Felix Hernandez’s Cy Young Award is a victory for looking beyond victories

Seattle Mariners righthander Felix Hernandez may have had trouble posting victories in 2010, but he was a convincing winner in the voting for the American League Cy Young Award. Hernandez, known as “King Felix,” was crowned despite posting a victory total that was the lowest for any winner in either league among starting pitchers in a full season and matched the lowest for a winning starter in any season.

Pitching for a team that averaged only 3.2 runs per game, Hernandez compiled a 13-12 record with a league-leading 2.27 ERA in 34 starts. He also led the league in innings (249 2/3) and finished second in strikeouts with 232, one behind Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim righthander Jered Weaver.

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. Voting is tabulated on a system rewarding seven points for first place, four for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. The BBWAA expanded the Cy Young Award ballot from three to five pitchers this year.

Tampa Bay Rays lefthander David Price (19-6, 2.72 ERA) got four first-place votes and totaled 111 points to finish second in the balloting. The other three first-place votes went to New York Yankees lefthander CC Sabathia (21-7, 3.18 ERA), who finished third with 102 points. Boston Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester (19-9, 3.25 ERA) placed fourth and Weaver (13-12, 3.01 ERA) fifth. In all, 12 pitches received votes.

Hernandez, who was the runner-up last year, and Sabathia, the 2007 winner when he was with the Cleveland Indians, were the only pitchers named on every ballot.

The Mariners’ run support for Hernandez was 2.4 per game. Seattle scored two or fewer runs in 15 of his starts. He was 2-10 with a 2.84 ERA in those games. In his nine no decisions, Hernandez pitched to a 1.92 ERA.

His victory total broke the previous mark of a starter in a full season of last year’s winner in the National League, Tim Lincecum, who was 15-7 for the San Francisco Giants. The other 2009 winner, Zack Greinke, had the previous AL low victory total with a 16-8 record for the Kansas City Royals.

Hernandez’s victories also equaled the figure that 1981 NL winner Fernando Valenzuela had when he was 13-7 for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a season that was interrupted for 50 days by a players’ strike.

It marked the second time a Seattle pitcher won the award. Randy Johnson was the winner in 1995. It was also the third time a native of Venezuela was honored. Hernandez joined Johan Santana, who won in 2004 and ’06 for the Minnesota Twins.

Hernandez became the third AL pitcher and sixth overall to win a Cy Young Award the year after finishing second. Also accomplishing the feat in the AL were the Red Sox’ Roger Clemens in 1991 and Pedro Martinez in 1999 and in the NL the Dodgers’ Mike Marshall in 1974, the San Diego Padres’ Randy Jones in 1976 and the New York Mets’ Dwight Gooden in 1985.

2010 AL Cy Young

Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners212311167
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays41571111
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees3101221102
Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox191233
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim126224
Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox25420
Cliff Lee, Seattle Mariners/Texas Rangers1116
Rafael Soriano, Tampa Bay Rays135
Trevor Cahill, Oakland Athletics124
Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals12
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins11
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers11