Tag: Felix Hernandez

Felix Hernandez vs Corey Kluber: The AL Cy Young Race Is Closer Than You Think

For most of the 2014 season, Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners has been the undisputed choice to win his second AL Cy Young award. 

But Corey Kluber has produced an incredible second half for the Cleveland Indians, making the decision for voters much more difficult than anticipated.

Both pitchers are deserving of the award.

Felix leads the AL in ERA (2.07), WHIP (0.91), quality starts (27) and batting average against (.200). In a 16-start stretch from May 18 to August 11, Felix pitched no less than seven innings and allowed no more than two runs.

At the All-Star break no other candidate could touch Felix, especially not Kluber.

Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs compared first-half WAR for both players in a recent article. Felix’s 5.0 WAR in the first half was almost an entire two wins higher than Kluber’s 3.3 WAR. The Mariners’ ace was running away with the Cy Young while Kluber was barely on the radar.

Yet Kluber has managed to produce an equally remarkable second half.

The Indians’ right-hander posted a 3.7 WAR after the All-Star break, over two wins better than Felix’s 1.2 WAR. While Felix failed to maintain his record-breaking form, Kluber posted a 1.88 second-half ERA to emerge as a dark horse candidate to challenge King Felix.

As the season enters its final weekend, Kluber has actually surpassed Felix in FanGraphs WAR (7.0 to 6.1). Kluber actually leads all MLB pitchers in WAR, even than the great Clayton Kershaw.

Kluber has made his case with prodigious strikeout numbers. With his devastating curveball, he leads the MLB in strikeouts. Opposing hitters are hitting just .094 against his curve while striking out 118 times. Although Felix leads Kluber in ERA by almost half a run, Kluber has been able to bridge the gap due to these strikeout numbers. 

Voters love to use ERA when making their decisions on the Cy Young. But Fielding Independent Pitching has become a more reliable statistic when evaluating a pitcher’s performance. FIP takes into just those elements a pitcher can directly control (strikeouts, walks and home runs) while assuming league averages for elements more influenced by chance (hits, sequencing of those hits, etc.).

Felix has benefited from playing in a pitcher0friendly ballpark at Safeco Field while Kluber has needed to be much sharper at the more-volatile Progressive Field. 

Then there is the defense.

Kluber has posted an incredible pitching season while playing with the very worst defense in MLB, while Seattle has been the third-best defensive team in baseball. Felix has been a recipient of stellar defense, making all the difference in the Seattle ace’s lower ERA. Due to these differences, it is no surprise to find Kluber as the AL leader in FIP.

Not to take anything away from Felix, but to view the AL Cy Young race as a foregone conclusion would be a mistake. Felix started fast, but Kluber has caught up to him down the stretch. Others are noticing Kluber’s momentum. 

But how will the voters cast their ballots?

It really should come down to a very slim margin for whomever wins the award. But I expect Felix to take home the honors. But why? Yes, he has produced a fantastic season filled with jaw-dropping stats, but so has Kluber. So what will be the difference?

Ultimately voters gravitate towards lower ERA numbers, which Hernandez has. He also is the more recognizable star so his season has been a bigger blip on the national radar than Kluber’s has.

Felix Hernandez deserves the AL Cy Young. But so does Corey Kluber. There should be no problem with either winning the award. Hopefully, the voters acknowledge the equally fantastic season of the less-known Kluber, allowing the best man to win the coveted award. 

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Felix Hernandez Proves He Will Avoid September Fade

Felix Hernandez has put together an illustrious career as the ace of the Seattle Mariners for nearly a decade, with 2014 ranking as his best season yet.

However, Hernandez has tended to stumble a bit as each year winds down, owning a career 3.55 ERA in September, second worst of any month. His strikeout, walk and home run rates down the stretch have also been slightly worse than his career averages. 

The trend has been especially noticeable in the past three seasons after Hernandez posted a 4.11 ERA in the second half last year and ERAs above 5.00 in September of 2012 and 2011

Whether it be fatigue, random statistical noise with a small sample size or the fact the Mariners have always been out of the race by September, Hernandez has tended to give up more runs down the stretch. 

