The crux of his argument was that King Felix had dominated in the AL West for a team that was out of contention about a week after the season began. CC had been dominant as well, but he did it under the microscope that is Yankee baseball, in the game's toughest division, in a season where every start mattered. Does he have a point?
To examine whether or not CC had pitched in tougher situations than King Felix I first looked to Baseball Reference's Average Leverage Index. aLI, as the stat is called, is meant to measure the average pressure of the various situations in which a pitcher appeared. Although pressure is not defined, 1.0 is average. Anything below 1.0 is less pressure while anything above is more pressure.
Surprisingly, neither pitcher was used in high pressure situations. CC's aLI is 0.9 on the season, or slightly below-average. Felix's is 1.0, or right on average (and immaterially different from CC's). Although surprising at first, this actually makes sense. In most innings good starters will have very few runners on base, limiting the average pressure they face. For their careers, both pitchers have an aLI of 1.0.
Baseball Reference's measure of pressure may come out slightly in favor of King Felix, but what about strength of schedule? There is no question that the Yankees had one of the toughest schedules in baseball because they play in the AL East, but CC doesn't draw exclusively AL East opponents, just as Hernandez doesn't only get to pitch against the A's. Each pitcher has his own strength of schedule. Depending upon who the pitcher faced during the season he could have faced either better, or weaker, hitting teams on average.
Here's who CC has faced this season:
There are some heavy hitters, namely Boston and Tampa Bay, right at the top of CC's schedule, but there are some weak hitting teams as well. In total, on average CC faced opposition with a wOBA of .320, or opponents who hit a little worse than Kansas City.
Here's who King Felix saw this season:
That translates to an average opponent wOBA of .324, slightly higher than CC's, or opponents who hit just about as well as Kansas City. Sure, King Felix got to exploit Anaheim and Oakland a bunch, but he also drew heavy hitters like the Yankees and Minnesota enough to more than counteract the weakness of his divisional opponents.
There you have it. Not only did Felix Hernandez face slightly tougher hitters than CC Sabathia this year, but he found himself in slightly higher pressure situations as well. Felix Hernandez was clearly the best pitcher in baseball this year by a wide variety of metrics, and he did it facing surprisingly tough opposition. Give the man the Cy Young. CC can console himself with the fact that he'll get to pitch in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.