Dave · August 27, 2012 at 10:42 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

In Mariners history, there have been six seasons where a pitcher has thrown 150+ innings and posted an ERA- of 70 or below, meaning that they (and their defenders) prevented runs at a rate 30 percent better than average.

Here are those six seasons:

1997 Randy Johnson: 51 ERA-
1995 Randy Johnson: 54 ERA-
2010 Felix Hernandez: 57 ERA-
2009 Felix Hernandez: 58 ERA-
2012 Felix Hernandez: 62 ERA-
1994 Randy Johnson: 68 ERA-

Current vintage Felix fits right into the peak of Randy Johnson’s career as a Mariner. He might not be quite to 1997 RJ levels yet, but he’s close. If you didn’t get a chance to see Randy Johnson pitch back then, this is what it felt like. I can’t believe we get to do it again.


22 Responses to “Greatness”

  1. Westside guy on August 27th, 2012 11:14 pm

    Do we have any way of comparing the defense Randy had behind him then to the one Felix has behind him now? I mean – Griffey Jr. at his peak might have given Guti a run for his money, and certainly was much better than Condor; but I don’t think A-Rod was quite the wizard Brendan Ryan is. And of course Gump was at third… If RJ got 51 ERA- with a worse defense behind him, then OH WOW!

    I did have the privilege of seeing RJ pitch, and I remember him being awesome… but he and Felix were too far apart for me to even fake an attempt at comparing them from memory.

  2. wabbles on August 27th, 2012 11:35 pm

    Uh, our current defense is one of the league’s best. The defenses behind Randy? Let’s take a trip down memory lane….Tino Martinez at first (later Paul Sorrento and, especially, David Segui were a lot better), Joey Cora at second, A-Rod and Omar rocked at short, Felix Fermin was middling, Edgar and Blowers at third, 87 left fielders, Griffey and Buhner both were Gold Gloves. Sooooo….yeah. Randy didn’t have much of a defense behind him.

  3. gwangung on August 27th, 2012 11:42 pm

    This is an unpopular position, but I think RJ’s defense was massively inferior to the present day. In particular, the outfield defense was visibly inferior (I mean, Gold Gloves?); Buhner’s range was considerably less than ideal, and I hold that Junior’s reputation was greater than his actual defense (not nearly as good as jumps as Guti and not nearly the range).

  4. wabbles on August 27th, 2012 11:42 pm

    Oh yeah, and Russ Davis at third. Seriously? During 1998, we had the three worst defenders at their respective positions: Russ Davis at third, Joey Cora at second and Glenallen Hill in left.

  5. Typical Idiot Fan on August 27th, 2012 11:43 pm

    Randy did one thing better than Felix: strikeouts. He was capable of doing more without the need for defensive aid.

    In 1994, his infield was mostly Edgar and Blowers at third, Fermin and Sojo splitting short and second, and Tino at first. Edgar may have had bad hammies, but before he got hurt he was a fine defensive third baseman, and Blowers was no slouch. Fermin and Sojo were interchangeable, and Tino never had a bad rep defensively. Griffey, Buhner, and various levels of Eric Anthony could run down quite a bit in the outfield. Not that Johnson allowed much solid contact anyway, or contact at all.

    In 1995, Cora took over second base full time, and I don’t remember him having any problems there. A-Rod got a few more innings at short, but he was always, at least, an average defender. Hell, there were arguments he was the better shortstop in New York up until recently. The speedy Diaz helped Buhner man the outfield in Junior’s absence, with a turnstile of Colemans, Braggs, and Amarals. Again, I don’t remember a major liability amongst any of them.

    1997 was a bit different with Sorrento in for Tino, who held his own as far as I remember; A-Rod full time at short, and doing well; Russ Davis taking over at third; and another rotating turnstile of Amarals, Tinsleys, Kelly’s, and young Jose Cruz Jr in left. Davis may not have been the most elite third baseman ever, and I don’t remember much about Sorrento, but I’m sure the outfield was covered.

    But it really comes down to limiting contact. Randy went into another universe in those years, posting above 30% strikeout rates all the way through his Diamondback days. Don’t have to worry about defense much if the hitter is walking back to the dugout in shame more often.

  6. dnc on August 28th, 2012 12:04 am

    Randy had 9.5 WAR in 1995. Felix’s best season is 6.8.

    I love Felix. LOVE him. But he’s still one or two magnitudes below Randy’s Mariner peak, in my opinion. As noted above, Felix’s defense is far superior to Randy’s. And his home park is significantly more pitcher friendly.

    Felix is great. Randy was something beyond that.

  7. Westside guy on August 28th, 2012 12:10 am

    Thanks, guys. That was why I was asking about a more quantitative comparison – memories are tricky things. But your memories all are more or less in line with my own.

    A-Rod wasn’t Ryan, but he was quite good defensively. Gump was at third mainly because of his bat – I recall him being rather sub-par. I don’t really remember Blowers’ performance, which means he was likely serviceable. I thought the M’s were at least okay at second and first through the whole period.

    I don’t remember Buhner having great range, but he was okay AND he had a super arm. What’s to say about left field… it sucked then and it’s sucked most of the time now. 😀

    I’m gonna differ with gwangung about Griffey’s defense though. He wasn’t as smooth as Guti, but he was faster.

    Glenallen Hill…. ahahahahhaa

  8. wabbles on August 28th, 2012 12:11 am
  9. Westside guy on August 28th, 2012 12:18 am

    dnc – RJ might be the best lefty EVER (as I’m sure you’d agree). Saying Felix is currently below RJ’s peak is no insult.

