Posted November 11, 2013

Rookie of the Year award caps historic season for Jose Fernandez

Awards Watch, Jose Fernandez, Rookie of the Year award, Wil Myers
Jose Fernandez, Marlins

Jose Fernandez’s rookie season ranks among the five best by a pitcher 20 years old or younger in baseball history. (Elsa/Getty Images)

The Marlins’ Jose Fernandez and the Rays’ Wil Myers were named the Rookies of the Year in the National and American Leagues, respectively, on Monday evening. While Myers may have been something of a default pick in a weak AL field, for Fernandez, this award crowns what was one of the best rookie seasons by a pitcher in the game’s long history.

Fernandez, who didn’t turn 21 until July 31 and thus just completed his age-20 season, made Miami’s rotation out of spring training in just his second full professional season despite having never pitched above High-A. He finished the year with a 12-6 record, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 172 2/3 innings across 28 starts.  

Among rookies who qualified for the ERA title in the Liveball Era (1920-present), Fernandez ranked fifth in ERA, second in WHIP and sixth in K/9, and his 176 ERA+, a stat that measures run prevention against league average and adjusts for home ballpark, was the best since 1911.  Of the four seasons above his in ERA, one came in a strike-shortened season (Dave Righetti in 1981), two happened in The Year of the Pitcher (Stan Bahnsen and Jerry Koosman in 1968) and the last came during World War II (Johnny Beazley, 1942) when many players were serving in the military.

If you take Fernandez’s age into account, you get another remarkable list. Among pitchers 20 or younger, only Dwight Gooden in 1984 and Rick Ankiel in 2000 posted higher strikeout rates, and only Gooden had a lower WHIP, doing so in his sophomore year of 1985, one of the greatest pitching seasons in the game’s history. In the Liveball Era only Gooden’s 1.53 ERA in ’85 was lower than Fernandez’s 2.19 this year. In fact, Fernandez is the just the sixth pitcher that age to post an ERA+ above 135 since the major leagues were integrated in 1947.

In all, Fernandez was worth 6.3 Wins Above Replacement this season, according to Baseball-Reference.com, the fifth-best season by a pitcher age 20 or younger in baseball history. Only Christy Mathewson in 1901, Bob Feller in 1939, Bert Blyleven in 1971 and Gooden in 1985 had a higher mark. Oh, by the way, the first three of those men wound up in the Hall of Fame.

Want something even more impressive? How about this: Fernandez became just the seventh qualified pitcher in major-league history to post an ERA+ of 176 or better, a WHIP of 0.98 or lower and a K/9 of 9.7 or better in the same season. Four of other six such seasons were by Pedro Martinez (1997, ’99, 2000 and ’02), and the other two were by Randy Johnson and Johan Santana in 2004. Four of those seasons resulted in Cy Young awards, and the other two should have. Fernandez, who, again, did those things in his age-20 season and without ever pitching in Double- or Triple-A, won’t win the NL Cy Young award this year because Clayton Kershaw was even better, but he is one of the three finalists for that award.

Fernandez received 26 of the 30 first place votes for Rookie of the Year, joining Tony Oliva (AL, 1964) as the only Cuban-born players to win the award. Fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers received the other four first-place votes. Fernandez and Puig got 59 of the 60 first- and second-place votes. The other one went to Cardinals righty Shelby Miller courtesy of John Maffei of the San Diego Union-Tribune, who left Puig off his ballot entirely and listed Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko, who finished sixth overall, third.

As for Myers, he is the third Ray to win the Rookie of the Year award in the last six seasons, joining his batter’s-box doppelganger Evan Longoria, who won in 2008, and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, who won in 2011. Myers didn’t make his major-league debut until June 18 and played in just 88 games this season, becoming the first hitter to win the award in either league for a season in which he played so few games since the Phillies’ Ryan Howard, who also played in 88 games in 2005. No other American League hitter has won it for a season in which he played fewer than 100 games, and only the Giants’ Willie McCovey (52 games in 1959) ever won it for a season in which he played fewer games than Myers and Howard.

Myers received 23 of 30 first-place votes. Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias finished second with five first-place votes. Myers’ Rays teammate Chris Archer finished third, and A’s righty Dan Straily finished fourth, each receiving one first-place vote. Coincidentally, both of those lone first-place votes were cast by Cleveland writers.

11 comments
gwe59
gwe59

Puig should have won the NL award.  It's not an overstatement to say he turned the Dodgers season around.  As a rookie, he's already one of the most exciting players in the game.  

oasis1994
oasis1994

The right people won this award, so that is a good thing.

Only issues I had with this article is when he was talking about WWII and players being gone and in the war. Yes that helped, but you still had to pitch in the majors with some talent.

I'm a Red Sox fan and I think Myers is going to be huge. I like what I see from the kid and throw out the 2013 post season; he will figure it out now that he has had a taste of the post season.

As for Fernandez; such a shame he pitches for Miami. 

Charliegone
Charliegone

Fernandez deserved it. Dude had a great year. Puig did as well, but not a lot of pitchers do what Fernandez did.

RyanEyesLee
RyanEyesLee

"Only Gooden in ’85 and Charles “Silver” King in 1888 (!) posted a higher  ERA." Is it lower ERA or higher ERA+?

"
Oh, by the way, the last three of those men wound up in the Hall of Fame." Should be the first three. 

RichHorton1
RichHorton1

"First three of those men", not "last three", right?

MrArlington
MrArlington

Talent blooming under their eyes and these fan bases will continue to never attending the home games.

Angel7
Angel7

Writer confuses the last name from Fernandez to Hernandez...way to spell check on your own story

DODGERFAIL2013
DODGERFAIL2013

@gwe59 typical ignorant and idiotic statement by a dodgers fan.

the vote wasn't even close, which says a lot.

StevenTanner
StevenTanner

@gwe59 He's streaky, inconsistent, horrible on the basepaths, and immature.  Sure, he's got loads of talent -- but definitely not deserving of the award IMHO.