Baseball BeatSeptember 06, 2005
The One and Only Felix
By Rich Lederer

If you do a search for Felix on, you will find the following players with matching first or last names.

Felix Chouinard (1910-1915)
Felix Diaz (2004)
Felix Escalona (2002-2004)
Gus Felix (1923-1927)
Harry Felix (1901-1902)
Junior Felix (1989-1994)
Felix Fermin (1987-1996)
Felix Heredia (1996-2004)
Felix Jose (1988-2003)
Felix Mackiewicz (1941-1947)
Felix Mantilla (1956-1966)
Felix Martinez (1997-2001)
Felix "Tippy" Martinez (1974-1988)
Felix Millan (1966-1977)
Felix Rodriguez (1995-2004)
Felix Sanchez (2003)
Felix Torres (1962-1964)

With apologies to four All-Stars (Jose, Mantilla, Martinez, and Millan), I have to think this must be one of the worst groups of namesakes involving 17 or more players in baseball annals. You could put Felix Unger in there and not miss a beat.

Well, hop on the bus, Gus. You don't need to discuss much. It's time to make room for the one and only Felix that matters. Who could that be? The answer is easy if you take it logically. Felix Abraham Hernandez. Like Cher, Madonna, and Prince (oops, not so fast), the rookie might just be good enough to be known as simply Felix.

When Felix was born on April 8, 1986, Julio Franco had already played in 485 games and had 1,883 at-bats, 250 runs, and 532 hits. Roger Clemens had thrown 231 2/3 innings and struck out 200 batters in 1984-85. The Rocket, in fact, won the first of seven Cy Young Awards when Felix was about six months old. Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux made their major-league debuts the year of Felix's birth.

Red Sox fans may want to forget, but 1986 was a pretty good year for baseball. Not a lot has changed in Seattle though. The Mariners finished last that season with a 67-95 record, 25 games behind the first-place Angels. Mark Langston was the star pitcher back then, striking out an AL-high 245 batters in 239 1/3 innings. The closest thing to Felix was Edwin Nunez, a 6-foot-5, 237-pound, hard-throwing right-hander, who had made his MLB debut four years earlier at the tender age of 19.

Nunez never really panned out and Seattle wallowed for another five years before reaching the .500 plateau for the first time in the franchise's 15-year history. Edwin was long gone by then but a relative newcomer by the name of Randy Johnson, who came to the Mariners in 1989 from the Montreal Expos in a trade involving Langston, was just beginning to hit his stride at the more advanced age of 27.

Although mired in last place behind the Angels once again in 2005, the M's won more than half their games nine times from 1991-2003. Granted, the past two years have been difficult but hope appears to be on the way in the form of a 19-year-old kid from Valencia, Venezuela. Let's face it, Felix just may be the single most valuable property in baseball today.

Courtesy of MLB Extra Innings, I had the pleasure of watching Felix mow down the Oakland A's on Sunday. Felix combined with three relievers to shut out the A's 2-0 despite an impressive performance by Oakland's Joe Blanton, another young, baby-faced pitcher.

Felix's 2005 Game Log:

                IP   H   R   ER   HR   BB   SO   GB   FB   W/L   
Aug. 4 @DET    5.0   3   2    1    0    2    4   11    0    L
Aug. 9 MIN     8.0   5   0    0    0    0    6   11    6    W 
Aug. 15 KC     8.0   3   1    1    0    1   11    9    4    W 
Aug. 20 @MIN   8.0   5   2    2    0    1    9   11    4    - 
Aug. 26 CWS    7.0   7   3    3    2    1    8    9    3    - 
Aug. 31 NYY    8.0   4   2    2    2    4    7   15    2    L 
Sept. 5 OAK    7.0   4   0    0    0    1    5   14    2    W
Totals        51.0  31  10    9    4   10   50   80   21   3-2

If Felix qualified, his ERA (1.59) would rank numero uno in the AL and second in the majors among starting pitchers; his WHIP (0.80) would place him at the top; his K/BB ratio (5.0) would be good enough to tie him for seventh in the majors; and his G/F ratio (3.82) would be the second highest in the bigs. Small sample size? Maybe. But it's not just the stats telling the story here, folks. There are also times when you gotta give in to your eyeballs. And, when it comes to Felix, seeing is believing.

