Mariners Year in Review: Felix Hernandez


Put simply, Felix Hernandez is one the best pitchers in baseball. He possesses dominant stuff, and is a true leader in the clubhouse. However, King Felix was far from royal in 2015 with the Seattle Mariners.

A lot was expected from Seattle heading into the 2015 season, and they disappointed on nearly every level. Aside from a very small group of players, the entire M’s roster fell short of expectations. Hernandez was the runner-up for the Cy Young in 2014, but he likely will not even crack the top 10 this year.

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Felix finished the season with a record of 18-9 and registered a 3.53 ERA across 31 starts. He struck out 191 and walked 58 through 201.1 innings pitched. King Felix broke the 200 innings threshold for the eighth consecutive season, and tallied 4.4 wins above replacement.

The Good

It may not have been a great season by Felix’s standards, but it was still good enough for him to make his seventh All Star team. Hernandez got off to the best start of his career in 2015, going 8-1 and posting a 1.91 ERA through his first 9 outings.

Hernandez’s 18 wins were the second highest mark of his career, and ranked third in the American League. Opponents hit just .240 off him in 2015, which ranked 16th in the American League. King Felix led the M’s in nearly every important statistical category, including wins, innings pitched and strikeouts.

The 29-year-old right-hander hurled a pair of complete game shutouts this season with the Mariners. Hernandez blanked the Minnesota Twins at Safeco Field on April 24th. King Felix allowed just 5 hits while striking out 8 Twins and walking none. Hernandez bested Chris Archer in a pitcher duel on May 27th in Tampa Bay. He fanned 9, walked 1 and allowed 4 hits en route to shutting out the Rays in a 3-0 Seattle win.

The Bad

Sep 10, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) throws against the Texas Rangers during the third inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Felix was quite not himself this season, and that hurt the Mariners. His win total was great, but his numbers regressed in nearly every other statistical category. There was no pitcher in baseball better than King Felix in April and May, but he was just average over the final four months of the season.

Hernandez’s 3.53 ERA was his worst mark since the 2007 season. He made less than 33 starts for just the second time in the last seven years. Felix struck out 8.5 hitter per game, down from the 9.5 he averaged in 2013 and 2014. His command was spotty, as he issued 2.6 walks per 9 innings and plunked 9 men. Hernandez struggled keeping the opposition off base, allowing 8.0 hits per 9 innings and 1.180 walks/hits per inning. The long ball proved costly, as he matched a career high by serving up 23 home runs.

The Mariners’ ace had two of the worst starts of his illustrious career in 2015. Hernandez was yanked after allowing 8 runs on 5 hits through just 0.1 innings against the Houston Astros on June 12. The shortest outing of Felix’s career was highlighted by a pair of deep home runs. He was also lit up by the Boston Red Sox this past August, allowing 10 runs on 12 hits through 2.1 innings pitched. Hernandez had never allowed 10 earned runs in a game before August 15.

The Future

I am convinced Felix Hernandez pitched hurt in 2015. King Felix injured his foot early in the season in a game against the A’s, and he appeared to reagrevate the injury numerous times throughout the year. He was filthy before the injury, but never looked the same after hurting his foot while covering first base at the Coliseum in Oakland. I am fully confident Felix will be back at 100% when spring training opens next February.

Baseball Reference is projecting Hernandez will bounce back next season. They predict he will finish 13-8 with a 3.18 ERA over the course of 184 innings pitched. The mathematicians over at FanGraphs are a little less optimistic, but they too believe Felix will return to form in 2016. FanGraphs expects King Felix to finish 13-10 and post a 3.23 ERA through 208 innings.

If the Seattle Mariners hope to make the postseason next season, they will need the 2014 version of King Felix. At just 29 years of age, Hernandez is still in his prime. I am very hopeful he will put together another Cy Young caliber season in 2016. Felix is arguably the best hurler in M’s history, and we are lucky to get to watch him toe the rubber every fifth day.

Next: Mariners News: Updating the M's Prospects in the AFL

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