Posted August 25, 2013

Is Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez already the best pitcher in baseball?

Clayton Kershaw, Jose Fernandez
(Jason Arnold/Getty Images)

Fernandez is now 10-5 with a 2.30 ERA on the season — the third best ERA in baseball. (Jason Arnold/Getty Images)

One of the hot topics this past week was the surging Most Valuable Player candidacy of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has broken away from the National League Cy Young pack in the second half and without a clear MVP pick among NL hitters and the Dodgers now tied with the Tigers and Pirates for the second-best record in baseball, momentum is building behind Kershaw to win both awards.

Kershaw, of course, won the 2011 NL Cy Young award, was as deserving of that award last year as actual winner R.A. Dickey, and could rather easily be said to have been the best pitcher in baseball over the last three seasons combined.  He has led the majors in ERA in each of the last two seasons and is doing so again this year, has led the majors in adjusted ERA+ with a 168 mark since the start of the 2011 season (Justin Verlander is a distant second at 148), and is second in innings over that span (just 3 2/3 behind Verlander).

However, over the last three months, a challenger has emerged — not necessarily to Kershaw’s award hopes this season, but to his title of  best pitcher in baseball. That challenger is a 21-year-old rookie who had never thrown a pitch above High-A ball prior to making his major league debut this April.

The Marlins’ Jose Fernandez turned in another gem Saturday night, holding the Rockies to three singles and a double across seven scoreless, walk-less innings, while striking out eight. He improved to 10-5 with a 2.30 ERA on the season, the latter mark ranking third among qualified pitchers in either league behind Kershaw’s insane 1.72 and Matt Harvey’s 2.27. Fernandez and Kershaw have now both made 15 starts since the calendar flipped to June. Here are their numbers from those starts:

Name W-L ERA WHIP K/9 K/BB IP H BB K HR CG SHO BABIP
Kershaw 8-4 1.62 0.81 8.6 5.30 111 70 20 106 5 1 1 .231
Fernandez 8-2 1.53 0.88 10.1 3.77 100 1/3 58 30 113 2 0 0 .240

With the exception of walks and innings, the latter of which have been artificially suppressed by the Marlins (who have let Fernandez reach 100 pitches in just seven of his last 15 starts and never let him reach 110, likely keeping him from completing at least one shutout in the process), Fernandez has out-pitched Kershaw over the last three months and has done it while working in a less favorable home ballpark.

Fernandez isn’t a threat to win the MVP or Cy Young awards for a variety of reasons, the primary one being the limit of approximately 170 innings the Marlins are expected to put on his season, which could result in his being shut down after just two more starts. But he’s putting the Rookie of the Year award away early, and if this is how he pitches as a raw rookie after having just two months to adjust to making the leap from High-A to the majors, how good is he going to be next year?

One possible answer is that he’s going to be the best pitcher in baseball — if he isn’t already.

22 comments
DavidTse
DavidTse

He will look good in Dodger Blue in a few years

JJ2
JJ2

Jose Fernandez is making history as a rookie, even if is mostly in the shadows and with not nearly the fan impact of Fernando Valenzuela or Hideo Nomo ... but he might just be the most impressive 20 (now 21) year old ever.  Now from that, to the best pitcher in baseball is a stretch, because durability is a key element of the best pitcher in baseball.  You can only be the best if you can pitch in +220 innings, that's why Fernandez and Harvey are still projects.  There is history of power pitchers never quite being able to handle the workload (Woods, Prior, Liriano, etc).  

MiguelangelKnuth
MiguelangelKnuth

ohhh the dog days, Your article is so dumb that you began stating that Kershaw will win the Cy Young by a landslide.. so how is he the best pitcher in baseball ? 