This year has to be different. With Seattle narrowly trailing in the wild-card race and a tough schedule coming up, it can’t afford to have Hernandez at anything less than full capacity.

When Hernandez turned in a couple of poor starts near the end of August, concern began to grow. Hernandez’s major league record of 16 consecutive starts with at least seven innings pitched and fewer than three earned runs came to an end on August 16 against the Detroit Tigers, and he lasted just 5.2 innings while allowing three runs in his next outing against the Boston Red Sox.

The worst start of Hernandez’s season followed that, as he gave up five runs in seven innings to the Washington Nationals. Most concerning was the fact that Hernandez gave up four home runs after just allowing nine all season up to that point.

As Tim Booth of the Associated Press highlights, that was not a typical outing for Hernandez.

Hernandez appeared to have trouble locating his devastating changeup and said he left too many pitches up in the zone, via Adam Lewis of MLB.com

“It was a tough day. I couldn’t get out of the middle of the plate the first four innings. I was up and I got crushed…Everything was off.”

Some of that was to be expected, as every pitcher around the league is dealing with fatigue at this point in the season and Hernandez wasn’t going to run a sub-2.00 ERA forever. Still, he looked off in those three starts and given his recent history in the final six weeks of seasons, there was reason to be a little troubled.

The Mariners pitching staff as a whole has been struggling over the past couple of weeks, at least compared to its previous run of form since the All-Star break. Hernandez is counted on to stop those streaks more than any other Seattle pitcher.

His turn in the rotation came last Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics with the Mariners needing a win to avoid dropping their third consecutive series. Fortunately for the Mariners, Hernandez returned right to form.

This is the latest in a season Hernandez has pitched a meaningful regular-season game since at least 2007, if not his entire career. He has been patiently waiting for a big stage (other than the All-Star Game) and certainly got one Wednesday against Jon Lester and an Oakland team that is suddenly only three games ahead of Seattle.

Hernandez delivered, allowing one run on three hits over eight innings. Other than an impressive Adam Dunn home run in the fourth inning, Hernandez was in complete control of the game.

Lloyd McClendon noted that Hernandez looked like himself bouncing back from the start against Washington, via Greg Johns of MLB.com

“He had tremendous command, he was down in the zone, he was 94 [mph] when he wanted to be 94, he elevated when he wanted to elevate. He made one bad pitch on a swing-back fastball that ran back over the plate just a little too much. But he was vintage Felix today.”

That home run looked like it was going to be enough to beat the Mariners, as Lester cruised through the first six innings. Kyle Seager and Cory Hart than launched unexpected back-to-back shots, giving Seattle a 2-1 victory and much-needed series win.

Hernandez has been far more dominant in other starts, as he struck out just four to two walks. But the fact that allowing five baserunners in eight innings against a tough lineup isn’t Hernandez at his most dominant speaks to his own lofty standards.

With the intensity ratcheted up, Hernandez proved he will keep pitching at the same level this time around.

That’s a huge positive for the Mariners. They trail a Detroit Tigers team, which seems like it should catch fire at any time, by half a game in the wild-card standings. Seattle simply needs to win every time Hernandez takes the mound here on out.

Hernandez is the perfect pitcher to take the mound in a one-game playoff. He will just have to lead the Mariners there first.

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Felix Hernandez’s Historic Season Deserves Kershaw-Like Attention

Felix Hernandez is having a historically good season, arguably the best of his 10-year career with the Seattle Mariners.

Unfortunately, with Clayton Kershaw having another Cy Young-caliber year for the large-market Los Angeles Dodgers, King Felix hasn’t received the league-wide attention he deserves.

Felix’s assault on baseball’s record books continued Monday night, as the 28-year-old right-hander allowed one run on three hits over seven innings at home against the Toronto Blue Jays, striking out eight batters without issuing a walk. The performance extended his major-league-record streak to 16 games in which he’s logged seven or more innings and allowed two or fewer runs.

On the season, Hernandez owns a 13-3 record with a 1.95 ERA and 194-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 180.1 innings, and he’s held opposing hitters to a .191 batting average and .505 OPS.

