Thursday, September 30, 2010

Felix Hernandez Makes Everyone Smarter

Paraphrase of Tim Kurkjian on Mike and Mike this morning:

“I still believe wins to be very important, but you have to look at Felix Hernandez in context. Look at his ERA. I still think ERA is the single best way to judge a pitcher, and his ERA si a full run better than Sabathia.”

Paraphrase of Cal Ripken on Mike and Mike, yesterday:

“Billy (Ripken) and I have been going back and forth on this, and…I finally convinced Billy, I mean, I think you still need wins because at some point you have to hold pitchers accountable, but in like 9 of Felix Hernandez’s 12 losses he has gotten 0 or 1 run of run support. You can’t hold him responsible for that.”

Now, there’s still a whole lot of stupid in both of those quotes, but look what Felix and the Mariners did. He pitched so brilliantly, and they were so very terrible on offense, that they managed to shine a blinding, all-revealing light on the dreaded “win” statistic. They showed everyone in completely unmistakable, inexcusable clarity just how much the rest of your team matters towards getting a “win.”

I think there is always this fallback notion among the dumber baseball pundits that if your team scores like 3-4 runs that you should be able to use your superhuman power-up abilities to pitch a great game and only allow 2-3 runs, and conversely, if your team scores 7-8 runs that you can just take it easy, save your arm, and allow 5-6 runs. Call it the Jack Morris Hypothesis. No one can claim that Jack Morris hypothesis applies to King Felix.

Just how bad were the Mariners? Read this whole column by the always brilliant Joe Posnanski. Here’s a snippit, but really, read it all.

Their batting splits are a smorgasbord of goodies (or baddies) such as these treats:

-- Mariners' No. 3 hitters are hitting .227 ... which is actually BETTER than their No. 5 hitters (.209).

-- Mariners second basemen, shortstops and catchers combined are slugging .301.

-- The Mariners as a team are hitting .234. The Mariners as a team minus Ichiro are 10 points worse.

The Mariners are historically terrible. And because of their terribleness, it’s possible that in the future the Cy Young award voters will continue to move away from “wins” and towards actual good statistics. Greinke was progress last year. Felix, if he wins this year, will become a benchmark. Any pundit arguing for a low-win candidate in the future will be able to point to Felix and his 13-12 mark.

I’m still a bit concerned that the writers will settle on David Price as a sort of “compromise” candidate, but I don’t think it’s too likely. So here’s to the Mariners and King Felix, for providing a real-world example of what probably should have remained hypothetical.

What would happen if the best pitcher in the league was on a team with the worst offense of the last half-century or so?


Jon said...

To play devil's advocate:

Pitcher A's Road Stats
2.33 ERA, 1.015 WHIP, 11.0 K/9
Pitcher B's Road Stats
2.46 ERA, 1.139 WHIP, 7.7 K/9

Pitcher A pithces in a bandbox, Pitcher B pitches in the biggest pitchers park in the league.

A = Jon Lester B = King Felix

Only reason i really see for voting Felix #1 is he's pitched alot more innings than Lester. But i don't understand why Lester gets no press/consideration.

PaulNoonan said...

I've actually read a good amount in favor of Liriano too. My point isn't necessarily that Felix is the right answer, just that some people are finally paying attention to the correct things.