Saturday, July 20, 2013

Jose Fernandez, For a Limited Time Only

The Marlins have announced that their 20-year-old All-Star pitcher, Jose Fernandez, will be shut down after he reaches 150-170 innings pitched. He's at 104.2 as of today. Given his average of 5.8 innings per start, that works out to 8-13 more appearances.

Since he plays for a lousy team, Fernandez is having one of the more anonymous amazing seasons in history. There's been a lot written about all the great young pitchers in baseball this season, and Fernandez is the youngest. He turned 20 only on April 7. His promotion to the Marlins at such a young age, after only one full season in the minors, was a surprise, especially for a team that you'd think would be obsessed with delaying the start of young players' arbitration eligibility clock. He's certainly proved to be up to the task, as he's top 10 in ERA, WHIP, and hits, strikeouts, and home runs per nine innings pitched.

How unusual is that? Really, really unusual. I looked for pitchers 20 or younger who qualified for the ERA title (i.e., at least one inning pitched per game played) with an ERA below 3.00, at least seven strikeouts per nine innings, a WHIP below 1.2, and fewer than one homer per nine innings. This is all I found:

Player ERA SO/9 WHIP HR/9 Year Age Tm W L IP
Dwight Gooden 1.53 8.72 0.965 0.42 1985 20 NYM 24 4 276.2
Fernando Valenzuela 2.48 8.42 1.045 0.51 1981 20 LAD 13 7 192.1
Gary Nolan 2.58 8.18 1.125 0.71 1967 19 CIN 14 8 226.2
Dwight Gooden 2.60 11.39 1.073 0.29 1984 19 NYM 17 9 218.0
Jose Fernandez 2.75 8.86 1.080 0.60 2013 20 MIA 5 5 104.2
Bert Blyleven 2.81 7.24 1.171 0.68 1971 20 MIN 16 15 278.1
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/20/2013.

That isn't an encouraging list. Blyleven's in the Hall, but Gooden, Nolan, and Velenzuela all flamed out early with arm injuries. Despite the recent surge of innings and pitch counts, there isn't a lot of evidence that they prevent injury. Let's hope it works 
for Fernandez, because despite the anonymity of playing for the Marlins, and the possibility that he'll be the only pitcher on the list with a losing record, he's a rare talent. 


  1. Although I frequently lament pitch counts as a little too corporate, limiting innings in this situation sure makes sense. Reminds me of how Billy Martin blew up the A's in the early 1980s (McCatty,Keough etc.)...

  2. Exactly. I saw Doc during his first two years, and Valenzuela during Fernandomania.