Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The God-King of Baseball
By Zach

Ok, so the headline might be a bit dramatic. Still, it's time for me to put in writing what I've been thinking ever since King Felix Hernandez made his debut two weeks ago. He's already one of the best pitchers in baseball. Not "he's gonna be great someday," or "when he learns how to pitch, watch out." No, I'm ready to say that there are no more than a handful of pitchers in the league who are as good.

First, look at the raw, basic numbers. He's 2-1 this year, has pitched 21 innings, allowed 11 hits, walked 3, struck out 21, and given up two earned runs, making his ERA .086 and his WHIP .067. Let me throw a couple of other numbers out there: he's getting 4.11 ground balls for every fly ball, a dominant rate. Opponents are hitting .153 against him, reaching base at a .191 clip, and slugging .153. He has yet to allow an extra-base hit.

USS Mariner has a breakdown of where he'd rank among the league leaders had he thrown enough innings to qualify among league leaders. In short, he's in the top five in every catagory, and first in almost all of them.

Now come the (inevitable) caveats. He's faced the Tigers, Twins, and Royals. Those teams are 11th, 12th, and 14th in the AL in runs scored (the Mariners are 13th). Furthermore, those games have been at Detroit, at Seattle, and at Seattle. So it's not as if he's faced the toughest lineups in baseball, at the toughest hitters parks in baseball. But as I told Ben last night, he doesn't control who he faces, and where. His job is to get them out. And no one in baseball is doing a better job.


Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Hold on there! Before anyone anoints Hernandez as one of the best pitchers in baseball, we need to see a few more starts, preferably against quality opponents. His minor league numbers suggest his walks will increase, so we’ll see what happens as he makes a few more starts and hitters begin to adjust to him.

Zach Duke has already beaten Atlanta, Florida, the Cubs and Phillies, all better teams than the teams Felix has faced. But rightfully, nobody is ready to call him one of baseball's best pitchers, despite his 5-0 record and 2.13 ERA.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Ben, you of all people should hesitate before criticizing someone for hyping prospects. At least Felix is in the Bigs, unlike many a Met prospect I've heard about over the last couple of years.

But the substantial difference between Duke (and any other prospect) and Felix is that their numbers are good, quite good, but they don't reach the ridiculous levels that Felix's do. He's doing stuff that no one in the Majors is doing.

Will he have a bad start or two? Probably. But the fact is that very, very few pitchers can come up to the big leagues and both strike out batters at the rate he does (and not walk guys) and induce groundballs at the rate he does. For more, read this post on USS Mariner

11:06 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

3 starts, even the USS Mariner said it. If he does it through an entire season, or hell the rest of this season, that will be saying something. But it's just three starts.

Just to make a point, here's the numbers on Duke and Felix's first 3 starts. I don't have the groundball/flyball ratio on hand for Duke, so all I can give you are the basics.

Duke: 22 IP,17 H, 4 BB, 21 Ks, 3 ERs- against Brewers, Phillies, Cubs

Hernandez 21 IP, 11 H, 3BB 21Ks, 2ER- against Detroit, Minnesota and KC

Felix's numbers are slightly better, but they're not anything significant, especially if you take into account the quality of opponents. Again, I think Felix is a better pitcher than Duke, but the fact is 3 starts can make anyone look like Cy Young.

And as a Met fan who has seen many a hyped prospect come up a blow up after great starts (Izzy anyone?), I know to be cautious. I can still be excited, but definitely wary.

11:20 PM  

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