ORLANDO — The idea of voting the award for the American League's best pitcher to Seattle's Felix Hernandez, who won only 13 games, is difficult for some people to understand.
But not Rays left-hander David Price, who arguably could have had the biggest complaint as he finished second to Hernandez in the voting for the AL Cy Young Award announced Thursday.
"I feel like they got it right. I feel Felix deserved it," Price said on a conference call. "If I was going to lose to someone, it might as well be Felix. He was pretty incredible."
The voting was expected to be a three-way battle between Hernandez, Price and New York's CC Sabathia, but it turned out not to be much of a race. Hernandez, who was 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA, received 21 of 28 first-place votes and 167 overall points from the two voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in each league city. Price (19-6, 2.72) got four first-place votes (and 15 seconds) and 111 points, and Sabathia (21-7, 3.18) the other three first-place votes and 102 points. Rays free agent closer Rafael Soriano finished eighth.
"I think I deserve it," Hernandez, 24, said on a conference call after a celebration at his home in Venezuela. "It's not only the wins, the whole stats have to be looked at. … Cy Young is for the most dominant pitcher in the league, not the one who wins 20, 21, 19 games."
What Hernandez lacked in wins — the 13 are the fewest for a Cy Young-winning starter in a full season (San Francisco's Tim Lincecum won with 15 last year) — he made up for among the voters with other numbers.
From the basics of a majors-best 2.27 ERA, league-high 249 2/3 innings and league-low .212 opponents average, and 232 strikeouts that were second-most; to detailed breakdowns of his performance by the run support he received from the last-place Mariners' bad offense (for example, 2-10 record with a 2.84 ERA in the 15 games they scored two or fewer runs); to advanced and complex sabermetric analyses (such as WAR, Wins Above Replacement).
The voting spawned something of an interesting Internet debate, from the starting lines of the traditional value of wins and the pressures of pitching in a pennant race vs. the modern-day emphasis on inside-the-numbers analysis and advanced metrics.
• The Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers, who voted Price first: "I love ERA, but to say wins don't mean anything doesn't make sense."
• The Boston Herald's Mike Silverman, who voted Hernandez first (and didn't have Price on his five-deep ballot): "Definitely wins, to me, are totally overvalued."
• St. Petersburg Times writer Joe Smith called it "a tough decision" to vote Hernandez first and Price second. (The other Tampa Bay area voter, Tony Fabrizio of the Tampa Tribune, had Price first.)
"Price had a spectacular season while pitching in a pennant race," Smith said. "If the award were most valuable pitcher, he'd get my vote. But it is for best pitcher, and other than wins, which can often be out of a pitcher's control, Hernandez was the class of the field with some dominating numbers, getting little help from a historically bad offense."
For what it's worth, Price said he considers ERA the most important stat and that wins (and losses) can be out of a pitchers' control.
"That's the stat that should be paid attention to the most," Price, 25, said. "If you have a good ERA, you're going to win a lot of ball games."
That Hernandez won only 13 — there were 17 AL pitchers with more — isn't his fault, Price said.
"The numbers he put up, those were pretty ridiculous outside of the win and loss columns. … I feel as though if Felix were on a different team, if he were on the Yankees or something like that, he'd win a lot of games."
Price, admittedly excited about the possibility of winning in his first full season, was watching at home in Tennessee when the power went out just before the afternoon announcement, so he had to scramble for the results.
"Obviously I wanted to win, and if I didn't win I wanted to come in second, so I feel good about it," Price said. "I'm not mad by any means or let down; I just got beat."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]