Thursday, January 24, 2008

Last Chance For Felix?

With pitchers and catchers reporting in a few weeks I was flipping through some old Sporting News Fantasy Baseball Owners Manuals, recognized as a premier publication for annual projections and player analysis. On the surface the only thing connecting fantasy baseball with the real are stats. However predicting performance is similar in MLB as it is in the fantasy world. Performance projections are everything when a GM is evaluating his roster for the upcoming season. So it struck me how nobody, not even Felix himself, is able to project with any confidence how the crown jewel in the Mariner's rotation will perform in 2008.

Let's take a step back and look how the last few years have gone. After Hernandez's 2005 debut (12 G, 84.1 IP, 4-4, 77K, 2.67 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), here is what the writers at TSN projected the last two offseasons:
2006: The teenager has superstar stuff and a mental toughness that belies his
lack of experience. He throws hard (98 MPH) and has a terrific curveball
and a tantalizing changeup. His strikeout-to-walk-ratio is already solid
and will get even better. Nine of his 12 starts were quality starts.
Bottom Line: King Felix already is a No. 2 (fantasy starter) with upside.
Projected 2006 fantasy value: $20.
2006 Result: 191 IP, 12-14, 176 K, 4.52 ERA, 1.34 WHIP. Actual fantasy value: $13.

2007: Hernandez's first full season in the majors wasn't what fantasy owners had
hoped for, though he was much more effective once June arrived. He
harnessed his command in his last six starts (four walks) and at times looked
like a premier power pitcher. Bottom Line: Still not a king, but will inch
closer to power in '07. Projected 2007 fantasy value: $14.

2007 Result: 190.1, 14-7, 165 K, 3.92 ERA, 1.38 WHIP. Actual fantasy value not available yet.

2008: All I was able to dig up is that TSN has Felix ranked as the 28th best starter in baseball for 2008. Last year that was equal to a projected fantasy value around $17. Or about 15% less than they thought he would be worth two years ago.

2008 is a make or break year for Felix in the sense that he could slip back into 2006 form, or take a step forward towards becoming a #1 starter. He's very young, so that's not to say he will never develop into a top starter if he doesn't do it in 2008. But how long can someone tread water with a WHIP pushing 1.40 and still be considered a team's number one starter? (If your name is Barry Zito the answer is 3-4 seasons.) If he regresses the Hernandez situation will start to smell more and more like Freddy Garcia. And I don't mean just the stench of the bar at Jalisco's. Felix is more exciting to watch than Freddy Garcia ever was. But another mediocre season and his act will tire just as Garcia's did.


Jon Shields said...

sure, last season wasn't a legitimate ace's year, but it was hardly "mediocre". I think he'll have a big year in 08. Last year he came in focused and was amazing until he lost focus with the injury.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone remembers the dominant performance vs. Boston and then forgets just how average he was the rest of the season. I recall very clearly the waiting game on Freddy Garcia to assert his dominance on the league with his terrific stuff - and for a variety of reasons, it never really came to fruition. Let's hope Felix forges his own path to ace-dom...

PP said...

I agree that Felix wasn't bad last year. Not sure I'd say he was good though. His w/l record was certainly good. My question is not whether he's an important part of this rotation, but whether he is a 1/2 starter or if he's more of a middle of the rotation guy for a good team.