His seven innings pitched in the game gave Hernandez 2,005 for his career, making him the youngest pitcher since 28-year-old Dwight Gooden in 1993 to reach the 2,000-inning mark, per Greg Johns of MLB.com.

Catcher Mike Zunino spoke about the Mariners ace after the game, via Johns:

“It’s something else,” Zunino said of the streak. “But he is something else. That’s all you can say. He’s got the best stuff right now and he’s pitching, too. When you have a combination of both, it’s pretty hard to score multiple runs off him.”

During his impressive streak, Hernandez has been virtually untouchable, posting a 9-2 record to go along with a 1.41 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 121 innings. Opposing hitters are batting a paltry .165/.203/.233 during that span.

Furthermore, Hernandez would set new career highs in several categories if the season ended today, including strikeouts (9.68), walks (1.60) and home runs (0.35) per nine innings, ERA (1.95) and FIP (2.07).

So, why aren’t people talking about King Felix’s incredible season like they are Kershaw’s?

On paper, Felix’s numbers admittedly aren’t quite as impressive as Kershaw’s, but they’re also not far behind.

The first thing that stands out is Hernandez’s 180.1 innings pitched compared to Kershaw’s 136.1, which highlights the right-hander’s durability and that he’s sustained his overall success over a longer period of time. And not to detract from Kershaw’s remarkable season, but his numbers, specifically his strikeout and walk rates, might be slightly inflated due to the smaller sample size.

That being said, Hernandez ranks second behind Kershaw (among all qualified pitchers) in several categories, including ERA and FIP.

Compared to other American League hurlers, however, it’s clear that nobody has been better than the Mariners ace. And if the remainder of the regular season unfolds as expected, the right-hander should take home his second Cy Young Award.

Hernandez’s impact also extends well beyond his impressive numbers; when he’s the on the mound, the Mariners are simply a better team.

The M’s offense has scored three or more runs in 19 of Hernandez’s 25 starts this season, and the right-hander owns a 13-0 record and 2.04 ERA in those games. Overall, the team is 17-8 with Felix on the bump, per Baseball Reference.

Seattle’s win over the Blue Jays on Monday puts it one game back of the Detroit Tigers for the second Wild Card spot with a 63-55 overall record, with a 38.2 percent chance of reaching the postseason, per Baseball Prospectus’ calculations, via MLB.com.

Hopefully it doesn’t take a playoff berth to make people realize how insanely good King Felix has been this season.

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King Felix Hernandez Having a Season for the Ages

If only one word could describe Felix Hernandez‘s performance this season, it would be “dominant.”

As King Felix exited Monday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, he came away with a stat line of seven innings pitched, three hits, one earned run and eight strikeouts. Perhaps he would have gone longer if the Seattle Mariners had not been ahead by a score of 11-1.

And so, Hernandez continued his awe-inspiring streak.

What streak is that you ask? Well, for 16 straight starts, Hernandez has gone at least seven innings while allowing two earned runs or less. He broke Tom Seaver’s record of 13 straight such starts in 1971 three starts ago. In fact, it has been exactly four months since Hernandez has allowed more than two runners to cross the plate. On May 12 he surrendered four runs to the Tampa Bay Rays.

In the 16 starts Hernandez is now 8-2 with a 1.41 ERA and 134 punch outs. The M’s are 12-4 in that span.

Overall, the King is having a royal season, one that will almost certainly earn himself some hardware. After Monday’s win, Hernandez is now 13-3 with a 1.95 ERA. Opposing hitters are making fools of themselves, as they are batting just .191 against him. Not to mention he has struck out 194 of those guys.

The Mariners ace finds himself among the best in just about every major pitching category. No pitcher in the American League has more Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement (6.0) than Hernandez, who also leads the majors in Adjusted Pitching Wins (4.6) and is tied for the lead with 25 starts. His wins, ERA, strikeouts, WHIP (0.86), H/9 (6.139), innings pitched (180.1), Adjusted ERA (191) and Fielding Independent Pitching (2.07) are all second best in the majors.