I have watched Felix work his magic a few times now and am more convinced than ever that he is not only the real deal but one of the elite pitchers in baseball. Now. Not next year or the year after. He is as good as any pitcher right now. I know that may sound outlandish to some, but I'm just telling it like it is.

Felix throws four pitches. A four-seam fastball that ranges between 96-99 MPH, a two-seamer that he runs up there anywhere from the low- to mid-90s, a hard-breaking curveball, and a plus changeup. I would argue that each of his pitches ranks among the top 10% in the game. As such, I don't think there is a pitcher around who can match Felix's overall stuff. Furthermore, I'm beginning to think that his command rates right there with the best.

I know that is a lot to put on a guy who was pitching in the California League (High-A) last summer. But I'm living in the present and am more concerned about the future than the past. As I mentioned ten days ago, "he is what he is. . .one of the very best starting pitchers in the league. Period."

* * * * *

Here is the play-by-play data from ESPN in bold with my added commentary:

Bottom of the first inning:
M Ellis struck out swinging. Nice way to start the game.
J Kendall grounded out to shortstop. Does Kendall really have more than 570 plate appearances without a home run this year? Only 15 players have gone homerless in more opportunities while Felix has been alive.
E Chavez grounded out to pitcher. 1-2-3. Just the way Len Barry likes it.

Bottom of the second:
S Hatteberg grounded out to second. He was way out in front of an 84-MPH changeup after Felix started him out with some gas.
J Payton struck out swinging. Four seamer, two seamer, four seamer. Strike one, strike two, strike three. Have a seat.
D Johnson grounded out to shortstop. He was late on a 98-MPH hummer. Almost the opposite of the Hatteberg at-bat. Felix throws Johnson a big curve ball, then comes right back with the hard stuff. No runs, no hits, no errors.

Bottom of the third:
M Scutaro doubled to right. He hit a 98-MPH fastball down the right-field line, just past a diving Richie Sexson at first base. Scutaro was lucky to put the ball in fair territory. He had no chance of hitting that pitch left of where it landed.
N Swisher struck out swinging. Yikes, he's like 5-for-his-last-50 after that at-bat. Ken Macha had Swisher attempt to bunt once, then allowed him to swing away in hopes of pulling the ball and moving the runner over to third. To be honest, I'm not sure Swisher, at that moment in time, was even capable of hitting the ball to the right side of the infield. Felix mixed his fastball with off-speed pitches before finally whiffing him on a straight change. Yes, he pulled the string on him. Hard to believe he won't turn 20 until next season.
M Watson grounded into fielder's choice to pitcher, M Scutaro out at third. Felix shows his athleticism by fielding his position and throwing out the lead base runner, who had no business going from second to third on a comebacker.
M Ellis singled to right, M Watson to third. Scutaro would have scored had he stayed put. His poor base running costs the A's a run.
J Kendall grounded out to third. No runs, two hits, and no errors (if you don't count Scutaro's).

Bottom of the fourth:
E Chavez grounded out to first.
S Hatteberg grounded out to shortstop.
J Payton grounded out to third. Bingo, bango, bongo.

Bottom of the fifth:
D Johnson struck out swinging. Felix K's him on a breaking ball in the dirt.
M Scutaro grounded out to shortstop. Ho hum.
N Swisher struck out swinging. Felix backs him off the plate with a fastball clocked at 99, then comes back two pitches later and strikes him out with a 85-MPH Uncle Charlie. Fifteen outs, ten via the ground and five by strikes.

