Davidoff: Hernandez more deserving of Cy Young than CC

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez throws against

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez throws against the Cleveland Indians. (Sept. 5, 2010) (Credit: AP )

Ken Davidoff

Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff. Ken Davidoff

Davidoff joined Newsday in 2001, covering the Yankees for

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Barring injury - and the big fella is more durable than a green sea turtle - CC Sabathia will pick up a 20th victory for the first time in his career before this 2010 regular season concludes.

Even if last night proved not to be that moment, as the Orioles continued their impressive play with a 6-2 victory over Sabathia and the Yankees at Yankee Stadium for the defending World Series champs' third straight loss.

A 20th win will represent a neat accomplishment for one of the best pitchers of his generation. And it should factor as much into his American League Cy Young Award candidacy as should his shoe size, his political affiliation and what he had for breakfast on French Independence Day.

But don't just take my word for it.

"There are a lot of things that have to go right to win 20 games," Joe Girardi said before the game. "It just can't be dominant pitching."

Girardi manages the Yankees in part because he appreciates statistical analysis more than your average skipper. He said that if he had a vote for the best pitcher award, he'd select Sabathia over Felix Hernandez. Of course he would. He needs Sabathia, not King Felix, to lead this shaky Yankees pitching staff in the postseason.

If we were to slip some truth serum in Girardi's morning juice, however, we suspect he'd agree with us: Hernandez is far more deserving of the Cy Young than is Sabathia.

"Felix Hernandez has had a great year. We've seen enough of him," Girardi said. "I can tell you that. I think our guy has had an amazing year, as well."

Sabathia has enjoyed a perfectly excellent season. He has earned his $23-million salary. His 209 innings rank second in the AL; his 169 strikeouts rank seventh; and his 3.19 ERA places him eighth.

Hernandez, however, ranks first in innings pitched (2191/3), first in strikeouts (209) and second in ERA (2.30). Wins? He has 11, which ties him for 22nd with seven other pitchers.

Wins seem glorious - you play to win the game, as Herm Edwards once said - but as a measure of performance, they're nothing short of horrible. Wins reflect the pitcher's team more than the pitcher himself. As Exhibit A, we present the Yankees' Phil Hughes, who has received the most run support among all major-league pitchers who have made at least 20 starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. With 6.65 runs per game he starts, it's no wonder Hughes has a 16-7 record to go with his 4.29 ERA.

Right behind Hughes, among all big-league pitchers with at least 20 starts? That would be Sabathia, who has enjoyed 5.9 runs per game.

Hernandez? Of the 115 major-leaguers who have started 20 or more games, King Felix sits 111th with 3.17 runs per game.

The Mariners' righthander might not have been pitching in the pressure of a pennant race for the last couple of months. But with such little run support, he sure has pressure to keep the opponent quiet.

Just for good measure, we can look at a couple of geekier statistics. FIP, which stands for fielding independent pitching, evaluates how pitchers perform independent of their fielders. Hernandez has a 2.96 FIP, and Sabathia 3.62 (before last night). xFIP is similar, but normalizes the home-run-per-fly ball rate. Hernandez is at 3.25, and Sabathia 3.85.

Celebrate Sabathia's greatness, and let's not forget that we have another 31/2 weeks to go. If you tout Sabathia's wins as why he should get another Cy Young, however, then you're just misinformed.