Félix Abraham Hernández Garcia
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 235 lb.
In 2005, when he made his debut with the Mariners, he was the youngest player in the major leagues. On August 9th of that year, he became first teenager since 1984 to win a game (Dwight Gooden and Jose Rijo). He finished his first season with a record of 4-4, 2.87, in 12 starts. He followed that with a 12-14 mark and a 4.52 ERA in 31 starts at age 20 in 2006, then had his first outstanding season in 2007, when he went 14-7 with a 3.92 ERA. He was the last teenager to start a major league game until Julio Urias made his debut in 2016.
On June 23, 2008, he hit a grand slam off Johan Santana of the New York Mets. It was the first grand slam by an American League pitcher since Steve Dunning hit one on May 11, 1971, and the first home run of any kind by a Mariners pitcher since the team began play in 1977. It was one of the few highlights of what turned out to be his poorest major league season. He recorded only 9 wins in 31 starts, against 11 losses. However, he did lower his ERA to 3.45 - his lowest in a full season thus far, while pitching over 200 innings for the first time, two figures that indicated that he was in fact about to join the rankls of baseball's elite pitchers.
Rise to Dominance
In 2009, Felix led the American League with 19 wins and his 2.49 ERA was second-best in the circuit, behind Zack Greinke, who beat him in the voting for the Cy Young Award. With only 5 losses, he also sported the best winning percentage in the league, and added 217 strikeouts in what was a truly dominant performance. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time that year. On August 25, 2010, Hernández struck out David Ortiz for his 1,000th career whiff. At age 24, he became the fourth-youngest hurler to that figure, following Bob Feller (22), Bert Blyleven (23) and Dwight Gooden (23). At the end of the year, he was voted as recipient of the 2010 American League Cy Young Award, over David Price and CC Sabathia, even though his won-loss record of 13-12 was unusually poor for a Cy Young recipient. Voters saw beyond these figures to note his dominating ERA and excellent strikeout rate while pitching for a last-place team.
Cashing in on his new-found fame, Hernandez was the star of a very popular commercial for the Mariners before the 2011 season, in which he appealed to new manager Eric Wedge to pitch more often; after Wedge's refusal, he appears as "Larry Bernandez", sporting a mullet, thick sideburns and glasses, pretending to be someone else. The alter ego took on a life of its own, and on August 27th, the Mariners held a special "Larry Bernandez night", when a bobblehead doll of the fictional pitcher was given out to fans, and Hernandez came out in costume to throw the ceremonial first pitch. He had another good season, going 14-14, 3.47 in 33 starts, striking out 222 batters and making his second appearance at the All-Star Game.
On August 15, 2012, he threw the first perfect game in Mariners history, doing so against the Tampa Bay Rays in a 1-0 win. He needed only 113 pitches and struck out a dozen batters, including five of the last six he faced. The game ended on a called third strike to Sean Rodriguez. It was the third no-hitter at Safeco Field that season and the second perfecto. This was the first time that two perfect games had been pitched in the same ballpark in one season. Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox tossed his perfect game in Seattle earlier in the season. It also marked the first time that three perfect games had been thrown in one year, as Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants had also been perfect earlier in the year. Hernandez had earlier been named an All-Star for the third time in four years. In his first start after the perfect game, he gave up a lead-off single to Jason Kipnis of the Cleveland Indians on August 21st, setting aside all thoughts of pulling off a Johnny Vander Meer-type performance, but he went on to pitch another solid game, beating Cleveland 5-1. That improved his record to 8-0, 1.53, over his past 13 starts. On August 27th, he beat the Minnesota Twins, 1-0, with a five-hit shutout. It was his fourth 1-0 win of the season, making him only the third pitcher since 1969 to win four such games in a season, after Fergie Jenkins in 1974 and Bert Blyleven in 1976. He was also the third pitcher to win three 1-0 decisions in a month according to the Elias Sports Bureau, following Dick Rudolph in 1916 and Carl Hubbell in 1933. It was no surprise that he was named American League Pitcher of the Month for August, as his record was 4-0, 1.08, with 3 shutouts including the perfect game. His winning streak was snapped on September 1st, when he was defeated 5-2 by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but even in that game, he had kept his opponents to 2 runs over 7 innings before allowing a two-run single to Mark Trumbo in the 8th. He finished the year at 13-9, 3.06, with a league-leading 5 shutouts and 223 strikeouts in 232 innings.
