Felix Hernandez's Historic Season Deserves Kershaw-Like Attention

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Felix Hernandez's Historic Season Deserves Kershaw-Like Attention
Ted S. Warren/AP Images

Felix Hernandez is having a historically good season, arguably the best of his 10-year career with the Seattle Mariners.

Unfortunately, with Clayton Kershaw having another Cy Young-caliber year for the large-market Los Angeles Dodgers, King Felix hasn’t received the league-wide attention he deserves.

Felix’s assault on baseball’s record books continued Monday night, as the 28-year-old right-hander allowed one run on three hits over seven innings at home against the Toronto Blue Jays, striking out eight batters without issuing a walk. The performance extended his major-league-record streak to 16 games in which he’s logged seven or more innings and allowed two or fewer runs.

On the season, Hernandez owns a 13-3 record with a 1.95 ERA and 194-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 180.1 innings, and he’s held opposing hitters to a .191 batting average and .505 OPS.

His seven innings pitched in the game gave Hernandez 2,005 for his career, making him the youngest pitcher since 28-year-old Dwight Gooden in 1993 to reach the 2,000-inning mark, per Greg Johns of MLB.com.

Catcher Mike Zunino spoke about the Mariners ace after the game, via Johns:

"It's something else," Zunino said of the streak. "But he is something else. That's all you can say. He's got the best stuff right now and he's pitching, too. When you have a combination of both, it's pretty hard to score multiple runs off him."

During his impressive streak, Hernandez has been virtually untouchable, posting a 9-2 record to go along with a 1.41 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 121 innings. Opposing hitters are batting a paltry .165/.203/.233 during that span.

Furthermore, Hernandez would set new career highs in several categories if the season ended today, including strikeouts (9.68), walks (1.60) and home runs (0.35) per nine innings, ERA (1.95) and FIP (2.07).

So, why aren’t people talking about King Felix’s incredible season like they are Kershaw’s?

On paper, Felix’s numbers admittedly aren’t quite as impressive as Kershaw’s, but they’re also not far behind.

Clayton Kershaw vs. Felix Hernandez in 2014
GS Record IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 ERA FIP WAR
Kershaw 19 14-2 136.1 1.25 10.76 0.40 1.78 1.76 5.0
Hernandez 25 13-3 180.1 1.60 9.68 0.35 1.95 2.07 6.2

FanGraphs

The first thing that stands out is Hernandez’s 180.1 innings pitched compared to Kershaw’s 136.1, which highlights the right-hander’s durability and that he’s sustained his overall success over a longer period of time. And not to detract from Kershaw’s remarkable season, but his numbers, specifically his strikeout and walk rates, might be slightly inflated due to the smaller sample size.

That being said, Hernandez ranks second behind Kershaw (among all qualified pitchers) in several categories, including ERA and FIP.

Compared to other American League hurlers, however, it’s clear that nobody has been better than the Mariners ace. And if the remainder of the regular season unfolds as expected, the right-hander should take home his second Cy Young Award.

Felix Hernandez American League Ranks
GS W IP BB/9 K/9 H/9 HR/9 GB% ERA FIP WAR
2014 Stats 25 13 180.1 1.60 9.68 6.1 0.35 56.1% 1.95 2.07 6.2
AL Rank T-1st T-1st 2nd 5th 7th 1st 3rd 2nd 1st 1st 1st

FanGraphs

Hernandez’s impact also extends well beyond his impressive numbers; when he’s the on the mound, the Mariners are simply a better team.

The M’s offense has scored three or more runs in 19 of Hernandez’s 25 starts this season, and the right-hander owns a 13-0 record and 2.04 ERA in those games. Overall, the team is 17-8 with Felix on the bump, per Baseball Reference.

Seattle’s win over the Blue Jays on Monday puts it one game back of the Detroit Tigers for the second Wild Card spot with a 63-55 overall record, with a 38.2 percent chance of reaching the postseason, per Baseball Prospectus’ calculations, via MLB.com.

Hopefully it doesn’t take a playoff berth to make people realize how insanely good King Felix has been this season.

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