José Fernandez 1992-2016

jose-fernandezMarlins’ star right-hander José Fernandez has died tragically in a boating accident, aged only 24. The Cuban-born Fernandez, whose family arrived in America only after three attempts to defect, won the 2013 RoY, underwent successful Tommy John surgery in 2014 from which he returned to action in 2015, and posted a stellar 2016 season, leading the majors in FIP and SO/9.

More after the jump on the brief but brilliant career of José Fernandez.

Here is Fernandez’s career.

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS IP BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W Awards
2013 ★ 20 MIA 12 6 .667 2.19 28 28 172.2 58 187 176 2.73 0.979 5.8 0.5 3.0 9.7 3.22 AS,CYA-3,RoY-1
2014 21 MIA 4 2 .667 2.44 8 8 51.2 13 70 153 2.18 0.948 6.3 0.7 2.3 12.2 5.38
2015 22 MIA 6 1 .857 2.92 11 11 64.2 14 79 131 2.24 1.160 8.5 0.6 1.9 11.0 5.64
2016 ★ 23 MIA 16 8 .667 2.86 29 29 182.1 55 253 137 2.29 1.119 7.4 0.6 2.7 12.5 4.60 AS
4 Yrs 38 17 .691 2.58 76 76 471.1 140 589 150 2.43 1.054 6.8 0.6 2.7 11.2 4.21
162 Game Avg. 17 8 .691 2.58 34 34 211 63 264 150 2.43 1.054 6.8 0.6 2.7 11.2 4.21
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/27/2016.

That 176 ERA+ in 2013 is the best of the live ball era in a qualified rookie season, and second only to Dwight Gooden‘s 229 in 1985 in any qualified season before age 21. Fernandez’s majors leading 5.8 H/9 in his rookie season is the 11th lowest mark in any qualified season since 1901, and the best by a rookie, by any pitcher aged 21 or younger, and by any live ball era right-handed pitcher aged 24 or younger. Despite having his career interrupted by Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for most of 2014 and 2015, Fernandez is the only live ball era starting pitcher with ERA and FIP both under 3 in 50+ IP in each of his first four seasons.

Fernandez’s start to his pitching career has few parallels in major league history, with his 150 career ERA+ ranking second since 1901 among pitchers with 75 career starts through age 23. Here’s that list.

Rk Player ERA+ GS SO9 BB9 WHIP From To Age CG SHO W L W-L% IP ERA FIP Tm
1 Smoky Joe Wood 151 127 6.73 2.62 1.080 1908 1913 18-23 100 24 92 48 .657 1145.1 2.00 2.20 BOS
2 Jose Fernandez 150 76 11.25 2.67 1.054 2013 2016 20-23 0 0 38 17 .691 471.1 2.58 2.43 MIA
3 Walter Johnson 148 157 6.08 2.01 1.031 1907 1911 19-23 135 26 82 78 .513 1355.1 1.77 1.89 WSH
4 Bob Feller 136 175 7.66 5.06 1.356 1936 1941 17-22 117 16 107 54 .665 1448.1 3.18 3.45 CLE
5 Clayton Kershaw 135 116 9.36 3.49 1.173 2008 2011 20-23 6 3 47 28 .627 716.1 2.88 3.04 LAD
6 Christy Mathewson 135 160 5.70 2.41 1.131 1900 1904 19-23 137 20 97 62 .610 1388.1 2.28 2.49 NYG
7 John Candelaria 134 82 5.77 2.30 1.069 1975 1977 21-23 21 6 44 18 .710 571.1 2.74 3.53 PIT
8 Dwight Gooden 134 158 8.19 2.55 1.102 1984 1988 19-23 52 19 91 35 .722 1172.2 2.62 2.46 NYM
9 Bert Blyleven 134 178 7.37 2.15 1.135 1970 1974 19-23 77 21 80 75 .516 1335.2 2.74 2.55 MIN
10 Dean Chance 133 98 6.15 2.96 1.195 1961 1964 20-23 27 15 47 39 .547 751.1 2.65 2.79 LAA
11 Carlos Zambrano 132 80 7.55 4.10 1.321 2001 2004 20-23 4 2 34 29 .540 539.2 3.25 3.73 CHC
12 Noodles Hahn 132 149 4.50 1.94 1.156 1899 1902 20-23 137 16 84 59 .587 1316.2 2.60 2.77 CIN
13 Frank Tanana 131 137 7.79 2.43 1.107 1973 1977 19-23 73 19 66 49 .574 1082.0 2.69 2.92 CAL
14 Wes Ferrell 130 97 4.00 3.80 1.442 1927 1931 19-23 71 4 68 37 .648 832.2 3.55 4.13 CLE
15 Babe Ruth 129 128 3.86 3.12 1.091 1914 1918 19-23 93 17 80 41 .661 1057.0 2.09 2.65 BOS
16 Don Drysdale 128 142 6.91 2.76 1.200 1956 1960 19-23 47 14 66 54 .550 1071.1 3.21 3.24 BRO-LAD
17 Ismael Valdez 127 91 6.82 2.25 1.144 1994 1997 20-23 6 2 41 30 .577 647.2 3.03 3.50 LAD
18 Bret Saberhagen 126 108 5.65 1.74 1.136 1984 1987 20-23 31 8 55 39 .585 806.0 3.39 3.34 KCR
19 Felix Hernandez 125 138 8.06 2.85 1.271 2005 2009 19-23 7 3 58 41 .586 905.0 3.45 3.54 SEA
20 Dontrelle Willis 125 93 6.83 2.64 1.254 2003 2005 21-23 11 7 46 27 .630 594.0 3.27 3.45 FLA
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/27/2016.

