Felix Hernandez made what will probably be his final start for the Mariners Thursday night. Which begs the question-is “King Felix” a Hall of Famer?
Leaving aside his ugly numbers in an injury-shortened season, and an outing where the line didn’t matter (5.1 innings, three runs allowed on five hits with three strikeouts and four walks), Felix Hernandez got a fond farewell from Seattle Mariners fans on Thursday night.
Without a contract for next season, it was almost surely the last start for “King Felix” in the only uniform he has ever worn since debuting as a 19-year old in 2005.
After the game, Hernandez said he is not retiring and plans to pitch in 2020. Where there might be a place for a pitcher who has not even made 20 starts in two of the last three seasons and has a 5.42 ERA over that three-season span is a question, but seeing Hernandez in another uniform would be weird.
Hernandez has won one Cy Young Award, in 2010, when he was the first test case for the diminishing value of pitcher wins with a 13-12 record to go with a 2.27 ERA over 249.2 innings. He has been a six-time All-Star, and finished in the top-10 of Cy Young voting five other times (with two runner-ups). In this era of shorter starts and openers, 10 straight seasons (2006-2015) with over 190 innings pitched, the last eight of which he topped 200 innings, a workhorse like Hernandez was is a dying breed.
Hernandez was won a franchise record 169 games for the Mariners, and he’s in a virtual tie with Randy Johnson for the best ERA in franchise history (3.42). He has never pitched in the postseason though, as Seattle never even won 90 games in any of his 15 seasons. Over the previously mentioned 10-season stretch, he posted a 3.13 ERA while averaging 218 innings and 14 wins per season.
Here are some staggering stats about Hernandez’s career with the Mariners.
In 149 career starts where he has gotten two runs or fewer of run support, Hernandez is 27-87 with a 3.13 ERA. Over 418 career starts, he has delivered a quality start 258 times (61.7 percent).
Hernandez will go down as one of the greatest pitchers of his era, and nothing he has done in recent years or will do if he continues to pitch at a far below-peak level will diminish that. He should eventually get a call to Cooperstown. But even as deeper, new-school thinkers continue to infiltrate the group of Hall of Fame voters, Hernandez will probably have to wait awhile for that honor.