2014 projections: 9-4, 2.74 ERA, 43 BB, 127 SO in 118 IP
Jose Fernandez's 2014 innings projection is eerily low unless he suffers a lengthy injury or hits the sophomore wall.
Marlins fans are probably cringing at the thought of either event occurring right now.
Fernandez didn't accomplish much in 2013. All he did while turning 21 years old during the season was go 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 172.2 innings, win the National League Rookie of the Year award and finish third in the NL Cy Young race—and have a rookie season for the ages.
Consider the following facts, courtesy of Sports Illustrated's Cliff Corcoran:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
When Fernandez was promoted to the majors at the beginning of last season, the scouting reports predicted Fernandez would at least be able to hold his own.
Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com gave Fernandez's fastball a perfect 70 on their scale, while Fernandez's curveball graded out a 60. Fernandez's changeup graded out a 45 on a 55-point scale but his command was a 50 on the same scale. McDaniel also added there's a chance Fernandez is a No. 1 starter and could reach his ceiling as soon as 2014. Well, Fernandez might have arrived ahead of schedule.
Meanwhile, Baseball Prospectus said Fernandez is a fearless competitor and if they had to pick one lower-level arm (Fernandez had never pitched in Double-A or Triple-A) with the makeup to handle such an aggressive promotion, it would be Fernandez without hesitation. Fernandez might struggle at times, but he won't fold.
Apparently, Fernandez's competitive juices also extends to cycling, according to Frisaro. Fernandez is using cycling as a means to ramp up his conditioning as he rides of 70-80 miles a day, five or six times a week.
If Fernandez avoids the injury bug or the sophomore wall, he will be on a looser innings limit. Frisaro predicts it may reach up to 190 innings, up from last season's 172.3 innings.