Key Stats: Felix Hernandez saw his ERA rise from 2.27 in 2010 when he won the Cy Young Award to 3.47 last season. It is eye-popping, but probably something not worth worrying about. His xFIP went up by one one-hundredth of a point, his strikeout to walk rate was identical, and his K/9 actually rose last season. Beyond the numbers, if you saw the guy pitch at all in 2010, the eye test says that he is still nasty. He is going to turn 26 in a month. I wouldn’t worry over an uptick in the ERA.
Skeptics Say: We have to be sort of picky with someone as good as King Felix, but his quality start percentage was tied for 25th last season among qualifying starters. He also had an ERA of 3.91 in the second half. These are obvious signs of inconsistency something he did not have in 2011 when he led the league in quality start percentage. Just to be fair though, C.C. Sabathia was also 25th in QS% last year, and if there was one word to describe him it would be consistent.
Peer Comparison: CBS and Yahoo are in agreement that King Felix should be ranked behind Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, and Cliff Lee. I happen to agree. Yahoo adds Tim Lincecum on top of those four players. That one I’m not sold on.
Lincecum’s K/9 is trending downward the last three years while King Felix’s K/9 is trending upward. And that’s the one category that Lincecum has an advantage on Lincecum above. They both pitch for the worst offense in their respective leagues according to the numbers from a year ago, so wins is a wash. Although the smaller build hasn’t effected Lincecum much to date, Hernandez has pitched an average of 24 more innings per season the last three years. That’s the equivalent of three or four more starts with a great ERA and WHIP for your team.
Team Outlook: The Mariners as a team were 30th in runs, slugging, OBP, and batting average last season. Their leading run producer was Miguel Olivo who drove in 62 runs. Thus they pulled off one of the more surprising moves of the off-season in trading for Jesus Montero, and made an internal change with Ichiro Suzuki moving into the number three spot in the batting order. Their offense should be improved and could be a force when Dustin Ackley, Montero, and maybe Justin Smoak get the seasoning that they need. For now though, this is still a subpar offense that has to compete against an improved Angels team and the two-time defending AL Champion Rangers. King Felix will have to earn his wins again this season.
What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #5 Starting Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #5 Starting Pitcher & #22 Overall; Yahoo: #6 Starting Pitcher & #30 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #5 Starting Pitcher & #36 Overall; RotoChamp: #33 Overall
Projection: King Felix will continue to dominate and not be rewarded for it like he should be in the wins column.
16 wins 2.83 ERA 1.09 WHIP 226 K in 237 innings
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