One Reason The Mariners Ace King Felix May Never Be The Same
By Adam Levi
The Mariners Felix Hernandez would be considered for the hall of fame if he retired tomorrow despite his recent struggles over the last couple of years. Those struggles may be related to how many frames he’s pitched in his career.
Unfortunately for Mariners fans, the grim reality that The King will one day be hanging up his cleats might come sooner than most would hope due to the innings he’s logged for over a decade in the MLB.
Felix Hernandez was very vocal at the end of a very disappointing, injury-filled 2016 season. He proclaimed that he would be the Felix Hernandez of old. He told the press after the conclusion of this past campaign:
"“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.”"
Yet, no matter how much he talks or even how much work he puts in this off-season, the reality might be that -in an era where pitchers are throwing fewer innings, for fewer years, and less often- the Mariners ace may never be the same.
Hernandez has pitched two thousand four hundred and fifteen innings over more than a decade in the big leagues. Since the expansion era began in 1961, only one hundred and five men threw more innings in their careers, while also starting in at least sixty percent of their appearances.
Now, that may seem like a large number, but according to baseballrefernce.com, when you think that one thousand and fifty-nine men have taken the mound to start a ballgame in sixty percent of their outings since 61′, you realize that Hernandez is in rare company.
And, of those one hundred-plus hurlers, eighteen of them are hall of famers. Furthermore, since 2000, just twelve pitchers have thrown more innings than Hernandez -only four of those players are active.
Even more astonishing, though, Hernandez has started all three hundred and fifty-eight games he’s appeared in, making his innings racked up even more impressive.
Since the modern era, only seven other players have started one hundred percent of their games while pitching more innings that Hernandez.
Also, In the modern era, one hundred and ten players threw in two hundred or more innings for more than eight straight years.
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Keeping those numbers in the back of your mind, when you think that Felix pitched over two hundred innings in eight consecutive years from 2008-2015 -not to mention the one hundred and ninety-one and one hundred and ninety respective innings he threw the two years before that- it becomes quite clear that Hernandez might be wearing down.
The Mariners had to sideline their ace in 2016 for the longest time over his twelve years in the MLB -six weeks.
And, when he wasn’t injured, it was clear that his control was off. His BB/9 was the highest it’s ever been (3.8) and his K/9 was the lowest ever (7.2). These two numbers were part of the reason his ERA of 3.82 was the highest it’s been since 2007 when it was 3.92.
If 2016 had just been an anomaly, I wouldn’t be so pessimistic, but we saw Hernandez’s numbers began to inflate in 2015, so this could be a trend that might never end.
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Mariners fans can wish that my analysis will be wrong, it very well could be. But, it is important not to forget that while Felix’s age of thirty years old may be a promising number, it is his innings pitched can that could be a key reason why he’ll continue to decline and have to retire sooner than most hope.