feliz hernandez

A Pitcher on the Discount Shelf

If I told you that you could get Johnny Cueto 80 picks later this year, you’d be interested right? Having someone like Cueto on your fantasy team is like having an anchor, someone you can depend on, someone reliable, if you could get him much later in the draft, why wouldn’t you be interested? Well I believe there’s a player out there who is going 80 picks later who is on par with Cueto, and I believe you will be excited to target him

Before I reveal who the player is, let’s compare some stats:

First the comparison that seems to be brought up when making any sort of argument for a player’s longevity, and rightfully so. The player’s age. Cueto is essentially the same age (technically older by 2 months). Nobody wins the first category.

The second test is statistics. What has the player I’m suggesting done over the course of his career? Cueto has been in consideration for the Cy Young 3 times, once placing second in the votes, he has a great resume. If you look at the table below, the mystery player has arguably put up better statistics over the course of his career, I’ve bolded the times that he’s outperformed Cueto. Not only that, he’s the same age as Cueto and his fantasy average draft position is 118. He’s listed as high as 106 on CBS and as low as 135 NFBC.

Season Name ERA FIP xFIP SIERA K-BB%
2008 Player 3.45 3.8 3.83 3.93 11.10%
2008 Johnny Cueto 4.81 4.9 4.31 4.11 11.70%
2009 Player 2.49 3.09 3.37 3.44 14.90%
2009 Johnny Cueto 4.41 4.69 4.51 4.34 9.60%
2010 Player 2.27 3.04 3.14 3.18 16.20%
2010 Johnny Cueto 3.64 3.97 4.09 4.1 10.50%
2011 Player 3.47 3.13 3.15 3.21 16.10%
2011 Johnny Cueto 2.31 3.45 3.9 3.92 9.00%
2012 Player 3.06 2.84 3.2 3.28 17.80%
2012 Johnny Cueto 2.78 3.27 3.65 3.73 13.60%
2013 Player 3.04 2.61 2.66 2.77 20.70%
2013 Johnny Cueto 2.82 3.81 3.23 3.48 13.60%
2014 Player 2.14 2.56 2.51 2.5 22.20%
2014 Johnny Cueto 2.25 3.3 3.21 3.15 18.40%
2015 Player 3.53 3.72 3.33 3.38 16.10%
2015 Johnny Cueto 3.44 3.53 3.78 3.81 15.00%
2016 Player 3.82 4.63 4.45 4.63 8.70%
2016 Johnny Cueto 2.79 2.96 3.42 3.59 17.40%

By now you may be guessing it, the player in question is Felix Hernandez. Perhaps you are ready to quit reading, as you are thinking back to Felix’s season last year, but I encourage you to continue on. Last year Felix looked ready to win the CY Young (again). Through April 2016 he had a 1.38 ERA. After that though, things went downhill for him in May and into the second half of the year. While there is no evidence, one can speculate that he was never fully recovered from his injury in May.

One of the things that is causing his ADP to fall, and his projections to plummet is Hernandez’s inability to get strikeouts last year. His K-BB% was the lowest of his career. However Hernandez still had a Swinging Strike% of 9.6, despite missing time and playing through injury. That’s 42nd among pitchers who threw 150 innings or more, it’s not Cy Young Felix, but it’s better than Cueto’s 9.4%.

The next thing i want to do is to look at projections. Hernandez has been the model for consistency his whole career, with 2016 certainly being an outlier. Steamer projections have him going 200+ innings, a 3.92 ERA, and 171 strikeouts, which means they are projecting him to have the worst season of any pitcher who throws 200 innings. Other Pitchers who are near his projections are Aaron Sanchez and Dallas Keuchel.

After many years of productivity, a lifetime ERA of 3.16 and a K-BB% of 15.8% we’ve put Felix Hernandez in the tier with Aaron Sanchez and Dallas Keuchel after one tough season? Felix Hernandez’s K-BB% of 15.8% is 29th all-time among starters. Names ahead of him are Schilling, Clemens, Kershaw, Pedro, and Koufax. You see where I’m going with this? Any pitcher can have a bad season. It takes someone really special to have 9-10 great ones. King Felix should have earned our trust by now.

We have seen guys at the age of 30 or even older have a bad season and come back, whether it be from injury or other reasons. Names to mention here to show a comparison include Ryan Braun and his 2016 campaign, Albert Pujols recent success, Bartolo Colon’s continued success after his torn rotator cuff and rough mid 2000’s.

The fantasy take? If Felix’s value isn’t ADP 118, mid 9th round, then where is it? Based on the evidence I’ve provided you, at this point you should be thinking that King Felix should be your ace! No seriously, if we extrapolate Felix’s season out to 200 innings (what he would normally pitch in a healthy season), he would have been a top 40 pitcher according to CBS Sports 2016 rankings. He would have sat right after Chris Archer, who’s ADP this year is 61. Felix Hernandez’s worst season of his career would have still been a top 40 performance had it been a season long affair.

The floor for Felix Hernandez is likely last year’s performance, but there is a good possibility that an owner will get much higher performance, with a ceiling around Johnny Cueto, who is being drafted in the 3rd round. The early rounds are where a fantasy team is built. The middle rounds are where championships are won. The risk/reward for Felix is well worth it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you should take Felix Hernandez in the 3rd round, however his current ADP is too low, it’s exactly what fantasy owners should look for. Value.

Questions? Comments? Find me on Twitter @steve_tfr