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Introducing ... the Felix Hernandez Cy Young Award Watch
OK, I have to do it. Even though Felix Hernandez is still coming from behind in the American League Cy Young race, I have to do it. He's pitching so well and rising so fast that it's time to catch the wave early and chronicle his bid for the second Cy Young Award of his career.
Hernandez's two-hit shutout of the New York Yankees on Saturday emphasized that it's time. It was the highlight of the weekend in Seattle sports, and all of a sudden, you look at the stats and Hernandez has recovered from his annual May swoon and put up his usual ridiculous numbers.
Through 23 starts, Hernandez is 10-5 with a 2.63 ERA. He leads the AL in innings pitched (164). He is tied for the league lead in complete games (three) and is second in strikeouts (159). He ranks in the top 10 in 12 pitching categories.
But, yes, he still must gain a lot of ground to win the award.
For the rest of the season, we'll take a regular peek at where King Felix stands in the Cy Young race. I'll probably do it following each of his starts.
Current AL Cy Young frontrunner: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels
It feels like it's Weaver's turn, and he's backing up that notion with his performance. For the season, Weaver is 14-1 with a 2.29 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. He did miss three weeks (about four starts) with a back injury, but he has been consistently dominant, and he even threw a no-hitter in May. Weaver will be tough to overcome, especially if he propels the Angels into the postseason.
Other contenders: Chris Sale, David Price, Justin Verlander and Hernandez
Let's rank the top contenders:
- Price: He's 14-4 with a 2.49 ERA. He's tied for the AL lead in wins and ranks second in ERA, fourth in innings pitched and fourth in strikeouts.
- Sale: He's 12-3 with a 2.61 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 124 innings for the Chicago White Sox. But the team is currently resting him because he's experiencing a "dead-arm period." The White Sox are certain to be careful with their 23-year-old ace, which is best for his future, but you can probably expect him to fade a little in this race.
- (Tie) Verlander and Hernandez: Verlander is 11-7 with a 2.63 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 160 innings pitched. He and Hernandez have different areas of strength, but when you weigh their merits, they're virtually identical. It's hard to match their workload and importance to their teams.
Description of Hernandez's current status: Surging
Over the past seven weeks -- a span of 10 starts -- Hernandez is 6-0 with a 1.41 ERA. In 76 1/3 innings pitched, King Felix has only allowed 53 hits, and opponents are hitting .195 and slugging .221 against him. He has struck out 75 hitters during that span and registered all three of his complete games. The Mariners are 8-2 in his starts. Clearly, he has been the best pitcher in baseball since June 17.
It's interesting to look back to Hernandez's Cy Young season in 2010 and make a comparison. He also took off in mid-June that year. From June 13 to Aug. 5, 2010, Hernandez made 11 starts and had a 1.94 ERA in 88 1/3 innings pitched. He's on an even better tear this year. Of course, in 2010, Hernadez went to an even higher level in his final 10 starts. He closed with a ridiculous 0.96 ERA that year.
He's about 10 starts from the end of his season again, and if he closes in similar fashion, it'll be hard to deny King Felix his second Cy Young. That's asking a lot, though.