How long until Félix Hernández wins another 100?

Ezra Shaw

Still just barely 27, Félix Hernández notched his 100th win Monday night ... but the history of recent young 100-game winners isn't wonderfully encouraging.

It took him four tries, but Monday night Félix Hernández finally picked up his 100th win. What's particularly notable about this feat is that Hernández is particularly young for such a feat. According to Elias:

Among pitchers who began their career since divisional play began in 1969, only five reached 100 wins at a younger age than Hernandez (27 years, 14 days old): Dwight Gooden (24 years, 215 days), Bert Blyleven (25 years, 76 days), Fernando Valenzuela (26 years, 162 days), Don Gullett (26 years, 199 days) and Vida Blue (26 years, 361 days).

Here's how many games more than 100 each of those pitchers later would win ...

Gooden: 94
Blyleven: 187 *
Valenzuela: 73
Don Gullett: 9 **
Vida Blue: 109

* elected to Hall of Fame after ridiculously long wait

** nine

If you're reading this, and I really hope that you are, you probably are assuming that you are reading a cautionary tale ... Don't get too excited about Félix Hernández's future! Bad things happen to young pitchers who accomplish great things!

Well, hold on a minute. So far, you have merely been presented with information, utterly free of nuance or analysis.

For one thing, it's important to note that the list above is not in any sense representative. To begin to be representative, we would want a list of (say) the five younger pitchers and the next-five youngest; we would want a list with Hernández in the middle, not at the upper extreme.

And for another, if there's one thing about that list that stands out, it's this: There's a pretty good chance that you, reading this right now, don't remember seeing any of those guys actually pitch; the last of them was Gooden, who last toiled in the majors almost 13 years ago. And Gooden's best years came nearly 30 years ago.

My point is that a lot has changed over the decades. Félix Hernández wasn't worked nearly as hard as a young pitcher as any of those other guys. At 20, Gooden threw 277 innings. At 21, Valenzuela threw 285 innings. At 21, Blue threw 312 innings. Also, today's surgeons have some tools and techniques that just weren't available when Gooden and Blue and Valenzuela were trying to get healthy.

I'm not positive that the New Paradigm will lead to longer and better careers than the Old Paradigm. I merely mean to suggest that while Félix Hernández does share talents with the young Vida Blue, in other real ways they're not perfectly analogous.

For more about Larry Bernandez and the M's, please visit SB Nation's Lookout Landing.

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