Mike Trout is widely considered the best baseball player alive. He’s a high-average hitter who also mashes long balls and draws his share of walks. He plays top-notch defense at an up-the-middle position, and is still in his early-early twenties. Troy Tulowitzki may be pacing baseball in the early going, but ask anyone who the game’s best is and odds are they’ll tell you it’s Mike Trout.
Felix Hernandez is considered one of the best pitchers alive. He’s a high-strikeout guy who walks virtually no one. He throws four plus pitches, including an elite changeup. He’s now completed a big chunk of his tenth MLB season, yet only turned 28 a matter of weeks ago. And he’s currently pacing all MLB arms with 2.8 WAR. Ask anyone who the game’s best pitcher is and you’ll get a mixed bag of responses. But maybe everyone should say “Felix.” Because, the answer is probably Felix.
Felix fell one out shy of a complete game last night, and didn’t lose his shutout bid until the very last hitter he faced. Over the course of his almost-nine innings the King struck out nine Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and walked only two. He allowed four hits, including Trout’s ninth-inning single and the Albert Pujols double that scored him. Before that it took Erick Aybar‘s single/stolen base sequence for the Halos to get a guy to second base. This was Felix at his most Felix. This was Felix the cat, slapping around the mouse that is the Angels.
Keep in mind that the Angels have baseball’s most productive position players, as their offensive unit currently leads baseball with 12.8 WAR. Their team 109 wRC+ is third-best in baseball, and really you can go ahead and pick your favorite offensive stat since the Angels are probably near the top of the league in that, too. That’s who Felix just shut down. That’s the kind of team that Felix can manhandle, because Felix is better at pitching than almost/all hitters are at hitting.
We’re used to this, of course. That doesn’t mean we should be – Felix is a freak, and we should never take his freakiness for granted. Amazing pitchers stop being amazing all the time – Cliff Lee‘s hurt despite never having been particularly injury-prone, and nobody’s exactly calling Justin Verlander the best anymore. Felix has been doing this for ten years, and he’s 28. That’s unreal. His FIP is a career best. His K/BB ratio? Also never been better. Felix Hernandez has been the face of the franchise and one of the top talents in MLB his whole career. He’s still getting better, as he’s just now reaching his peak. That’s nuts.
There was another guy who did good things in this game, and that guy is Mike Zunino. The M’s catcher drove in two with a second-inning single and slugged a solo homer in the eighth. Felix doesn’t always get a lot of run support, but when he gets any at all it’s usually en0ugh. In this instance, it was enough. The team got to tally a win on a day in which Felix was absolutely amazing. Against a top offense that happens to reside in the Mariners’ division. Yeah, this win felt pretty damn good.
Brandon Maurer vs. Matt Shoemaker, 7:10pm, Safeco Field. Alright, Maurer. Deep breath. There’s no guarantee this is going to go horribly. There are never any guarantees in baseball, after all. Another deep breath? Another deep breath. Go get ‘em, Brandon.