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Start-by-start comparison of CC Sabathia vs. Felix Hernandez

Sep 10, 2010, 2:18 PM EDT

Leave it to the great Joe Posnanski to jump into the ongoing debate about win-loss records swirling around CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez with a unique and interesting angle.
Posnanski went through each pitcher’s starts and compared them, game by game. He found that Hernandez had the better performance 17 times, while Sabathia had the better performance 12 times. None of which is surprising given that Hernandez has a 2.30 ERA and Sabathia has a 3.14 ERA.
However, it should hopefully throw a little more cold water on the notion that Sabathia is more deserving of the Cy Young award because he has a 19-6 record and Hernandez is only 11-10. Hernandez has pitched better, based on ERA or a start-by-start comparison or most anything not focused on something that’s largely dependent on his teammates’ performance.
Wins are for teams, not pitchers.

  1. BC - Sep 10, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    Would like to see the same comparison between Hernandez and Price.

  2. Largebill - Sep 10, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    “Wins are for teams, not pitchers.”
    and Twix are for kids, silly rabbit

  3. BC - Sep 10, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    Proof positive that you can find anything, I mean ANYTHING on Facebook:…trix-is-for-kids/306771027526

  4. Panda_Claus - Sep 10, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    Give it up about King Felix already. In the history of Cy Young awards, no “starting” pitcher that was fewer than 8 wins over .500 ever won the award (other than Valenzuela at 13-7 in a shortened 1981 season).
    I’d rather see the NL have two winners than Hernandez to get it with 11 wins. Lincicum was the first starter ever to earn the award with as few as 15 wins, so while Hernandez has some nice stats, I wouldn’t even consider him until he’s at least 15-10.
    Wins don’t mean everything, but they have to mean something. Clay Buchholtz at least is 15-6 with a slightly better ERA.

  5. scatterbrian - Sep 10, 2010 at 3:19 PM

    Way to miss the point entirely. Wins require runs to be scored, and runs to be prevented. The starting pitcher is only involved in half of the equation, so why are wins your primary statistic for Cy Young contention?

  6. AdamK - Sep 10, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    Panda_Claus, couldn’t agree more with Scatterbrian. It’s time to move on from the useless stats that have been used for years. It’s time to embrace metrics that actually tell you something about how an individual player has performed. Wins do not tell you anything about how a given pitcher has performed. Case in point: Tyler Clippard, a reliever for the Nationals, has what, 8 or 9 wins. Does that make him a good reliever? No, it makes him lucky that he was the pitcher of record when his team took a lead. I would be extremely impressed if the baseball writers started to embrace the evidence that is there instead of making a judgment based on something as shallow as “wins.”

  7. Panda_Claus - Sep 10, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    And you missed my point. Wins shouldn’t be the primary stat, but they should be considered. I’m not making a case for Sabathia either, but mostly against Hernandez.
    Yes Hernandez has been the subject of some bullpen letdowns and suspect run support, but you can’t ignore the fact he only has 11 wins. Nor can you totally ignore the history of the Cy Young award (you can bet the baseball writers don’t). And by the way, the award is named after the winningest pitcher in MLB history.
    There have been 89 starters that have won the Cy Young award. Only two of those have even had fewer than 16 wins (Valenzuela went 13-7 in a shortened ’81 season, and Lincecum was 15-7 in 2009).
    Now he’s scheduled to pitch Saturday, and might get another four starts after that. Unless he throws a no-hitter down the stretch, he’ll probably need to win 4 of those starts to stay in consideration, unless Sabathia, Buchholtz and Price totally go in the tank.

  8. Panda_Claus - Sep 10, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    AdamK, I see the point you’re trying to make with Clippard. No, if he had more wins than Hernandez he shouldn’t get the award instead (besides being in the wrong league).
    IF the Cy Young is only between Sabathia and Hernandez, which it’s not, then given that most of the primary stats are close, you can’t ignore the 8-win and 2-loss advantage that Sabathia has over Hernandez. That’s all I’m trying to say.
    A starter with only 11 wins in a full season shouldn’t win anything unless he’s sporting a 1.12 Bob Gibson-like ERA to go with it. And given that Buchholtz has 4 more wins, 4 fewer losses, along with a very slight ERA difference, shouldn’t we be arguing that he’s leading the Cy Young race?

