Sunday afternoon was simply another outing for Felix Hernandez. King Felix threw eight shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians, striking out nine, walking one, and only allowing four hits. The big game was nothing new for Hernandez this season, whose 2.38 ERA trails only Clay Buchholz among American League pitchers and whose 2.95 FIP trails only Francisco Liriano and Cliff Lee in that same group.
Given how remarkable Hernandez’s stuff is, it should be no surprise that he is among the best pitchers in the world. All of his pitches were at top form on Sunday, as we can see thanks to the Pitch F/X data from Brooks Baseball. His fastball sat between 92 and 96 and drew three swinging strikes in 40 pitches. Hernandez showed fantastic control of that pitch, as it was a strike 28 times overall – over 70% of the time. Batters clearly weren’t making good contact on his fastball either, as the pitch type linear weights value for the pitch was a whopping -2.2 runs for the game.
His other fastball, classified as a sinker by Pitch F/X but still in the 92-96 range, was similarly impressive, drawing five whiffs and notching 28 strikes in 43 pitches. Hernandez only had to go to his off-speed stuff 28 times, including a 90 MPH changeup which hardly classifies as off-speed. That changeup was only used seven times but proved deadly, as it drew four whiffs – an unfathomable 57.4% whiff rate. The slider, which averaged 85 MPH, wasn’t quite as impressive in terms of contact – three whiffs in 18 pitches – but Hernandez’s control of the pitch was excellent, as it went for a strike 13 times.
This start only adds to Hernandez’s fantastic 2010 line. Now, on the season, Hernandez has thrown 219.1 innings, striking out 209, walking only 60 and allowing 14 home runs. That comes out to rates of 8.58 K/9, 2.46 BB/9, and 0.57 HR/9 – numbers which finally equal the numbers that Hernandez put up as a 20 year old phenom with a blazing fastball out of the minor leagues. In 2005, that excellent rookie year, Hernandez posted a 2.67 ERA and a still career best 2.85 FIP in his first 12 major league starts. Hernandez’s FIP currently sits at 2.95, in a much larger sample. People expected great things out of him after that season, and although Hernandez has been nothing short of fantastic, this is the first time since that he has truly regained that level of greatness. It’s safe to say that Felix Hernandez has assumed the throne that many believed he would after such an impressive debut stint in the Major Leagues.
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.