After a performance like yesterday, its easy for Yankee fans to dream about what Felix Hernandez would look like in pinstripes. He utterly dominated one of the league’s best offensive teams (Yanks 4th in Runs scored) and turned the NY lineup into something akin to the Seattle Mariners (2nd worst in the AL). As we all know, when a great pitcher executes his game plan there’s little a lineup can do. There was nothing unusual or out of character with the way the Yanks approached King Felix yesterday. Hernandez faced just 3 batters more than the 27 minimum. He was ahead in the count on 13 of them, even on three and went to 3 ball counts on just 4 batters all day. It’s hard to work the count and get a good pitch to hit or draw a walk when the opposing pitcher is throwing nothing but strikes. Especially someone who has the stuff that Felix does.
What happened yesterday is nothing that Yankee fans haven’t seen before. He owns a 4-1 record with a 1.13 ERA at the new Yankee Stadium. Of course that’s facing the Yankee lineup, which he would no longer oppose as a member of the team. No problem, his career ERA on the road is 3.23, remarkably similar to the 3.12 he’s posted at pitcher friendly Safeco Field. His strikeout numbers dip slightly (8.5/8.0) but WHIP (1.183/1.241) and SLG (.645/.671) remain fairly constant given the park effects. That’s not an accident given his batted ball profile. He sports a healthy career 54% GB rate with a low 17.9 LD% and 27.8% fly ball rate. Overall he has a 8.65 K/9 and 2.71 BB/9. When you generate grounders, miss bats and limit walks, you could pitch on the moon.
That’s not to say there isn’t some cause for concern. Earlier this year his FB was down significantly, causing some to speculate he’s wearing down or hiding an injury. It wasn’t as if he was throwing more 2 seamers or pitches that were misclassified, his LD% spiked to 23.8% this year, up from 19.2% in 2011 and an average of 16.5% over 2009-2010. As you can see, his average velocity has recovered of late, but is still down a notch from his 08-10 averages. Nothing unusual, but worth noting. He has been hit harder this year than in years past. Could that send up a red flag for the Seattle GM that its time to cash in his chips with the big righty? We saw Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd get spooked by Ublado Jiminez dip in velocity last year, and in retrospect it was the right time to sell.
Hernandez is starting to earn the big money owed on his deal this year. He went from 11.7M in 2011 to 18.5M in 2012, and is due to earn 19.5M in 2013 and 20M in 2014. That being said, its difficult to fathom Jack Z would consider trading him anytime soon. He’s the face of the franchise, one of the few players fans have to come out to the ballpark to watch play, and they spend little elsewhere. Their 2012 payroll is just 79.5M, and number due to go down further with 17M for Ichiro off the books. Their current commitments for 2013 is just 36.8M with Hernandez taking up half of it. That number doesn’t include arb raises, but suffice to say there’s little evidence they can’t afford to give the King a bump in pay. As things currently stand, the dream of King Felix in pinstripes is one that will have to wait.
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