We are barely a week into the 2016 season but it’s good that one tradition never dies, which is the Mariners scoring no runs for Felix Hernandez. A day after dominating performance that led to yet another no-decision, David Schoenfeld claims King Felix is statistically the unluckiest pitcher of all time.
It was the 45th start where he allowed zero runs or one run and didn’t get credit for a win. That ties him with Zack Greinke for the most such starts among active pitchers. With years of inept offenses behind him — the Mariners have finished higher than 11th in runs scored just once in his tenure, back in 2007 when they ranked seventh — you wonder: Is Hernandez the unluckiest pitcher of all time? Those 45 winless games account for 13.4 percent of his career starts.
Greinke’s 45 games actually account for a slightly higher percentage of his career starts at 13.8 percent. King Felix, however, has pitched a little better in his games, throwing 317 innings with a 0.88 ERA compared to Greinke’s 288.2 innings and 0.90 ERA. Hernandez’s average Game Score is 72.5 versus Greinke’s 67.0.
How do those two compare to other bad-luck hurlers? Sticking to this one idea of “bad luck,” Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats & Information reports that over the past 100 years (getting us past most of the dead-ball era when 1-0 or 2-1 games were common), only six other pitchers have had more winless games when allowing one run or zero runs: Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine, Don Sutton, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Tommy John. So that’s good company, with four Hall of Famers, a would-be Hall of Famer and a guy who won 288 games.
Note that fewer losses means more bad luck, since you can’t lose if you allow no runs. Hernandez and Greinke are well ahead of the others in percentage of career starts that ended with these types of no-decisions. Note that Hernandez has the highest average Game Score — to be fair, he’s pitched in an era with more strikeouts, which is part of the Game Score formula — but notice as well that only Sutton averaged more innings per start.
That’s important because one reason starters don’t get as many wins these days is they don’t pitch as deep into games. That’s not the reason Hernandez isn’t winning, however; he’s pitching deep into games and just not getting any run support.
Argue around the edges, but Felix has consistently played on terrible teams throughout what should be a Hall of Fame career. But to Murray Chass, I guess Felix isn’t providing the proper amount of leaderocity and so better to elect Jack Morris.