When a pitcher goes 13-12 one season and then 14-12 the next, you presume you are either dealing with a knuckleballer or a pretty average pitcher. You would be wrong in both cases when that pitcher is the Mariners' Felix Hernandez. Last season, King Felix had a groundbreaking season by virtue of his winning the Cy Young Award despite his .520 winning percentage. Yes, his 2.27 ERA was outstanding, but voters really started paying attention to stats such as WHIP (1.957), hits per 9 innings (7.0), and Quality Start percentage (88%).
This season, Felix is still pitching for the last-place Mariners, and his winning percentage has "leaped" to .538 but, Hernandez is not the dominant force he was last year. Truth be told there are many stats that are so close it's hard to see the reason why. His strikeout to walk ratio is the same 3.31. His strikeouts per 9 innings are actually up from 8.4 to 8.9. His WHIP is still a very good 1.173. And while he led the league last season with a 6.2 WAR, his 5.0 WAR is still good for seventh in the league this year.
For me, the biggest difference this season is in his batting average against which is still a .237 figure that other pitchers would envy, but it's up .025 from last season. The right hander is up against righties, .212 to to .236, and up against lefties, .213 to .238.
In terms of Felix's pitches, the biggest difference is in his use of his fastball and his changeup:
- In 2010 - 25.0% of his pitches were fastballs and 15.9% were changeups
- In 2011 - 17.1% of his pitches are fastballs and 22.0% are changeups
The differential is even larger against lefties:
- In 2010 - 30.9% of his pitches against lefties were fastballs and 15.9% were changeups
- In 2011 - 17.4% of his pitches against lefties are fastballs and 22.9% are changeups
Felix's fastball is not as effective this season
The difference for Felix in his fastball this season is significant as he is not busting that pitch inside and tying up batters, but is letting that fastball get to the fat part of the bat.
Lefties hit .191 against the fastball in 2010.
You can see why lefties are hitting .295 against Felix's fastball this season as his location has spread all over the plate.
Righthanded batters were held to .154 in 2010.
Felix's numbers against righties are still a great .186 this season by any measure except when comparing him to last season.
When you look at Hernandez' release velocity, in both years you see large red blobs on the heat map, so I don't think there is much difference in the speed of his fastball, but we can clearly see the story this year is placement and because of that, there's no reason to think that we won't see a repeat of 2010 next season.