There's little doubt that the Seattle Mariners have one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.
Felix Hernandez, the 2010 American League Cy Young Award Winner, is a household name both in Seattle and virtually across the country. The Venezuelan right-hander is already in his seventh season in the major leagues, which makes it even harder to believe that he is just 25 years old.
It's even more impressive when you take note of the immediate success Hernandez had in the big leagues, posting a 2.67 ERA over 84.1 innings pitched as a 19-year-old. The early success built extraordinary hype for the young pitcher and it wasn't long before fans endeared him with the moniker "King Felix."
However, King Felix hasn't had much help in Seattle, besides right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, and the team's offence has been historically bad over the past few seasons. The pitching, on the other hand, is becoming a force to be reckoned with.
A big reason for that is the emergence of rookie Michael Pineda, a 22-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic. He was hampered by injuries in 2009, but hereally burst onto the scene last season with an outstanding year-split between Double-A West Tennessee and Triple-A Tacoma.
This year with the Mariners, Pineda has continued to excel, and he may be experiencing more success than anyone expected.
In his age 22 season, Pineda has posted an 8-6 record with a 3.24 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 119.1 innings pitched. His 1.06 WHIP and .202 BAA are both peripheral stats, and they indicate just how dominant the rookie has been this season.
To further argue the case for "Prince Pineda" winning the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Award, it must be noted that he was one of just three rookies to be named an American League All-Star. The other two, right-handers Aaron Crow and Jordan Walden, are both relievers pitching a maximum of an inning or two at a time.
Another outstanding stat for a rookie pitcher, Pineda has pitched a quality start in 13 of his first 19 career starts, including eight of his first nine.
He throws a power fastball that lives in the upper 90s, a quality slider and an improving change-up, all out of the same arm slot. Once he polishes his change-up, his strikeout rates and his effectiveness figure to continue improving.
Hard to believe that he could actually get that much better, but after all he is still just a rookie.
Maybe one day he'll become a second coming of the "King," leading the Mariners' rotation. For now, he is merely a "Prince" and Seattle fans couldn't be happier about that.