Happy Birthday to the King

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In the bottom of the 10th inning Jim Presley strolled to the plate against the California Angels with the bases jammed and two outs. Presley had already launched a 2-run rocket in the bottom of the 9th inning to tie the game and now was looking to win it for the Mariners. Grizzled mound veteran Ken Forsch tried to sneak a belt-high two strike offering past the slugging third baseman when Presley cranked it over the wall in straightaway left field to deliver an Opening Day victory for the Seattle Mariners while sending over 42,000 Kingdome onlookers into frenzied bliss. Presley marked April 8, 1986 as a day to cherish in Mariners lore.

Fans had no way to know what else would happen on April 8, 1986 that would change the course of Mariners history forever. Felix Abraham Hernandez was born in Valencia, Carabob, Venezuela. Fast forward to today and Felix will be celebrating his 30th birthday. While Felix takes time to blow out his candles, we will reflect on what has been one of the most amazing pre-30 career a pitcher has ever enjoyed.

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Felix already peppers the Mariners’ records books. He has thrown more innings than any other pitcher in M’s history.

  1. Felix Hernandez 2,268.1
  2. Jamie Moyer 2,093
  3. Randy Johnson 1,838.1

He is rapidly closing in on the M’s strikeout record.

  1. Randy Johnson 2,162
  2. Felix Hernandez 2,148
  3. Jamie Moyer 1,239
  4. Mark Langston 1,078

He also is on the cusp of claiming the most wins in Mariners history.

  1. Jamie Moyer 145
  2. Felix Hernandez 143
  3. Randy Johnson 130
  4. Freddy Garcia 76

However, his record reach expands far beyond the exclusivity of the Mariners. Felix has amazingly fanned the fourth most hitters before the age of 30 in baseball history.

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Felix Hernandez signed with the Mariners on July 4, 2002 and embarked on a brief minor league career. He never made more than 15 starts in any one place as he breezed through Everett, Wisconsin, Inland Empire, San Antonio and Tacoma. Felix took the ball for the first time in the Big Leagues on August 4, 2005 at the age of 19. He would never leave the Big League rotation again as he started the final 12 games of the season and posted an impressive 2.67 ERA.

The following season, as a 20-year-old, Felix started 31 games. Since then he has extended his streak to 10 seasons in a row taking the ball 30 or more times. The King has started 335 times before the age of 30 which puts him in elite company compared pitchers from the last 100 years.

  1. Bert Blyleven 382
  2. Walter Johnson 381
  3. Catfish Hunter 379
  4. Don Drysdale 366
  5. Hal Newhouser 342
  6. Ken Holtzman 336
  7. Felix Hernandez 335
  8. Joe Coleman 328
  9. Milt Pappas 326

However, the Felix story goes far beyond simply number of starts and number of innings. His outstanding performance within those starts and innings is what is so impressive.  He has been selected to six All-Star games and claimed the 2010 Cy Young Award. He has won two ERA titles and has received MVP votes in five separate seasons. He has tossed a perfect game and has already complied 34 double-digit strikeout games. For pitchers who started their careers after 1970 with at least 300 starts his 3.11 career ERA trails only Pedro Martinez (2.93).

  1. Pedro Martinez 2.93
  2. Felix Hernandez 3.11
  3. Roger Clemens 3.12
  4. Greg Maddux 3.16

Felix entered Major League Baseball as a 19-year old armed with a blazing fastball that reached the upper 90’s. Over the years he has transformed himself into the definition of a pitcher. He now unleashes an exquisite arsenal featuring a devastating changeup and knee-buckling curveball while calling upon command and veteran guile. His evolution as a pitcher has been as remarkable as the numbers he has produced.

Today, Felix celebrates his 30th birthday with praise for all that he has accomplished and optimism for what lies ahead.

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