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2011 Fantasy Projections, No. 29: Why Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez Is Due For A Regression

Sat, Feb 5, 2011

Big Board, Player Projections

Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.

Felix Hernandez has made great strides over the last three years. In each season since 2008, King Felix has increased his innings pitched and strikeout rate. Likewise, he’s improved his walk rate, batting average against, ERA and WHIP each year.

The Mariners’ right-hander had his best season yet in 2010, posting the lowest ERA in baseball (2.27) to go a long with stellar peripherals:

  • Strikeout rate: 8.36 K/9
  • Walk rate: 2.52 BB/9
  • Batting average against: .210
  • WHIP: 1.06

Hernandez boasted the fifth-best fastball (25.5 runs above average) and the second-best change-up (18.7 runs above average) in the majors last season, while showing great improvement with his slider.

So why is Felix just the fourth-ranked starting pitcher on our 2011 big board?

It’s mostly because of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.

For example, the three pitchers we have ranked ahead of Felix (Halladay, Wainwright and Lincecum) all pitch in the National League, while Hernandez resides in the hitter-friendly American League.

Also, Felix pitches for one of the worst offensive teams in baseball. It’s now a well-known fact that pitchers have very little control over their win totals, and Hernandez’s 2010 campaign was a great example of that. Despite posting the best ERA in baseball, Felix won just 13 games. This was a result of only 3.10 runs of support per nine innings, the second-lowest total among qualified starters. This clearly isn’t his own fault, but just like the NL/AL factor, it’s something to consider.

There’s also a luck factor involved. This isn’t to say Felix isn’t wildly talented, but his .263 BABIP was the 11th-lowest among qualified starters last season. Hernandez is a ground-ball pitcher, so low BABIPs are more likely. Still, a clip in the .290 range is reasonable to expect for him this season.

The sub-2.50 curse is also worth mentioning here, especially in Hernandez’s case. Since 2000, there have been 15 instances of a sub-2.50 ERA (minimum 150 innings). Only three times was a pitcher able to lower his ERA in the following season. Felix Hernandez was one of those pitchers, as he dropped his ERA from 2.49 in 2009 to 2.27 last season.

While this feat is quite impressive, a regression to the mean is likely. This isn’t to say Felix will lose his way. Heck, the kid is just entering his age-25 season, and he’s already pitching among the league’s elites. Recent history, however, indicates at least a slight regression in terms of ERA.

  IP W K/9 BB/9 ERA WHIP
2010 stats 249.2 13 8.36 2.52 2.27 1.06
3-year average 229.2 14 8.15 2.89 2.69 1.18
2011 FBI Forecast 231 16 8.30 2.70 2.90 1.14

 

Image courtesy of: Mark Sobba

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