Major league baseball begins doling out its postseason honors on Tuesday when the American League Gold Glove recipients are announced, and the various award winners are named every few days until November 23rd.
The most interesting – and controversial – category this year is likely to be the American League’s Cy Young Award.
As recently as two or three years ago, the winner almost certainly would have been either New York’s C.C. Sabathia (21-7, 3.18 ERA) or Tampa Bay’s David Price (19-6, 2.72 ERA). Jon Lester (19-9, 3.25 ERA) and Clay Buchholz (17-7, 2.33) would have ranked high in the “close but no cigar” category.
But as advanced statistics have become more mainstream, many voters are downplaying a pitcher’s win total and placing more emphasis on data that better demonstrates individual performance. Those voters seem likely to support Seattle’s Felix Hernandez who had a mediocre 13-12 record, but led the AL in ERA (2.27), innings pitched, opponent’s batting average, and quality starts, and ranked second in strikeouts and WHIP.
Former PawSox pitcher David Pauley doesn’t have a vote, but if he did, it would go to his Mariners teammate.
“If he doesn’t win the Cy Young it will be shocking,” Pauley told me. “If there’s anybody that deserves it, it’s him. There was not a day where he had bad stuff. He’s got incredible command of a 95-96 mile an hour fastball, with crazy breaking stuff. He’s so mature for his age and knows so much about the game already – to see what happens over the next 15 to 20 years is going to be something amazing.”
This season was Pauley’s first in the Seattle organization and it was his most successful big league campaign to date. After getting promoted from Triple-A Tacoma on June 27th, Pauley posted a respectable 4.07 ERA in 19 games (15 starts).
“I feel like I was able to open some eyes,” Pauley said. “I threw the ball pretty well and hopefully they like me and will continue to give me opportunities next year. I’ve figured a few things out, I’ve gotten some confidence, and it’s been big. I was able to use all of my pitches for strikes and something just clicked this year.”
The fact that David did not spend the entire year in the minors indicates that the Mariners look beyond wins and losses when evaluating their pitchers.
“When I got called up, I was 1-6 with about a 3.60 ERA (actual = 3.68),” Pauley said. “You hope that the major league team isn’t going by your won/loss record, but it’s always in the back of your mind. That was hard to look at and still believe I would have an opportunity to go up.”
One of the highlights of the season for David was his strong showing against his former team. In three starts against the Red Sox, Pauley had a 3.12 ERA.
“I’ll admit that I got up a little bit more for those games,” Pauley said with a laugh. “It’s like showing them, ‘Hey, I’m still here.’ I owe a lot to Boston. They gave me an opportunity to go to the big leagues. They taught me a lot about the game and how to be a major league baseball player. It gave me the confidence coming over here to know that I could pitch at that level.
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
“It’s an unbelievable place to play. If you ask any professional baseball player, anybody would want to be part of that tradition and history. Getting to play with guys like Ortiz, Manny, Schilling, Wakefield … I got to play with some awesome people and got to be part of a great organization.”
But big league opportunities were limited in Boston. In Seattle, Pauley is getting a chance to establish himself with the young and rebuilding Mariners.
“It’s a great place to play – it really is,” Pauley said. “Last year (with Triple-A Norfolk) was a struggle, and I didn’t know if I was going to have a job this year. To be here and do what I’ve always wanted to do and have success at it – it’s been what I’ve been striving toward over the last 10 years.”
The front row seat to watch King Felix isn’t bad either.
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