Felix, Iwakuma and baseball’s best one-two punches

May 23, 2014, 1:44 PM | Updated: 2:10 pm

Felix-Iwakuma-644
Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma form one of the top one-two punches in baseball, but is it the best? (AP)

By Gary Hill

Felix Hernandez takes the hill against the Astros tonight hoping to continue what has been another dominant start to the season for himself and rotation-mate Hisashi Iwakuma. The two have combined to form one of the most prolific pairs of pitchers in the game today, but has Seattle’s dynamic duo elevated itself into the best one-two punch in the game?

Let us start by looking at combined Wins Above Replacement over the last two seasons to sort through MLB’s best combinations of starting pitchers.

2013-2014 WAR (note that both pitchers had to be at least plus-4 to qualify)

Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez (DET), 15.5
Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA), 14.5
Chris Sale and Jose Quintana (CHW), 14.4
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke (LAD), 14.4
Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander (DET), 14.2
Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels (PHI), 13.5
Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller (STL), 12.4
Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD), 12.3
Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander (DET), 12.1
Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa (COL), 10.5
Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD), 10.3
Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson (LAA), 9.1

ERA

Kershaw and Greinke, 2.26
Kershaw and Ryu, 2.51
Scherzer and Sanchez, 2.73
Greinke and Ryu, 2.75
Hernandez and Iwakuma, 2.79
Wainwright and Miller, 2.82
Sanchez and Verlander, 3.11
Scherzer and Verlander, 3.16
Weaver and Wilson, 3.25
Sale and Quintana, 3.27
Lee and Hamels, 3.29
Chacin and De La Rosa, 3.62

Innings pitched

Scherzer and Verlander, 564.1
Lee and Hamels, 541.1
Wainwright and Miller, 539.2
Hernandez and Iwakuma, 522
Sale and Quintana, 503
Weaver and Wilson, 495.6
Kershaw and Ryu, 495.1
Sanchez and Verlander, 494.1
Scherzer and Sanchez, 490.1
Kershaw and Greinke, 489.1
Greinke and Ryu, 468
Chacin and De La Rosa, 437.6

WHIP

Kershaw and Greinke, 1.03
Hernandez and Iwakuma, 1.05
Kershaw and Ryu, 1.08
Lee and Hamels, 1.13
Scherzer and Sanchez, 1.14
Sale and Quintana, 1.14
Greinke and Ryu, 1.17
Scherzer and Verlander, 1.18
Wainwright and Miller, 1.18
Weaver and Wilson, 1.20
Sanchez and Verlander, 1.26
Chacin and De La Rosa, 1.31

Strikeouts

Scherzer and Verlander, 584
Scherzer and Sanchez, 547
Lee and Hamels, 519
Sanchez and Verlander, 495
Wainwright and Miller, 493
Hernandez and Iwakuma, 484
Kershaw and Greinke, 469
Sale and Quintana, 468
Kershaw and Ryu, 454
Weaver and Wilson, 416
Greinke and Ryu, 403
Chacin and De La Rosa, 290

Starts

Scherzer and Sanchez, 87
Scherzer and Verlander, 86
Wainwright and Miller, 84
Sanchez and Verlander, 79
Lee and Hamels, 79
Hernandez and Iwakuma, 78
Sale and Quintana, 77
Weaver and Wilson, 76
Kershaw and Ryu, 75
Greinke and Ryu, 75
Kershaw and Greinke, 74
Chacin and De La Rosa, 74

The easy conclusion to draw is that Felix and Iwakuma are an elite duo. Naming a very best pair, however, is problematic. A case can be made for a number of twosomes on the list. For example, Kershaw and Greinke boast the best ERA and WHIP, but they are ranked towards the bottom in innings pitched. They have not been able to impact nearly as many innings as Scherzer and Verlander, who have hurled about 75 more innings. Meanwhile, Scherzer and Verlander have also racked up a ton of strikeouts, but they rank lower in ERA and WHIP.

One last item to look at. Here is WAR rolled back another year:

2012-2014 WAR

Clayton Kershaw (LAD), 14.4
Chris Sale (CHW), 14.0
Max Scherzer (DET), 13.3
Justin Verlander (DET), 13.2
Cliff Lee (PHI), 13.1
Yu Darvish (TEX), 11.8
Felix Hernandez (SEA), 11.0
Johnny Cueto (CIN), 10.2
Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA), 10.2
David Price (TB), 10.0

The Mariners and Tigers are the only teams with two pitchers in the top 10.

After all of this, has the question been answered? Are Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma the best one-two punch in baseball?

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