- Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez
Felix Hernandez delivered the biggest win of the Seattle Mariners lost season today, capturing the 2010 American League Cy Young Award.
If that wasn’t enough, he made history in the process - proving a 13-game winner on a 101-loss team could be measured as the best pitcher in the league.
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The 24-year-old right-hander beat out the likes of New York’s CC Sabathia, Tampa’s David Price and Boston’s Jon Lester to win the award after finishing second in the 2009 balloting to Kansas City ace Zack Greinke.
Hernandez, 24, was named first on 21 of the 28 ballots cast by two writers in each league city. He received two votes for second place, three for third, one for fourth and one for fifth for a total of 167 points. Price (19-6, 2.72 ERA) got four first-place votes and totaled 111 points to finish second. The other three first-place votes went to Sabathia (21-7, 3.18 ERA), who finished third with 102 points.
He was notified of his victory by telephone to his home in Venezuela. Hernandez became the second Mariner to win a Cy Young Award, joining Randy Johnson, who won his in 1995.
The award pushes Hernandez into the record books - and into an acknowledged elite cast of pitchers. In a five-plus year career that began in 2005, Felix has gone 71-53 with 3.20 earned run average in 172 starts.
There were pitchers who won more games last season, but none had a better year.
Hernandez led the league in ERA (2.27), innings (249 2/3), opponents batting average (.212) and starts (34), finishing second with 232 strikeouts and third with six shutouts.While doing so, Felix had the lowest run support average (2.4) in the league, and the Mariners - the worst offensive team in baseball - scored just seven runs in his 12 losses.
No starting pitcher had ever won a Cy Young Award with fewer than 15 wins, but Hernandez made believers of the Baseball Writers Association of America voters with an uncanny final two months.
Over is last 10 starts, Hernandez went 6-3 - but his 0.96 ERA in that span was built on not allowing more than one earned run in any of those games.
Of his 34 starts, 30 were ‘quality starts,’ games in which he pitched at least six innings and allowed three runs or fewer. That was the most quality starts in a season by an AL pitcher since 1989, when Bret Saberhagen had as many.
For Seattle, the award came in the first year of Felix’s new contract extension, which runs through 2014. And yes, it included a bonus for winning the Cy Young Award.
Originally signed in 2002 as a hard-throwing 16-year-old from Valencia, Venezuela, Hernandez began his professional career a year later in Everett and quickly became the best prospect in the Mariners system.
By the time he was called to the big leagues late in the 2005 season, he’d made 48 starts and 10 relief appearances in the minors, going 30-10 with a 2.59 ERA.