The Seattle ace won the AL Cy Young Award on Thursday despite a 13-12 record. His major league-leading 2.27 ERA and superior stats made him an easy choice over David Price of Tampa Bay and CC Sabathia of the Yankees and their impressive win-loss numbers.
Victimized by poor run support all season, Hernandez found ample backing with the voters. They clearly recognized how little the last-place Mariners helped him - in 10 starts, they were either shut out and held to one run.
"This confirms the Cy Young is an award not only for the pitcher with the most wins, but the most dominant," a teary-eyed Hernandez said while celebrating with relatives at the family home in Valencia, Venezuela.
King Felix got 21 of the 28 first-place votes and 167 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The 24-year-old led the league in innings (249 2-3), was second in strikeouts (232) and topped the AL in innings/hits ratio.
Price, who went 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA, was second with four first-place votes and 111 points. Sabathia, who led the league with 21 wins, drew the other three first-place votes and finished third at 102.
The 13 wins by Hernandez marked the fewest for a Cy Young starter in a full season - Tim Lincecum set the record last year with 15 victories for San Francisco.
Fernando Valenzuela won the NL award in strike-shortened 1981 after going 13-7. His mark of six games over .500 had been the lowest for any Cy starter until Hernandez.
Hernandez finished second in the voting last year, his 19 wins beaten out by Zack Greinke's better showing with other numerology.
But no more sighs for Hernandez now. In the Year of the Pitcher, he came out on top.
"This is the first of many," Hernandez said. "Now I have to work even harder because I'm the best pitcher in the American League."
The Mariners finished with an AL-worst 61-101 record and their 513 runs were the fewest in the majors. They gave him barely over three runs to work with each game and weren't too sharp in the field, either - in his 34 starts, he gave up 17 unearned runs.
Still, Hernandez was a star. No matter that he was left off this year's AL All-Star team.
Hernandez went 7-4 against playoff teams and was at his best against the high-scoring Yankees, going 3-0 while holding them to one run in 26 innings with 31 strikeouts.
Others who count on baseball's newer math pointed at how well Hernandez had done on the things he could fully command. He led AL pitchers in a stat that matters a lot to the sabermatricians of the sport - Wins Above Replacement.
Hernandez might've ranked even higher had the Mariners decided not to skip his regular start on the final day of the regular season. He needed one more inning to match NL Cy Young winner Roy Halladay for most in the majors, and he finished one strikeout behind AL leader Jered Weaver of the Angels.
Sabathia and Price each led strong staffs that pitched their teams into the playoffs. Both aces went 3-2 against teams that reached the postseason.
Sabathia won in 2007 with Cleveland. The big lefty went 10-1 this season against Seattle, Baltimore and Kansas City, the three last-place teams in the AL.
Hernandez became the second Seattle pitcher to win the Cy Young, joining Randy Johnson in 1995. This was the third time the award went to a Venezuelan pitcher, with Johan Santana having won twice.
By winning, Hernandez received an automatic $1 million raise in salary next year to $11 million. He also earned annual $500,000 raises after that to $19 million in 2012, $20 million in 2013 and $20.5 million in 2014. Price received $80,000 for finishing second.
Boston's Jon Lester came in fourth. Weaver got a $50,000 bonus for finishing fifth.
The next BBWAA award will be the NL Most Valuable Player, to be announced Monday. The AL MVP will be Tuesday.