  9. frightwig - Sep 10, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    “Yes Hernandez has been the subject of some bullpen letdowns and suspect run support, but you can’t ignore the fact he only has 11 wins.”
    If that fact is not really his fault, why can’t we ignore it? It should be irrelevant to any evaluation of the pitcher’s actual performance.
    Nor can you totally ignore the history of the Cy Young award (you can bet the baseball writers don’t).
    That’s an argument for why Felix may be a poor bet to receive the Cy Young Award from BBWAA voters, not for why he shouldn’t get it.

  10. Panda_Claus - Sep 10, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    I went back and checked Hernandez’ nine no-decision games, not to add to the argument, but out of curiosity.
    Of those games, in which the Mariners ultimately won 4 and lost 5, Hernandez left the game under these conditions:
    Tied: 6 (2 of which were blown leads in FH’s last inning)
    Winning: 2
    Losing: 1
    What’s any of that mean? Not much really, though I suppose you might be able to convince someone he should have had two more wins and one more loss.

  11. Reflex - Sep 10, 2010 at 6:39 PM

    Yeah, actually I can ignore the Wins differences pretty easy. Sabathia has had one of the best offenses of the decade supporting him. Hernandez has had one of the five worst offenses since the deadball era supporting him. If there wasn’t a difference in “wins” based on those two facts I would suspect some sort of trickery or game fixing.
    Pitchers do not generate Wins. They can generate Quality Starts. But a Win requires the rest of the team to score, and a pitcher has nothing to do with that. In fact its even more the case in the AL where the pitcher does not even have the chance to have anything to do with the offensive side of the equation.
    Just because historically people thought something was important does not mean that we are locked into that way of thinking indefinatly into the future. Humans are capable of learning and making better judgements. Hopefuly the Grienke and Lincecum examples of the past year will continue to show a tilt in the balance of good judgement towards ranking players based on what they actually have control over rather than things that are completely out of their control.

  12. BigOldBarn - Sep 11, 2010 at 3:32 AM

    Twix is a deliciously cookie-caramel-chocolate bar sold in pairs. Perfect for sharing.
    Trix are the wonderfully fruity breakfast cereal designated solely for children, and strictly verboten to rabbits.
    And, yes, King Felix should be the 2010 Cy Young winner.

  13. BigOldBarn - Sep 11, 2010 at 3:49 AM

    I suppose it could be looked at this way.
    The top contenders for the award are (in no particular order): Buchholz, Sabathia, Felix, Price.
    Their stats (in the “Top 5” pitching categories: W, K, IP, WHIP, ERA):
    Buchholz: 15, 103, 151.2, 1.19, 2.25
    Sabathia: 19, 170, 209.0, 1.21, 3.14
    Felix: 11, 209, 219.1, 1.09, 2.30
    Price: 17, 163, 178.2, 1.23, 2.87
    Even focusing on those basic stats, It’s pretty clear Felix laps the field in everything but wins, the category that he has the least control over.
    Take away Buchholz’ ERA lead (which isn’t much) and you lose a lot of his case. Same with taking away CC’s wins. Price, really, is the only guy besides Hernandez where excluding one category above doesn’t automatically kill any arguments in his favor.
    And even then, given the K, IP, WHIP and ERA edge of Felix over Price, it’s still not much of a race.

  14. Bill@TDS - Sep 11, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    I understand that the people who say “wins don’t mean everything, but they still have to mean SOMETHING” are trying to give a little ground in the debate, reach a compromise, and I appreciate that. But the thing is that nobody who says this can explain WHY they have to mean something. Wins are a team stat. Why don’t we count up Albert Pujols’ wins and losses, or David Eckstein’s? It makes only a little less sense than crediting pitchers with them.
    The only reason people can possibly have to think wins still have to mean something is that that’s the way it’s always been (or that they’re fans of a pitcher they’d rather see win than Felix, but I’m trying not to be so cynical). And that’s just no way to go about things at all.

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