MichaelC
MichaelC

Nice contrived "reactionary" piece Corcoran. I guess your readership is down so you gotta write something like this to stir the pot? Weren't you the same guy who was writing the EXACT same thing about Kris Medlen last year? You are better than this. Do better please.

nyjets011269
nyjets011269

I don't know why everyone gets so upset over an article.  It's a nice story about a pitcher coming from A ball who is having a great season for the worst team in baseball.  I'm sure that their will be tons of upcoming articles on Scherzer and Cabrera during the last four weeks of the season.  You can bet that if Scherzer gets to 20-1 and Cabrera catches Davis in homeruns the articles will be all over the place and deservedly so. 

blairg
blairg

What a stupid article...is this the best you can do?  There are so many great stories in baseball this season and you make a ridiculous assumption about a rookie pitcher who has faced a bunch of teams that mostly have given up this season.  Until he has done it over 4-5 years, this guy does not even make the top 10.  

dinohealth
dinohealth

Miggy Cabrera just hit his 42d homer, 4 behind Davis, and closing!  He was 8 behind earlier this month!  The biggest story in basebasll this year, Kershaw notwithstanding, is Miggy's quest to become the back-to-back Triple Crown AND MVP winner; first ever as long as baseball has been played!  He has now raised his MLB-leading average to .357 and RBIs to 128!  Will he catch Davis and win the Triple Crown?  The most exciting quest ever! 

Currambero4u
Currambero4u

hmmm..how long till greedy $$#@! Loria sells this ace?

dinohealth
dinohealth

Cliff, you guys at SI's Baseball crack me up!  The day after a pitcher goes 19-1 in baseball, the feat having been accomplished only three times the last 120 years, you decide to write a story about a rookie!  Not a single story on Scherzer's epic feat.  Miggy Cabrera is chasing an unprecedented back-to-back Triple Crown and MVP awards, also, never done before, and you guys are talking Mike Trout on a last place team.  You would think writers that make their living off baseball would get with it!  I am not even a Tiger fan, but, even I realize that Cabrera's and Scherzer's feats are epic!  Let me give you a clue about what the rest of us folks that love and know baseball thin:  if they keep it up, Cabrera and Scherzer are running away with the MVP and Cy Young in the AL; on the same team!  

DD
DD

There are ALOT of pitchers worthy of the title Best in the game right now. Seems to me that a guy excelling time and time again in the heat of a pennant race gets the nod over someone on a team just playing out their games. History is filled with great pitchers who never had the stones to bring their best when needed. Too early to make this call either way on guys like Fernandez, Harvey and others.

rkcla08
rkcla08

and the Dodgers now tied with the Tigers for the best record in baseball"...please fact check before publishing.

Callaway
Callaway

@JJ2 I love JF, he's carrying my fantasy team and I love his attitude and pitching, but I gotta give the best 20-year title to Doc Gooden. He was 17-9 while leading the league in K's, WHIP, Ks/9, hits/9 and finishing 2nd in the Cy Young race.

Callaway
Callaway

@MichaelC You are naive if you don't think that Medlen was the best SP over last half of the season last year.

MiguelangelKnuth
MiguelangelKnuth

@nyjets011269 it's not about the Kid (i'm glad he's doing great after defecting) it's about a writer who clearly has to deliver an article and decides to glorify a pitcher that has less than a season in the majors and label him as the BEST , by that logic, when Puig arrived he was the best hitter of the world ( I guess you can't say that now that scouts began to figure him ) 

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@dinohealth Great point.  Because nothing has ever been written about Miguel Cabrera.

drm166
drm166

@dinohealth Wins are the most irrelevant stat in baseball.  you can give up 10 runs in 5 innings and get a win.  You can give up 1 run in 9 innings and get a loss.

rkcla08
rkcla08

@dinohealth truth to your comment.  now just imagine the amount of headlines blaring day-in, day-out if miggy and max were in nyc.

Nick27
Nick27

@dinohealth as proven by King Felix a few years back wins don't get you a cy young, Scherzer may not even be the favorite to win it, thanks to Yu and felix

JackB
JackB

@rkcla08

"Dodgers now tied with the Tigers and Pirates for the second-best record in baseball". Please check your reading glasses before posting.

RabbiRoss
RabbiRoss

@rkcla08 @dinohealth Then again, how often has a Yankee actually won MVP or Cy Young?  Other than A-Rod during two recent roid-infused seasons, I can' think of anyone for the past 30 years.

rkcla08
rkcla08

@JackB @rkcla08 

i quoted the article as was written.  seems there was a fact check after being published and then edited.