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Felix Hernandez Cy Young Watch: Narrow advantage with a month to go
Our tracking of Felix Hernandez's bid to win a second Cy Young Award:
Over the past week, every prominent American League Cy Young Award contender reminded us they were human. To that, we can only say one thing.
It's about time.
For several weeks, the Cy race has featured superhuman performance after superhuman performance. There's no way the pitchers could keep up that pace. But now that each one has gotten a hard-luck, mediocre or bad start out of the way, it should set the stage for a compelling final sprint for the Cy.
Let's take a look at where they currently stand in this close race with a month left in the regular season.
Current leader: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
On Saturday, Hernandez lost for the first time since June 12 after an eighth inning went haywire. He took a 2-1 lead into the eighth, but he wound up allowing four runs (three unearned) in a 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. It was only the second time Hernandez had failed to post a quality start (at least six innings, no more than three earned runs) in his last 11 outings. It wasn't a disastrous start, which some of the other contenders have had recently, just a hard-luck loss that included a Kyle Seager error in that decisive eighth inning.
Overall, King Felix remains in position to win his second Cy. He's not an overwhelming leader, and even if some don't consider him the frontrunner, he can't be more than a half step behind.
Stats: 13-6 with a 2.51 ERA, 191 strikeouts in 204 innings. Hernandez leads AL starters in ERA and shutouts, and he's only one-third of an inning behind Justin Verlander for the league lead in innings pitched. He ranks second in WAR for pitchers (5.4), second in complete games (five) and third in WHIP (1.044) and third in strikeouts.
Ranking the other contenders
1. David Price, Tampa Bay. Price is 17-5 with a 2.54 ERA. He has 175 strikeouts in 180 2/3 innings. Price leads the AL in wins. He's second in ERA, but he's well off the pace of Hernandez and Verlander in innings pitched. He doesn't rank in the top five in WHIP or strikeouts, and he only has one complete game. If you're just glancing at wins and ERA, you'd probably give Price the edge over Hernandez. Look deeper, though, and Hernandez has been a little better.
2. Justin Verlander, Detroit. Verlander won a high-profile matchup against Chicago pitcher Chris Sale on Sunday, throwing eight innings, allowing one run and striking out 11 in a 4-2 victory. For the season, Verlander is 13-7 with a 2.73 ERA. He leads the AL with 209 strikeouts and 204 1/3 innings pitched. He's also the league leader in WAR for pitchers (5.8) and complete games (six). He's second in WHIP. He would be the frontrunner right now if he hadn't allowed eight earned runs in 5 2/3 innings at Kansas City last Tuesday.
3. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels. The Mariners denied Weaver his 17th victory of the season Sunday. Still, Weaver has some nice numbers: 16-4 with a 2.84 ERA. He leads the AL in WHIP (0.987).
4. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox. The 23-year-old has had an extraordinary season, but he's fading in this race. He still has nice numbers -- 15-6 with a 2.93 ERA, plus 162 strikeouts in 163 innings -- but the other contenders have been too outstanding.