Don’t Worry About Felix
After reading Jeff Sullivan’s Hey Felix, Do Better post the other day, I got thinking – certainly, there’s been a few pitchers who have come up early to exceeding amounts of hype, had some early success, but never developed into the Cy Young pitchers that people thought they could become. After all, young pitchers are unpredictable, so clearly there’d be some busts along with some booms.
So I checked, using Baseball Reference’s invaluable Play Index. I told the query to give me every pitcher who had thrown at least 540 innings from ages 20 to 22 in the majors with a strikeout rate of at least 7 K/9 IP. Basically, I just wanted a list of all the guys who pitched three full years before they turned 23 and had strikeout stuff at that age.
From 1901 to 2008, here’s the entire list.
Out of the seven guys on the list, there’s a couple of hall of famers, a guy who should be in the hall of fame, a guy who would have been had he avoided cocaine, Frank Tanana, and the two active pitchers. Tanana is clearly the worst guy on the list, and he racked up 240 wins as a slightly better than average pitcher who spent 21 years in the majors.
Sabathia’s a pretty good guy to look at the next time you find yourself frustrated with Felix’s development. In his age 20 to 22 seasons, he was significantly worse than Felix has been, and I’d say he’s turned out just fine.
I don’t really disagree with that much of what Jeff said, but there’s also the other hand – he’s the best young pitcher we’ve seen in 20 years. It’s okay to be frustrated with his inconsistency, but in the end, the accurate perspective is that Felix is off to a Hall Of Fame start to his career.