Jul 16, 2013; Flushing, NY, USA; National League pitcher Jose Fernandez (16) of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch in the 6th inning in the 2013 All Star Game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Coming in 2013 season, Marlins fans weren’t expecting that the young Cuban right hander would be called up so early in the season but extenuating circumstances like injuries forced the front office’s hand in promoting the young Fernandez.
As of today in the last days of July, Fernandez is among the best young pitchers in baseball. With a 2.74 ERA, 8.95 strikeout per 9 inning and a WAR of 2.0, the best in the Marlins rotation. Earlier today Fernandez struck out 13 Pirates in 8 innings pitched while throwing 97 pitches, 74 of them for strikes. It was so to say the least a dominating performance. Today’s start was Fernandez’ second since his 1-2-3 inning in the All Star Game in Flushing, Queens even if Fox chose to ignore it. In the first four months of the season Jose Fernandez has been the best thing about the Marlins and a definite source of pride for South Florida’s Cuban community who have one of their own as a major star in America’s Cuban capital, pitching in a stadium in the heart of Little Havana. Because of these accomplishments and because of his importance to any future Marlins success, I think Jose Fernandez should win the NL Rookie of the Year award.
In baseball unlike in football both pitchers and everyday players qualify for the same award, meaning that the writers must distinguish and chose between Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig for the same award. In this case, I think it is too complicated and much like comparing “apples and oranges” to decide who should win the rookie of the year among all eligible hitters and pitchers. In order to have a fair comparison I will only compare the starting pitchers who have the best chance to beat Fenandez out for the award. The other top 2 contenders are Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller and the Dodgers Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. It is fair to compare these three especially because they’re all rookies pitching for teams off different qualities and compositions.
The goal of pitching is run prevention so that is the most important factor to consider when determining the winner of a pitching award, as I am framing the rookie of the year for this exercise. That might also spark a conversation if there should be two separate ROY in each league for pitchers and position players, bu that is a matter for another article. In short it is important to isolate the factors that make a pitcher successful and they are in this table below.
Fernandez so far this season has the lowest ERA, the second lowest HR/FB% and the the second highest WAR amongst the leaders in the pitcher’s category in the NL ROY race. Objectively given the above stats it is to easy to say “Hey, its a toss up, you can give the award to any of the guys above.” There is validity to this view and maybe there is something to be said for using the “eye test” as a supplement to raw empirical data. But to this concept I have a couple more stats to add to the mix.
Team Win-Loss record during the pitchers starts, Run Support and a stat I made up called WAR share among starting pitchers. These factors are important in figuring out who the best rookie pitcher really is. The Marlins are 12-8 in Fernandez’s 20 starts, in that time the Marlins offense have only been able to produce 3.2 runs of support per start for him. The Dodgers are 10-10 in Ryu’s 20 starts, on a basis of 5.4 runs of support. Finally, the Cardinals are 12-7 in Miller’s 19 starts coming into tonight’s game against the Braves in Atlanta and they have mustered 4.26 runs of support for him per start.
On this basis Fernandez is the best pitcher because the Marlins have 12 wins, in 20 games where they haven’t scored many runs at all. Meaning that by his singular effort that 2.77 ERA has been incredibly valuable to the Marlins win-loss record. This doesn’t diminish how good of rookie seasons both Miller and Ryu are having but it does show how valuable Jose is to this Marlins team and will continue to be in the future.
One last stat is one I made up, I call it WAR share among starting pitchers – it is calculating by dividing the player’s WAR by the cumulative WAR of all the starting pitchers. This should show how valuable a player is to his team’s success. Unsurprisingly, Fernandez 2.0 WAR is 0.317 of the Marlins starting pitching WAR, the highest by far, Ryu is second with .264 WAR share and Miller has a much lower and more logical .203, almost exactly one fifth as it should be. That means if the Marlins didn’t have Jose Fernandez they would have one third less WAR out of their starting pitchers and that’s enough to give him the award.
Finally, it may be true that some hitters like Yasiel Puig or Jedd Gyorko may also deserve the award, but this was not the exercise of this article. I just wanted to figure out who the best NL rookie pitcher is in 2013. I was trying to see which one is most valuable to his team and I feel confident in saying that Jose Fernandez deserves to be the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year, after showing us what he did so far this season.