With the Mariners in a daily grind to justify expectations that they are a postseason contender, the last thing general manager Jack Zduriencik needs is another reminder that on Jan. 23, 2012, he blew it big time. Unfortunately for Zduriencik, he won’t be able to avoid it, especially if Michael Pineda of the Yankees pitches to form Monday night at Safeco Field in his matchup with Felix Hernandez.
Pineda enters the three-game set ranked first in the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio (13.4) and fewest walks per nine innings (0.7), fifth in strikeouts (67) and sixth in strikeouts per nine (9.37). Pineda is 6-2 with a 3.36 ERA in 10 starts. He’s 26 and finally beginning to consistently display the stuff Mariners fans first glimpsed in 2011.
Zduriencik dealt Pineda to the Yankees after the Dominican made the All-Star team as a rookie. The Yankees needed a top-tier starter to pair with C.C. Sabathia and the Mariners required offense. Zduriencik figured he could afford to lose Pineda because he had prospects James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker on the come.
In exchange for the 6-foot-7 Pineda, the Mariners accepted catcher Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi. Both quickly morphed into disasters at the major-league level and Pineda nearly did so. He twice tore up his shoulder, was nailed with a DUI and last year served a 10-game suspension for doctoring balls with pine tar.
But Pineda, who will make his first start against Seattle opposite King Felix, seems to have figured things out, especially if his outing May 10 is any indication. In that game, he did something King Felix had never done and, in fact, no one in history had done.
In a 6-2 win over Baltimore, Pineda not only became the fourth pitcher in history to strike out 16 batters in seven or fewer innings, joining Randy Johnson (three times), Jake Peavy (twice) and Cliff Lee, he became the first to do so without issuing a walk:
|2001||July 18||Randy Johnson||D-Backs||7||109-68||1||16|
|2001||Aug. 23||Randy Johnson||D-Backs||7||115-78||2||16|
|2001||Sept. 27||Randy Johnson||D-Backs||6.2||126-81||2||16|
|2006||May 22||Jake Peavy||Padres||7||114-74||1||16|
|2007||April 25||Jake Peavy||Padres||7||117-75||3||16|
|2011||May 6||Cliff Lee||Phillies||7||117-87||1||16|
|2015||May 10||Michael Pineda||Yankees||7||111-81||0||16|
The Big Unit whiffed 19 Oakland A’s — with no walks — June 24, 1997 while pitching for the Mariners, but had 15 strikeouts through seven frames. He also had 19 strikeouts in a 5-0 win over the White Sox Aug. 8, 1997, but only 15 K’s plus two walks through seven.
Hernandez came close to making the list June 8 when, at Tampa Bay, he fanned 15 Rays and issued one walk in seven innings in a 5-0 Seattle victory.
Pineda has made three starts this year with at least seven strikeouts and no walks, most in the majors. Hernandez has one such outing, a 2-0 victory over Minnesota April 24 in which he struck out nine and walked none.
A Seattle rotation with the 29-year-old Hernandez and Pineda would have constituted a season-long spectacle. But Montero and Noesi, probably to Zduriencik’s mortification, made the trade a debacle, leaving Monday’s Hernandez-Pineda matchup a sore reminder of what might have been.
Going For No. 159
Hernandez (8-1, 1.91, 2.8 WAR), is coming off a 3-0 victory over Tampa Bay in which he worked nine innings with eight strikeouts and one walk. That marked Felix’s 158th “ultra quality start” — at least seven innings and no more than two earned runs allowed. Felix has owned this statistic since he made his debut in August 2005.
His 158 ultra quality starts are 33 more second-place Cole Hamels, who has 125, and 35 more than Sabathia’s 123. Most ultra quality starts since 2005:
|Felix Hernandez||Mariners||158 (97-15)||23 complete games 11 shutouts, 1.13 ERA|
|Cole Hamels||Phillies||125 (73-20)||1.33 ERA, 14 complete games, 6 shutouts|
|C.C. Sabathia||3 teams||123 (95-12)||24 complete games, 11 shutouts, 1.17 ERA|
|Cliff Lee||5 teams||122 (82-13)||9 ultra-quality starts with Seattle in 2010|
|Roy Halladay||2 teams||117 (94-11)||41 CGs, 14 shutouts among his 117|
|Dan Haren||7 teams||115 (75-15)||12 ultra-quality starts vs. the Mariners|
|Justin Verlander||Tigers||111 (87-9)||Has a 1.14 ERA in ultra-quality outings|
|Mark Buehrle||3 teams||111 (78-13)||1.10 ERA in 839.1 IP (Felix 1220 IP)|
|James Shields||3 teams||108 (72-14)||18 complete games, 9 shutouts, 824.1 IP|
|Matt Cain||Giants||108 (57-15)||Has a 1.26 ERA, 13 complete games|
Three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw has 98 ultra quality starts since his debut in 2008. Over the same span, Felix has 133. Madison Bumgarner, star of the 2014 World Series, has 67 such starts since his debut in 2009, Felix 124.
Hernandez has made 313 starts since his debut, 158 ultra quality. Chew on this comparison: Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax made 314 starts for the Dodgers over 12 years, 154 ultra quality.