By Gary Hill
If the chase for the 2010 Cy Young Award were a horse race then Felix Hernandez was the thoroughbred bursting by the field down the stretch to claim the come-from-behind victory.
At the All-Star break in 2010, Felix was 7-5 with a 2.88 ERA. He had fanned 131 hitters in 137 2/3 innings and thrown four complete games. It was a solid first half for The King.
However, his second half was near perfection. He dazzled hitters with filthy arsenal of pitches. He allowed just 19 earned runs in 15 second-half starts. His ERA sunk to a frigid 1.53 and he racked up 101 more strikeouts. His American League competition was left in the dust as Felix surged past them to claim the top AL award.
• Felix Hernandez: 167 points (21 first-place votes)
• David Price: 111 points (4)
• CC Sabathia: 102 points (3)
• Jon Lester: 33 points
• Jered Weaver: 24 points
As it turned out, the final vote was not all that close. Felix grabbed 21 of the 28 first-place votes and won by over 50 points. The win for Felix was seen as a victory for the Sabermetics community as his 13-12 record was completely disregarded.
The story is different this year. The 2013 season has made the turn past the All-Star break and Felix stands as the front-runner for the Cy Young Award. The Mariners' ace boasts the best ERA in the American League (2.43). He leads the league in innings pitched with 144 2/3 and he has taken the ball a league-high 21 times. Felix has punched out 147 hitters, which is third in the league. His WHIP is eighth best at 1.09 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is second best in the AL.
Felix has not lost a game since Texas took him down on May 25. There have been a staggering 736 losses in MLB since the last time Felix was tagged with an "L". Nick Franklin has been a teammate of Felix since May 27 and he has never seen him lose a game. Felix has only coughed up a stingy six earned runs in his last five starts. He has currently chucked 16 consecutive scoreless innings.
Felix won a career-high 19 games in 2009 and win No. 11 of that year came on July 22 in a brilliant outing against the Tigers. Felix claimed his 11th win of this season Sunday, July 21. In a deserving twist of fate, the Mariners are averaging 9.7 runs a game in his last three starts.
The competition for the AL Cy Young Award is strong:
• Max Scherzer: 13-1, 3.19 ERA, second in AL in WHIP and strikeouts.
• Bartolo Colon: 13-3, 2.52 ERA, second in ERA and sixth in innings pitched.
• Hiroki Kuroda: 9-6, 2.65 ERA, third in ERA and fourth in WHIP.
• Chris Sale: 6-8, 2.85 ERA, fifth in strikeouts and third in WHIP.
• Yu Darvish: 8-4, 3.02 ERA, most strikeouts and best average against.
There is plenty of baseball left to be played, but at this point no pitcher can match Felix in terms of effectiveness in his vast number of innings. In 2010 he zoomed by the field late to taste victory. This season the front-runner will need to hold off the field because Felix is the clear leader heading into the August.