Projecting the 2018 Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez
Ok, whenever you blog about Felix Hernandez with any kind of negative connotation around Mariners fans, you have to be careful. But for the sake of honesty I must say, “King Felix” isn’t coming back anytime soon.
Of course, Felix Hernandez will probably take the ball on Opening Day against Corey Kluber. At the latest, he will be on the bump for Game 2. The King’s Court will be rocking, Felix will inexplicably go 6 innings of 2 run ball, and everyone will declare him as “back”.
Then, the realization will sink in. This isn’t the same Felix Hernandez. Never again will he be a dominate starter. In fact, Mariners fans should be thrilled if he even turns into a high-end number 3. Unfortunately, the Mariners are banking on this unlikelihood to end their playoff drought.
And when it doesn’t happen, somebody will have the nerve to blame Felix for not being something he hasn’t been for almost 3 years. That is not entirely the fault of Hernandez, but the fault of an organization who is dreaming if they think Felix is 5-6 WAR pitcher he was in the past.
Despite the negative vibe of this article, there were some encouraging signs from Hernandez in 2017. After his K/9 crashed and his BB/9 soared in 2016, Felix got back his career norms in 2017. In just 86.2 innings, Felix posted a 8.1 K/9 and a 2.70 BB/9.
But other than that, the numbers aren’t promising. For the third straight season, Hernandez’s GB% went down, and his HR/FB rate went up. His hard hit rate jumped for the 3rd consecutive season, and hitters are chasing fewer pitches outside of the zone.
What does this do to our projections? Well, it isn’t going to be a great.
Sodo Mojo’s Projections for Felix Hernandez: 150 innings, 150 Hits, 20 HR, 140 strikeouts, 48 walks, 4.20 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 1.32 WHIP
These are the numbers you might expect from Mike Leake, which would be fine expectation for Hernandez. Unfortunately for us, and unfairly to Felix, the Mariners are stapling the playoff hopes on the aging star.
It is a recipe for disaster. We all hope that Felix can use his achy arm to show us that father time has been beaten back, even if it is for just a brief moment. But these projections are not about hope (unlikely the Mariners playoff hopes). We are trying to predict what is most likely to happen, not what we desperately want to have happen.
Just remember, the Mariners are well aware that they are playing with fire in expecting Felix to return to form. Reject any notion that this is Felix’s fault when thing go poorly in 2018. Nobody should have any delusion as to where Felix is in his career. He can still be effective, but he will never be a Cy Young candidate again, and probably will never pitch in a playoff series for the Mariners. Sorry.