Lester Forces His Way Into Cy Young Debate

In recent weeks a lot has been made about the American League Cy Young award and the debate has mostly surrounded CC Sabathia vs. Felix Hernandez. Last night the Yankees were blanked by Jon Lester and it was an amazing performance that should put him into that conversation as well.

First, let’s get some stats out of the way:

Rk Tm W L ERA GS CG IP BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2 Felix Hernandez SEA 12 12 2.31 33 6 241.2 68 227 171 1.063 7.0 0.6 2.5 8.5 3.34
3 Jon Lester* BOS 19 8 2.96 31 2 204.0 78 220 146 1.157 7.0 0.5 3.4 9.7 2.82
5 David Price* TBR 18 6 2.84 30 2 199.2 79 179 139 1.217 7.4 0.7 3.6 8.1 2.27
8 CC Sabathia* NYY 20 7 3.26 33 2 229.1 72 189 133 1.212 8.1 0.7 2.8 7.4 2.63
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/26/2010.

To me, Felix Hernandez is still out in front, but his 12-12 record really doesn’t sit well with a lot of people (even though a team’s lineup and defense weighs at least as heavily as a pitcher’s performance on the mound, so the ‘Win’ statistic is probably the worst representation of a pitcher’s performance out of all the stats above). So even though it seems ignorant to blame King Felix’s record for why he shouldn’t win, let’s ignore him for now.

Moving on to Jon Lester. Lester has flown under the Cy Young radar for most of the season. Probably because he really never stood out until a recent hot streak and that there have been so many issues surrounding the Red Sox. Newly acquired John Lackey has been under a microscope, Josh Beckett has been drawing attention thanks to a new contract, an up and down season, and injuries. Also there has been Clay Buchholz and his phenomenal season.

Lester won his 19th game of the season last night, giving him at least one more chance to match Sabathia’s 20. He has a lower ERA than CC, as many complete games, more strikeouts, a lower WHIP, a smaller home run rate, a better strikeout rate, and a superior strikeout to walk rate. Really there are only three things he trails CC in, wins, innings, and he walks more (but again, his strikeout to walk ratio is better).

All along, King Felix has had better numbers when compared to Sabathia, but because of a win total many have thought Sabathia has been superior. Now there is a candidate that might be superior to Sabathia and has the win total to back it up.

Personally, I am a huge Sabathia fan. Ever since he signed on the dotted line and donned the pinstripes, he has been my favorite pitcher. And I think he could win a Cy Young one year and will always root for him. But the bottom line is that I don’t want to see him win one that is undeserved because writers put too much emphasis on a stat that says so little about the way you pitch.

If ignorance has to reign, Lester should probably win the award over Sabathia anyway.

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