Mariners' Top 5 righty starters: Johns' take

May 25th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. If you don't agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Greg Johns' ranking of the top five right-handed starters in Mariners history. Next week: left-handed starters.

1) Félix Hernández, 2005-19
Key fact: American League Cy Young Award winner in 2010

He didn't become “The King” by accident, as truly does reign as royalty among Mariners pitchers. Hernández finished his 15-year run with Seattle last September with his name atop the franchise lists for most wins, starts, innings, strikeouts and ERA for pitchers with a minimum of 500 innings.

Mariners scouts began following Hernández when he was a 14-year-old in Venezuela with an eye-popping fastball, and he agreed to a contract when he turned 16 in 2002 for a $710,000 signing bonus. It didn't take long for the young phenom to rise through the ranks and he made his MLB debut in 2005 at 19.

Hernández became a permanent member of the rotation by '06, the Opening Day starter in '07, an American League All-Star by '09 and the AL Cy Young winner in 2010. He wound up earning six All-Star berths with Seattle, finishing in the top eight in Cy Young voting six times and throwing the first perfect game in franchise history in 2012 against the Rays.

Mariners' all-time best: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH

But perhaps the most impressive part of Hernández's Seattle tenure was his durability and consistency. He started 30 or more games and threw 190-plus innings in 10 straight seasons from 2006-15, including eight straight years of 200-plus innings to end that stretch.

Though injuries began cropping up his final three seasons in Seattle, his career numbers of 169-136 with a 3.42 ERA and 2,524 strikeouts in 2,729 2/3 innings and 50.3 bWAR are a testament to his status as one of the premier starters in MLB over the past 15 seasons.

“He was truly iconic,” said Kyle Seager, who played with Hernández for his last nine years. “It's just a different level. You think about how long he played here. He could have left a couple times. He always stayed true and wanted to be here. This was his home. That's what he always talked about. All the emotions you'd see on the mound and the pointing and 'this is my house' and all that stuff, it's real for him. He absolutely lived it and it was pretty special and something I'm definitely never going to forget.”

2) Freddy Garcia, 1999-04
Key fact: Staff ace on 116-win team in 2001

One of the reasons Hernández signed with the Mariners in '02 was the success of -- a fellow Venezuelan -- in Seattle. Known as “The Chief” for his stoic presence, Garcia went 18-6 and led the AL in ERA (3.05) and innings pitched (238 2/3) on the Mariners' 2001 club that ran away with the AL West title.

The Mariners acquired Garcia in '98 from the Astros along with Carlos Guillen and John Halama in exchange for Randy Johnson and he wound up developing into a big part of several of the best teams in franchise history.

Garcia finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting in '99 when he broke in with a 17-8 record and 4.07 ERA in 201 1/3 innings at age 22 and he earned AL All-Star berths in both '01 and '02, when he went 16-10 with a 4.39 ERA.

In six seasons in Seattle, Garcia went 76-50 with a 3.89 ERA and an 18.6 bWAR before being traded midseason in '04 to the White Sox with Ben Davis for Mike Morse, Miguel Olivo and Jeremy Reed. Though he never put together another All-Star season, Garcia wound up pitching 15 seasons in the big leagues for seven clubs with a 156-108 record and 4.15 ERA and helped the White Sox win a World Series title in '05.

3) Hisashi Iwakuma, 2012-17
Key fact: 3.42 career ERA tied with Hernandez's

The quiet right-hander from Japan was one of the AL's more overlooked standouts during his run with Seattle, as he went 63-39 with a 3.42 ERA and 17.0 bWAR in 150 games (136 starts) while largely pitching in Hernández's shadow.

Known as “The Bear,” earned AL All-Star honors and finished third in the AL Cy Young voting in 2013 when he went 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA in 33 starts. He followed that up with a 15-9, 3.52 season in '14 and won a career-best 16 games in '16 at age 35.

Shoulder issues led to an abbreviated '17 season when he made just six difficult starts and he wound up returning to Japan the following year. But he is tied for fourth with Yu Darvish for the most wins by a Japanese pitcher in MLB history, behind only Hideo Nomo, Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka. He became the second Japanese pitcher -- joining Nomo -- to throw a no-hitter in MLB when he blanked the Orioles in 2015.

4) Erik Hanson, 1988-93
Key fact: Eighteen wins in '90 tied for second-most behind Hernandez's 19 for a Mariners right-hander in a single season

Erik Hanson had highs and lows with the team that drafted him in the second round out of Wake Forest in 1986. He went 18-9 with a 3.24 ERA in 33 starts for a Mariners 1990 squad that won just 77 games, then led the AL in losses in '92 when he was 8-17 with a 4.82 ERA in 31 games (30 starts) for a 64-win club.

While he never made an All-Star team with Seattle, the 6-foot-6 hurler has the third-best ERA by a Mariners right-handed starter in franchise history at 3.69, behind only Hernandez and Iwakuma. He finished his Seattle tenure with a 56-54 record and 16.8 bWAR before being traded to the Reds along with a young Bret Boone in the deal that brought catcher Dan Wilson and closer Bobby Ayala to Seattle prior to the '94 season.

5) Mike Moore, 1982-88
Key fact: Owns Mariners record with 56 complete games

Though he struggled at times to live up to the hype of being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1981 Draft, Mike Moore ranks third behind only Hernandez and Garcia in career bWAR for Seattle right-handers at 17.8, and he went 17-10 with a 3.46 ERA in an outstanding '85 campaign.

But Moore also tied the Mariners record for most losses in a season in '87 when he went 9-19 with a 4.71 ERA, and his career mark with Seattle was 66-96 with a 4.38 ERA in 227 games (217 starts) in seven seasons. After signing with the A's in free agency, he went on to a 14-year MLB career, made the '89 All-Star team with Oakland and pitched in two World Series with the A's in '89 and '90.

Honorable mention

Brian Holman was acquired from the Expos along with Randy Johnson and Gene Harris in the Mark Langston trade in 1989 and was developing into a promising starter (32-35 with a 3.73 ERA in 81 outings from '89-91) before his career was cut short by arm issues. ... Chris Bosio threw the second no-hitter in franchise history in '93. ... Though he owned just a 43-72 record while playing with some poor teams from 1980-86, Jim Beattie ranks fifth among Seattle right-handers in starts (147) and sixth in bWAR (13.9) while posting a 4.14 ERA and 3.81 FIP. ... Joel Pineiro went 58-55 with a 4.48 ERA in 185 games (148 starts) from 2000-06.