numbers, in order to make sure that I voted the right way in a year in which the Cy Young was inevitably going to be controversial. It was going to be controversial if Hernandez won, with his 13 wins, and controversial if Hernandez lost, too, given all the support he had received from the mainstream media and from the stats-heavy blogging community.
Like Zach Greinke and his 16 wins last season, when he won the 2009 Cy Young, Hernandez might not have had the wins, but that wasn't exactly his fault. He played with the worst offense in baseball, a team that hit just .236 as a group in 2010, and which scored only 513 runs, 100 fewer than the Orioles, the next-to-last offense. It's not easy to come up with wins under those circumstances, even if you have a best-in-the-AL 2.27 ERA, and are compiling 232 strikeouts (one fewer than Jered Weaver, who led the AL) in 249 2/3 innings, and I don't think Hernandez can be faulted for that. Hernandez also led the league in WAR (wins above replacement) for pitchers, at 6.0, ahead of Buchholz, Sabathia, and Weaver (5.4).
Contrast that with Sabathia, who won 21 games last season, aided significantly by the offense that played behind him. He might have helped lead the Yankees, a team with multiple holes in its rotation for much of the season, to the postseason, but he didn't top any other important statistical category.
Ultimately, I judged that Buchholz and Lester, while having monster seasons for the Sox, didn't do quite enough to warrant being at the top. Though I'm a bit surprised that Buchholz didn't get more support or votes, especially since I think he outpaced Lester this year, watching both in the vast majority of their outings.
Price, despite his excellence, wasn't bound for the No. 1 spot either, with his home-road splits and WHIP playing into that.
That left Sabathia and Hernandez. So even though the Mariners were out of it almost before they started the season, and even though Sabathia pitched all summer under the pressure of a postseason race, that doesn't count enough in my book to push Sabathia over the top. In the pure terms of the way he pitched, of how effective he was at getting the other guys out, Hernandez was the better pitcher this year. That's why I voted for him.
But, unlike many years, there is no one right answer in this. It was the hardest vote I've had to make in my four years of voting, and I can completely understand why four voters gave their top spots to Price, and why three more gave theirs to Sabathia. Ultimately, though, I was one of the 21 voters who had Hernandez on top, and I firmly believe that he deserves the 2010 AL Cy Young.