A few weeks ago, the day after I spent the night stalking Yuniesky Betancourt at Cheney Stadium a few days before he was traded, I went on the Morning show on KJR with Steve Sandmeyer talking about my night.
But later in the lengthy interview, I talked about Felix Hernandez and the idea that his starts are must see events. I compared it to the old Pedro Martinez starts in Boston in the late 1990s, which ESPN's Bill Simmons has often pointed out were unmissable to true diehard Sox Fans.
While, I'm not a Mariners fan per se (job requirements), I do feel like any time Felix Hernandez starts, it's must see viewing. If he pitches, and I have the chance, I go to the game. If I can't, then I don't miss it on TV, and its always recorded on the DVR.
Why? Because to me any time that he steps on the mound, the possibility for Felix to do something fantastic exists.
A no-hitter? It's going to happen someday. I guarantee he'll be the next Mariner to throw one.
A shut-out? Definitely, something you can hope for in every start.
Double digit strikeouts? He's done plenty of times in his career already.
But it's more than that. It's the talent, the charisma, the competitiveness, the emotion that Hernandez pitches with that puts him on the list of about five pitchers that I would pay to watch. And yes, I do pay to go to games from time to time. I also pay for the $9 beers.
The list of pitchers I would pay to watch start:
2. Tim Lincecum
3. Roy Halladay
4. Zack Greinke
5. Johan Santana
Honorable mention: CC Sabathia, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt.
It's why I'm sitting here at Safeco Field on what could be construed as a day off for me. I wanted to see Felix pitch against Mark Buehrle, himself a damn good pitcher, tonight. If I stayed at home, I would have been watching it on "Serena" (my nickname for my new TV).I often DVR Lincecum, Halladay, Greinke starts as well. And no, I will not get a life.
But my question is do Mariners fans feel the same way about seeing Felix pitch. Is it must see viewing for them? I know that it is that way in San Francisco for Lincecum.
So I did a little checking on the greatest website ever baseball-reference.com and using my rudimentary Microsoft Excel skills and checked on the attendance on the nights when Felix pitched in comparison to the nights when Lincecum pitched, I also threw in Halladay as well.
What I noticed is that attendance at Safeco doesn't necessarily increase on the nights Felix pitches. His biggest attendance nights are on weekend games, but attendance on weekend games is always high at the Mariners or any big league team. Why? Well it's the weekend.
The highest attended Felix start this season was his last start on August 7th. But the 44,378 weren't there to see a legit Cy Young candidate pitch for a resurgent team. It was after all Ken Griffey Jr. bobblehead night.
Felix's highest attended game not on a weekend was on July 27th (a Monday) when a crowd of 28,696 watched him pitch against the Blue Jays. Of course, being at that game I will tell you at least 1/3 of that crowd was Jays fans. The next day against the Jays was a crowd of 26,148. Same goes for the crowd of 24,832 against the Rangers - a division rival - on Thursday, July 9th. The day before against the lowly Orioles in an afternoon game, a crowd of 27,045 showed up.
As of today, the Mariners are averaging around 27,700 fans per game. I haven't had the time to figure out the averages for weekday games and weekend games which are obviously different.
If you look at the attendance for Lincecum games it's pretty high, but the Giants have averaged around 35,500 fans per game.
I honestly don't know what to make of these numbers. The economy is different than it was when Pedro pitched back in the late 90s and the fans are a little different in Boston and Seattle when it comes to baseball. Not better, just different. And maybe Felix isn't quite at that level that late 90s Pedro was at. But he's getting close.
Maybe Felix hasn't entered the echelon where fans - if given the choice during the week to go to one game - would make sure they'd go on nights he starts. When I asked around if the attendance increased on nights when Randy Johnson pitched back in the day, most people say it didn't. I'm in the process of putting that list together.
So what does my research really tell me? Well, maybe I'm a baseball nerd who gets far too giddy at the prospect of Felix making a start, maybe that I have a lot of free time on my hands, and maybe for as much as it seems important to fans to keep Felix a Mariner, actually going to see him pitch doesn't rank as high.
It will be interesting to see what the attendance numbers are tonight on a beautiful night in Seattle with Felix on the mound in what should be a great match-up of two fantastic starting pitchers. If you aren't doing anything, swing by the ballpark. Any time Felix pitches, you have the chance to see something special.
Maybe you should do it because a few years from now, he could be gone.