The 28-year-old also find himself in the top 10 in BB/9, K/9, K/BB and HR/9. Only six other pitchers in baseball have faced more hitters than Hernandez (686).

On its own, the body of work Hernandez has put together this season is nothing short of brilliant. Now, add in the fact that the Mariners are vying for a playoff berth, and Hernandez’s dominance becomes all the more special and meaningful. If he keeps doing what he is doing, the Mariners have a chance to make the postseason for the first time in over a decade.

As of now, Hernandez is the clear-cut favorite to bring home the American League Cy Young Award. Despite the impressive seasons of others, no one can touch what he has done to this point.

Come the stretch run, fans at Safeco Field will be showering the pitcher with MVP chants as yellow King Felix K signs fill the seats.

If the Mariners are still playing in October, Hernandez may just get both awards.


All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference.com.

Question or comments? Feel free to follow me on Twitter @GPhillips2727 to talk Major League Baseball.


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2014 MLB All-Star Game: Projecting Top AL and NL Performers After Rosters Reveal

Do you like monstrous power at the plate? How about unhittable pitching with some of the nastiest stuff from some of the best hurlers in the game? Throw in a few hints of unbelievable defensive gems, and that’s exactly what fans will feast their eyes on during the 2014 MLB All-Star Game.

Multiple mashers like Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen and Troy Tulowitzki will look to put on a show at Target Field. But with aces in Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright looking to silence those big bats, a battle of attrition will take place during every at-bat.

As for the depth of the rosters, it appears the American League might just have the upper hand. With huge hitters in Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes on the bench along with Chris Sale missing out on the initial roster, there is plenty of talent to go around for the AL team.

With the All-Star Game set to start on July 15, here’s a look at the full rosters after the reveal and some of the top projected performers for the Midsummer Classic.


Projected Top AL Performers

Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

In a loaded AL lineup, there are several offensive players worthy of taking this honor. But with Trout, baseball fans get a little bit of everything.

The five-tool player is capable of just about anything on the diamond and flashes every tool almost every time he takes the field. Rather than getting big-headed about his ability, Trout remained humble when he earned the starting nod:

Then there’s what he’s done on the field already this season. Hitting .308 with 20 home runs, a 1.005 OPS and 63 RBI, Trout leads the Angels in each category. In a lineup that includes both Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, that’s saying something for the 22-year-old.

He’s also been one of the most clutch players in the MLB this season, as ESPN Stats & Info notes a pretty remarkable stat:

Don’t worry, he’s still flashing the leather as well. MLB’s official account passes along footage of an insane catch from earlier this month:

If he doesn’t do it with the bat or glove, Trout has a good chance of stealing the show on the basepaths as well. With 10 stolen bases this year, Trout literally could impact every part of the Midsummer Classic with his ability.


Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners

During a season where the Seattle Mariners are working hard to establish themselves as a contender in the AL West, Hernandez has been one of the biggest reasons—as usual.

As absurd as it sounds, Hernandez might just be putting together his best season yet, per MLB:

The 28-year-old might be in line for yet another Cy Young Award with those numbers, but he’s also established himself as the best in the AL so far. King Felix leads the AL in ERA (2.11) and innings pitched (136.1) thus far this season.

Though he likely won’t have several innings to make a difference in the game, Baseball Tonight believes he is one of three starters who might potentially start the contest:

Whether it’s his 90-plus fastball or his devastating breaking pitches, Hernandez has an entire arsenal that will baffle NL hitters. Regardless of whether or not he starts, Hernandez will make an impact for the deep pitching staff.

On the biggest stage during the regular season, Hernandez will come out and prove yet again why he’s considered one of the best in the game.


Projected Top NL Performers

Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

We could have stayed with the young guard and said Yasiel Puig. Or maybe gone with last year’s NL MVP in McCutchen. Then there’s the league leader in batting average in Tulowitzki, who also has 18 home runs this season.

But on the All-Star stage, something about Carlos Gomez just screams out MVP potential. For one of the hottest teams in the MLB, Gomez has led the Milwaukee Brewers this season and truly put himself in the same category as some of the National League’s best outfielders.

