BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 07/29/2014

Felix Hernandez: the ‘King’ of frustrating starts

King Felix Hernandez can establish a major league record Wednesday night in Cleveland if he goes at least seven innings and allows two or fewer earned runs.

Felix Hernandez has worked 58 career games with seven or more innings pitched and two or fewer earned runs allowed. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In more than a century of baseball dating to Chief Bender in 1907, only two pitchers have recorded as many as 13 consecutive starts in which they worked at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs. The first, Tom Seaver, constructed his streak between July-September, 1971, and entered the Hall of Fame in 1992 with a record 98.84 percent of the vote. The second, Felix Hernandez, gets a chance to break his tie with Seaver Wednesday night in Cleveland.

King Felix should already own the record – by a significant margin – and can blame his weak-hitting teammates (and the front office for acquiring them) for the fact that he does not.

Felix’s streak of 13 started May 18 when he limited Minnesota to two earned runs over eight frames in a 6-2 victory at Target Field. Counting that win, Hernandez has won seven times during his streak, including four in a row from May 18-June 2, when he defeated New York 10-2 at Yankee Stadium.

But Hernandez also has one loss and five no-decisions during his streak. He sustained a 1-0 setback to Texas June 13 (fourth 1-0 loss of career, a franchise record), and took no decisions at Tampa Bay (June 8), at San Diego (June 18), at Chicago (July 5), at Anaheim (July 19) and again last Friday night at Safeco Field against Baltimore (he couldn’t get a win June 8 even with 15 strikeouts and one walk).

In the six of 13 starts that Hernandez didn’t win, he allowed a combined five earned runs and posted an ERA of 1.05 while striking out 58 and walking seven. But Mariners hitters couldn’t help him. In those games, they scored six times, suffered two shutouts, hit .259 with runners in scoring position (14-for-54) and left 50 on base.

This isn’t a 2014 phenomenon. Since he arrived in the majors in August of 2005, Hernandez has worked 58 games — that’s nearly two years’ worth of starts — in which he pitched seven-plus innings, allowed two or fewer earned runs and came away with a loss (he’s 0-14 in such games) or a no decision. No other pitcher in franchise history has come close to experiencing that level of frustration, as the following shows:

Years Pitcher Games IP H ER SO ERA Rec. WHIP
2005-14 F. Hernandez 58 434.1 297 73 435 1.51 0-14 0.93
1996-06 Jamie Moyer 39 295.1 197 52 182 1.58 0-11 0.88
1989-98 Randy Johnson 25 195.1 115 39 242 1.80 0-10 1.03
1980-86 Jim Beattie 20 160.2 117 27 83 1.51 0-12 0.99
1982-88 Mike Moore 20 168.0 131 32 120 1.71 0-6 1.06
1988-93 Erik Hanson 17 128.2 107 19 98 1.33 0-3 1.10
1999-04 Freddy Garica 16 121.0 79 20 89 1.49 0-5 0.97
1979-82 Floyd Bannister 14 106.2 77 17 83 1.43 0-7 1.04
1984-89 Mark Langston 14 112.2 69 24 107 1.92 0-6 0.96
1999-05 Ryan Franklin 14 104.2 75 18 49 1.55 0-4 0.96

In fact, since his debut Hernandez is the major league leader in such vexations, his 58 topping Matt Cain’s 51, Cole Hammels’ 46, Cliff Lee’s 40, Dan Haren’s 38, James Shields’ 34 and the 33 each by Johan Santana and Bronson Arroyo.

King Felix is not yet close to the major league record for frustrating starts. Greg Maddux, inducted into the Hall of Fame last weekend, pitched 107 such games during his career. Don Sutton, another Hall of Famer, threw 104 and Nolan Ryan 99. On the other hand, Maddux made 740 career starts during his 23 seasons. Hernandez has made 291 in 10 years, so he is well on his way to breaking Maddux’s record.

One day down the road, Hernandez might be known as the “King” of losses and no decisions in games with seven-plus innings and two or fewer earned runs allowed.

ADD, FELIX: In his no-decision against Baltimore Friday, Hernandez permitted one earned run over seven innings, lowering his season ERA to 1.99 after 22 starts. That enabled him to become the first pitcher in Mariners history with an ERA below 2.00 at any point after the 20th start of a season. The lowest:

Year Date Pitcher GS ERA Skinny
2014 July 25 Felix Hernandez 22 1.99 Has five games with 10+ K’s
1997 Sept. 13 Randy Johnson 27 2.25 Finished at 2.28, had 20-4 record
2010 Sept. 28 Felix Hernandez 34 2.27 Led AL in ERA, won Cy Young
2013 Aug. 1 Felix Hernandez 23 2.30 Finished 12-10 with 3.04 ERA
2012 Aug. 27 Felix Hernandez 27 2.43 Struggled in 2nd half; 3.06 ERA
2009 Sept. 14 Felix Hernandez 31 2.45 Won 19 games, had 2.49 ERA
1995 Oct. 2 Randy Johnson 30 2.48 Led AL in ERA, won Cy Young
2009 July 28 Jarrod Washburn 20 2.64 Traded to Detroit 3 days later
2013 Sept. 25 Hisashi Iwakuma 33 2.66 Finished third in AL Cy Young vote
2001 Sept. 18 Freddy Garcia 31 2.85 Went 18-6, led AL in ERA at 3.05
2002 July 28 Jamie Moyer 23 2.86 “Faded’ in 2nd half, finished 3.32

Hernandez struck out 10 Orioles in lowering his ERA to 1.99 and has five games this year with 10 or more K’s (he had a career-high seven 10-K games in 2007). In 31 career 10-K games, Hernandez has 17 wins, three losses and 11 no-decisions. That he has three defeats and 11 no-decisions in those contests certainly has taken the “happy” out of a lot of “Happy Felix Days.”


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    Felix is the new Big Unit. I’ve always thought the big contract the club gave him was in part Mariner brass learning from their misakes with Randy. For Felix’s sake I hope he doesn’t become the new Ichiro: a perenial All-Star that is never surrounded with a cast that can succeed consistently during his career.

    • Big

      Cano is the new Ichiro.

      • RadioGuy

        Nah. Cano’s a good teammate who tries to help other players. That was never the case with Ichiro, who was a great individual player but only cared about setting and meeting his own personal goals. Try to find anyone who’ll say, “You know, I was really struggling until Ichiro pulled me aside and…”

        • jafabian

          When you have a team that’s constantly losing, what else can you do but have personal goals to go for? Tom Chambers said the same thing before Bernie Bickerstaff came on board. Ditto for Randy before ’95.