The Sabathia versus King Felix Debate Verdict

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

This season, 2010, has been the so-called “Year of the Pitcher” (just don’t tell Charlie Morton, Kenshin Kawakami, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Milwood, A.J. Burnett or a handful of other pitchers who had less than successful 2010 campaigns). Two shining examples of pitching greatness are featured in the debate Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless tackled. Both C.C. Sabathia and Felix Hernandez had outstanding season, but in different ways.

Sabathia, as argued by Babe Ruthless, represents the type of pitcher who wins games. That’s certainly Sabathia in 2010. The guy just wins games. In fact, he won 21 of them this season. He was no doubt helped by an extremely potent lineup (to the tune of 7.31 runs of support per nine innings pitched). But still, the bottom line is to win the game C.C. gave his team that chance.

Babe also writes that sometimes statistics are overrated, citing some strikeout totals from this past season. Having strikeout pitchers is essential to winning in the post-season (just ask the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling). But that doesn’t always translate to being near the top of the league in wins in the regular seasons.

Sports Geek had the task of defending the honor of the ERA, which is fully represented by King Felix this season. Sports Geek argues that the pitcher can only control what happens when he is on the field, not when his offense is at the plate. In other words, it’s no fault of Hernandez that his team is only scoring 3.75 runs per nine innings pitched when he pitches, which is over 3.5 runs lower than the other pitcher in this debate. That doesn’t exactly speak well of the lineup that Seattle consistently threw out there. Yes, I am talking to you Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman, and Jose Lopez. Actually, I am talking to everyone except Ichiro. Sports Geek even found a good quote from a proven ace Justin Verlander who said that wins are not that most important stat. Though, in fairness, I’d somewhat expect a pitcher to say that because of the number of times a pitcher loses a chance at victory due to a blown save by the bullpen.

To me, the bottom line surrounding this debate is what defines a pitcher’s dominance. Is it wins, or is it ERA? After reading the arguments I vote ERA, so that is why Sports Geek wins this debate. Babe Ruthless talked about how statistics can sometimes be deceiving. Phil Hughes had 18 wins this season, but with a 4.19 ERA. Derek Lowe had 16 wins, but with an ERA of 4.00. Meanwhile, look at a guy like Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson. In 16 starts after the All-Star break his ERA is a Cy Young-like 2.51. Want to guess what his win-loss record is? Maybe ten wins? Wrong! He’s 2-6, thanks to an anemic offense. That doesn’t take away how dominant he was in the second half of the season, though.

Hernandez’s average win-loss record can’t overshadow his ERA, not to mention the fact that he threw nearly 250 innings. A pitcher can’t control what goes while he is in the dugout. He can only control what happens when he is on the mound. No one did it better this year than Felix Hernandez.

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