Seattle Mariners: Inside Felix Hernandez’s start to the season

We share five takeaways, as we delve into Felix Hernandez’s performances so far this season for the Seattle Mariners.

Felix Hernandez has a resume which includes a Cy Young, six All-Star selections and the most recent perfect game in the Majors. As Seattle Mariners fans are well aware however, today’s edition of the pitcher is nowhere close to this level.

Coming off a career-worst season last year, not much was expected from Hernandez. Spring training did nothing to change this overriding opinion.

However, since the regular season has begun, the 33-year-old hasn’t been as bad as anticipated. Let’s look deeper into his start to the 2019 campaign, with five takeaways:

1) Off to a winning start

Hernandez managed to hit the ground running in his first start of the season, in a 6-3 win against the Los Angeles Angels. He threw 92 pitches over 5.1 innings, allowing seven hits and just one earned run, while not giving up a single walk.

The recently turned U.S. citizen had to contend with four errors by his defense. However, he was able to overcome this adversity and notch his first win of the 2019 campaign.

Understandably there were still a lot of doubts, due to Hernandez also opening last year with an impressive performance. Regardless, it was virtually impossible to argue with how he pitched against the Angels.

2) Early exit

After last year’s disaster on the mound, there were plenty of fears about Hernandez having to regularly leave games early. (In fact, there were those who said he should no longer even be part of the rotation.)

When the right-hander left his second start of 2019 after just one inning, those fears appeared to be realized. After all, he had already allowed three hits and two earned runs on 29 pitches during a disastrous opening inning against the Kansas City Royals.

There was more to this story however. After the game — which turned out to be a 13-5 win for the Mariners — Fernandez said he believed he had food poisoning, which would certainly explain his poor performance on the mound and give him a pass on this occasion.

3) Pitching repertoire

The decline of Hernandez is best encapsulated by his fading fastball. Where as at one time he was capable of regularly reaching 100 mph, his four-seam fastball now averages around 91 mph.

At the same time, the six-time All-Star’s curveball is as effective as ever. In fact when compared to other players throwing the curveball so far this season, his produces an extremely high number of groundballs.

Hernandez’s sinker has below average velocity but — along with the curveball — he still relies a lot on this pitch. He also likes to mix in a changeup, while he rarely uses his cutter or slider.

4) Quality start in a losing effort

Hernandez recorded his first quality start of the season in his third appearance on the mound. Allowing just six hits and three earned runs in six innings, his performance was made even more impressive by the fact it came against a loaded Houston Astros team.

Unfortunately for the 2010 Cy Young winner, irony is never too far away when it comes to baseball in the Pacific Northwest. A Mariners team which had been scoring at a record-setting pace to start the season, registered just one run in a 3-1 loss to the Astros.

As a result, Hernandez saw his record fall to 1-1 on the season. However, this shouldn’t take away from a commanding performance — 58 of his 93 pitches were strikes — against a team which won the World Series in 2017 and last year set a club record with 103 regular season victories.

5) Let down in pursuit of second win

It was all looking so good for Hernandez in his fourth start of the season on Thursday night, against the Angels. The Mariners were leading 10-2 as they headed into the bottom half of the seventh inning and he was building on his excellent outing against the Astros.

Hernandez’s second win of the season looked all but secure before disaster struck, as the Angels scored seven runs in the bottom half of the inning. Hernandez played his part in the capitulation, as he gave up four of the runs.

When it was all said and done, the two-time AL ERA leader had allowed nine hits and four earned runs, to just miss out on a second consecutive quality start. Of course the main thing is that the M’s still won, but it will be interesting to see how Hernandez responds in his next start on Wednesday afternoon, against the San Diego┬áPadres.

How would you summarize Hernandez’s performances so far this season? Moving forward, what kind of production are you predicting for him in the Seattle Mariners’ rotation? Let us know in the comments section below.

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