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In our latest forum for visitors to our site, let’s explore a Major League Baseball topic sure to generate discussions in the years ahead: Is Felix Hernandez a Hall of Famer? Both for the big hall in Cooperstown, New York, as well as the Seattle Mariners’ Hall of Fame.
Felix Hernandez was among the top starting pitchers in the MLB for several years in his prime, but the consensus from baseball fanatics is he struggled in the latter part of his career, and just did not build statistics nor claim championships typical of Hall of Fame pitchers.
However, it is a no-brainer that “King Felix” will be inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Seattle Mariners’ franchise. He holds several team records for pitching, and much of the time on teams with poor offenses, negatively affecting his win-loss record.
For a few years was considered among the top pitchers in the American League ~ and maybe even in the entire MLB.
Hernandez’s career accomplishments would be the envy of most major league pitchers. Consider that he:
- Was selected for the All Star game 6 times (first in 2009, then 2011-2015)
- Won the American League Cy Young Award in 2010
- Lead the major leagues in wins in 2009, with 19
- Had the lowest earned run average (ERA) in the American League twice, in 2010 then again in 2014
- Pitched a perfect game on Aug. 15, 2012. (To date this has been accomplished by only 23 pitchers since 1869).
He also is one of 95 pitchers to ever have thrown an immaculate inning ~ which means he retired the side on 3 strikeouts on the minimum number of 9 pitches.
The trouble, according to people who think they are Hall of Fame gatekeepers, is his shortened career. King Felix was dominant in his 20s. Starting at age 31 he found all sorts of trouble and by 34 was unsigned (since spring 2021 he has been a free agent).
The Seattle Mariners are a relatively young baseball club, starting in 1977. Still, they had some notable pitchers including Randy Johnson, Mark Langston, and Jamie Moyer. Still, Hernandez set notable club records including:
Most wins: 168
Lowest ERA: 3.32
Games started: 397
ERA 2014: 2.14
Shutouts 2012: 5
He even hit. His first home run was a grand slam, in 2008, becoming the first American League pitcher to hit a slam since 1971.
For good reason, Seattle fans used to mark the schedule for when King Felix was scheduled to pitch, then packed the stands of Safeco Field.
Once Hernandez began dominating MLB hitters, the club marketed around him. In May 2011 the club set up a special cheering section, called “King’s Court,” near the left-field foul pole. It was the first time a major league club had set up a promotion for a single popular player. By season’s end the club added a third section (so they were Sections 148, 149, and 150).
For a discounted ticket, fans received a “King Felix” tee-shirt, and a yellow placard with a big, bold “K” to hold up with each strikeout. The sections often were filled by about 1,500 fans when Hernandez pitched.
Most baseball fanatics agree that Hernandez was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career, except that he suddenly became much less effective, basically from 2016 to his final MLB game in 2019. Injuries and troubles with his throwing shoulder not only forced him to miss a significant amount of games, starting around 2016; it ultimately forced him from major-league mounds around age 33.
The shoulder troubles included right shoulder inflammation in 2017; right biceps tendinitis, and then shoulder bursitis, later that same season. After years as a workhorse, his arm mysteriously ran out of gas, and by late 2018 he was pulled from the starting rotation, then shifted to a relief role. (He pitched all of 1 game in his career as a reliever).
The 2019 season ended up being Hernandez’s last with the Mariners, and, ultimately, the last of his days playing in major league stadiums. He had contracts with the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles in 2020 and 2021, but did not pitch for the big league club.
In 2019, King Felix became the 6th-youngest player in MLB history to achieve 2,500 strikeouts. He also represented Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic in 2009, and then again in 2017.
When he debuted his fastball could reach 100 mph, but eventually, he became known as a ground ball pitcher with a side benefit of striking batters out. He relied on a sinker ball, or 2-seam fastball, mostly. The sinking action made it rare for hitters to elevate the ball into the air.
Within weeks of each other early in the 2016 season, Hernandez claimed the Mariners’ franchise records for strikeouts and wins. On April 23 that year, he claimed his 2,163rd strikeout as a Mariner, surpassing Randy Johnson. On May 9 he won his 146th game, passing Jamie Moyer for the top slot.
In short, he’s a Seattle Mariners legend. However, in terms of the MLB’s Hall of Fame, consider these comments on baseball message boards online:
“Not even close. He doesn’t stack up to a HoF starting pitcher in terms of basic stats, advanced stats, counting stats, or rate stats.”
Said another baseball fan: “Yeah would have been first ballot if he avoided injuries.”