Felix Hernandez Perfect Game: Where Mariners' Ace Ranks Among MLB's Top Starters

Christopher Benvie@CSBenvie81Correspondent IIAugust 16, 2012

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 15:  The Seattle Mariners moose mascot holds a sign after starting pitcher Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field on August 15, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Today against the Tampa Bay Rays, Felix Hernandez joined 22 other Major League Baseball Pitchers as a member of the Perfect Game Club.

In his nine innings, he threw 113 pitches, 77 of which for strikes, while striking out 12 batters in total. This was King Felix's fourth complete-game shutout this season.

Though Hernandez is the third pitcher this season to toss a perfect game (the other two are Phil Humber and Matt Cain) he is certainly the most elite of those to accomplish that feat.

No disrespect meant towards Cain or Humber, but neither man is in the same class as King Felix.

For a man who has been humble while dominating MLB hitters throughout his eight-year career, this perfect game is far overdue. The 26-year-old Hernandez is loyal to the Seattle Mariners, and why shouldn't he be? He is, after all, the King of Seattle.

This season is proving to be no different from years past. Felix is showing that he is an upper-echelon pitcher in the big leagues capable of just mowing down the competition.

Therefore, the question remains: where does he rank among the other top tier pitchers in baseball?

First, we have to define "top-tier pitcher."

There are several front-of-the-rotation starters in baseball, but very, very few true aces. Just because a pitcher is the No. 1 on a given staff, an ace that does not make.

An ace has to be the type of pitcher that is a franchise-changer. If your ballclub acquired this caliber of pitcher, it changes everything. 

Who are those pitchers?  The list is short, but here it goes: Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia, Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw, and I would even say Johnny Cueto.

That's about it.

Please, don't be offended if you don't see your favorite pitcher on this list. It is entirely subjective and opinion-based.

Let's look at how King Felix stacks up against these chaps.

First, let's get the most obvious thing out of the way, the only person on this list to have pitched a perfect game alongside Felix is Roy Halladay, on May 29, 2010.

That being said, Verlander and Halladay have both thrown two no-hitters apiece, while Felix and Jered Weaver have thrown one each.

That sets those four pitchers apart from the others on the list. It is not to say that Sabathia, Strasburg, Kershaw and Cueto won't someday achieve these feats, but right now, they are not in the same club.

That leaves King Felix, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver and Roy Halladay as the cream of the crop in Major League Baseball.

It's hard to argue against that foursome.

In the world of professional sports, everything boils down to "what have you done for me lately." That being said, it would be safe to say that Roy Halladay has not been Roy Halladay this season (3.80 ERA... who are you, Roy?)

Then there were three.

Let's take a closer look at those three players.

Jered Weaver

Weaver has been incredible for the Angels.

He leads the American League in wins (15) with just two losses. Add that to the fact he owns an AL-best 2.22 ERA in 21 starts this season.

Oh, and he owns an AL-best 0.920 WHIP.

He has thrown 138 innings this season with 106 strikeouts to date. The 2012 All-Star owns a 6.3 K/9 ratio adding an AL best 6.9 H/9 ratio to boot.

Justin Verlander

The reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award Winner is still one bad mother, despite owning a 12-7 record.

This is a classic case of "the record is not indicative of the pitcher." Verlander owns a 2.46 ERA with a 0.991 WHIP, both of which are second overall in the American League, behind only... Jered Weaver.

Verlander owns an AL-best 174 strikeouts through 24 starts and an AL-leading 174.2 innings pitched to date.

He owns a 6.8 H/9 ratio with an impressive 8.9 K/9 ratio this season.

Felix Hernandez

Then we come to King Felix.

His 2.60 ERA is tied for fourth-best in the American League, adding a 1.04 WHIP, also fourth-best in the American League.

Hernandez's record is certainly not indicative of the masterful work he puts forth on the mound. He owns a 10-5 record in 24 starts this season for the Mariners.

He has thrown 171 innings this season with 162 strikeouts. 

In addition, his H/9 is 7.6 with a 8.5 K/9 ratio.

Hernandez is the only pitcher of the trio this season to not only have a complete-game shutout, but four of them, including his perfect game today.

So, how does that factor into the whole ranking situation?

The team support has to be considered in the argument, does it not?

The Angels rank sixth in all of baseball in runs scored with 546, while the Tigers are ninth with 541. Seattle is 25th with 464.

Obviously, Verlander and Weaver receive more run support.

In terms of team OPS, the Angels and Tigers are tied for fifth in baseball with a .764 while the Mariners are last in all of baseball with a team .653 OPS.

All of these factors coming in to play, it is hard not to rank the top-tier pitchers in baseball this season the following way:

3. Justin Verlander

2. Jered Weaver

1. Felix Hernandez

Heavy is the head that wears the crown Felix, but you wear it well.


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