King of the Hill

In 2011, Felix Hernandez went 14-14 with a 3.47 ERA with 233.3 innings pitched. He also sported a 3.13 FIP and 3.15 xFIP. He finished the season with 4.7 WAR. In 2014, Felix Hernandez has gone 13-3 with a 1.95 ERA thus far in 180.1 innings. He is currently rocking a 2.07 FIP and 2.38 xFIP as well. He has already matched his 2009 season total WAR, as he has a 6.3 WAR. For all of the years of appreciating Felix, he hasn’t quite ever been this good. Felix has been on another level this year. Barring an implosion or injury (knock on wood), Felix could quite feasibly eclipse 10 WAR this season, which isn’t something that occurs very often at all. In 2013, we signed Felix to a seven year, $175 million contract and he had this to say about it:

“I’m going to say this — to the people in Seattle, to all the people in Seattle that trust me, that believe in me — I’m going to say this: I’m not going to disappoint anybody. I will do my best. The Seattle Mariners are going to be on the top. Going to be on the top, believe me,” Hernandez said. “I’m not saying this because I’m doing this (contract). No, I don’t care about this; I care about the people of Seattle. I care because they always support me.

Disappointed Felix has not. For the most part, Felix’s numbers (K/9, BB/9, HR/9, FIP, WAR, and just about every stat) have gradually gotten better annually. From last year Felix has improved his K/9 (9.51 to 9.68), BB/9 (2.03 to 1.60[!!!]), HR/9 (0.66 to 0.35 [!!!]), and his FIP (2.61 to 2.07 [!!!]). Simply put, Felix has been nasty and you don’t need me to throw numbers in your face to know that. Which is a shame, because I’m throwing a lot of numbers in your face. If the Mariners can realize their potential (or outperform it), then playoff teams are going to have to put up with Felix Hernandez in a playoff game, or hopefully at the least in a one-game playoff. Billy Beane noted that one of the reasons he traded for Shark and Hammel was because of the danger of a one-game playoff. Beane said that one of the guys you might be facing is “that guy up in Seattle” and that it wasn’t a good situation to be in. If I were an opposing team I would be scared of the best player in the MLB too.

Mike Trout is currently tearing the cover off of the ball and FanGraphs has Trout’s WAR at 5.8. Trout leads all hitters. Despite Trout’s historic year, Felix’s 6.3 WAR trumps Trout’s. In my opinion, Felix has been the best player in the MLB this year and deserves both the AL MVP and Cy Young. Right now you could make an argument for Chris Sale, but he only has 130.0 innings pitched on the year and he hasn’t quite been better. Not only that, but Felix has guided this team to contention, and overall as a team they are ranked second in team WAR for pitching. Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager both deserve a good portion of the credit for providing the offense, but if it wasn’t for Felix this would be a different team. To me, no player is more valuable to their team than Felix is to the Seattle Mariners. An argument for Mike Trout is understandable, as he has been an absolute beast in every facet in the game. The difference in my eyes is that without Trout, the Angels are still good. Without King Felix, the Mariners are a lot closer to average.

What Felix does have is a couple things to one-up Trout (or any other player vying for the award). Felix has somewhat of an accolade. People like accolades. I don’t know why people care so much about accolades. What Felix has is a 16 game streak (and running) in which he has given up two runs or fewer in seven innings or more. Not one pitcher has done what Felix has done in the past two or three months. The other thing Felix has going for him is that Seattle is somewhat of a surprise playoff contender. Although some people predicted correctly that Seattle could be in it, we’ve been considered mostly a darkhorse until recently. If Felix hauls in the AL MVP award, he will be the first pitcher since Justin Verlander in 2011 and the first Mariner since Ichiro in 2001. Before Verlander, Dennis Eckersley was the last pitcher to win the award in 1992 (holy shit). It is pretty much unheard of for pitchers to win the MVP award, and that’s what would make this season that much more impressive. Felix isn’t a stranger to winning awards by unusual circumstances. In 2010, Felix won the Cy Young award for the first time in his career. The rare thing about his Cy Young year is that the Mariners offense was one of the worst in the league and he “only” had 13 wins, with 12 losses. He was the first pitcher since Eric Gagne (a reliever) to win a Cy Young award with less than 15 wins. Many thought Felix wouldn’t win it that year because of how people value wins for pitchers. It caused quite a controversy between old-school minds and the newer sabermetric crowd.

Regardless of if Felix wins either award, he’s been amazing. I can almost guarantee you appreciate Felix, but you should love Felix. Felix likes wins and I’m sure Felix likes awards. But what Felix probably would love more than both is to pitch in the playoffs and someday the World Series. The Mariners are 64-55 and we’re well on our way to win a game behind a Hisashi Iwakuma start to once again tie the Detroit Tigers for the second wild card spot.

With the additions the Mariners made at the deadline, the Mariners are looking better defensively and more importantly offensively. We’re one of the hottest teams in baseball at the moment and that can be attributed to our newfound ability to hit the baseball, and Felix (okay, and the rest of our pitchers). When Felix signed his contract he promised us he would take us to the playoffs. It seemed a little farfetched, because we seemed like we would be bad for the rest of eternity. But for the first time in awhile, it’s not so ridiculous to think we could go to the playoffs and be good. I’m going to leave off with Felix’s quote because it’s one that may induce goosebumps. We have a Felix and you don’t, suckers!

“I’ll tell you this: I will do my best. We’re going to make the playoffs,” Hernandez added. “We’re going to be one of the toughest teams in this league.”

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