Friday, August 30, 2013
Jose Fernandez takes his place
By Buster Olney
Not merely among the best young pitchers in the game, Jose Fernandez is among the best, period.
A longtime evaluator who saw Jose Fernandez recently mentioned that the right-hander is among the three best pitchers in the majors.
"Among the three best young pitchers?" I asked.
No, he said. Among the three best.
"Among the three best right-handers?" I asked, seeking some sort of clarification.
No, he said. One of the three best.
Clayton Kershaw. Matt Harvey. And the Marlins’ 21-year-old, in the eyes of this scout. (This was before news of the Harvey injury had broken.)
It’s just an opinion, but it was a statement so strong that it reminded me of that time in May 2012 when Oakland GM Billy Beane said over the phone that he thought Mike Trout would be the best overall player in the major leagues by the end of the season. The fact that a thought like this could form, arguable or not, says a whole lot about just how good Jose Fernandez is already, in his first 25 games in the big leagues.
Fernandez starts for the Marlins tonight against Atlanta, and he is nearing the end of his season, because it’s expected that he will be shut down. He already has numbers that could make him the front-runner for the National League Cy Young Award in some years.
He’s got the third-best ERA among all pitchers who have thrown enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, at 2.30 -- behind Kershaw and Harvey. He has the fourth-lowest WHIP in the majors, behind Kershaw, Harvey and Max Scherzer. Only Kershaw has held opponents to a lower OPS, at .501; Hernandez has held hitters to a .525 OPS. Only five pitchers have a better rate of strikeouts per nine innings.
You can weigh him on any scale you want, view him through any prism, and he has been among the best.
Only Clayton Kershaw's numbers consistently (but barely) outpace those of Fernandez.
"It’s pretty impressive," Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis said the other day. "For someone as young as he is, to be as mature as he is -- how he handles himself. His stuff is electric."
As good as Fernandez has been this year, the scout says he actually has seen the rookie improve markedly during his career, especially with his third pitch, the changeup. This has helped him in a big way against left-handed hitters, in the eyes of the evaluator, and Mathis agrees. "He throws it kind of hard," said Mathis, mentioning the 88-89 mph velocity on the changeup, "but it has some really good action on it."
Since the end of May, Fernandez has thrown 100 1/3 innings and allowed only 17 earned runs, for an ERA of 1.52.
To repeat: Over the past three months, this 21-year-old has an ERA of 1.52.
In that time, he has surrendered only 58 hits and 30 walks, while racking up 113 strikeouts. "Sometimes, he gets excited [on the mound]," said Mathis. "Having that much success, that many weapons, he gets excited. ... I try to get his attention, try to get him to slow back down."
Most hitters remain silent in the box in discussing Fernandez when Mathis has caught, but Mathis says that he has heard from opponents when he gets to first base. "Some guys will say, 'This guy is the real deal.'"
Mathis says he has been fortunate to catch some really good pitchers, from John Lackey to Jered Weaver, and some pitchers with extraordinary stuff, such as Brandon Morrow. "This guy" -- Fernandez -- "is above all the others, as far as stuff is concerned," Mathis said.
• The Nationals won again, and are back to within 6 1/2 games in the wild-card race. Down the stretch, their schedule is much less challenging than that of the Reds or the Pirates, who have a lot of games left against each other.
Washington’s remaining games:
Aug. 30-Sept. 1: Three vs. the Mets, including "Sunday Night Baseball."
Sept. 2-4: Three games at the Phillies.
Sept. 6-8: Three games at Miami.
Sept. 9-12: Four games at the Mets.
Sept. 13-15: Three games vs. Philadelphia.
Sept. 16-18: Three games vs. Atlanta.
Sept. 19-22: Four games vs. Miami.
Sept. 23-25: Three games at St. Louis.
Sept. 27-29: Three games at Arizona.
• There continues to be a flurry of late moves before the Aug. 31 deadline that teams have to add players from other organizations in time for them to be eligible for the postseason. The Indians, who seemingly have been one bat short the whole year, addedJason Kubel, and the Orioles are trying to add someone: The Orioles are looking to work out a move for either Michael Morse or Josh Willingham. As poorly as both have performed this year, it’s an opportunity for the Mariners and the Twins, respectively, to save some money. Willingham is signed through next season, so for Minnesota, this would be a significant deal.
• At a time when the Yankees and Orioles are in jeopardy of falling out of the playoff chase, the two teams will meet in a series that is especially crucial for the Yankees, as George King writes. The lack of talent will eventually take down the Yankees, writes Ken Davidoff.
• Torii Hunter had one of the best moments of the season, rescuing the Tigers at the last second from a four-game sweep at the hands of Oakland. Here’s the video. Based on the comfortable, aggressive swing that Hunter took on a breaking ball, while facing the hard-throwing Grant Balfour, Hunter must’ve known he was going to throw a breaking ball, either because Balfour tipped off the pitch or because of the situation.
32 Straight games that Miguel Cabrera has reached base safely (longest active streak in MLB)
6 Runs allowed for Max Scherzer, his most this season
11 Career wins by Yovani Gallardo over the Pirates (his second most versus any team)
.386 Batting average for Jason Werth since the All-Star break (best in MLB)
From ESPN Stats & Info: Since the All-Star break Shane Victorino has been handling fastballs extremely well. He's batting over .400 and has six home runs, including the one he hit Thursday. His .418 average against that pitch since the break is tied for the best in baseball.
• The culture of winning is hard to come by for the Blue Jays, writes Mike Rutsey.