For some reason the Hey Bills dried up in February. There was a little period Feb 8-9-10 when James answered some questions, and then on Valentine's Day he answered some more ... then he went the rest of the entire month answering not a single question. Meanwhile, he quipped on Twitter that he spends "an hour and a half a day" on it. :- ) Also I think his last article was Feb. 8. For a fan as rabid as Dr. D the sensation is not unlike crawling through the desert on all fours, thinking about the water you may never taste again.
Usually Dr. D finds at least one Hey Bill that can be used to understand the Mariners better. Since there is nothing fresh at BJOL, in such times we turn to the archives for wisdom. In summer 2015 Bill answered a question about Robin Roberts thusly:
Hey Bill, What kind of pitcher was Robin Roberts after age 29? I'm not talking about the numbers. I'm wondering about changes in his command, pitch selection, physical condition, and velocity. The reason I'm asking is that he went from being a perennial all-star in his mid twenties to a good (but no longer great) pitcher in his thirties.
Asked by: evanecurb
Well, he was just worked to death in Philadelphia, and slowly ground down from great to good to not good to terrible, all the while the while pitching a fantastic number of innings (until the end) for increasingly awful teams (especially at the end). After being whittled thinner than a credit card he needed a year or two to recover, but then he became a very effective pitcher again, although no longer pitching 300 innings a year, but pitching effectively. He wasn't a big fat guy, but he pitched exactly like Bartolo Colon. . .no breaking stuff, just spot the fastball, move the fastball up and down and in and out, hit the corners and don't set up any big innings.
If I had more time I'd research this: star pitchers who ground down, then got one light year, maybe two, and then returned to stardom. Here is Roberts' stats page: He deteriorated from 130-140 to 100 and finally had a 69 year in which he threw 117 innings instead of 346. Following the "rest" of a 117 IP year, he fired a 133 ERA and was a star again for six years.
Justin Verlander started to look very shaky around 2014, actually posted a 85 ERA+ with declining velocity. He got a single 133 IP year in, and since that year he's been back to the Verlander we all know.
Like I sez, it's too bad we don't have more time to research; I'll bet you could find handsful of cases like this. Anyway, as you know, King Felix wound up with an 86 IP season last year, and even better, he had a 153 IP season before that. This after a loooonnnnng 10-tear string of 30-34 starts per season, and if you look you can see that the 236 IP season in 2014 (his 170 ERA+ year) was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Felix has had two very nice years of rest, in Justin Verlander terms. This spring we'll be watching for some extra life on Felix' pitches: for the fastball to sit 92 in some games, for the general mushiness to come off his changeup, and so on.
Dr. Detecto predicts that this is what we will indeed see. Which would make two faces on Mariner Mt. Rushmore earning their room and board. A little bold, we know.