Is Felix Hernandez a Lock for the AL Cy Young Award?

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Though the AL Cy Young finalists haven’t been announced yet, it’s not hard to argue that both Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber will be finalists for the pitching honor.

Already this offseason Felix has earned Sporting News honors for best AL pitcher and with it named the starting pitcher for the Sporting News AL All-Star team.

In 2010 when Felix Hernandez won his first Cy Young award, he also won AL pitcher of the year from Sporting News. Does that make Felix a lock for his second Cy Young honor?

In 34 starts this season Felix pitched 236.0 innings (averaging 6.94 innings/start). His numbers over those 23.0 innings were nasty. He gave up only 170 hits and 46 walks, good enough for a 0.92 WHIP (walks+hits per inning pitched) that happens to be the lowest in the AL since Pedro Martinez back in 2000. Over those 236.0 innings he allowed 68 runs to score, but only 56 were earned, giving him a 2.14 ERA for the season, better than his 2.27 back in 2010. And guess what? That 2.14 ERA is the lowest in the AL since… you guessed it, Pedro Martinez back in 2000.

Those numbers have a lot of appeal, heck he even managed a 15-6 record where he went 13-12 in 2o1o. He had 248 strikeouts, a career best. His 46 BB were a career best. His hits allowed and earned run average were career bests. He even matched his 2010 WAR of 6.8.

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So if Felix Hernandez was better in almost every way imaginable from his 2010 victory, how could he not be the AL Cy Young winner?

Sep 6, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) and catcher Yan Gomes (10) celebrate a 3-1 win over the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Kluber also had an impressive season. The 28 year-old, only months older than Felix himself, pitched an incredible season for the Cleveland Indians. In 34 started games he pitched 235.2 innings (0.1 less than Felix) while racking up a 1.09 WHIP with a 2.44 ERA. His 269 strikeouts and 18 wins bested Felix Hernandez by a fair margin.

Moreover, Kluber notched a 7.4 WAR over the course of 2014 to Felix’s 6.8.

So there is legitimate room for debate as to whom is the most deserving of this award. Kluber has the sabermetric WAR on his side to go along with strikeouts and the ever elusive win total. Felix is sporting the best WHIP and ERA numbers since one of the best pitchers in baseball was riding out his prime. And, Felix had a career best year in almost every category, and he has previously won a Cy Young for ‘less impressive’ work.

I think the answer to this question is clear, but stats and subjectivity leave room for debate. What do you think? Will Felix Hernandez earn his second AL Cy Young award in 2014?

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