As the MLB account notes, it’s difficult to crack such an athletic group of players:

The irony here, of course, is that Gomez and Puig, two of the most polarizing figures in the game, both earned starter duties by the fans. While fellow players and some fans might get riled up by their antics, both Gomez and Puig have done enough to be revered by the majority of the MLB audience.

Ian Casselberry of The Outside Corner provides his thoughts on the situation:

Regardless of what some fans might think of Gomez, he’ll certainly bring the wood on July 15. Much like Trout, he has the potential to change the game in a multitude of ways, but his bat will shine at Target Field—a park where he hit a three-run homer just last month.

On a star-studded roster with several potential top performers, look for Gomez to shine.


Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

You didn’t think the best pitcher in the game was going to be left off the list, right?

Despite missing the first part of the season for the Dodgers, Kershaw has still been phenomenal. The two-time Cy Young winner is making a case yet again with a 10-2 record, 1.85 ERA, 115 strikeouts and, of course, a no-hitter.

How unhittable has Kershaw been this season? Mark Simon of ESPN shares a look at a heat map from his last four starts:

Kershaw has also made a case to be the All-Star starter on a deep roster with his recent pitching. Along with the low batting average against him, every team during the last 36 innings has been unable to put up a run against him, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:

In a rotation that includes teammate Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto and Wainwright, Kershaw will once again be the top player to toe the rubber at Target Field. Coming into the game pitching some of the best baseball of his career, he’ll do the same on the All-Star stage.


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MLB All-Star Roster 2014: Breaking Down This Year’s Most Deserving Players

There are plenty of bubble players for the 2014 MLB All-Star rosters, but some have already locked up spots.

These players are not only guaranteed All-Stars, but they’re MVP and Cy Young candidates as well.


4. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

Tulowitzki is on pace to finish with one of the highest batting averages since the turn of the century. He leads the majors with a .350 batting average. If he maintains it, he’ll finish with the highest average since John Hamilton hit .359 in 2010. 

While there are several contact hitters on Tulowitzki’s tail for the league lead in batting average, his power gives him a huge edge when it comes to who is most deserving of an All-Star roster spot. He also boasts 47 RBI and 18 home runs, which ties him for the ninth highest total in the league.


3. RHP Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees

Tanaka wasted no time not only becoming the Yankees’ best pitcher but one of the best pitchers in baseball. He leads the majors with 12 wins in 17 starts this season. And in those 12 starts, he’s established quite the stat line.

He has struck out 130 batters, tying him for fifth most in the league, and recorded a 2.27 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, ranking him fourth and fifth, respectively. He’s also walked fewer batters than any pitcher with double-digit wins. The 25-year-old will be on this list for years to come.


2. 1B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

No one has created more runs for his team than Encarnacion this season. Entering Friday night’s action, he’s racked up a league-leading 69 RBI, many of which have come off his league-leading 26 home runs. While Nelson Cruz and Jose Abreu have produced comparable numbers in the race to be baseball’s best power hitter, Encarnacion earns the edge with contact.

He has a higher batting average than both Cruz and Abreu. He also has a higher on-base percentage, having drawn 43 walks. He’s the greatest reason why the Blue Jays are the fourth highest-scoring team in the league this year.


1. RHP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

Hernandez doesn’t have as many wins as Tanaka (10), but that’s about the only number of Hernandez’s that isn’t better. He’s third in the majors with a 2.10 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 137 strikeouts. While he doesn’t lead the league in those categories, no other pitcher is consistently rated as high across the board.

King Felix has also allowed just four home runs in 18 starts and 96 hits in 128.1 innings pitched. No pitcher with more than 100 innings has allowed fewer homers. Out of all the elite pitchers this season, no one has been better than Hernandez.


David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.

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Oakland A’s: 5 Things to Look for in Series vs. Seattle Mariners

The Oakland A’s deserve some much-needed home cooking, particularly after the grueling three-game series against the Boston Red Sox over the weekend. All three games were intense, as the A’s were strongly tested by the World Series champions.

