Felix Hernandez is Not a Postseason-Caliber Starter

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The Seattle Mariners hold the longest postseason drought in North American major professional sports, but in 2018, they currently hold the number-two spot in the American League Wild Card race. It has been 17 years since the 2011 Mariners, winners of the most single-season games in major-league history, flamed out just shy of the World Series in their last playoff opportunity.

The generational talents have flown by. They have had Randy JohnsonIchiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and many others, but never have the M’s won the pennant. This year might be their best chance since the 116-46 2001 squad disappointed the entire Pacific Northwest, but however they do in the playoff race and in October, they must do it without their ace from the past decade and change.

Felix Hernandez was at one point the best pitcher in the majors. King Felix has the 2010 AL Cy Young Award, six All-Star Game appearances, two ERA titles, and a perfect game on his resume, but he has never made a postseason start. If the Mariners and manager Scott Servais are smart enough, Hernandez won’t in 2018 either.

It’s impossible to project who will pitch in the Wild Card Game if a team qualifies. It’s often whoever is next in the rotation, as with a break of only a couple of days, the luxury of picking and choosing your preferred starter is uncertain, especially if the race for the final postseason spots is a heavily contested one.

The @Mariners would be silly to start struggling right-hander Felix Hernandez in a potential postseason game.Click To Tweet

Seattle’s rotation consists of Hernandez, James Paxton, Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales, and Wade LeBlanc. In the postseason, as starting rotations shift from five to four men, Hernandez — barring any second-half resurgence — would be the odd-man out in a perfect world for the Mariners.

Felix is 8-7 with a 5.13 ERA, 1.367 WHIP, and 4.59 FIP. Hernandez is giving up more hits (9.2 per nine) than ever, while striking out fewer batters than ever (7.4 per nine). By bWAR, he has been more detrimental to his club than beneficial (-0.5 this season). His stuff is no longer overpowering hitters; the average velocity on his four-seam fastball is down a career-low 90.3 MPH, which just won’t cut it in today’s MLB, and a far cry from his 98 MPH heat from 10-11 years ago.

The other four starters in the Mariners rotation have been considerably better than Hernandez has been this season.

PLAYERWIN-LOSSbWARERAWHIP
James Paxton8-22.53.391.066
Marco Gonzales9-51.63.641.223
Mike Leake8-51.24.111.254
Wade LeBlanc4-01.73.191.152
Felix Hernandez8-7-0.55.131.367

Hernandez isn’t even that old. He’s 32 and completely lost, and it sucks to write it all down. Fans in Seattle love Hernandez; sitting around SafeCo Field to watch the potential Hall of Fame pitcher give it his all, Mariners supporters look like this during Felix starts.

(July 5, 2018 – Source: Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images North America)

Hernandez made at least 30 starts every year from 2006 to 2015, an incredible display of durability in a span of dominance that matches the best years of any pitcher … maybe ever. He was never rewarded for his toughness and exemplary competitiveness with a playoff start, and if he continues on this track, he won’t (or at least shouldn’t) get one in 2018 either.

Hernandez was named Opening Day starter by the Mariners on pedigree and adoration alone, and Seattle fans should be afraid that Servais and crew will do the same come playoff time. It’s just far too risky.

As much as the sentimental, romantic side of myself and everyone else wants to see the old, commanding Felix Hernandez absolutely schooling his opponents on the game’s biggest stage — a stage known as October — the Mariners would be smart to steer as far away from giving Felix the ball in a playoff game as possible if the situation arises.

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