Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wasting away an incredible talent

By Kshell

The Seattle Mariners are blessed to have one of the greatest starting pitchers in the game today. Some say finding a true ace is the hardest thing to find in baseball yet the Mariners have one and someday could have two. The Mariners are also wasting away Felix Hernandez like they have Ichiro the past decade. Having an ace does you no good if you don't score any runs for him. Having an ace really does you no good if you never play in an meaningful game. Hernandez was called up in 2005 and has yet to throw a single meaningful inning in September. The closest thing Hernandez came to a pennant chase was in 2007 when he was only 21 years old. At that point Hernandez was a good pitcher who would show flashes of being an ace. Now Hernandez is an ace. It has been a shame seeing Hernandez suffer such tough defeats the last two seasons. In this following post I'll explain why juding Hernandez on his win-loss record simply isn't fair.

So far in Hernandez young career he is only 81-63(.562) with an 3.21 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He has thrown 1,334 innings while striking out 1,216 batters(8.2 K's per 9). The last two years Hernandez has been screwed over by his teammates yet has never once called them out. Hernandez is only 23-22(.511) the last two years which to an average fan would suggest he is extremely overrated. In fact a seahawkshuddle moderator used to always rag on Hernandez in my Seattle Sportsblog group because of his record. What those simple fans don't realize is Hernandez can't control his offense. In the last two years Hernandez has made 59 starts and has thrown 429 innings(7 1/3 innings a start). In those starts he has posted a 2.70 ERA and 1.10 whip while striking out 406 batters(8.5 K's per 9). So as you can see Hernandez is pitching deep into games and pitching effectively in those contests. Just to show how much of a horse Hernandez has been in those 59 starts he has pitched six innings or more 55 starts(93.2%), has pitched seven innings or more in 43 starts(72.8%) and has pitched eight innings or more in 24 starts(40.6%). During that span Hernandez has suffered nine losses where he allowed two earned runs or less and has received 10 no decisions where he has allowed two earned runs or less. The Mariners are wasting away Hernandez and his W-L is the casualty. On the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees or any team that is actually good Hernandez would be racking up the wins. The media would be bragging about him like they do C.C.Sabathia or Justin Verlander for "knowing" how to win. Instead Hernandez continues to receive blame for such losses.

It's crazy how in sports you can be preceived a lot of things just based on the teams you happen to play for. Hernandez isn't a "winner" simply because his team can't score runs. Hernandez is this generations Nolan Ryan where his best years are being wasted away. Sports Illustrated a decade ago called Nolan Ryan the most overrated pitcher. People overrated Ryan because of his no-hitters and strikeouts. Then when you look you noticed Ryan never won a Cy Young, never started a World Series game, and had just a 324-292(.526) record. Now that people start to realize how overrated W-L record is you'll realize Ryan is underrated. Ryan posted a 3.19 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 9.5 K's per 9. Take his best three year stretch for the California Angels from 1972-1974 where he only went 62-48(.563) despite posting an ERA of 2.70 and a 1.21 WHIP. He averaged over 7 2/3 innings a start while striking out 1,079 batters(10.3 K's per 9) which is incredible. During that three year stretch he suffered 18 losses where he allowed two earned runs or less and had four no decisions where he allowed two earned runs or less. Ryan was a the defination of a horse as well. In 119 starts he went six plus innings 103 times(86.5%), seven plus innings 91 times(76.4%) and eight plus innings 84 times(70.5%). Despite such great numbers Ryan didn't pitch in the playoffs those three years. The Angels had wasted away his prime and his record suffered. Like Hernandez now people questioned whether he "knew" how to win or not.

What has hurt Hernandez is the fact that leadership at the top has failed to surround him with a good team. Both of his general managers have tried but they simply haven't done the job. First Bill Bavasi to take the pressure off Hernandez traded for ace Erik Bedard. What would have helped Hernandez out would have been hanging onto Adam Jones, Asdrubal Cabera, drafting Ryan Braun or Troy Tulowitski. Then drafting Tim Lincecum as well but Bavasi failed miserably at that. Bavasi was fired after failing so miserably in Seattle. Then Jack Zduriencik has came in and has seen Hernandez enter his prime starting in 2009. Zduriencik also traded for an ace in Cliff Lee to take the pressure off Hernandez. Zduriencik however, forgot to acquire Hernandez an offense. His only big free agent hitter he has signed in three years was Chone Figgins who has been horrible. Having Adrian Beltre, Mike Morse and this years Casey Kotchman would have helped Hernandez as well. I have a strange feeling like with Ryan and later Roy Halladay with the Toronto Blue Jays that these aces will eventually have to leave their teams to finally taste success. Hernandez is a free agent in 2014 and is due for a big paycheck but every athlete wants a chance to win. At some point Hernandez is going to be tired of constantly going seven or eight innings allowing two runs or less with no wins to show for it.

In conclusion, you can add Felix Hernandez to the list of Seattle greats who saw their talent wasted because the team didn't fit their needs. You saw guys like Ichiro, Cortez Kennedy, Jake Locker, Sonny Sixkiller, Reggie Williams, Ray Allen and Spencer Haywood all play on terrible to mediocre teams in Seattle. These guys were often given the blame for the losses when in reality their teams failed them. I'm afraid once Ichiro retires the Ichiro lynch mob will go after Hernandez calling him overrated. The Mariners are wasting away an incredible talent. The Mariners have been a franchise for 35 seasons and have had just two aces. Having a top tier pitcher like Hernandez is very rare. Which is why this is so sad to witness such greatness go to waste. Hopefully the Mariners can surround Hernandez with some talent fast. So from now on when you see Hernandez record instead of ragging on him stop and look at his other numbers. Hernandez is still a terrific pitcher who rests the bullpen everytime he goes out. It's about time the Mariners help Hernandez out and start scoring some runs. Tonight against the Red Sox would be a good start to help Hernandez get a much needed win. Hopefully the Mariners aren't wasting away an incredible talent although I'm afraid they are.

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