Oakland escaped with a 10-inning victory on Sunday to take the last game in the series, avoiding a sweep by doing so. Each contest was a struggle for the Athletics. In fact, in all three facets of the game—pitching, hitting and fielding—the A’s were generally outplayed. On the cusp of being swept out of Boston on the heels of an inspiring three-game sweep of their own of the Texas Rangers, it was a great win for the Athletics.

But there is no time to rest and reflect for the A’s. Following their cross-country 10-game road trip, the team immediately flew back to Oakland to begin a 10-game homestand that has a unique twist. Starting Monday, the Seattle Mariners pay another visit to the Oakland Coliseum for four games in three days; a doubleheader is scheduled for Wednesday to atone for the “washout” that occurred in early April.

After this series is over, the A’s will have played the M’s 10 times in their first 45 games this season. The Mariners are obviously a ballclub with which the Athletics are overly familiar.

Here are five things to look for in the upcoming series against the Seattle Mariners.

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2013 MLB Studs Who Will Be Duds Down the Stretch

If you take a look at the league leaders after the first month of the season and compare them with what they look like today, you’ll see that success early in the year doesn’t guarantee success down the stretch. Players can go from studs to duds in what seems like a blink of the eye.

Whether it be injury, inexperience, fatigue or a combination of those and other factors, some players simply can’t keep it together when the regular season enters the home stretch.

We see this year after year, and 2013 is no different.

Let’s take a look at three players who were studs for most of the season—but who are going to disappoint both their teams and fanbases as the season nears its end.



Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

Arguably the National League’s MVP for much of the season, Paul Goldschmidt heads into the stretch with his chances of taking home the game’s highest single-season individual honor looking very much like Arizona’s chances of making the playoffs—remote.

The 25-year-old has a total of two hits in his last seven games (30 plate appearances), and while some will say that it’s only a minor slump, his career totals in each month tell a different story:

March/April .253 .351 .769 14 (6) 26
May .346 .408 1.028 29 (10) 34
June .296 .374 .966 27 (14) 42
July .302 .386 .915 25 (9) 37
August .257 .364 .836 29 (15) 45
September/October .261 .357 .778 19 (5) 30

The NL’s RBI leader has faded down the stretch.

Goldschmidt is hitting .259 against Arizona’s remaining competition this season, and if we remove the Dodgers and Nationals from the mix, who account for 10 of the team’s remaining 22 games, Goldschmidt is hitting only a combined .208 against Colorado, San Diego and San Francisco.

When you take that into account, along with his current struggles at the plate, don’t expect much in the way of heroics out of “Goldy” for the rest of the season.



Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners

Whether it’s a case of fatigue or simply the toll that a season of losing can have on a person’s psyche, Felix Hernandez doesn’t throw the ball like a member of baseball’s royal family as the regular season comes to a close.

Since breaking into the big leagues in 2005, September and, on rare occasions, October, have traditionally seen King Felix become ineffective—by King Felix standards, anyway:


March/April 42 19-11 2.57 1.13 7.47 3.16
May 45 13-22 4.42 1.43 9.80 2.91
June 41 22-7 2.84 1.14 8.02 4.06
July 41 16-11 2.73 1.14 7.86 3.19
August 53 23-17 3.03 1.14 7.71 3.35
September/October 45 17-17 3.61 1.26 8.77 2.92

This year, Hernandez’s slide began a month early.

Over his last six starts (dating back to August 6), Hernandez has pitched about as poorly as he ever has, going 1-5 while allowing 24 earned runs and 38 hits in 33.2 innings of work—a 6.42 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. The opposition has hit .284/.340./.396 during that stretch.

If we only look at his last four starts, those numbers get significantly worse: a 7.84 ERA, 1.60 WHIP and opposing batting line of .294/.351/.412.

Part of the problem could be Hernandez’s back, which forced him to leave his last outing early.

The Mariners insist that it was nothing more than a cramp sustained on a hot day, but with manager Eric Wedge telling MLB.com’s Robert Falkoff that the team was going to be “cautious” with its ace and push his next start back to Wednesday, it makes you wonder.

Certainly, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Hernandez has been pitching through back pain since his slide began, forced to admit that something was wrong only when the pain became too much for him to deal with.

