The end of baseball’s regular season is near, with a weekend of games remaining. Much is to still be decided. The National League Wild Card is a battle between the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves, with the Braves ahead by two games with three to play.

Also, the American League East is up for grabs. Both the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees are assured of making the postseason, but, as they are currently deadlocked, it’s just a matter of who wants to play the Texas Rangers or Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series (the division winner would play Texas, with the Wild Card playing Minnesota).

An exciting weekend awaits, but it is time to hand out the awards for baseball’s best. First in my multi-part series is…

American League Cy Young

I’ll start with perhaps the most intriguing. New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia has 21 wins and a 3.18 ERA over 237-and-two-thirds innings. He is deemed to be the front-runner. But he shouldn’t win. My choice, if indeed chosen, would defy most of the credentials needed to be considered. He’s not on a winning team; he’s on one of the worst. He doesn’t have anywhere near Sabathia’s win total. But, statistically, Felix Hernandez was the best pitcher in not only the American League but the entirety of baseball, dominating for the Seattle Mariners.

Being the best hitter doesn’t necessarily mean you are the Most Valuable Player. That has never really been understood by those who officially cast ballots. It’s who is most valuable, and in my mind “best” and “valuable” can have entirely different meanings when it comes to the offensive aspect of the game. But as far as pitchers are concerned, whomever puts up the best statistics should win their league’s Cy Young award.

Hernandez certainly accomplished what is necessary to take home the hardware. Throw his 13-12 record out of the window because he had the game’s worst offense behind him. The Mariners, as ESPN’s Jayson Stark mentions in his awards article, have scored less than three runs 98 times this season. Ninety-eight. For him, they scored just over three runs per game, by far the worst this year. But, according to Stark, it “isn’t merely the worst in baseball this year. It’s the worst in this millennium. And according to Elias (Sports Bureau), it’s the second-worst support in the entire DH era for an AL pitcher with an ERA under 2.50.”

And his ERA is well under the necessary 2.50 to qualify for this horrid statistic that will haunt the Mariners until they find some players who can hit. It’s 2.27, the best mark in baseball. He only allowed four earned runs twice in 34 starts, and relinquished just 194 hits in 249-and-two-thirds innings. Yet, due to his putrid offense, he has only 13 wins and, presumably, a second-place finish to Sabathia to show for such excellence.

To reiterate, racking up the victories should not be the main reason why a pitcher wins the CY Young. Sabathia has been terrific, but he has nine very good hitters backing him. Knowing your offense is going to have a great shot at supporting you has to ease the pressure heading into outings. This is why, with such a horrid offense, Fernandez’s candidacy should in no way be affected by what his offense does at the plate. To further explain why, I leave my argument for Hernandez with this, once again from Stark:

And here’s the amazing part: The Mariners are doing all this even though one of their lineup spots is occupied by a fellow who leads the league in hits (the one, the only Ichiro). At least that helps explain how the guy who leads the American League in hits has somehow scored fewer runs (72) than the man who is last in the National League in hits (that .198-hitting Mark Reynolds, who has scored 79), among qualifiers for the batting title.

Honorable Mention: Sabathia, Jon Lester, David Price, and Clay Buchholz

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