An impressive group to say the least. Fernandez leads the group in SO/9 and ranks second in WHIP and third in W-L%, the latter mark particularly impressive considering the teams Fernandez played on. Fernandez is the only pitcher, regardless of ERA+, with a SO/BB ratio above 4 in 75+ starts through age 23.

Fernandez is one of only 20 pitchers (out of 287) since 1913 to record quality starts in two-thirds of 50+ starts through age 23. His performance at home was particularly impressive, with a remarkable 29-2 record from a 1.49 ERA and 0.918 WHIP in 42 home starts. Included was a run of 26 home starts without a loss, the longest searchable streak by any pitcher to begin his career.

Fernandez was a complete pitcher with four pitches that he used frequently. Of 131 pitchers with 400 IP for 2013 to 2016, Fernandez was the youngest of only 25 to throw his slider, curveball and changeup all more than 10% of the time (with Trevor Bauer of the Indians the only other pitcher of the group to do so through age 25). Of 23 pitchers since 2002 with 400 IP through age 23, only  Felix HernandezCC Sabathia and Zack Greinke matched Fernandez with 10% sliders, curveballs and changeups. Of that same group of 23, Fernandez’s 95.2 mph fastball velocity is the top mark.

RIP José. We will miss you.

 

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11 Comments on "José Fernandez 1992-2016"

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Dr. Doom
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Really good synopsis, Doug! It is really amazing how well Fernandez played so young. Most of the comparable pitchers to him seem to have flamed out – just look at the ones with 76-98 starts on the table above. Nonetheless, Fernandez seemed so ideally suited for his era that I don’t think it’s too much to say that he seemed more the exception than the rule. You pointed out that he’s the only pitcher with 75+ starts through age-23 with better than a 4:1 K:BB ratio. It’s not even close. Using the table above, here are the only pitchers above… Read more »
Doug
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I’ve got it. Thanks.

Just haven’t got around to posting it. Will do so soon.

Hartvig
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The first name that came to mind when I heard about this was Steve Olin.

It also got me thinking about who might be considered the “best” athlete to die tragically at such an early age. I thought right away of Len Bias and then Ernie Davis. My time in Iowa City also brough Nile Kinnick to mind but a) he was 24 when he was killed in WW2 and b) he went to law school instead of the NFL after graduation (altho he did get several offers from the NFL).

I’m sure there must be others I’m forgetting about.

Paul E
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David Overstreet (RB – N F L) ?
Salvador Sanchez (all-time great featherweight) ?
Jerome Brown (DT – N F L) ?

Paul E
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One of the saddest stories I’ve ever read or heard was in regard to the death of Jack Trice, an African American lineman with the Iowa State Cyclones back in the eraly 1920’s. Basically, the opposition (Minnesota?) ganged up on him the entire game and Trice died on the train ride back to Ames. Woven in the story were details from his personal diary written in the days prior to the big game that spoke of his absolute determination to do well….
The football stadium is named after him

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