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Seattle Mariners: Assessing Felix Hernandez’s Chances to Win the Cy Young

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COMMENTARY | Felix Hernandez has had so many consecutive seasons of greatness in a Seattle Mariners uniform that domination has become routine. Hernandez's 2013 season is shaping up to possibly be the best of his career, meaning a second career Cy Young Award is well within reach.

With the season reaching the All-Star break, the races for individual awards have begun to take a clear shape. Slumps, hot streaks and injury can obviously change things in a hurry, but the general idea of who has a chance to win some hardware is there.

Right now, the American League Cy Young looks like it will come down to two pitchers: Hernandez and Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers. Chris Sale is certainly within striking distance and capable of pitching just as well as the other two the rest of the season, but he has some work to do to catch up. Clay Buchholz would be square in the mix, but he is struggling to make progress in his return from a neck injury and has not pitched since June 8. Bartolo Colon has been fantastic, but voters will shy away from a player who has previously been suspended for PEDs.

It's a near deadlock between Hernandez and Scherzer at this point, as both players are near the top of the American League in their fair share of major pitching categories. Scherzer is first in wins, second in WHIP, second in hits per nine innings, and second in K/9. Hernandez is first in ERA, first in WAR, first in innings pitched, and fourth in BB/9. The pitchers are also the top two in FIP in the AL, with Hernandez's 2.66 leading Scherzer's mark by .02.

Felix has the slight edge in terms of overall statistics as of this moment, though the margin is extremely narrow and could fluctuate start to start. His biggest advantage comes from his 2.53 ERA, compared to Scherzer's 3.19. Hernandez has also been worth a full win more by Baseball-Reference's measurement. The Mariners star has the lowest walk rate and highest strikeout rate of his career in 2013, indicating his ERA could shrink further and come closer to resembling the 2.27 he had in his 2010 Cy Young season.

All that being said, Hernandez cannot quite be considered the favorite to win award at the break. The categories Scherzer has the lead in are some of the most important categories in terms of voting, apart from ERA. In particular, Scherzer's advantage in wins and strikeouts could make the difference if they hold.

Many around baseball, myself included, don't put a lot of stock into pitcher wins as they are an individual statistic that has a lot to do with team performance. The reality of the situation, however, is that wins do make a big difference in Cy Young voting. Hernandez's record in 2010 nearly cost him the award and should have according to some, despite absolutely dominating numbers. He only managed a 13-12 mark on an awful Mariners team, the fewest wins ever for a Cy Young Award winner. In addition, Scherzer becoming the first pitcher to go 13-0 since 1986 does mean something, even if wins are a flawed stat.

Scherzer could also get a bit of a boost from the Tigers' remaining schedule. Detroit has 16 games, or nearly a quarter of its schedule left, against the Chicago White Sox, who have scored the second fewest runs in all of baseball, despite playing their home games in a bandbox. A 7-game road stretch for the Mariners in mid-September against the heavy-hitting St. Louis Cardinals and the Tigers themselves could mean two difficult starts for Hernandez, giving Scherzer the slightest late-season push in an even race.

Right now, Scherzer should be considered the favorite to take home the Cy Young, but it's going to be an exciting race to watch for Seattle fans. Hernandez has put himself in a good position to take home his second award, and has clearly separated himself as one of the two best pitchers in the American League this season.

Nathaniel Reeves is a lifelong Seattle sports follower who is studying journalism at the University of Washington. He currently covers sports for The UW Daily.

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