We had 15 mostly glorious years with Felix Hernandez in a Seattle Mariners uniform. Has he done enough to get into the Hall of Fame if his career ends this year?
The consensus is: no. Very good starting pitcher, great at times, but he’s just not quite there in pretty much every metric you look at. Here are the numbers as they stand today:
15 seasons, 419 games, 169-136 record, 3.42 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 25 CG’s, 11 SHO’s, 2,729.2 IP (222 av per 162 games), 2,487 hits (202 av per 162), 805 BB’s (65 av), 2,524 K’s (205 av), 117 ERA+, 8.3 K/9, 6 All Star Games, 1 Cy Young Award (2 runner ups), 2 ERA titles, 1 season leader in wins, 1 season leader in IP, 1 perfect game.
In looking at the pitchers who’ve made the hall of fame, they average the following (among the major stats):
18 seasons, 444 games started, 3.00 ERA, 246-171 record, 2,127 K’s, 3,683 IP
Those numbers are a bit skewed, because that takes in all the relievers too. If you look at just the starting pitchers, there’s a little area in Felix’s Baseball Reference page that looks at Hall of Fame Statistics. Any way you slice it, it looks like he comes up short. And, that’s a shame.
His 7-year peak is awesome. From 2009-2015, he had a record of 104-65, starting 230 games, with an ERA of 2.83. But, even that seemingly falls short compared to the hall of famers we have in there today.
One could make the argument that it’s too damn hard for a starting pitcher to make it into the Hall of Fame nowadays. One might also argue that’s the point, that it should be hard. That it’s the other sports – basketball and football particularly – who make it too easy for fringe guys to make it in. That’s tough to dispute. I just wonder if, as smarter people dig through the numbers, they find a way to prove that guys like Felix deserve to be recognized for their greatness.
My hunch is: I doubt it. The fact of the matter is, even if you didn’t look at the numbers, he was on so many terrible Mariners teams that he’s essentially irrelevant from a national perspective. One of the more impressive numbers is how many times he’s gone 7+ innings, giving up 2 runs or fewer, and ended up with a No Decision. It’s insane! How many more wins would he have if he belonged to a competent organization in his prime? How many games were ruined by catchers who couldn’t catch, a terrible bullpen, and inept hitters? How many years were shaved off of his career because he was left to throw so many innings because there was literally no one else on the roster to pick up the slack?
Bottom line is that if you took this actual Felix Hernandez and had him be a lifelong Yankees pitcher, we’d be singing a drastically different tune. He could have these exact numbers and if he were wearing pinstripes, we’d be looking at a Hall of Famer. But, he wouldn’t have these exact numbers; invariably they’d be better. And they’d be better where they count: the postseason.
It’s all but guaranteed that Felix will never pitch playoff baseball, which is one of the great tragedies in the last generation of Major League Baseball. Even if he makes a team next year, it’ll almost certainly be with a bottom feeder, as maybe a 5th starter candidate. He’ll still need to prove he’s not the pitcher he’s been the last three seasons (when he’s gone 15-27, with a 5.42 ERA) if he wants to eventually be dealt to a contender. Seems like long odds; I’ve been waiting for the turnaround the last three years, and I’m still waiting. He’s not getting any more life on his fastball back, so it’ll be a matter of figuring out how to pitch well with slower stuff, and I don’t know if he has that part of the game in him.
It’s not all bad. Felix still goes down as the greatest pitcher in Mariners history. He owns all of our important pitching records, and I’m not sure they’ll ever be broken. That still counts for something. He’s still loved and appreciated around these parts. He’ll have his opportunity to be recognized by the home crowd once again. In 30 years we’ll be telling our grandkids about the wonder that was King Felix.
He’s still one of only 23 players to ever throw a perfect game. And, until the next one, his is the most recent. That’s some pretty rare company.
I keep looking at Roy Halladay for a sign of hope. You can check out his numbers HERE; it’s an interesting comparison. Felix isn’t quite good as him, but he’s close. If he strung together another 2-3 years of Prime Felix, he’d probably be right there. The only difference is Halladay had those great postseason numbers (highlighted by a no hitter in his first ever playoff appearance).
There’s no sense in beating a dead horse any longer. It’s just a bummer, I guess. You could say that about every aspect of being a Mariners fan over the last 20+ years (and counting); what else is new?