By Gary Hill
Felix Hernandez achieved perfection exactly one year ago to the day. The King baffled 27 Tampa Bay hitters in a row on his way to becoming just the 23rd player in Major League Baseball to ever reach the amazing feat.
It is staggering to comprehend all that Hernandez has accomplished at such a young age. The 27-year-old ace has won a Cy Young Award and secured four All-Star births. He has earned MVP votes in three different seasons and has won an ERA title. He has led the American League at one time or another in innings pitched, wins, starts, innings, hits per nine innings and home runs per nine innings.
No pitcher in the game has thrown more innings than Hernandez since 2008.
Felix Hernandez, 1,328.1
CC Sabathia, 1,324
Justin Verlander, 1,313.1
James Shields, 1,282.2
Cliff Lee, 1,266.2
Matt Cain, 1,245.2
Hernandez boasts the sixth-longest current streak of seasons with 200 or more innings pitched.
Mark Buehrle, 12
CC Sabathia, 6
Justin Verlander, 6
James Shields, 6
Matt Cain, 6
Felix Hernandez, 5
Cliff Lee, 5
Hernandez has already tossed 23 complete games in his brilliant career, which places him in a tie for ninth among active pitchers. He is only two complete games behind both Andy Pettitte and Tim Hudson. It took Hernandez 262 starts to get there. Pettitte and Hudson have started a combined 938 games.
Hernandez maintains the second-best ERA in the game since 2008 for a pitcher with at least 100 starts.
Clayton Kershaw, 2.64
Felix Hernandez, 2.84
Cliff Lee, 2.93
Adam Wainwright, 2.94
Chris Carpenter, 3.01
Roy Halladay, 3.03
Hernandez has also fanned the third most hitters in MLB since 2008.
Tim Lincecum, 1,320
Justin Verlander, 1,294
Felix Hernandez, 1,247
CC Sabathia, 1,212
Clayton Kershaw, 1,148
Since Hernandez entered baseball in 2005, no pitcher has thrown eight innings or more while yielding one run or fewer more times than him.
Felix Hernandez, 59
Roy Halladay, 54
Cliff Lee, 51
CC Sabathia, 45
Hernandez has thrown a perfect game against Tampa in Seattle. He has hurled a one-hit shutout against the eventual World Series champion Red Sox in Boston. He has fanned 12 Rangers in a game while giving up three harmless singles in nine innings. He has routinely dominated the Yankees at their place, including winning a 1-0 game while chucking a brilliant two-hitter. He has allowed two hits or fewer in games against the White Sox, Twins and Padres. His domination has spanned from coast to coast.
Hernandez has already pushed himself towards the top in numerous pitching categories in Mariners history. He is second in strikeouts, third in wins, starts and innings pitched, and second in shutouts in club history. He is tied for ninth among active pitchers with those nine shutouts.
The city of Seattle was fortunate to watch Randy Johnson transform himself from a raw thrower to Hall of Fame pitcher during his time in Seattle. He made hitters' knees quake and their hands tremble. Left-handed hitters who did not come up with an impromptu gameday backache were merely looking to survive at-bats. Success against the Big Unit was an unexpected pleasure best credited to Lady Luck.
Lightening has struck twice in Seattle. Hernandez was a baby-faced flamethrower when he first took the mound for the M's. His high-90s heat overwhelmed hitters as he worked to harness his natural abilities. As the pages of the calendar have turned, Hernandez has carved himself into one of the top pitchers in the game.
His changeup has evolved into one of the deadliest weapons in baseball. It dances like it is being influenced by remote control from the stands. The speed and grace of the pitch combine to form a freak of nature that leaves batters muttering to themselves. His variety of fastballs, devastating curve, and filthy slider combine to form an arsenal that makes trying to hit him nearly impossible. It is difficult enough to figure out what is coming next, let alone trying to put the ball in play with some sort of faint hope of reaching base.
Hernandez is, of course, at it again this year. He leads the league in ERA and innings and is second in strikeouts. He has thoroughly hurled himself into another Cy Young Award race. There have only been 16 pitchers in baseball history to take home multiple Cy Young Awards. Hernandez is looking to join the exclusive list featuring names like Carlton, Maddux, Koufax, Johnson, Seaver, Gibson, Perry and Palmer.
Hernandez is in the midst of another special season in what has already been a tremendous career. The suggestion is to enjoy it to its fullest.