Will King Felix Ascend to His Throne in 2009?
On Monday I predicted Roy Halladay to win the Cy Young Award this season, and declared his biggest competition to be C.C. Sabathia. But those two are safe bets to win or compete for the award. The most potentially profitable bet could be the man in the picture below, Felix Hernandez of Seattle.
The Mariners were just awful last season, finishing 61-101 and dead last in the American League. Their trade for Erik Bedard has so far been a disaster, but they did not panic by letting him loose when they could have. They have shipped away a lot of young talent in the process, but kept the man they call King Felix. He does still have plenty of room for improvement. But he will turn 23 on April 8, making him one of the best young pitchers in the game. It may not be long before he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, period.
Some believe his big breakthrough could come as early as this season. While his walks took a jump in 2008, his ERA went down for the third consecutive season and he topped 200 innings for the first time in his career with no major injury issues. The only problem with Hernandez at this point is maximizing his command. He walked 3 or more batters in 17 of his 31 starts in 2008, and had his third straight season of a WHIP of at least 1.34. He was a bit of a victim of bad luck, as batters hit .323 on balls in play against him, well-above the major league average. If that settles closer to the league average- and if he cuts his walks in half- get ready for a huge step forward for Hernandez. The fact that he dominated for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic is a sign he may be poised to take that step.
The Mariners’ marketing department knows how good King Felix already is. They know that in this economy and with this team they’ll need to market him as best as they can to put asses in the seats. This amusing new commercial features him and some unfortunate Colorado Rockies.
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