The Mariners knew that they would need to open their wallets to make sure their young prodigy remained the franchise's cornerstone in future years. On February 7, 2013, they agreed to give him the largest contract in history for a pitcher, offering $175 million over 7 years, a deal which was finalized on February 12th. During that period, he withdrew his name from the Venezuelan team's roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, having initially indicated that he would again pitch for his country. He earned the 100th win of his career on April 22nd, when he defeated the Houston Astros, 7-1. He was third on Seattle's all-time win list at that point, behind only Jamie Moyer (with 145) and Randy Johnson (130). Since 1969, only five players had reached 100 wins at a younger age: Gooden, Blyleven, Fernando Valenzuela, Don Gullett and Vida Blue. He went 12-10, 3.04, during the season, striking out 216 in 204 1/3 innings. He was named to the All-Star team for the 4th time.
On June 8, 2014, he struck out a career-high 15 batters and did not allow a run in a game against the Miami Marlins, but he ended up with a no-decision as the Mariners waited until the 9th inning to score 5 runs and win the game, 5-0, handing reliever Yoervis Medina the win. While he had been used in previous seasons to pitching well and ending up without a win, it was a rare case that year, as he had started out the season 8-1, 2.57 in 13 starts. He was named the AL Pitcher of the Month in June, after going 3-1, 1.22 with 54 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings during the month. He was named to the AL All-Star team for the 5th time. On August 5th, he defeated the Atlanta Braves 4-2, to improve to 12-3, with a 1.97 ERA. It was also his 15th straight start of 7 or more innings while giving up 2 runs or fewer; it was the longest such streak in major league history, beating the record of 13 games set by Tom Seaver in 1971 and equaling a similar streak by Gaylord Perry for the 1974 Cleveland Indians that included a few unearned runs (which was not the case for Hernandez's streak). He extended the record by beating the Toronto Blue Jays, 11-1, on August 11th, giving up a single run in 7 innings. On August 16th, however, he left after 5 innings of a start against the Detroit Tigers, trailing, 2-1, ending his streak; his teammates were unable to tie the game, and he was saddled with the loss as well. On August 29th, however, he had a rare bad outing when he gave up a career-high four homers in an 8-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. The Mariners fell just shy of the postseason, finishing one game behind the Oakland A's for the second wild card in the AL, but Hernandez did win the ERA title for the second time, finishing at 2.14, thanks to 5 1/3 innings of scoreless ball on the last day of the season, when the M's still had a chance to force a one-game playoff against the A's. When the A's had clinched the title, manager Lloyd McClendon took Felix out of the game, but his effort had been enough to lower his ERA below the 2.17 of Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. The win over the Angels meant that he ended his season with a record of 15-6 and 248 strikeouts in 236 innings, while allowing only 170 hits. he finished a close second behind Corey Kluber in the voting for the Cy Young Award.
In 2015, Felix was named the Mariners' opening day starter for the seventh straight season. On May 10th, Sam Fuld of the Oakland Athletics became his 2,000th strikeout victim in a 4-3 win. At 29, he became the fourth-youngest to reach the mark, after Walter Johnson, Sam McDowell and Bert Blyleven. He pitched extremely well early in the season and on May 27th, a four-hit shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays made him the first eight-game winner in the majors that year; he had a 1.91 ERA in addition to the 8-1 record. He had an uncharacteristically bad night on June 12th, when he gave up 8 runs on 5 hits, two walks and a fielder's choice in only a third of an inning before giving way to Joe Beimel in a start against the Houston Astros; two of the hits were homers, by Luis Valbuena and Jason Castro, and he was charged with a 10-0 loss. He had another rough outing on August 15th against the Boston Red Sox when he gave up 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings and the M's went down, 22-10. However, overall, it was another very good season, as he ended the year at 18-9, 3.53 in 31 starts, with 191 Ks in 201 1/3 innings.
With a 1-0 win over the Kansas City Royals on April 29, 2016, Hernandez tied Jamie Moyer for most wins by a Mariners pitcher, with 145. He was limited to 25 starts that season, the fewest for him since his rookie year. He had a winning record, at 11-8, but his ERA of 3.82 was quite high by his standards. Following the season, Hernandez was the victim of a break-in at his suburban Seattle home. The perpetrators were a gang of thieves who were targeting affluent houses in the area, and had committed over 120 robberies, according to police. They were identified when one of the gang members was apprehended while wearing Hernandez's distinctive watch, inscribed with his nickname "King Felix". They had also made off with a 2000 World Series ring, which turned out to be a nearly worthless reproduction handed out to fans at New Yankee Stadium in a game in which Felix was the starting pitcher for the visiting Mariners; Felix had kept the ring as a memento. In 2017, he had another off-year, finishing at 6-5, 4.36 and being limited to 16 starts.
