Felix gets King's ransom from Mariners

February, 12, 2013
2/12/13
3:56
PM ET

Getty Images/Otto Greule Jr.Felix Hernandez's fan club won't have to worry about his going anywhere.
Felix Hernandez was two years from free agency but the Seattle Mariners didn’t want to wait. They ripped up the Cy Young winner's contract and signed him to a seven-year extension worth $175 million, the ninth-largest contract ever given in terms of total value and the largest ever given to a pitcher.

The average annual value of Hernandez’s new contract is also the largest ever given to a pitcher on a multi-year deal. Roger Clemens is the only pitcher with a higher average annual value -- he made $28 million on a prorated one-year contract in 2007.

This is the largest contract ever issued by the Mariners.

The franchise hasn’t been successful in quite a while. Only three teams -- the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays -- have gone longer without a playoff appearance than the Mariners, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2001.

Fantastic 4-Year Stretch
Hernandez ranks among baseball's best pitchers over the last four seasons.

He leads the league in innings pitched since fully establishing himself as a frontline arm in 2009.

He’s been the sixth-most productive pitcher since the start of 2009 using Wins Above Replacement, including a high of 6.8 in 2010, the year he won the AL Cy Young Award.

He also ranks among the leaders in several other categories, as noted in the chart on the right.

Historical Impact
More impressively, Hernandez has thrown more regular-season innings through his age-26 season than any active pitcher in baseball -- a whopping 15 percent more than the next-closest, CC Sabathia, did through that same season.

Using WAR, he ranks among the best in recent history. Among right-handed starting pitchers to begin their career in 1960 or later, Hernandez’s 31.5 WAR through his age-26 season ranks seventh, just ahead of Pedro Martinez.

Reason for Concern?
Hernandez hasn’t been quite as dominant as he was during his Cy Young season in 2010 – the difference between his fastball and changeup is not what it once was, and it’s causing a diminished effectiveness for both pitches.

His fastball velocity has dropped for three consecutive seasons, falling by more than one mile per hour in 2012. But his changeup velocity has remained relatively constant, meaning the difference in velocity between the two pitches has fallen each season since 2009.

This past season, the two pitches averaged a difference of just 3.3 MPH and his average fastball was the lowest of his career. As a result, he allowed more home runs against his changeup (four) this season than he did in the previous three seasons combined.

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