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Cy Young, Wins and Nonsense

Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young award on Thursday, which no doubt has people like Murray Chass wringing their hands because of Hernandez's 13-12 record. I think Hernandez deserved the award, though  I can see the merits for a couple other pitchers.

What has my mind boggled, however, is that Hernandez ended up fourth on one ballot and fifth on another. According to the Seattle Times, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal voted him fourth and George King of the New York Post voted him fifth. "For me, wins and losses matter," Ocker said.

Now, I understand the argument that wins matter. But if you think Felix Hernandez was the fourth or fifth best pitcher in the American League this season, you're not just saying that wins matter, you're saying they |STAR|only|STAR| matter. The only way to rank Hernandez so low is to say that win-loss record is paramount, trumping all other stats, which, new-fangled (Chass' word) or not, Hernandez dominated almost across the board.

At best, you could argue that the disparity in wins between Hernandez and, say, Clay Buchholz, whom Ocker voted third, was greater than the disparity between the stats in Hernandez's favor. But even that doesn't work. While Buchholz bested Hernandez in wins, 17 to 13, ranking seventh to Hernandez's 18th, there's a far greater disparity in innings pitched where Hernandez ranked first with 249.2 and Buchholz ranked 36th with 173.2. Same story in strikeouts (31st vs. 2nd), quality starts (22nd vs. 1st) and on and on.

If you subscribe to the idea that wins are paramount, then |STAR|you|STAR| are the extreme one, not those in the stats community who simply ask that wins be viewed in context.