Clay Buchholz is, without question, the early leader for the Cy Young Award. But there are a lot of good pitchers in the AL who stand to take the lead if Buchholz falters. One of ’em is a usual suspect: Felix Hernandez. And last night he was his typical dominant self.
Hernandez threw eight shutout innings in the Mariners’ 4-0 win over the Blue Jays, striking out seven, walking no one and allowing only five hits while only needing 95 pitches. In his last four starts he has struck out 35 batters while walking only two and allowing 20 hits and two earned runs — just two! — in thirty innings. Of course he got a no decision in one of ’em, where he struck out 12 and allowed a single run. The Mariners are gonna Mariner.
Most of us miss so many of his starts because he’s usually on west coast time. When he does get a start on eastern time like last night — and like it appears he will against the Yankees on May 16 — we easties should tune in and see a real doctor at work.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.