Newham on moving up Felix
Ahhh, the Seattle Times. Blaine Newham’s column today advocates starting Felix.
If it were any other sport, Felix Hernandez would be penciled into this season’s starting rotation for the Seattle Mariners.
Hey, here’s the thing, and I’m not sure if you’re up on this… those other sports don’t have minor league systems. Football has a practice squad, that’s pretty much it. Basketball teams don’t have many levels of quality leagues they can advance prospects through.
Felix Hernandez will be 19 on April 8, the day the Mariners play the fourth game of the season against Texas at Safeco Field.
I’d hand Hernandez the ball. The fourth spot in the rotation is perfect for him, perfect for the top-rated pitching prospect in baseball, perfect for what may well be a once-in-a-decade talent.
The fourth spot? Why the fourth spot? Is there something about the fourth spot that makes it special — perfect — for a once-in-a-decade talent?
I’ve never understood the weird fixation on 1/2/3/4/5 “roles” as if those pitchers did different things. The ace v ace thing happens once at the start of the season and then everyone’s rotations drift apart. The #5 guy might be someone who can pitch out of the bullpen if you’re going to skip them when you can, but almost everyone sticks to a strict 5-man rotation now, so that’s not as important either. And for any given team, there are other considerations that tie into team construction, like G/F pitchers, L/R, whatever.
But all five starters have the same job. There’s no reason a pitcher that does well in the second slot would do worse in the third, or better in the fourth. The rotation slots are almost titles. They have no effect on a pitcher’s ability to perform.
There might be, frankly, less pressure on him knowing he was in the big leagues than there would be on him trying to get there from Tacoma, especially on a cold, rainy night.
What? How… what?
And then — it’s not important.
What’s bizarre aboutt his article is that the Mariners come off, organizationally, as well-prepared and intelligent. They’ve considered the possibility that he’s going to light it up in spring training. They want to continue to closely monitor his usage, and protect his health. They don’t want to rush him.
Yet here’s Newham arguing, who’s convinced that King Felix should be the #4 starter (again, why #4?) based on… I don’t know what, a quick persual of the stat lines and a read-through of a Baseball America profile (or our site, possibly). He’ll mention arbitration, etc, without really touching on why that’s important (King Felix facing free agency in, say, five years at *24* with his best years likely still way ahead of him) and what issues declaring him the starter right now creates for the team.
“Why won’t you put Felix Hernandez in the starting rotation?”
“Well, Blaine, that may happen, but there are a couple of excellent reasons why we’re reluctant to do that.”
“You and your excellent reasons! I’m going to go write a column that shows you’re taking a responsible and reasonable approach! And I’ll argue against it!”