Bad: The Mariners have the league’s poorest offense. Worse: They’re fouling the legacy of the franchise’s greatest homegrown pitcher. Happened again last night. “King” Felix Hernandez pitching well but absorbing a loss because of the toothless Mariners offense. Actually, that’s a metaphor fail. The toothless can at least gum oatmeal.
The Mariner offense feeds more like ocean-borne protozoa, relying on the odd morsel of sustenance floated toward them by a chaotic universe. Last night, the butterfly flapping in China provided a waist-high fastball to Jack Wilson, who drove in the M’s only run. Also in that inning? Two pop-outs on bunts. Single-celled organisms couldn’t do any worse.
Hernandez meanwhile tossed seven innings and allowed four runs. He was not his usual stellar self, striking out just three White Sox. This was not a “quality start,” (of which King Felix has a league-leading 18) but certainly worth at least a sniff of a win. Instead the feeble M’s bowed 6-1, leaving them with just 39 wins in their first 100 games.
King Felix has seven of those wins, but also seven of the losses. Yup, despite holding opposing hitters to a Jack-Wilson-esque .621 OPS, Hernandez has lost as many as he’s won. No AL pitcher has finished with a .500 record while stifling hitters so well since the epically underrated knuckleballer Charlie Hough in 1985.
Among the major league pitchers with more wins than Felix Hernandez this season: “Chris Narveson.” “Mitch Talbot.” “Tyler Clippard.” Ex-Mariners Joel Pineiro, Derek Lowe, Carlos Silva, Jamie Moyer and Freddie Garcia make up a full rotation of winninger starters. And, most aggravating of all, M’s “reliever” Brandon League has eight wins to Hernandez’s seven. If this fiasco continues, it would be like Colin Farrell winning the Oscar for Crazy Heart instead of Jeff Bridges.
As the Times‘ Geoff Baker points out, Hernandez is out of the race for the Cy Young Award because of his lack of wins. It’s worse than that. The Mariners’ offense is hurting Hernandez’ career legacy.
Hitters are judged by home runs, an event almost entirely independent of their teammates’ performance. Pitchers, unfairly, are judged on wins, which are almost entirely dependent on their teammates.
Through age 24, Hernandez has thrown 103 quality starts–tenth-most through that age of any pitcher since 1920, and he still has half of a season left. Yet Hernandez has just 65 wins to show for it, 18th among such pitchers.
Hernandez is a Mariner for this and the next four seasons. Let’s hope the Mariner brass give him a chance to build a legacy as good as he is.