BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 06/01/2015

Felix vs. Pineda: Match of year for all but Jack Z

In what could be the local pitching matchup of the year, former Mariner Michael Pineda of the Yankees opposes Felix Hernandez at Safeco Field Monday night.

Michael Pineda is back Monday, only in a Yankees uniform and throwing as well as any pitcher in the American League. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

With the Mariners in a daily grind to justify expectations that they are a postseason contender, the last thing general manager Jack Zduriencik needs is another reminder that on Jan. 23, 2012, he blew it big time. Unfortunately for Zduriencik, he won’t be able to avoid it, especially if Michael Pineda of the Yankees pitches to form Monday night at Safeco Field in his matchup with Felix Hernandez.

Pineda enters the three-game set ranked first in the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio (13.4) and fewest walks per nine innings (0.7), fifth in strikeouts (67) and sixth in strikeouts per nine (9.37). Pineda is 6-2 with a 3.36 ERA in 10 starts. He’s 26 and finally beginning to consistently display the stuff Mariners fans first glimpsed in 2011.

Zduriencik dealt Pineda to the Yankees after the Dominican made the All-Star team as a rookie. The Yankees needed a top-tier starter to pair with C.C. Sabathia and the Mariners required offense. Zduriencik figured he could afford to lose Pineda because he had prospects James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker on the come.

In exchange for the 6-foot-7 Pineda, the Mariners accepted catcher Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi. Both quickly morphed into disasters at the major-league level and Pineda nearly did so. He twice tore up his shoulder, was nailed with a DUI and last year served a 10-game suspension for doctoring balls with pine tar.

But Pineda, who will make his first start against Seattle opposite King Felix, seems to have figured things out, especially if his outing May 10 is any indication. In that game, he did something King Felix had never done and, in fact, no one in history had done.

In a 6-2 win over Baltimore, Pineda not only became the fourth pitcher in history to strike out 16 batters in seven or fewer innings, joining Randy Johnson (three times), Jake Peavy (twice) and Cliff Lee, he became the first to do so without issuing a walk:

Year Date Pitcher Team IP Pit-Str BB SO
2001 July 18 Randy Johnson D-Backs 7 109-68 1 16
2001 Aug. 23 Randy Johnson D-Backs 7 115-78 2 16
2001 Sept. 27 Randy Johnson D-Backs 6.2 126-81 2 16
2006 May 22 Jake Peavy Padres 7 114-74 1 16
2007 April 25 Jake Peavy Padres 7 117-75 3 16
2011 May 6 Cliff Lee Phillies 7 117-87 1 16
2015 May 10 Michael Pineda Yankees 7 111-81 0 16

The Big Unit whiffed 19 Oakland A’s  — with no walks — June 24, 1997 while pitching for the Mariners, but had 15 strikeouts through seven frames. He also had 19 strikeouts in a 5-0 win over the White Sox Aug. 8, 1997, but only 15 K’s plus two walks through seven.

Hernandez came close to making the list June 8 when, at Tampa Bay, he fanned 15 Rays and issued one walk in seven innings in a 5-0 Seattle victory.

Pineda has made three starts this year with at least seven strikeouts and no walks, most in the majors. Hernandez has one such outing, a 2-0 victory over Minnesota April 24 in which he struck out nine and walked none.

A Seattle rotation with the 29-year-old Hernandez and Pineda would have constituted a season-long spectacle. But Montero and Noesi, probably to Zduriencik’s mortification, made the trade a debacle, leaving Monday’s Hernandez-Pineda matchup a sore reminder of what might have been.

Going For No. 159

Hernandez (8-1, 1.91, 2.8 WAR), is coming off a 3-0 victory over Tampa Bay in which he worked nine innings with eight strikeouts and one walk. That marked Felix’s 158th “ultra quality start” — at least seven innings and no more than two earned runs allowed. Felix has owned this statistic since he made his debut in August 2005.

His 158 ultra quality starts are 33 more second-place Cole Hamels, who has 125, and 35 more than Sabathia’s 123.  Most ultra quality starts since 2005:

Pitcher Team No./Rec. Skinny
Felix Hernandez Mariners 158 (97-15) 23 complete games 11 shutouts, 1.13 ERA
Cole Hamels Phillies 125 (73-20) 1.33 ERA, 14 complete games, 6 shutouts
C.C. Sabathia 3 teams 123 (95-12) 24 complete games, 11 shutouts, 1.17 ERA
Cliff Lee 5 teams 122 (82-13) 9 ultra-quality starts with Seattle in 2010
Roy Halladay 2 teams 117 (94-11) 41 CGs, 14 shutouts among his 117
Dan Haren 7 teams 115 (75-15) 12 ultra-quality starts vs. the Mariners
Justin Verlander Tigers 111 (87-9) Has a 1.14 ERA in ultra-quality outings
Mark Buehrle 3 teams 111 (78-13) 1.10 ERA in 839.1 IP (Felix 1220 IP)
James Shields 3 teams 108 (72-14) 18 complete games, 9 shutouts, 824.1 IP
Matt Cain Giants 108 (57-15) Has a 1.26 ERA, 13 complete games

Three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw has 98 ultra quality starts since his debut in 2008. Over the same span, Felix has 133. Madison Bumgarner, star of the 2014 World Series, has 67 such starts since his debut in 2009, Felix 124.

Hernandez has made 313 starts since his debut, 158 ultra quality. Chew on this comparison: Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax made 314 starts for the Dodgers over 12 years, 154 ultra quality.



  • notaboomer

    jesus montero could be having as good of a year at mlb level as pineda if the stupid mariners would bring him up from tacoma. instead he has no chance. it’s not exactly like the 1b and dh positions are producing for the mariners unless you treat nelson cruz as the dh, which he only occasionally plays.

    • Mavis Jarvis

      Just curious, anyone know what Montero’s situation is regarding options? If they brought him up for a few weeks, would they have to DFA him if they sent him back down?

  • Jeff

    This is a crossroads game for Jack Z tonight. He’s staring at the abyss of awful hitting among his drafted and developed position players not named Kyle Seager. The lack of starting pitching depth in the system were 2 starters down, as is the case now, emerges, and another of his lousy starting pitching trades, Pineda, comes to town having appeared to figure it out after a couple years of injury struggles. Jack’s returns of Montero, Noesi, Furbush, and Smoak have all proved meager returns for Pineda, Fister and Lee.

    6+ years in, and every level of the M’s organization is sub .500, Mariners, Rainiers, Generals, Lumberkings and Blaze, and there’s not a single player in the minors right now that fans can feel objectively excited about.

  • jafabian

    I think at this point because of his PED suspension Jack equates Montero right there with Josh Lueke and won’t give him a chance which is the wrong thing to do. He has ability to at least hit. He should be the DH at this point since Cruz hits better when he’s in the OF.