Felix Hernandez returns to the Mariners rotation tonight after a lengthy DL stint. What should the fans expect from him? Will he return to ace status or could we be stuck questioning his validity as a rotation piece going forward?
Pardon the bad Lord of the Rings joke in the headline, but it was there for the taking as Felix makes his LONG-awaited return to the Mariners from the DL. As he returns, questions loom about his effectiveness. He hasn’t been anything close to the pitcher he was in 2014 when he finished runner-up in the Cy Young race to Indian’s ace Corey Kluber.
In 2017 prior to the injury, Hernandez posted a 4.73 ERA and a 1.575 WHIP in 26.2 innings. In his five starts he gave up 2, 3, 1, 4, and 4 runs respectively. Two of those were quality starts, and honestly, a 40% quality start rate is not half bad. That said, it’s not what we like to expect from King Felix.
I think now is where we just need to admit that Felix Hernandez will never be 2014 Hernandez ever again, and his numbers will always be worse than they were earlier in his career. Velocity goes down with age, and hittability goes up. He’ll wind up giving up more homers, get less strikeouts, and just be less efficient overall, but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t matter so much as he’s getting batters out and finding ways to scrap together serviceable starts.
Thankfully for Felix, this Mariners team is hotter than ever, and the offense is putting up gaudy numbers. Since May 28, when the Mariners were 21-29, the Mariners are as a team hitting .301 with 32 homers, and averaging 6.12 runs per game. This will be helpful for Hernandez’s chances of getting a win in his return start, as he will likely have a tough homecoming against the AL-leading Houston Astros.
Ultimately, we will likely have, in Felix, another serviceable arm that can make it 6 or so innings every night and hold opponents to a reasonable amount of runs. It’s always nice to have Hernandez’s personality back with the team. The King’s Court in left field will be a welcome sight for Mariners fans after it’s long absence. Long live the King!