Between his barking back and a history of un-Felix-like performances down the stretch, don’t look for any heroics from Hernandez for the rest of the season.



Jeff Locke, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

When he rejoins Pittsburgh’s starting rotation on Saturday, all Jeff Locke is looking to do is “stop the bleeding,” as he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Bill Brink earlier this week.

After you take a look at his splits on the season, you might be inclined to agree with the idea that “bleeding” is an understatement:

April 7 to July 21 19 9-2 2.11 1.11 115.0 77 27 51/79
July 26 to August 27 7 0-2 7.02 2.28 33.1 53 26 23/31

Those are some ugly numbers right there, numbers that led to Locke finding himself back in Double-A at the end of August.  

GM Neal Huntington noted in the team’s press release that the demotion was meant to give Locke a “short break.” There’s no reason to believe, though, that essentially skipping one of Locke’s starts is going to change anything.

No pitcher in the National League has walked more batters than Locke, who has lasted more than five innings only twice over his last six starts—a stark contrast from earlier this year, when he failed to pitch into the sixth inning only once in his first 19 starts.

The 25-year-old’s comments to Brink don’t exactly fill you with confidence, either, and with his return to the rotation coming against Cincinnati, one of the teams that Pittsburgh is trying to fend off for the NL Central crown, the Pirates are taking a pretty big risk by running him out there.

Sure, Locke has gone undefeated in three starts against Cincinnati with a 1.00 ERA this season. But he hasn’t faced the team since July 21—and he’s walked more Reds (11) than he’s struck out (nine). 

When you take his recent issues into account, that’s a recipe for disaster.

While I still believe that Pittsburgh will wind up winning the division, relying on Locke down the stretch is going to make achieving that goal more difficult than it has to be.



*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through games of September 6.


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MLB: Selecting the AL West’s Quarter-Pole All-Star Team

As the 2013 Major League Baseball season race reaches the quarter pole, it becomes time to take stock of where teams and players are in terms of production. 

In the American League West, the Texas Rangers have taken their customary position of being the front runner, largely due to tremendous pitching and consistent power in the lineup. The A’s and Mariners have both been largely inconsistent, with the A’s scuffling back to .500 since starting the year 12-4. 

However, the biggest story has been the lack of success in Anaheim as the Los Angeles Angels are not fighting for an expected spot at the top, but trying to keep clear of division newcomers the Houston Astros. In the basement.

There have been solid performances from individuals on all five teams. But sometimes, overlapping positions keep deserving players from receiving deserved accolades. This will likely be no exception. 

So instead of lamenting who is not, we shall spotlight who is. Starting with catcher and ending a pitching rotation (relievers included), here is the AL West’s Quarter-Pole All-Star Team.

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Seattle Mariners: The Show Must Go On, It’s Dustin Ackley Bat Night!

Did you know that Saturday night at Safeco Field is Dustin Ackley Bat Night?

All kids 14 and under will receive a full-sized Dustin Ackley Louisville Slugger, complements of Jack Link’s Beef Jerky. 

Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.

Don’t believe me?

Feel free to check the official 2013 promotions and special events schedule at Mariners.com.

Honestly, sometimes you need to laugh to keep from crying with this team.

However, if you’ve already given up all hope, feel free to simply take the bat home to smash your “Smoakamotive” (eBay) from last year to pieces with it to vent your frustration. 

That’s assuming you will make the journey to Safeco in the first place.   

If I had to venture a guess, I’d imagine that more people in the region probably watched the NFL draft the past two days to see who the Seahawks selected in their quest for a Super Bowl than any of the Mariners’ games.

Making matters worse as we approach the month of May it appears we’re already potentially on course for an expansion team performance this season, according to Larry Stone at the Seattle Times.

I suppose it didn’t help that beyond Monday night’s offensive outburst in support of Felix Hernandez‘s 100th career victory and Hisashi Iwakuma‘s 11-strikeout performance the next night, the trip to Texas was a complete disaster as the Mariners dropped five of six games.  

Things got so bad that manager Eric Wedge decided to bench one of his players (Seattlepi.com) and scold the team (Seattle Times).

