Marlins Ace Jose Fernandez Making Every Start Must-See TV

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Marlins Ace Jose Fernandez Making Every Start Must-See TV
USA Today

We all have our own ideas about what qualifies as must-see TV. I'd personally nominate Game of Thrones, Archer, Orphan Black and Doctor Who.

Oh, and Jose Fernandez's starts. They definitely qualify as must-see TV.

Increasingly so, if anything.

If you haven't been keeping in touch with the young Miami Marlins ace, you've missed some excellent pitching so far this year. The 21-year-old entered his Tuesday battle against the Atlanta Braves with a 1.99 ERA and an absurd 7.83 K/BB in 2014. Dominant stuff.

And then, not surprisingly, there was more dominance.

Just a week after striking out 14 and allowing only three hits his last time out against Atlanta, Fernandez dazzled again with eight more scoreless innings against the Braves on Tuesday to help Miami to a 9-0 win. He allowed only two hits and two walks and struck out eight.

It wasn't just Fernandez's arm that starred on Tuesday night. His bat did some work too, as he helped his own cause with an RBI single that kept the line moving in a game-breaking, five-run sixth.

Fernandez's glove was a factor too. I'll let the video do the talking about that:

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

Fernandez's teammate, outfielder Christian Yelich, said it best:

Indeed. Great pitching? A great defensive play? A big hit? Loads of fun all the way around?

Yeah, sounds like a typical Jose Fernandez night. For all the great young pitchers in the league right now, only he can amaze quite like that.

It's mainly Fernandez's pitching that does the amazing, of course. You could draw that conclusion simply by looking at the ridiculous numbers he's put up to this point (via FanGraphs):

Jose Fernandez's Career to Date
Year GS IP K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 ERA
2013 28 172.2 9.75 3.02 3.22 0.52 2.19
2014 6 39.2 12.48 1.82 6.88 0.45 1.59

FanGraphs

These are the numbers of a guy who doesn't have many bad days, and it's hard to ignore how what's been happening this year is somehow head and shoulders more impressive than what happened in 2013. Fernandez has been really good. 

Historically good, even. Right, Jeremy Lundblad of ESPN?

As fun as the numbers are, it's way more fun to watch Fernandez put them together. A big reason why he's become must-see TV is because he has made-for-TV stuff.

Fernandez's arsenal isn't complicated. He throws only two pitches with regularity: a four-seam fastball and a breaking ball that's either a slider or a curveball, depending on whom you ask (I prefer the latter).

Now, the conventional wisdom is that a starting pitcher needs at least three reliable pitches. But Fernandez is a case of what it takes to be an exception to the rule:

Blistering velocity and deadly action on your fastball, and a curveball with movement that could befuddle a physics professor.

Per Baseball Prospectus' PITCHf/x leaderboard, the only starter in baseball with a harder average fastball (as of the start of Tuesday's action) than Fernandez's 96.55 heater is Marlins teammate Nate Eovaldi. Fernandez's heater also ranks near the top in vertical movement and horizontal movement.

How do we know it works? Well, hitters entered Tuesday with just a .262 average against it. Better yet, Fernandez has been getting whiffs on over 25 percent of the swings taken at it. Only two starters have been doing better.

As outstanding as Fernandez's fastball is, though, it has nothing on his curveball. I'll tell you the average against it (.093) and its whiff/swing rate (46.24) real quick so we can get to seeing it in action.

The following mainly curveballs highlight reel will be fun for everyone except Braves fans:

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

So far this season, Fernandez's efficiency has been just as enjoyable as his stuff. 

For one, he doesn't mess around with the strike zone. Evidently aware that he has two pitches nobody can hit, he's gone right at it. In addition to lowering his walk rate by more than one per nine innings, Fernandez has upped his overall strike percentage from 66.8 in 2013 to 69.0 in 2014.

Fernandez is efficient in another way too. Per FanGraphs' PITCHf/x data, he entered his Tuesday outing as one of baseball's five fastest workers. He doesn't believe in wasting his time. Or yours.

When Fernandez isn't dazzling with his pitching, there's a decent chance he'll be impressing us with his defense. We saw him do it with creativity on the play he made Tuesday night. In the past we've seen him do it with his natural athleticism, impressive focus and good, old-fashioned quick reactions:

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

Also, the RBI single Fernandez hit on Tuesday night isn't the first time his bat has stolen, or at least shared, the spotlight. He batted a solid (for a pitcher) .222 with three extra-base hits as a rookie in 2013.

You might remember the home run. If not, well, here:

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

If you don't mind a little hot-dogging, then you're ticked that Brian McCann and the rest of the Braves didn't let Fernandez have his fun. 

If you do mind a little hot-dogging, you'll be happy to know that Fernandez can get just as good as he gives.

We learned that when Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez hit a bomb off him on Opening Day. Fernandez stared him down as he watched the ball go, and then he laughed it off as Gonzalez rounded the bases. From there, the two traded good-natured barbs from their respective dugouts.

"We were just joking around," Fernandez told the Miami Herald. "I told him, 'I don't know what I'm going to throw you next time.' He's like 'Don't even talk about it you struck out everybody.' We talked after the game. No big deal."

Sounds about right.

Fernandez's reputation as a guy who doesn't take the game too seriously precedes him by now. Heck, he likes having fun so much that ESPN's Jayson Stark was inspired to put pen to paper about the topic.

Add it all up, and in Fernandez, you have a guy who can pitch with the best of 'em thanks to two pitches that are not of this earth and excellent efficiency. He can also make highlights with his fielding and hitting.

A pitcher can't be any more of a total package, which I suppose makes Fernandez's inescapable sense of fun the cherry on top of it all.

This leads us to the last bit of information you need to know, which might be the most important fact of all:

You can catch this guy on the mound every fifth day.

If you aren't already doing so, tune in.

 

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.

 

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.

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