Saturday, May 4, 2013
Nothing like watching King Felix
By Matt Meyers
Like Mr. Schoenfield, I'm normally the kind of writer who will come at you from an analytical angle. Not tonight.
Tonight, I'm here to celebrate the sheer joy of watching one of the best pitchers in the game, Felix Hernandez, who absolutely dominated the Toronto Blue Jays with eight shutout innings Friday night.
There may be better pitchers than King Felix -- emphasis on may -- but there is not another hurler who is as aesthetically pleasing.
Let's start with the windup. He has that Luis Tiant-esque turn toward center field that not only serves a practical purpose, in that it allows him to hide the ball, but also oozes confidence. It almost feels like he's doing it because it makes him look cool (which it does).
Then there is the stuff. It's been noted that Hernandez does not throw as hard as he used to: Five years ago his fastball sat around 95 mph but is now around 91. However, that hasn't seemed to diminish his effectiveness.
This is subjective, but I don't think there is a pitcher who commands a multipitch arsenal as well as Hernandez does. He'll throw a two-seamer and a four-seamer to both sides of the plate while also mixing in a slider, cutter and that devastating changeup. In his eight innings of work Friday, he scattered five hits while striking out seven, walking none and throwing just 95 pitches to lower his ERA to 1.60 as the Mariners won 4-0. With that kind of efficiency, you wonder why he wasn't allowed to try to finish the game, but that's an argument for another day.
Not since Pedro Martinez can I recall a right-handed pitcher who was able to move and locate the ball with such command. Among lefties, Cliff Lee comes close, and Zack Greinke is a righty who has flashed that ability, but they simply lack a certain je ne sais quoi.
Sure, maybe the Mariners' offense stinks and the club is destined for a fourth-place finish. But if you are not watching Hernandez every time he takes the hill, you are missing out on one baseball's best visceral experiences.