Felix second in Cy Young, vows to be better next year
After putting together what he called the best season of his 10-year career, Mariners ace Felix Hernandez vowed to be even better next year after finishing second to Indians right-hander Corey Kluber on Wednesday when the American League Cy Young Award was handed out by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Kluber was a narrow winner as he was named first on 17 of the 30 ballots, second on 11 and third on two, for 169 points. Hernandez earned 13 first-place votes and 17 second-place votes, putting him 10 points back on the scoring system based on 7-4-3-2-1 points for the five pitchers put on each writer’s ballot.
Here’s the full voting breakdown.
“I don’t know what to say,” Hernandez said. “That was tough. It’s a little disappointing, but it just gives me more motivation to work harder and harder and be ready for next year.”
Kluber went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and led the AL with 269 strikeouts in a breakout year for the Indians. White Sox southpaw Chris Sale also had a strong season and finished third, but it was Kluber who took home the trophy as the first Indians winner since Cliff Lee in 2009.
“He beat me in Cleveland. He had a great year,” Hernandez said. “Sale, Kluber, myself, we all deserve this award. But there’s only one winner and it was Kluber.”
Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers was a unanimous winner of the NL Cy Young Award, the third time he’s won.
Hernandez, 28, won the AL Cy Young Award in 2010 and was second in ’09, fourth in ’12 and eighth in ’13. The only other Seattle pitcher to win the prestigious award was Randy Johnson in 1995.
While finishing second was a tough pill to swallow, Hernandez said there are bigger things ahead for him and the Mariners, who finished one victory shy of tying for the final AL Wild Card spot at 87-75.
“[The Cy Young] means a lot,” he said. “But my goal is just to win the whole thing with this team right here, the Seattle Mariners. They deserve it, the fans deserve it. Individual stuff doesn’t matter, this is a team sport.”
Hernandez went 15-6 while leading the AL in ERA at 2.14 and WHIP at 0.915. He also set a career best in strikeouts, with 248 in 236 innings.
“It was a great year for everybody, my teammates, my coaching staff, they did a great job,” he said. “But next year we’re going to be better. It was a great year, we got close, but we didn’t make the playoffs. Next year will be better.”
As for his own game?
“I can work harder and harder and harder,” Hernandez said. “Every day you learn something else. We’ll see what’s going to happen next year.”
Hernandez’s WHIP was the second-lowest mark by an AL pitcher since 1973, and his ERA was the lowest in the AL since 2000. His win-loss record could have been far better with some more-consistent run support, as he put up a 1.88 ERA in 13 no-decisions.
The Mariners’ ace felt he pitched “way better” in 2014 than in his first Cy Young Award-winning season, and the numbers bore that out. But Kluber’s season was deemed to be even better, with some possibly swayed by a critical loss by Hernandez in Toronto on Seattle’s final road trip when he gave up eight runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings at a time when voters were making up their minds on the close competition.
“I don’t know. Probably,” Hernandez said when asked if that loss made a difference. “It was just one start. So what can I say?”
Hernandez’s statistics were stellar across the board, as he also finished first in the AL in opponents’ batting average (.200), tied for first in starts (34), second in innings and opponents’ slugging percentage (.303) and OPS (.546), fourth in strikeouts and fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.39).
The right-hander set a Major League record with 16 consecutive starts allowing two or fewer runs in at least seven innings pitched from May 18-Aug. 11, breaking the old record of 13 straight starts by Tom Seaver in 1971. He led the Majors with 23 such “ultra-quality” starts, with Kluber second in the AL at 19.
Hernandez had already been named the AL’s Outstanding Pitcher by the Sporting News and the AL’s Outstanding Pitcher in the Players Choice Awards. He also was a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award and was Seattle’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
Not adding the Cy Young to that collection hurt, without question.
“A little bit as an individual,” he said. “But I’m going to prepare myself for next year, I’ll prepare harder, I’m going to be in better shape than this year and we’ll see what happens. I can’t wait for next. Next year is going to be a great year for the Seattle Mariners.”