By: noah Wright
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Former Mariners ace, Felix Hernandez, has had a very good career. This includes 6 all-star games, a Cy Young, 4 top 5 Cy Young voting finishes, 2 ERA titles in 2010 (2.27) and 2014 (2.18), and a no hitter. But with a recent decline in performance the last few years, the once sure fire hall of fame pitcher could be on the line, if he continues this decline at only 32. So let’s look at Hernandez’s Hall Of Fame case.
Let’s start with why King Felix should make The Hall Of Fame. Hernandez currently lands 43rd in all time strikeouts with 2412 K’s and counting. Let’s assume he stays healthy the entire year, and pitches about 180 innings, and keeps the same, 7.5 K/9 rate he has now. He will finish with 150 K’s, and 2492 total K’s. That will move him to #34 in all time K’s. Just below Christy Mathewson, and right above Don Drysdale. His career ERA is also a very low 3.27. That’s currently 131 best of all time, and 3 thousandths of a point lower than all time great, Randy Johnson. In a more modern stat, King Felix has a 3.39 FIP. That’s right below Justin Verlander in FIP who holds a 3.43 FIP. Hernandez has always been good with control as well. He has a career 2.62 BB/9 rate, which ranks 374 all time. This is Hall Of Fame pitcher, John Smoltz, but just below another Hall Of Famer, Tom Seaver. Another thing Hernandez has going for him is his pitcher’s WAR. The righty has a 51.8 WAR and counting, a top 100 WAR and 94th overall. That ranks him about .2 above Orel Hershiser, and about 1.4 below Dodger HOF’er, Sandy Koufax. With him being above a handful of Hall Of Fame pitchers in statistics, it’s easy to see why could be a Hall Of Fame guy.
Now let’s look at why he may not make The Hall Of Fame. Felix has been in a decline the last few years. This started in the second half of 2016, when he had a 4.48 ERA, while his K rate went down significantly. Since then, it has only gotten worse. In 2017, Hernandez only pitched in 86.2 innings, and was sidelined for a good portion of the year with injuries. But when he was healthy, he looked like his second half 2016 self, with a similar 4.36 ERA, and with a career high 5.02 FIP, and 1.8 HR/9. While he did have a good 8.1 K/9 all his other number aren’t King Felix like. This year, he’s been just as bad, if not worse. In 84.1 innings of work, Felix has a 5.44 ERA, which would be a career high right now. His FIP did lower, but is still at a high 4.46, and his WHIP is at a near career high at 1.375. His walk rate is also up at 3.3 BB/9. Now you’re probably thinking; “So what? It’s just a decline. It’s normal”. Here’s the thing. His decline started when he was 29. Most players start their decline when they’re in their mid 30’s, but Hernandez’s started in his late 20’s, and now is in his early 30’s. Hernandez is also under contract until 2020 when he’s 34. If he continues to decline at the rate he is, it’s possible he could miss The Hall Of Fame.
So what do I think. If he continues to decline at the rate he is, I wouldn’t be surprised if he misses The Hall. However, if he has some OK years, maybe not vintage King Felix, Cy Young years, but years where he’s a serviceable starter, then I think he can be a sure fire Hall Of Fame player.