Will Seattle Mariners ace pitcher Felix Hernandez ever get a chance to pitch in the post season? With a 98-76 record and perfect game on his resume, Hernandez has never taken the mound in theplayoffs during his eight year career. Now, that he is signed to a $175 million contract that runs through 2019, will the Mariners put together a team good enough to showcase his talents in October?
Hernandez is still a young man at 26. Though he began as an 18 year old phenom, Hernandez has plenty of good pitching left in his right arm. In 2012, he threw five shutouts which included his perfect game. When Hernandez is on he is literally unhittable.
Most of the time, he has no choice. The Mariners finished dead last in the AL West last season 19 games behind the division winning Oakland Athletics. If not for Hernandez it could have been much worse. Seattle’s offense did not boast a single player with a batting average above .260. Hernandez took the mound knowing that he had to shut out the opposition for the Mariners to have any chance of winning. This is a huge burden for any pitcher and Hernandez’s record bears out that he has handled it as well as anyone could.
In the future, Seattle will continue to count on their ace and hope to put a quality team around him. The Mariners best finish since Hernandez joined them in 2005 was a second place showing in 2007. They have not finished in the first division since.
However, there may be signs that Seattle is improving. In the last three seasons their win total has gone from 61 to 67 to 75 while competing in the tough AL West. If the Mariners can continue at this pace, then they could be a 90 to 95 win team by 2014 which would be enough to challenge for a wildcard spot. All Seattle has to do is come up with some offense and another quality pitcher to go along with Hernandez.
Even if the Mariners improve, they have to deal with the A’s, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels. Each of these teams finished above .500 in 2012. The Rangers are two years removed from winning back to back AL pennants. If the A’s, Rangers and Angels can sustain their success, Seattle will have to really improve to catch and surpass them.
With seven years left on his contract, Hernandez has plenty of time to help the Mariners get to the post season. Though it may not seem possible now, if there is one thing that everyone should know by now it’s never count anyone or any team out. With some luck and good play anyone can make it to the post season.
Hernandez has not been part of a team that’s been lucky and good yet. Only time will tell if Seattle can put together one that is before Hernandez’s career comes to an end or he moves on.