Felix Hernandez is in the midst of a hot streak, the likes of which have not been seen in baseball for years. We’ve known for years that Felix is good, that Felix is one of the best in the game, but his recent run has been historic – possibly even more historic than the perfect game he threw last night.
On June 28th, Felix threw a 1-0 complete game shutout against the Boston Red Sox. He struck out 13 and only walked one. Three starts later, he did the same to the Texas Rangers, this time striking out 12 while not issuing a single walk. Four more starts later, he shut out the New York Yankees 1-0, and last night he threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Since June 28th, 2012, Felix has thrown four complete game shutouts, all against teams with (at least preseason) playoff expectations.
In that ten game time period, Felix has an ERA of 1.62. Opponents only hold a .428 OPS off of him and he has struck out 73 while only walking 13. In ten starts, he has only allowed two home runs.
When the media talks about the best pitchers in baseball, they’ll lump Felix in with Jered Weaver, Clayton Kershaw, David Price and Justin Verlander. All four of those pitchers play for better teams and, understandably, have a better win-loss record than Felix, which makes his stats less appealing to the general public. How does Felix stack up, however, in complete game shutouts?
Let’s start with Felix’s A.L. West rival, Jered Weaver. He has thrown two shutouts this year. All year. He only threw two last year and didn’t throw one in 2010. In his 6+ year career, Weaver has thrown six shutouts.
What about Clayton Kershaw? Kershaw leads the National League with two shutouts this year. Two. He also only had two last year and has five over his 4+ year career. David Price? One shutout this year, two in his career.
Justin Verlander, reigning A.L. Cy Young award winner and MVP, surely has had a better stretch than Felix’s current run of domination. Not quite. He has one shutout in 2012. He had two last year, which is his career high.
Derek Holland and James Shields led the A.L. with four shutouts each last year, but both did it over a longer period of time than Felix and with much less domination in between. Cliff Lee actually managed six shutouts over nine games in 2011, but had three rough starts during that time period in which he gave up 6, 5 and 4 runs.
The previous time anybody had more than four shutouts in one year, even, was in 2005 when Dontrelle Willis had 5. Willis started the year with back-to-back shutouts, but the other three were spread out throughout the rest of the regular season. A.J. Burnett had five back in 2002… but one of those was six innings and he never had nearly as dominant of a run as Felix is on right now.
Not even Pedro Martinez was able to accomplish what Felix is making look easy every fifth night. In Pedro’s 23-4 season with the Red Sox in 1999, he had four shutouts all year long.
Ironically, the last pitcher to historically be on a similar run to Felix is none other than Randy Johnson back in 1998. He threw back-to-back shutouts for the Mariners on July 11 and July 16, and then after being traded to the Houston Astros, threw two more back-to-back on August 7 and August 12. Just for good measure, he threw one two starts later on August 28, took a break of one more game, and threw another on September 7, his sixth shutout in twelve games.
Felix Hernandez, right now, is the best pitcher in baseball. It seems fitting that the only player to match Hernandez’ current streak is Randy Johnson, whom the Mariners inducted into their Hall of Fame just a few short weeks ago.
If you’re in Seattle and you have the means, you would be foolish to not clear your schedule every time Felix takes the mound. The run he is on right now is one of the best in decades, and the chances are high you’d regret your decision to not go out to the park. You just might miss another perfect game.