Feb 7, 2013, 4:01 PM EST
If you had to bet big on a pitcher for the next seven years, Felix Hernandez seems as good a choice as any. He hasn’t been in Justin Verlander‘s league these last two years, but he also hasn’t been extended to 270 innings per year like Verlander has. And while I think I’d choose Clayton Kershaw over anyone, I do feel a little bit safer trusting someone with Hernandez’s thick build over the slighter left-hander. I think Kershaw is the better bet to contend for Cy Young awards deep into the decade, but Hernandez is the more likely of the two to still be throwing 220-230 excellent innings per season.
Still, it’s all just a guess. Pitching is inherently risky. Unlikely candidates have survived the rigors and won 200 games, and some who look like they’ll last forever are gone in an instant.
Since the expansion era started in 1961, Hernandez, with 32 WAR, is one of a dozen pitchers to have racked up at least 28 WAR through age 26 (using the Baseball-Reference version). Here are the other 11, their WARs through age 26 and their totals from age 27 onward.
Bert Blyleven – 47 WAR – 165-137, 3.71 ERA, 109 ERA+, 44 WAR
Tom Seaver – 35 WAR – 216-151, 3.07 ERA, 121 ERA+, 66 WAR
Dwight Gooden – 35 WAR – 62-59, 4.45 ERA, 99 ERA+, 11 WAR
Roger Clemens – 34 WAR – 259-139, 3.15 ERA, 144 ERA+, 99 WAR
Bret Saberhagen – 34 WAR – 70-47, 3.49 ERA, 124 ERA+. 22 WAR
Frank Tanana – 33 WAR – 138-158, 4.03 ERA, 100 ERA+, 20 WAR
Dave Stieb – 32 WAR – 95-70, 3.57 ERA, 116 ERA+. 22 WAR
Fernando Valenzuela – 30 WAR – 60-71, 4.29 ERA, 90 ERA+, 4 WAR
Pedro Martinez – 29 WAR – 135-54, 2.89 ERA, 160 ERA+, 53 WAR
Dennis Eckersley – 29 WAR – 99-99, 3.59 ERA, 114 ERA+, 30 WAR
Kevin Appier – 29 WAR – 109-93, 4.16 ERA, 112 ERA+, 23 WAR
Of the 11 best young starters in the last 50 years, just three accomplished more from age 27 onward than they did through age 26. There are three Hall of Famers on the list in Blyleven, Seaver and Eckersley and two more guys with Hall of Fame numbers in Clemens and Martinez. None of the other six came anywhere close to getting elected.
My feeling is that the Mariners should have waited on a Hernandez extension. He was under control for two more years at a total of $39.5 million. In essence, today’s seven-year, $175 million contract is really a five-year, $135.5 million extension. In guaranteeing Hernandez $27.1 million per year for those five years, the Mariners are giving him 10 percent more than any pitcher has ever gotten in a long-term contract. CC Sabathia‘s Yankees renegotiated deal, Cole Hamels‘ Phillies extension and Zack Greinke‘s free agent deal with the Dodgers were all for $24.4 million-$24.5 million per year. The Mariners weren’t getting any kind of discount here and thus should have revisited extension talks next winter.
On the other hand, it’s not really all that outrageous of a contract. Had Hernandez been a free agent this winter, he surely would have gotten $200 million on the open market. There’s also something to be said for a move like this reassuring the fanbase. The semi-annual “should Felix go” columns are out the window now, and eager Yankees and Red Sox fans will have to turn their attention elsewhere in search of prey. Salaries are likely to keep going up, so if Felix stays healthy, there’s a good chance he’ll be worth the money. The Mariners’ future through 2019 now hinges on it.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:41 PM EST
Is this the beginning of the end for the Rays?
Dec 18, 2014, 6:07 PM EST
Johnson missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late April.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
Does Ichiro really have one more year left in him?
Dec 18, 2014, 5:40 PM EST
Veteran catching depth.
Dec 18, 2014, 5:17 PM EST
Giavotella is a career .315 hitter with an .835 OPS and as many walks as strikeouts in nearly 2,000 plate appearances at Triple-A.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:47 PM EST
He’s probably not the one who knocks. Indeed, this crew seemed so amateurish he probably called first to make sure it was a good time for everyone.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:17 PM EST
It started with an argument over candy.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:34 PM EST
Between Cuba and North Korea, it’s been a big couple of days for communism. Let’s see what communists thought about baseball once upon a time.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:18 PM EST
Medlen missed all of this year recovering from his second Tommy John elbow surgery.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
What a difference a day makes.
Dec 18, 2014, 2:38 PM EST
Rollins is not tied to Kemp, at least not entirely.
Dec 18, 2014, 1:06 PM EST
Baseball card collecting in the post-bicycle spokes, pre-crash world of the 1980s.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:17 PM EST
And the Padres “continue to consult medical experts.”
Dec 18, 2014, 11:39 AM EST
Let’s pump the brakes a bit on the imminent MLB takeover of Cuba.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:47 AM EST
Quotes from manager Buck Showalter.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
The city council will vote on the deal allowing the team to look for a new stadium site.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
Okajima, who pitched six years in the majors for the Red Sox and briefly the A’s, has signed with the Yokohama Bay Stars.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:58 AM EST
He profiled as a back-of-the-rotation starter in the United States.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:41 AM EST
It won’t be a free agent free-for-all and it likely won’t be a draft. So how will the Cuban baseball players come to the United States?
Dec 18, 2014, 8:55 AM EST
Sadly, it is not Rudy Law. Though it is one of his teammates.
- St. Petersburg City Council votes down deal to allow Rays to look for new stadium site 1
- What will the future of Cuban players in MLB look like? 24
- Royals sign Edinson Volquez for two years, $20 million 28
- Rays, Padres, Nationals agree to 11-player trade 97
- Sergio Romo re-signs with the Giants for $15 million 15
- So, apparently we’re sweating the Matt Kemp physical now 46
- The United States will seek to normalize relations with Cuba 144
- Marlins complete Michael Morse deal: two years, $16 million 19
- Baseball’s highest-ranking Hispanic woman employee sues for discrimination (163)
- The United States will seek to normalize relations with Cuba (144)
- Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Rangers, and Astros interested in Phillies’ Cole Hamels (110)
- Done Deal: Yoenis Cespedes and two players traded to Detroit for Rick Porcello and a minor leaguer (105)
- Rays, Padres, Nationals agree to 11-player trade (97)