After yesterday’s meltdown on the mound, a lot of people expressed frustration with Felix, and rightfully so. He got mad that he didn’t get a pitch that he hadn’t been getting the entire game, and at best, he might get 30% of the time. In that instance, he was asking for the umpire to help him out, rather than just doing the job himself, and when he didn’t get that help, he caved, throwing a pair of bad pitches that essentially ended the game.
It was frustrating to watch. It’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t happen – not in a playoff race, not with our best pitcher on the mound.
But, reading through some people’s reactions, with comparisons to Freddy Garcia and predictions of a guy who will never live up to his hype, I realized that there’s still a need for some understanding of what Felix’s immaturity actually means for his development. So, the following is a list of performances by the 10 best pitchers in baseball today, as determined by me, during their age 21 seasons:
Johan Santana, Minnesota – 86 IP, 6.49 ERA 102 H, 54 BB, 64 K, 11 HR
Brandon Webb, U. Of Kentucky – 112 IP, 4.58 ERA, 123 H, 41 BB, 123 K, 14 HR
Roy Halladay, Syracuse (AAA) – 116 IP, 3.79 ERA, 107 H, 53 BB, 71 K, 11 HR
Jake Peavy, San Diego – 98 IP, 4.52 ERA, 106 H, 33 BB, 90 K, 11 HR
Ben Sheets, Stockton (A+) – 28 IP, 3.58 ERA, 23 HH, 14 BB, 28 K, 1 HR
Erik Bedard, Delmarva (A-) – 111 IP, 3.57 ERA, 98 H, 35 BB, 131 K, 2 HR
CC Sabathia, Cleveland – 180 IP, 4.39 ERA, 149 H, 95 BB, 171 K, 19 HR
Josh Beckett, Portland (AA) – 74 IP, 1.82 ERA, 50 H, 19 BB, 102 K, 8 HR
John Lackey, Lake Elsinore (A+) – 101 IP, 3.40 ERA, 94 H, 42 BB, 74 K, 9 HR
John Smoltz, Atlanta – 64 IP, 5.48 ERA, 74 H, 33 BB, 37 K, 10 HR
Now, I ask you, 24 hours after getting frustrated with Felix again, which of those players showed major league poise and composure at age 21? Only Santana, Peavy, Sabathia, and Smoltz were in the majors, and none of them were matching Felix’s success – Santana and Smoltz were downright terrible. Brandon Webb was struggling to get college hitters out, Roy Halladay was posting pedestrian numbers in Triple-A, and Ben Sheets, Erik Bedard, and John Lackey were all still in various stages of A-ball. Only Josh Beckett was having anything close to a great year, and he was doing it across three levels of the minor leagues. He did make four impressive end of the season starts… and then watched his ERA balloon up to 4.02 in the majors during his age 22 season.
Felix is ahead of every single one of these guys. All of them. At age 23, where Felix will be in two years, Roy Halladay posted the worst ERA in major league history for any pitcher who was allowed to throw more than 50 innings in a season – 10.67. He was so horrible that the Blue Jays sent him back to A-ball, had him start all over, and forced him to earn his way back to the major leagues. You think Felix is never going to get it because of his start yesterday – what on earth would you have thought of Roy Halladay in 2000?
Is Felix pitching as well as we all want him to? No, obviously not. Is he pitching as well as he’s capable of? No. Is it frustrating to watch? Of course.
But keep in mind that you’d have been frustrated watching any of the ten best pitchers in baseball at age 21, too. After a mass exodus from the Felix bandwagon yesterday, there’s plenty of leg room now. I suggest getting back on board and enjoying the ride, because Felix is still going to be a great, great pitcher – we may have assumed that he’d get there faster than he has, but that’s our fault, not his.