Whether these moves have any meaningful impact remains to be seen, yet I suppose Wedge is simply trying to work with what he has at his disposal given that the list of potential reinforcements fail inspire much confidence, according to Stone in another report filed this week:

At Tacoma, there are several players with major-league experience who are off to decent starts. The problems is that in most cases, they are players who have already had struggles at the major-league level. Now, that doesn’t mean they are doomed to have their weaknesses exploited for perpetuity. But it gives you pause.

Perhaps then, I should pause in wondering whether the demotion of Brendan Ryan in favor of Robert Andino is really just the M’s way of paving a path for Brad Miller to take over in the second half?

Regardless, it just doesn‘t make sense to get too far ahead of yourself this season with this crew, especially when you look at the upcoming

After finishing up this homestand against Los Angeles and Baltimore, the M’s will head to Toronto and Pittsburgh, then come back to Seattle for a three-game set to face Oakland before swinging back east to play New York and Cleveland. They will finish off their road trip with two mid-week games against Los Angeles before having Texas show up at Safeco for a weekend series.

I’m feeling jet-lagged just typing that, I can only imagine how the M’s will deal with it in real time.

Oddly enough though, that brutal stretch could set the tone for the remainder of the season.

Coming out of spring training, I had hoped the Mariners would avoid this level of desperation, assuming (more like, hoping) the veterans brought in this winter could help bridge the gap until the team’s top prospects could be integrated into the lineup over the course of the season.

However, beyond the occasional solid pitching performance from Hernandez and Iwakuma, along with the recent hitting streak of Kyle Seager, the rest of the team has generally failed to show any sort of consistency. 

With no solid options to promote, does that mean Wedge and general manager Jack Zduriencik get to take the fall instead if things continue to spiral downward?

As always, Dave Cameron at USS Mariner, is one step ahead of us:

If it happens, I’m not going to be against the decision, and I don’t think having an interim manager or GM would lead to impending doom. But, I don’t know that it would really help anything either.

During a season, there’s only so much an organization can really do. The Mariners made this bed when they let the front office try and build a winning team around dingers and voodoo. It has blown up in their faces in a comical way, and it’s probably going to cost the people in charge their jobs. But, I don’t know that it needs to cost them their jobs in a RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE I DEMAND CHANGE kind of way.

I can’t argue with any of that, although part of me would like to see Cameron given a shot to see if he could turn things around.

Meanwhile, I can only imagine what will be going through Dustin Ackley‘s mind tonight at Safeco as his teammates likely joke with him about the fact it’s his bat night.  Hopefully, in spite of their struggles, the players will still have a sense of humor. 

Truth be told, I almost pity this team.  As we saw in spring training, they seem to be a decent bunch, but bless their hearts, they can’t quite get their act together.

For his sake, I hope Ackley can at least give Saturday night’s crowd something to cheer about.  It may not be much, but at this point, any small gesture is welcome. 

To think that only two years earlier, Ackley was still struggling at Tacoma before catching fire prior to his arrival in Seattle.  I remember him continuing his impressive stretch after joining the M’s in what looked like the beginning of a promising career. 

Deep down, I still think there’s a solid ballplayer in Ackley searching to rediscover that spark, as evidenced by what we’ve seen the past week. 

Once again though, I’d like to avoid getting too far ahead of myself and take this one step at a time. 

Yet, if you’re of the tender age to receive a bat on Saturday night, you may be left to wonder why the adult accompanying you struggles to find the joy that he or she once had for the game and this particular franchise. 

It’s not that anyone should expect the Mariners to win, it’s more that a ticket to the ballpark should afford you an experience worth savoring, regardless of whatever swag/trinket the team hands you at the turnstile.  

It doesn‘t necessarily have to be this way, but the “dingers and voodoo” approach that Cameron described, has struggled to generate wins or excitement; therefore fans are staying away.

Could things change?

Anything is possible, yet barring a minor miracle, I think this team will look very different by midsummer. 

Until then, the show must go on. Just don’t expect anyone to show up to watch unless a bobblehead, key chain, hat or T-shirt is involved with bonus points on night’s like tonight when King Felix is pitching. 

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