The One and Only Felix
If you do a search for Felix on Baseball-Reference.com, you will find the following players with matching first or last names.
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:
Bottom of the second:
Bottom of the third:
Bottom of the fourth:
Bottom of the sixth:
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.