Mariners ace Felix Hernandez has raced to the front of the American League Cy Young Award race and the chase pack is not in sight. The King has re-asserted his rule over hitters and is establishing his credentials for the greatest honor a baseball player can receive.
Hall of Famer Don Sutton witnessed Felix’s last start in Seattle – when he allowed one earned run on four hits over eight innings – and said: “I saw a guy last night that has been outstanding and we may not have seen the best yet with four pitches that he can make dart and dive and go faster and go slower.”
Sutton added: “To me those are the kind of guys that I pull for, I want him to do well, I’d like to reserve a spot in that little New York town for him”.
Felix owns a frigid 1.97 season ERA. Since the designated hitter was instituted in 1973, only three other AL pitchers have managed an ERA below 2.00.
1. Pedro Martinez, 2000: 1.74
2. Ron Guidry, 1978: 1.74
3. Roger Clemens, 1990: 1.93
4. Felix Hernandez, 2014: 1.97
Felix maintains a 0.877 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched). Since 1973, Pedro Martinez (0.737 in 2000) is the only AL pitcher to limbo lower than Felix.
Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer put it plainly: “Hitters don’t have much of a chance”.
Felix is allowing a measly .193 batting average against this season. Since Felix entered baseball in 2005, only Detroit’s Justin Verlander has boasted a lower mark in one season – .192 in 2011.
Felix has racked up a whopping 186 strikeouts, which is third best in the AL. No pitcher since 2005 has amassed more strikeouts than Felix, and the margin is amazingly wide.
1. Felix Hernandez: 1,889
2. Justin Verlander: 1,786
3. CC Sabathia: 1,709
4. James Shields: 1,578
5. Jon Lester: 1,397
Another Hall of Fame pitcher, Dennis Eckersley, recently took his turn heaping praise on Felix, saying: “I love great pitching and I respect what he’s done, that kid is special. … It’s showtime when he’s pitching.”
Felix is second in innings pitched this year with 173.1 and is closing in on his seventh consecutive season of 200 or more innings. He is also just two innings away from crossing over the 2,000 inning barrier for his career. Only one other pitcher has thrown that many innings in a Mariners uniform.
1. Jamie Moyer: 2,093
2. Felix Hernandez: 1,998
3. Randy Johnson: 1,838.1
4. Mike Moore: 1,457
5. Mark Langston: 1,197.2
Felix has etched his name into the record book by throwing 15 straight games of seven-plus innings while only allowing two runs or fewer. He blew by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver and has since broken and reset the record himself. He has thrown 19 such starts on the season in 24 total turns, which brightly outshines the rest of the AL. No other pitcher in the league has been able to match Felix’s streak in total this season.
AL pitchers with games of seven-plus innings and two or fewer earned runs this season:
1. Felix Hernandez: 19
2. Corey Kluber: 13
3. Jon Lester: 12
4. Max Scherzer: 11
5. Garrett Richards: 11
6. David Price: 11
7. Hisashi Iwakuma: 11
8. Yu Darvish: 11
9. James Shields: 10
Felix has already tossed 147 such starts for his career, which at age 28 already puts him in striking distance of some very impressive pitchers.
1. Sandy Koufax: 155
2. Frank Viola: 151
3. Fernando Valenzuela: 151
4. Mark Langston: 150
5. Bret Saberhagen: 149
Narrowing the field even further to eight innings pitched while allowing only one run or fewer reveals that Felix leads baseball since 2004 with 65 such performances. His total is more than the combined total of Justin Verlander (33) and James Shields (30). Or Adam Wainwright (35) and Tim Lincecum (29). Or Clayton Kershaw (36) and Jered Weaver (28). Feel free to take your pick.
In his last 15 starts dating back to May 18, Felix owns a 1.42 ERA. He has fanned 126 hitters and only walked 20. Opponents are batting .168 off of him. There are currently 56 pitchers this season with a better batting average than that.
The resume speaks for itself. He has won a Cy Young award and an ERA title. He has also been named to the All-Star team five times and tossed a perfect game. He is nestled in the top-10 in active strikeout leaders despite not having celebrated his 30th birthday yet.
Felix will look to continue his strict rule tonight as a raucous King’s Court is sure to be in session. Perhaps he will add another chapter to his growing legend.