Mariners Felix Hernandez: Is The King’s Throne Vanquished?

The Mariners and fantasy have been spoiled with the amazing services of Felix Hernandez. Now, in his 13th season, is his reign as the king over?

The Seattle Mariners haven’t had much postseason success in a long time. Yet, the team has plenty of stars that fantasy owners care about. As is the case with most players, Father Time always wins. Mariners ace pitcher Felix Hernandez had a down season last year and I don’t think things will be getting better.

Hernandez posted a career-best 2.14 ERA and 0.915 WHIP just two years ago. Since then, things have gone downhill. He was a top-25 pitcher at the start of the season but finished No. 238 overall on the Player Rater.

In 25 starts, lowest since 2005, he had a 3.82 ERA, 1.324 WHIP and 11-8 record. He spent some time on the DL last season. I can’t compare stat totals because of the lack of innings pitched, the ratios show a sharp decline. His strikeout rate fell below 8.0 and walk rate was about 3.0 for the first time since 2008.

Looking at his Fangraphs page, the numbers are trending in the wrong direction. It all begins with his fastball. He lost 1.3 MPH off his fastball from 2015 to 2016. His other pitches also lost some steam, too. With that, the rest of the numbers begin to make sense.

Hernandez had a 9.6 swinging strike rate. His ground ball rate went from 56.2 to 50.2 percent. His flyball rate went up 2.3 percent. Opposing batters hit the ball harder last season, going from 25.4 to 28.7 percent hard contact. Harder hit balls mean more home runs and hits in general. His home runs rate was 1.12 HR/9, the highest of his career.

You could chalk up the poor performance due to the injury last season but I don’t think a calf strain had anything to do with the lack of arm strength. This could be a case of fatigue. Hernandez has thrown over 2,400 innings in his career.

The way he is pitching this spring, last season may as well have been a fluke. In 11.0 innings, he owns a 2.45 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 10:1 K:BB ratio. Be careful, though, because just as bad spring numbers don’t reflect how a player will perform, the same goes for good spring numbers.

At 30 years old (he turns 31 on April 8), Hernandez may be in the twilight of his career. I just did my starting pitcher rankings and put him 29th and 110th overall. If he continues his spring performance into the regular season, then he could easily move up to the top 20. However, with back-to-back down seasons, that may not happen.