That set the stage for a very disappointing 2018 season. The team had been improving steadily over the previous couple of years, and was counting on Felix as a leader from the mound. They did indeed get off to a strong start, but while Felix was healthy, he was not pitching like an ace. His ERA was 4.96 in March/April, and while he won more often than he lost, he was a shadow of his former self. At the All-Star break, he was 8-7, 5.13 in 19 starts, and things began to get even worse after that. On August 7th, with the M's having been passed by the Athletics for the second wild card slot in the AL, he gave up 11 runs in 6 innings in a start against the Texas Rangers and was charged with an 11-4 loss. It was a fifth straight start of his that the team had lost, and two days later, he was sent down to the bullpen. He had never pitched in relief in the majors, as all 398 of his appearances up to that point had been as a starter. His first outing in the role came on August 14th, after starter James Paxton had to leave the game in the 1st inning after being hit by a comebacker off the bat of Jed Lowrie of the A's. He ended up pitching until the end of the 6th, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits; that was enough to saddle him with a 3-2 loss, however. He finished the year at 8-14, 5.55 in 29 games (28 starts).
Felix's string of 10 straight opening day starts came to an end in 2019 as the team announced midway through spring training that Marco Gonzales would get the prestigious assignment on March 20th, when the M's were scheduled to travel to Japan to face the Oakland A's in a season-opening two-game series at the Tokyo Dome. He was entering the final year of his seven-year contract that year and needed to bounce back from his string of injury-riddled and sub-par recent seasons to stand of chance of staying beyond the end of the season. On May 11th, he recorded the 2,500th strikeout of his career in a game against the Red Sox, but had to leave in the 3rd inning after allowing 7 runs. He was placed on the injured list the next day with a shoulder strain. He returned on August 24th and made 7 more starts, finishing the year at 1-8, 6.40. In his final start of the year, at home against the A's, the fans bade him farewell, as it was clear that if his career was not over at that point, he was not going to play for the Mariners again.
On January 20, 2020, he signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves coupled with an invitation to spring training as a non-roster invitee. It is not clear whether or not he had a good chance of making the team, but this became moot on July 4th when he made it known he preferred to sit out the season that was about to start, due to health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. This could well have marked the end of his career, but on February 3, 2021, he signed another minor league deal, this one with the Baltimore Orioles, getting another spring training invite. He wasn't added to the 40-man roster by the stipulated deadline at the end of March, however, and elected to become a free agent instead of awaiting an opportunity in the minors.
- 2005 Pitcher of the Year Pacific Coast League Tacoma Rainiers
- 6-time AL All-Star (2009 & 2011-2015)
- 2010 AL Cy Young Award
- 2-time AL ERA Leader (2010 & 2014)
- AL Wins Leader (2009)
- AL Winning Percentage Leader (2009)
- AL Innings Pitched Leader (2010)
- 2-time AL Shutouts Leader (2012 & 2015)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 3 (2009, 2014 & 2015)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 8 (2008-2015)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 6 (2009-2014)
|AL Cy Young Award|
|Zack Greinke||Felix Hernandez||Justin Verlander|
- Mark Bowman: "This longtime ace leads Braves' rotation race", mlb.com, March 2, 2020. 
- Andrew Erickson: "Tattoo you: The meaning behind Felix's ink: Mariners ace looks to family, baseball for inspiration", mlb.com, January 16, 2016. 
- Greg Johns: "Hernandez on serious mission", mlb.com, February 15, 2017. 
- Greg Johns: "Mariners believe King Felix can return to throne", mlb.com, February 6, 2018. 
- Greg Johns: "The King has left the building: Félix bows out: Icon makes emotional exit in final start of 15-year Seattle run", mlb.com, September 27, 2019. 
- Terry McDermott: Off Speed: Baseball, Pitching, and the Art of Deception, Pantheon Books, New York, NY, 2017. ISBN 978-0307379429
- Bob Nightengale: "Will King Felix reign in October? Mariners think so", USA Today Sports, March 19, 2015. 
- Joe Trezza: "King Félix's drive: 'The Hall of Fame'", mlb.com, February 18, 2021.