The Ms got their best pitcher back, signing Felix Hernandez to a 5-year, 78 million-dollar deal this past week. At 23,Hernandez has already put together four complete seasons, never pitching less than 190 innings. Coming off his best season thus far, Hernandez looks poised to enter his prime. Here’s what he’s got going for him…
Felix does not walk a lot of batters. The MLB average pitcher walks 8.9% of all batters, but Felix has walked just 7.6% throughout his career, and 7.3% last season. In conjunction with low walk rates, Hernandez’s career strikeout rate is 3.5% above the major league average, and was a whole percentage point higher last season. Keeping players off the bases, and preventing them from making contact has been a large part of the young ace’s success, and are aspects of his pitching that aren’t likely to vary too much in the wrong direction going forward.
In addition to Ks and BBs, Felix keeps the ball down. His career groundball/flyball ratio is much higher than the league average, leading to a healthy double play rate and low homerun rate. Obviously both are good things for pitchers.
Overall, according to my Run Values, Hernandez was the second most valuable player to the Mariners organization last season, sitting just behind some guy who goes by just one name. This is especially impressive because it is hard for pitchers to compete with hitters in terms of value when they only go out once every five days. Seeing that the Mets shelled out $138M to Santana over 6 years, and that the Yankees are paying Sabathia $161M over 7 years, a five-year, $78M contract seems like a sound investment in a pitcher that shows all the signs of being in Cy Young conversations every year.