Seattle Mariners Bold Prediction: Felix Hernandez Wins Double Digits

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 15: Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates after throwing a perfect game. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 15: Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates after throwing a perfect game. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

We continue our Mariners bold prediction series with a belief that Felix Hernandez can still win games at the big league level.

When the writers talked about bold predictions, it was well before Spring Training started. We all chatted and made our claims. I, being the super-optimist Mariners fan that I am, blurted out a claim that will likely, if my co-workers read this, get me sent in for a drug test…or sanity test.

My bold prediction is that Felix Hernandez will win at least 10 games this season.

Okay okay…I get it. Before you move on to the next article or close your laptop, hear me out. Remember, I made this prediction before Spring Training, where he’s been shelled. However, having voiced my prediction to the other writers, I’m here to defend it.

More than anything, this is just wishful and hopeful thinking for Felix. I mean, I want to see him go out on top. It hurts seeing him struggle. So, let’s just hope this comes true and he can leave Seattle or retire the way he started.

First off, let’s remember Felix and what he has done for the organization: He is a 6-time All-Star, a Cy-Young Winner in 2010 and the runner-up in 2009 and 2014. He has a career ERA of 3.34—even after a terrible 2018 campaign. Felix has a career record of 168-128. His 168 wins count for 5% of all Seattle’s win in team history, and 16% of all of Seattle’s wins since his rookie season of 2005. He is the Mariners’ all-time leader in wins, ERA, strikeouts, and innings pitched. He has 51 complete games with 11 shutouts. Let’s not forget about his Perfect Game thrown August 15th, 2012—the first in Mariners’ franchise history.

Needless to say, he’s done a lot for the Mariners. Unfortunately, the Mariners’ front office hasn’t done anything for him. Yes, I know—he’s getting paid and all that—but during his tenure with Seattle, he has never seen baseball in October. Poor player management coupled with poor “management management” has led Seattle into a tailspin since, what? 2002?

Well before Felix made the PNW his home. I sympathize with Felix—he has given his all for Seattle and now, during a restructuring, he’s fizzling out. Unless the Mariners make the playoffs this season, he likely will not see a playoff game wearing a Mariners uniform—which is disheartening. If any Mariner in history deserves to be in the playoffs, it’s Felix.

As you can tell, I really feel bad for the guy. I mean, sure you can make all the money in the world but when you don’t achieve your professional goals, what good is that? How fulfilling is your job when you put forth all the effort you can, just to result in stagnancy?

Okay, the prediction and how I think it could work: My first thought is precision pitching. He has to be able to hit his spots that aren’t dead center of a hitter’s wheelhouse. He should focus on both corners as well as the upper and lower parts of the zone. This will allow him to control the game and allow hitters to start chasing pitches that are close, but not in the zone. Felix will not over power hitters today. He should focus on forcing batters to hit ground balls. By doing so, he can be efficient, save his arm, and work deeper into games.

Felix’s fastball no longer has the “mph” that is used to. In fact, the hardest four seam he threw last season was 92 MPH.  Establishing a different pitch to throw for a strike would be ideal. Last season, his sinker had problems getting batters out last season. According to Fangraphs, his most effective pitches in 2018 were his curveball and changeup. He threw the sinker more than any other pitch, yet he only struck out 14 batters.

Additionally, the batters he did face hit .329 off of his sinker. He needs to figure out how to effectively use these pitches to his advantage. However, here is the main problem: A majority of his pitches—all pitches (slider/sinker/fastball) average in the mid to high 80s. His curveball averaged 81 MPH. Without establishing off speed, every pitch looks the same.

I get it, the balls move different directions based on the type of pitch thrown, but hanging a slider, curveball or sinker has nearly the same velocity and effect as his fastball coming down the main street.

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In order for King Felix to reestablish his reign in 2019, he must make effective use of his different pitches. He needs to take more off of his off speed pitches to make his fastball and sinker look, well…faster. If he is able to control the zone, control the pace, establish his pitches, and force batters to ground out, I think he can win 10 games.