Mariners: Will The King Reach 300 K’s In A Season?
Coming into 2017, Felix Hernandez has vowed to be as good as he’s ever been. So, does this mean he will challenge the Mariners and Randy Johnson’s three hundred and eight strikeout record set in 1993?
Felix Hernandez was not at his best last season, especially when it came to striking out batters. In his injury-riddled 2016 season with the Mariners, he had his lowest strikeout total since his introductory year in 2005.
This season, his fastball didn’t bite through the air as it did in years past. His off-speed pitches not only didn’t have the same movement as they used to, but, his pitch location on those throws wavered as well.
This -matched with his injuries- accounts for why his strikeouts per nine innings (7.2) was the lowest they have been in his twelve seasons in the MLB.
In all of 2016, Hernandez had one hundred and twenty-two strikeouts. A long way away from Randy Johnson’s strikeout record year, when the “Big Unit” fanned three hundred and eight men in 1993.
Related Story: Will We Ever Have Another 300 Strikeout Season?
But, all is not lost for Hernandez. He has several years left on his current contract, and beyond that, the end doesn’t seem near for “The King”. So, when he tells the press and the world:
"“The last few years have not been Felix years. I am prepared for (the work). I am going to go there and show everybody in the world, if they don’t believe in me, that I am going to be King Felix again.”"
Should we believe him?
Let’s say for argument’s sake we do. We know how easy it can be for him to strikeout batters. From 2009-2014 he surpassed two hundred strikeouts. He set a personal best of two hundred and forty-eight K’s in 2014.
Related Story: Will There Be A New, Old Felix?
That was fifth most in Mariners history behind three Johnson seasons and Mark Langston’s best campaign of his life in 1987 when he struck out two hundred and sixty-two batters.
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Can we expect Hernandez to set a new club record or even move up the list, making Johnson sweat it out even in retirement? I don’t think so.
Even Hernandez, who was arguably at his best in 2014, couldn’t reach the two hundred and sixty strikeout benchmark. How could he do better than that now in his early thirties with three hundred and fifty-nine games under his belt?
Well, if he does as he says, and works on every one of his flaws, we can expect to see the old Felix back on the mound. But, Felix 2.0 won’t even challenge the three hundred mark if he can’t get power back in his fastball, can’t get supreme control of his off-speed pitches and of course, if he doesn’t go deep into games.
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The days of three hundred strikeout pitchers are over. But rest assured, even if I sound pessimistic, Hernandez would love to prove me and anyone else wrong, that he can’t be the best he’s ever been, all while challenging seemingly unbreakable franchise records.