Every so often, there’s a debate about who’s the best pitcher in baseball. Or, who is the best in each league, i.e. who should start the All-Star Game. Today on the old radio, there was a debate about who would you want to pitch in a one-game World Series. The debate eventually became Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum, but I can’t ever help like Timmy has a home field advantage out here in Northern California. Obviously, he’s one of the best pitchers in the game. On most occasions that I’ve seen him pitch, he’s been dominant. On the other hand, I’ve seen him look extremely mortal at times. He’s prone to the occasional blowup. Halladay, however, never seems to give up any more than 4 runs in a game – and that’s when he’s off. Granted, I probably have a bit smaller sample size when it comes to Roy, but I probably see arguably his more important games. Though I will concede that Lincecum is usually solid in the big games as well.
There’s one guy, though, that I always consider to be one of the top two pitchers in baseball that no one really ever seems to bring up until you get to the top 5 or 10. Ever since the first time I saw him pitch when
he was 19, he’s been as good, if not better, than anyone else I’ve seen in the last decade. That guy is Felix Hernandez. The more the debates rage on, the more I wonder why you never hear his name as much as the other guys. Part of it, I’m sure, has to do with him playing under the radar up in Seattle for a non-contender. But then I started thinking about sample size, and what it might have to do with my favorable view of King Felix. Perhaps it’s the result of playing well against the A’s. Since the Mariners are never playing in important games, the majority of times I’ve seen him pitch had to have come against my team. Sure enough, I compared the numbers, and Hernandez’s are better across the board against the A’s than his career numbers. He has an 11-4 career record against the A’s, compared to a career mark of 79-60 overall. Two of the four losses against Oakland came in the disastrous 2006 campaign, in which the A’s rode an impressive 19-2 record against the M’s to an ALCS berth. Over the years though, he’s had the A’s number. I put together this log of his career starts against Oakland, and it reads pretty impressive. The thing that stood out to me is 5 of his 20 starts resulted in 7 or more innings of shutout ball. Just knowing that 1 out of every 4 times a guy takes the mound will result in a shutout is pretty impressive in my book. He may not even be on the level of CC or Verlander, but to me, Felix is King.