Sep 12, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez in the dugout during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park. The Braves won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Marlins Showdown: Jose Fernandez Vs. Dontrelle Willis

Now that the spectacular rookie season of Jose Fernandez has come to an end, we can start focusing our attention on the competition for the Rookie of the Year award.  Should Fernandez be considered the favorite at this point?  It might be interesting to compare Jose’s situation this year with another 21 year old Marlins pitcher who took the baseball world by storm and went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year award (not to mention a World Series ring), Dontrelle Willis.

Here’s how their stats stack up:

Name Year W L GS IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP fWAR
Jose Fernandez

2013

12

6

28

172

9.75

3.02

2.19

2.73

4.2

Dontrelle Willis

2003

14

6

27

160

7.95

3.25

3.30

3.45

3.2

 

Our own Daniel Z. has already done a great job pointing out how truly memorable Fernandez’s season was in comparison to other season in Marlins history and rookie history, so I won’t rehash how much better Jose was.  In defense of Willis, though, I will mention that he deserves some credit for performing as well as he did under the much higher pressure of a pennant race.

But both of these guys are more than just pitchers, they’re baseball players so their batting stats deserve a quick look as well:

Name Year G PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA HR R RBI SB fWAR
Jose Fernandez

2013

28

58

.220

.216

.340

.237

1

5

5

0

0.4

Dontrelle Willis

2003

27

63

.241

.279

.328

.269

1

2

4

0

0.3

 

Unlike your typical pitchers, they both helped their teams with the bat which only serves to enhance their appeal to baseball fans.  The award is somewhat of a popularity contest, so their prowess with the bat could win an extra vote or two.

What about the competition though?  While interesting to look at, a direct comparison of Fernandez and Dontrelle doesn’t mean much in terms of winning the ROY award.  We should look at how Willis stacked up against the other contenders for the award in 2003 and how Jose stacks up against the 2013 contenders.

2013 NL Rookie of the Year candidates:

Name Year W L GS IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP fWAR
Jose Fernandez

2013

12

6

28

172

9.75

3.02

2.19

2.73

4.2

Hyun-Jin Ryu

2013

13

5

26

167

7.49

2.48

3.02

3.24

2.7

 

Name Year G PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA HR R RBI SB fWAR
Yasiel Puig

2013

90

382

.338

.405

.550

.410

16

61

37

11

4.1

 

Jose’s top competition this season is from Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers.  Puig did not make his debut until June of this season as he joined an underachieving Dodgers team mired in last place in their division.  Puig provided an immediate spark to the lineup and the team turned their season around.  The Dodgers now lead the NL West by 10.5 games and look like a favorite for the World Series.

Fernandez has been up with the big league team all season, but really turned it on in the 2nd half.  After the All Star break Jose was 7-1 with a 1.32 ERA and averaged 11.12 strike outs per 9 innings. He was the best pitcher in the National League according to fWAR where his 2.4 mark topped all competitors, rookie or veteran.

Ironically, the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year race actually had some of the same elements.  Here are the stats for the top contenders:

Pitchers Year W L GS IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP fWAR
Dontrelle Willis

2003

14

6

27

160

7.95

3.25

3.30

3.45

3.2

Brandon Webb

2003

10

9

28

180.2

8.57

3.39

2.84

3.34

4.4

 

Hitters Year G PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA HR R RBI SB fWAR
Scott Podsednik

2003

154

628

.314

.379

.443

.361

9

100

58

43

3.4

 

Dontrelle played the Puig role in the 2003 race as he made his debut in May of that year, joining an underachieving team.  The Marlins were 16-21 at the time of his debut and would fire their manager shortly afterwards.  Willis would be credited as a key cog in the turnaround of the 2003 Marlins that would eventually end up with a World Series championship that season.

Statistically, however, Brandon Webb was the better pitcher as his 2.84 ERA was half a run better than Willis and his 4.4 fWAR mark was over a full win better.  Dontrelle, of course, had the much better story as his team was competing for a playoff spot while Webb’s Diamondbacks finished as a 3rd place team several games out of contention.

Ultimately, this season’s race may turn out the same way as in 2003 with the story on the better team trumping a better statistical season.  Puig’s fantastic season coupled with the timing of his team’s successful turnaround may be too much for Fernandez’s historic rookie season to overcome in the minds of the voters.

Tags: Dontrelle Willis Jose Fernandez Miami Marlins NL Rookie Of The Year

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