Clayton Kershaw leads the National League Cy Young award race by a large margin, and is even getting some support as the most valuable player. But in the American league, it is not so clear cut.

Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber appear to be the favorites with Chris Sale and Max Scherzer also getting some mentions to be named the league’s top pitcher. Tom Tango came up with a simple formula to predict how the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters will cast their ballots, and we can use this to narrow down the true contenders.

We can further narrow the field using the following metrics:

  • fWAR, which uses FIP to calculate Wins Above Replacement for pitchers,thus making it defense independent
  • RA9-Wins, which is just like the standard WAR for pitchers, except it uses runs allowed per nine innings (RA/9) as its basis rather than a modified version of FIP.

Corey Kluber leads AL pitchers in fWar, with Hernandez close behind. As for RA9-WAR, Hernandez has a healthy lead on all the top contenders.

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But this isn’t all about advanced metrics. We can also look at wins, losses, ERA and innings pitched.

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King Felix has a 14-5 record with  225 strikeouts in 219 innings pitched to go along with a 2.14 ERA. Chris Sale, on the other hand, has just 163 innings pitched, which likely removes him from any serious contention. The last time an AL Cy Young award winner had fewer than 200 innings pitched was in 1994 when David Cone won the award during a strike-shortened season.

Included above are the Fielding Independent Pitching numbers for each pitcher. Hernandez has a FIP of 2.59, which is what his ERA would look like over his innings pitched if he were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing. Kluber and Sale are slightly better, but only Sale is significant enough to warrant pause. The same is true once we adjust for park effects and the league.

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Hernandez is also striking out more than a batter per inning, and is currently fifth in strikeout percentage (26.6 percent) and has the eighth lowest walk percentage (4.9 percent) among starters. After combing the two (K-BB%) he ranks third overall, behind Sale and Price.

Hernandez has pitched more innings than Sale, and has been more valuable than any pitcher aside from Kluber, who has more losses, a higher ERA and slightly worse command of the strike zone. Once you take into consideration the entire body of work, it is clear King Felix is this year’s AL Cy Young Award winner.

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