Last night Jose Fernandez finished a truly memorable rookie season, arguably one of the greatest in Marlins history. That accomplishment is even bigger when we realize the company that the Marlins have provided for Jose to compare himself to: Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Dontrelle Willis and Josh Beckett, among others.
In my previous article I compared Jose’s remarkable 2013 season to some of the great, memorable rookie seasons since 1980. The data showed that Jose has had a season comparable to that of Fernando Valenzuela, Yu Darvish, Hideo Nomo and Kerry Wood, pretty good company to say the least. Jose has been among the best pitchers in baseball this year, the best rookies of the past 3 plus decades and the best rookie pitcher in Marlin’s history. Now that the season is over, let us delve into Jose’s stats and where they stack up in Marlins history.
A pitcher’s main job is run prevention and the three best indicators of this are innings pitched, which actually measures how many outs a pitcher recorded as well as strikeout and walk rates or ratios. Strikeouts are the best outcome for a pitcher, when the ball isn’t put in play it is very easy to prevent runs from scoring on the other hand when pitchers give away free base runners it makes his job much more difficult. Jose with a nearly 10/3 K to BB ratio is arguably the best rookie in history given those criteria. Jose career high in walks is 4, twice, both on the road against St. Louis and Pittsburgh, while compiling 4, 10+ strikeout games all as a rookie.
Marlins Rookies Pitchers- IP, K/9, BB/9
Even at face value, a 9.73/3.01 K/BB ratio for a power pitcher is impressive to say the least. It suggests that even at such a young age Jose is not just a “thrower” but already knows how to be a “pitcher.” This is demonstrated by his ability to throw his secondary pitches for strikes. The curveball, “The Defector” was Fernandez best pitch this year. Opponents only mustered .339 OPS, a .202 BABIP, a .160 wOBA and a wRC+ of 3 against it while whiffing 16.0%, while throwing it more often than any other starting pitcher in baseball. The curveball is the key to Jose’s success and a stepping stone to even greater things when he learns how to throw his changeup effectively. Jose passes the eye test, when a pitcher looks as obviously dominant as Jose has this year it is hard to ignore but even more interestingly is that the underlying metrics advanced and not so much support the case that Jose has a very impressive season.
I also want to delve deeper into the statistics to make the case that Jose Fernandez is not only the best rookie pitcher in Marlins history but maybe even the best pitcher in the National League this year as good as Matt Harvey or Clayton Kershaw.
Marlins Rookies FIP-. WAR WPA
FIP- compares a pitcher’s FIP to the rest of the league, WAR sums up everything a pitcher is able to do in one stat and WPA, win probability added measures how much a pitcher has contributed to his team’s chance to win based only on his play based on situations, in short a strike out with the bases loaded is worth more than a fly out with nobody on and no outs because of the hit the opposing team takes when striking out with the bases loaded. Jose is clearly the best rookie in Marlins history given the above criteria WAR, FIP- and WPA. But what is more interesting to compare Jose to the best pitchers in the NL this year.
There is honestly very little to choose between Kershaw, Harvey and Fernandez this year. I would go as far as to say that if it wasn’t for the fetishizing of the “Win” and Harvey, Kershaw and Wainwright’s. Fernandez would have a legitimate chance to not only win the NL Rookie of the Year, but the NL Cy Young. Fernandez in 2013 has proven that he is the best Marlins rookie pitcher ever, has had one of the best season’s by a rookie SP since Fernando Valuenzuela in 1980 he has also been one of the best pitchers in the NL full stop this year and should at least get some Cy Young votes. I’m not delusional I know Fernandez is not going to win the NL Cy Young but much like Yu Darvish last year I want him to at least make an appearance on the leaderboard.