  10. dnc on August 28th, 2012 12:44 am

    It wasn’t meant to be an insult, at all. Felix is incredible.

    Randy was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

  11. Westside guy on August 28th, 2012 12:55 am

    I know you didn’t – I was trying to be too tricky with my wording there. I agree with you on all counts.

  12. mathgeek99 on August 28th, 2012 1:00 am

    Don’t forget that RJ pitched in the KingDome, too. I know SafeCo is kinda crazy right now, but even just in normal seasons, the KingDome favored run scoring and SafeCo depresses run scoring.

  13. dchappelle on August 28th, 2012 5:51 am

    Kind of neat to expand that search to all pitchers. Man, Pedro was soooo awesome.

    Still, hard to argue that Felix has just been awesome, especially in this recent stretch.

  14. dchappelle on August 28th, 2012 5:52 am

    Don’t forget that RJ pitched in the KingDome, too. I know SafeCo is kinda crazy right now, but even just in normal seasons, the KingDome favored run scoring and SafeCo depresses run scoring.

    Good point, but isn’t ERA- park adjusted?

  15. Mariners35 on August 28th, 2012 8:18 am

    What’s the most straightforward way to compare the quality of offense that Randy faced, vs. what Felix faces? Felix shutting out the Twins is slightly different than when he blanks the Rangers or Yankees. Granted, he can do that too, so this isn’t trying to minimize what Felix is doing now…

    I’m sure it wouldn’t diminish either pitcher’s accomplishments, but if there’s a way to compare ‘strength of schedule’ for these pitchers that doesn’t take a year and a day in Baseball Reference or Fangraphs, it’d be interesting.

  16. GrassRockFish on August 28th, 2012 10:39 am

    This doesn’t pertain directly to the question of who had the better peak, and I’m sure it’s been noted before – but it’s pretty remarkable that Randy was something like four years older than present Felix when he had his first ace-caliber year. Remarkable both for what Felix has accomplished at his age, and for how insanely productive Randy was after age 30.

  17. Westside guy on August 28th, 2012 10:54 am also has an article up right now that talks about the amazing run Felix is currently having.

  18. Carson on August 28th, 2012 11:09 am

    I have to agree with gwangung and take a potentially unpopular stance on this one.

    Junior was undoubtedly a flashy defender in center, what with all those robbed homers and such. But Guti is a historically great defensive outfielder, IMO. Even my massive man crush on Cammy isn’t enough to say he was better than DTFT.

    As for the rest of the defense behind Randy: I don’t care how many gold gloves Buhner won, he was inferior defensively to every current Mariners’ outfielder not named Chone Figgins. I’ll give him the edge over Trayvon with the arm, but the range certainly wasn’t as good.

    There were some decent gloves around the infield for RJ but I don’t believe they were so much better than the current crop (if they are at all) to outweigh the clear superior outfield defense of today.

    I have to give Felix’s 2012 defense a clear edge. 2009 had that massive out-of-this-world Guti defensive season and Beltre.

  19. MKT on August 28th, 2012 11:14 am

    “it’s pretty remarkable that Randy was something like four years older than present Felix when he had his first ace-caliber year. Remarkable both for what Felix has accomplished at his age, and for how insanely productive Randy was after age 30.”

    Right, Felix is the young prodigy who, though not quite Feller-esque, became very good very young (and will hopefully stay good for a long time, hopefully with the Ms).

    And Randy Johnson was the scuffling journeyman who, though not quite Moyer-esque, finally figured it all out at a fairly advanced age — but then managed to stay amazingly good up to an amazingly advanced age for a major league athlete.

    Bridging the two is Sandy Koufax, who had his first ace caliber year in his age 25 season — one year younger than Felix is now — but then was finished after his age 30 season — one year older than RJ’s *first* ace caliber year.

    You can be good while young. You can be good while old. If you’re Sandy Koufax, you can do neither yet still have a Hall of Fame career by being ridiculously good in the space between young and old.

    In theory it’s better to be good young, like Felix, because there’s the chance you can keep doing it for almost two decades by also being good while old like RJ. Still, as great as Felix has been it’ll be tough to match the career of Randy Johnson, perhaps not literally a once in a lifetime pitcher but close to it. But just the fact that he bears mentioning in the same paragraphs as RJ and Koufax shows what stratospheric heights he’s climbing towards.

  20. Westside guy on August 28th, 2012 11:51 am

    You know, with the Koufax references and Guti’s post-2009 injury history and all, there’s a lesson here.

    We need to enjoy Felix now. We need to watch in the moment and be amazed, because you just never know what’s down the road. Felix might be awesome for the next 12 years – but you just don’t know. We can’t let ourselves take what Felix is doing for granted.

  21. smb on August 28th, 2012 5:19 pm

    ^^ hear, hear. God bless Felix Hernandez.

  22. mksh21 on August 29th, 2012 9:48 am

    I don’t post here as much as I want to, but I’m here everyday my favorite thing to do is watch Felix climb up the pitching leaderboard and compare his stats to the closest younger guy.

    Pitching WAR- 15th Active .1 behind Freddy Garcia (35 years old) Closest younger pitcher- Kershaw at 24 with 21.7 and 37th active.

    Wins 39th (98 wins)active tied with Weaver and Westbrook (both older). Next closest younger pitcher- Yovani Gallardo with 67.

    ERA 3rd active (3.14) next closest younger pitcher- NOBODY with 1,000 innings qualifier.

    Strike Outs- 27th Active Kershaw next at 65th.

    Just a small sample at what he has ammased at such a young age.

    This guys amazes me with what he has complied already at only 26. I hope we have 10 more years of this.

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