Wednesday, September 5, 2012

King Felix and the Cy Young

So, remember how Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game on August 15th against the Tampa Bay Rays?  That was amazing.  In a "I can't believe I'm watching this it's so cool come on Felix do it do it YAY!" kind of way.  Maybe its not fair to have that expectation every time out, but man, how can you not?  Every start, it's hard not to think he may do it against this team.  And against this lineup?  Psh!  I don't know if he'll ever do it again, but one thing we do know, he has a real shot to fill up a trophy room in what I'm sure is a huge mansion with Cy Young awards.  Possibly even a whole floor.  Actually, he may just build a house that looks like a Cy Young award.  That would be kind of odd looking, but oh so appropriate.  Felix's main competition at the beginning of the month of September is Justin Verlander.  Verlander is pretty awesome in his own right, which is why he's being talked about in the Cy Young race, I'm guessing.  Okay, I'm not really guessing.  If he sucked, he wouldn't be in the discussion.  You may call me Captain Obvious.  On to numbers and other things! 

First off, pitcher wins and losses mean pretty much nothing except how good/bad the team around him is, so don't expect those evil, lying numbers anywhere.  In Felix's 2010 campaign, he won the Cy Young with some amazing number.  Take a look at these numbers and be impressed.  Be very impressed!  2.27 ERA, 249.2 IP, 232 K to go along with just 70 BB.  His RAA (Runs better than average) was 42.  He was 42 runs better than any run of the mill starting pitcher.  Considering he only gave up 80 unearned and earned  What else is there to say?  I could also say his WAR that season was 6.8, but I think I'll just type it instead.  You wouldn't be able to hear me if I said it out loud, so why say it?  If you don't remember what WAR stands for, check out the earlier article about advanced stats. 

And now Verlander's numbers for his 2011 Cy Young and MVP season.  2.40 ERA, 251 IP, 250 K and only 57 BB.  Yes, he's a pitcher for the Tigers, but even so, looking at his numbers tells a story of complete dominance over the league.  Did I forget to mention he won MVP last year?  He won the MVP last year.  His RAA was 54 while allowing a total of 73 runs.  He had a WAR of 8.3.  All of those numbers, even from a non Tigers fan point of view, are all pretty impressive.  I think that's enough about Verlander for now, don't you?

What's that?  You want to know about THIS season?  Well, I suppose.....

Player        ERA            IP             K           BB        RAA     SO/BB
Hernandez 2.51 204 191 48 32 3.98
Verlander 2.73 204.1 209 52 40 4.02

Let's take a look at a few more numbers, shall we?  If you want to keep reading of course.  If not, I'll do something.  What that is, I have no idea.  Probably crawl into a corner and weep.  Wait, what was I talking about?  Oh yeah.... In tie games this season, Felix has allowed a .489 OPS while Verlander has allowed a .564 OPS.  Is that good, you ask?  Clayton Kershaw, a pitcher, has a .485 OPS.  See how you can make stats say whatever you want?  Felix is way better than Verlander!  Now now, let's be fair.  When the team is behind in the game,  Felix has allowed an .808 OPS while Verlander has kept opponents to a .632 OPS.  As we've all seen in the past, Felix has thrived when games are close.  His SO/BB rate is 5.38 in tie games, which is pretty darn good.  The only time it's been higher is when the lead is more than 4 runs for the Mariners.  Let's not kid ourselves though, that's a very small sample size, being only 65 at bats for the opposition.  In tie games, the sample size is 331 at bats.  But again, you can make stats say anything.  I'm being fair though, honest!  You can look these up yourself!

As I mentioned, Verlander has allowed an OPS of .564 in tie games.  That's not exactly awful.  Actually, it's not even close to bad.  It's really really good for a starting pitcher.  To put it in perspective, Brendan Ryan has a .562 OPS.  In a tie game, Verlander makes every batter he faces look like Brendan Ryan when the game is tied. His SO/BB rate is 4.20 in tie games, also nothing to sneeze at. 

We could go over every single number that's out there and they'll all tell you the same thing.  Felix and Verlander are very, VERY good pitchers.  They're aces for a reason.  The determining factor in these types of awards aren't only the numbers, but also the people voting on these awards.  So much relies on what they see and their opinion of an individual pitcher.  Some look at pitcher wins and ERA to make their determination of the best pitcher in the league.  Others look deeper into the numbers and make their decisions with those numbers.  For all intents and purposes, both Felix and Verlander are tied in numbers and their dominance over the league.  When all is said and done and the award is given to whichever pitcher wins, we may look back on the month of September as the last piece of the Cy Young puzzle.  Right now, it's too close to call.  It may be too close at the end of the season.  One thing we know for a fact.  Every start either of these guys has the rest of the way is going to be a start you don't want to miss.

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