Bottom of the sixth:
M Watson grounded out to shortstop.
M Ellis lined out to shortstop. Yuniesky Betancourt robs Ellis of a hit. He looks like a future Gold Glover to me.
J Kendall grounded out to third. No runs, no hits, no errors. Felix has retired the order in the first, second, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.

Bottom of the seventh:
E Chavez grounded out to second. That's 11 in a row.
S Hatteberg grounded out to third. Make it 12 straight. He's thrown 83 pitches at this point, two thirds of them for strikes.
J Payton singled to right center. Oakland gets its third hit of the afternoon.
D Johnson singled to right center, J Payton to third. Felix had him 0-2 and just missed up and/or away on a fastball. On 2-2, he threw some 99-MPH cheese that looked good but was called a ball. Throwing one pitch too many to the batter, Johnson tags a curveball past second baseman Jose Lopez.
M Scutaro walked, D Johnson to second. Although still hitting 98 on the radar, I thought Felix looked like he might be laboring just a tad while throwing low for ball two, outside for ball three, and walking him on a high curve.
N Swisher flied out to left. With the bases loaded, two outs, and a three-and-two count (and not much left in the tank), Felix gets Swisher on a change-up to end the inning. You gotta love it.

That does it for Felix. Seven innings, four hits, one walk, five strikeouts, and no runs. He threw 107 pitches, 68 for strikes. Of the 21 outs, 14 are on the ground and five by strikes.

J.J. Putz, George Sherrill, and Eddie Guardado get the last six outs to save the victory for Felix. All hail the King.


Call me conservative, but I don't see the use in calling a 19 year old with 8 starts under his belt one of the best. He may very well end up being everything he is hyped up to be and I believe that his talent is unwaveringly the best of any 19 year old this side of Dwight Gooden. However, since 2000 there has been only one pitcher to post an ERA under 4.02 who's first full season was at the age of 21 or under. I know there have not been many. In order from most current to least current: 2005, Greinke 6.22, Kazmir 4.02; 2004, Jeremey Bonderman 4.89; 2003, Jeremy Bonderman 5.56; 2002 None; 2001, CC Sabathia 4.39; 2000, Rick Ankiel 3.50. While the list is short they have a lot more games to work with from a statistical standpoint, and like Felix these youngsters were very much proclaimed to be superstars in the making.

This is my point. While young and talented Felix Hernandez still has a mountain to overcome in order to become the best. Namely the injury bug that strikes down so many a young stud in his prime. Plus, the recent statistics show that even the most talented pitchers take their knocks on their path to greatness. Here is hoping that Felix Hernandez can put up the same type of numbers next year and for years to come. As a baseball fan, I hope he rises the great pitchers of our era and becomes one of the very greatest of all time. However, I will temper my enthusiasm and predict he has somewhere around a 4 ERA next year. Call me conservative.

You ARE a conservative.

I'm also a conservative, but not in this frame of mind.

Felix I mean, what more can you say about a 19 year old phenom who has done nothing but come to the highest level of baseball and flat out dominate...? You have to remember too when dealing with the young pitchers you mentioned in your post...none of them were and are highly thought of and touted as King Felix has been throughout his minor league stints and now his major league career.

I would sit here and argue for hours that Felix is one of the best starters in the league right now. You can't tell me there is another pitcher in the American League right now that you'd rather have than Hernandez, with the exception of probably Johan Santana.

I've always said that "stats speak volumes" and that's just what Felix's have done so far. His stats show his talent, and the amount of success he's already had at this level.

Too bad Felix Pie (one guy we didn't have to worry about losing to football; who would want a QB named "Happy Feet"?) would be in the NL if the Cubs promoted him.

Clark...I think you missed the point. It's not that Felix will be one of the best for a long long time (injuries are a risk), but that he's one of the very best right now. Considering his performance, I think you'd be hard pressed to argue that he isn't.

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