Spring training is finally underway for the Mariners and it is truly glorious to have baseball back in our lives. This spring training is slightly different than the last few with the team not looking to compete for a postseason spot for the first time in a few years, but baseball is still back and that’s really all that matters for the next few weeks.
I’ve written previously about what to watch for with the M’s moving forward and you can find that here, but today we are gonna talk about something more serious. Felix Hernandez. Today is his first start in the Cactus League.
Felix kills me. He was the only player worth watching for years in Seattle (unless watching Chone Figgins was your thing) and his decline has been frustrating. It hurts worse because Felix became a liability when the team was finally in a position to contend. All the years of 1-0 losses and then when playoffs are on the line he can’t get out of the second inning.
I think the thing that pisses me off with Felix is that his decline could have been slowed. The fact that the King was an absolute workhorse for about 10 years is not lost on me. There are a lot of miles on that arm and the velocity dip isn’t exactly surprising, but his inability to deal with it has been infuriating.
Pitching in the big leagues in basically impossible. Major League hitters are beyond comprehension. If you make a mistake, you aren’t getting away with it unless you are touching 96+ and even then, big leaguers will probably still get the barrel to it. I know that pitching is hard. I was pretty shitty at it. But Felix has not always been shitty, and his problems lie in his terrible approach.
We’ve all seen it. Felix stands tall and confident on the mound, and then proceeds to throw an 89 MPH fastball down the tube. It gets demolished. Felix looks irritated. We look irritated. This is where things start to really get annoying. But then we watch it happen again with the next batter. And then the next. At what point do you start to figure out that maybe that pitch isn’t fooling anyone?
Mel Stottlemyre Jr, former Mariners pitching coach, talked about his frustrations with Felix and wanting him to feature more off speed stuff. And I would have to agree. In games when Hernandez featured more off speed pitches, he was noticeably more effective and kept hitters off balance. This has to continue if Felix wants to have any chance of success this season.
I don’t have high hopes for the King this year. I suspect he will miserably flame out again this season and he will unceremoniously leave Seattle. It’s good to remember how dominant he once was, because those days are long gone. He’s basically Theoden, the bitch ass King of Rohan, and Gandalf isn’t coming to save him. Long live the King, even if it’s just in our hearts, because he probably won’t see much of the field.