Felix Hernandez has established himself as one of the most dependable workhorses in the league. In fact, only CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander have logged more innings on the rubber since 2006, with only 10.2 innings pitched, displacing Felix from the top. Normally a consistently rigorous workload has a negative effect on pitchers, yet Felix Hernandez has managed to get better as his mileage rises.
So far in 2014, Felix is carrying career highs in both K percentage (27.3 percent) and BB percentage (4.4 percent), and matching it with a tremendous 1.92 field independent pitching (FIP.) Shockingly, he’s producing these numbers with an average fastball of 92.3 mph, a speed 1.5 mph slower than his career rate of 93.8 mph, and more than 3 mph slower than his career high in 2007 of 95.6 mph. However, while his heater has dipped in velocity, his change-up has gained velocity, as it currently sits at 89.3 mph despite a career 88.4 mph. A rare phenomenon, one that can be seen as the root of Hernandez’s increased ability to strikeout batters.
Speaking of which, Sunday afternoon featured King Felix punching out 15 batters, setting a new career high against the Tampa Bay Rays. His final K came against Yunel Escobar with a prime example of the deadliest pitch in Felix’s arsenal, his change-up.
This change-up registered 90 MPH on the radar gun, just 2 mph slower than his average fastball. Applying this much movement to a pitch moving at nearly the same speed as a straight heater is simply unfair, and will leave many batters just like Yunel – heading back to the dugout.
Felix Hernandez struck out the entire Rays lineup at least once yesterday, and armed with his change-up, his success is sure to continue well through the 2014 season.
Nick Pollack writes for Pitcher GIFs and can found making an excessive amount of GIFs on Twitter @PitcherGifs.