Numbers shaping up the way they are it is apparent that the race for American League Cy Young is between two of the biggest horses in the game: CC. Sabathia vs. Felix Hernandez. Put another way it could also be seen as a race between baseball's old school of thinking and the new "sabremetrics" philosophy.
Baseball's old school would suggest that this is a walk in the park; a no doubter if you will. This school of thought would start their analysis by contrasting CC's 20+ wins and 77% winning percentage to Felix's 12+ wins and barley 50% winning percentage. The discrepancy in total wins and winning percentage are so great that Felix has no business being compared with Mr. Sabathia. On this basis the old school would anoint CC and let the fat lady sing.
The "old school" would be wrong, of course, and the sabremetrics "kids" will do their best to point that out. Just as the "kids" did last year in helping Zack Grienke break the traditional wins total mold to take home the 2009 AL Cy Young award.
The new school will point to the fact that Felix has dominated CC in the primary pitching categories: Felix will have a better era (2.35 to 3.04), better whip (1.07 to 1.17), more k's (222 to 187), more innings pitched (234 to 224), better opponents BAA (.216 to .238) and more quality starts (28 to 25).
The "kids" will also dig a little deeper, CC has 12 wins in 14 tries against the four worst offences in baseball: 5 against Baltimore, 3 against Seattle, 2 against Oakland and 2 against KC.
Felix's defense has given up 17 unearned runs. Sabathia has only had to deal with 8 unearned runs.
One of the more telling pieces of analysis will be the differences in offense. CC's Yankees provided enough offense to generate 6 wins for CC, in starts where CC gave up 3 or more runs. The Mariners offense didn’t win a single game for Felix where he gave up 3 or more runs. In other words, Felix didn’t earn a win in any start where he gave up more than 2 runs.
Felix vs CC in starts where exactly 3 runs were surrendered to the opponent:
CC 6 wins 1 losses 2 no decisions
Felix 0 wins 3 losses 3 no decisions
Felix vs CC in starts where 2 or fewer runs were surrendered to the opponent:
CC 13 wins 1 losses 2 no decisions
Felix 12 wins 4 losses 6 no decisions
This second graphic is mind bending. Felix has 23 starts of 2 or fewer runs. 7 of those where he gave up zero runs, 7 of those where he gave up 1 run and 9 where he gave up 2 runs. Of those 23 starts he only has 12 wins. Sabathia has one more win despite having 7 fewer 2 or less run games.
The difference in winning percentage comes down to 2 simple things. Firstly, the Yankees score more runs than the Mariners. During CC starts this year the Yankees scored 175 runs. During Felix starts this year the Mariners scored 101 runs. That means that CC is getting more than 2 runs more per start to work with. To emphasize this, if CC was a Mariner this season and Felix was a Yankee their respective records would have been*:
CC 16 wins 14 losses 2 no decisions
Felix 25 wins 6 losses 1 no decision
Secondly the defense factor comes into play. As mentioned, Felix's defense gave up 17 unearned runs and CC's only gave up 8.
The CY will go to CC because that’s how baseball works. It’s a shame though, because in rewarding CC with the best pitching award you are almost giving the award to the Yankees for having the best offense in baseball.
* The note concerning records if the players switched teams isn’t meant to be overly persuasive. It assumes that all runs scored by the new team's offense were scored in the first inning. This assumption is far reaching because it eliminates the possibility that runs are scored after the first inning and thus eliminates the possibility for lead changes. It also assumes the teams would have played identically in front of CC and Felix on those given days and that CC and Felix have equivalent defensive abilities.