Year-Ending Surgery for Jose Fernandez Would Be Brutal Blow for Marlins, MLB

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Year-Ending Surgery for Jose Fernandez Would Be Brutal Blow for Marlins, MLB
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today

It's already been a bad year for elbows. The Tommy John surgeries have been plentiful, and all have been painful to some degree or another.

But none quite so much as the Tommy John operation that Jose Fernandez might be headed for. It would be a staggering blow felt not just by the Miami Marlins, but Major League Baseball, too.

If you're just joining us, the only thing official at the moment is that Fernandez went on the 15-day disabled list Monday evening with what the Marlins are calling a "right elbow sprain." He'll be out a couple of weeks, but not necessarily any longer than that.

"We're going to take every precaution necessary," said Marlins skipper Mike Redmond, via Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. "He said he felt discomfort. So immediately, we're getting him the treatment and the rest he needs."

Unfortunately, rest and treatment might not do the trick. Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has heard from a source that season-ending surgery is coming for the 21-year-old right-hander:

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports chimed in as well, reporting that "all signs" point to Tommy John surgery.

As Bleacher Report's Will Carroll was quick to note, the very word "sprain" is a bad omen. That indicates that something is up with the ulnar collateral ligament in Fernandez's elbow. And when something's up with a UCL, Tommy John surgery usually follows.

If that's indeed what awaits Fernandez, it would mean the loss of a great pitcher for the Marlins, and a loss of a great entertainer for both them and MLB.

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

What exactly is it that the Marlins stand to lose if Fernandez needs Tommy John surgery?

Illustrated in numbers, this (via FanGraphs): 

Jose Fernandez's Career to Date (2013-2014)
Split GS IP K/9 K/BB ERA fWAR
2013 28 172.2 9.75 3.22 2.19 4.2
2014 8 51.2 12.19 5.38 2.44 1.6
Career 36 224.1 10.31 3.62 2.25 5.8

FanGraphs

Among qualified National League starters, nobody has a better strikeout rate since the start of 2013. Only Clayton Kershaw has Fernandez beat in ERA. Only four have him beat in FanGraphs WAR.

What the Marlins stand to lose, therefore, is at least one of the NL's five best pitchers. And even saying that might not be doing Fernandez proper justice given that he's currently leading all NL pitchers in fWAR.

The Marlins are not without intriguing arms outside of Fernandez. Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez and Tom Koehler are talented pitchers who began the week with ERAs at 3.33 or under. Meanwhile, down on the farm, it's hard to ignore left-hander Andrew Heaney and the 2.31 ERA he has at Double-A.

Asking any of these guys to fill Fernandez's shoes if he is lost for the season, however, is utter folly. The list of guys who could do that consists of names like Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Cliff Lee, who, at last check, are neither Marlins nor ticketed to be Marlins.

According to ESPN, the Marlins already have lower postseason odds than their two main NL East rivals, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. Since they've accumulated those odds with Fernandez, the thought of them doing any better without Fernandez doesn't inspire much confidence.

To boot, the Marlins would have a whole 'nother problem at the gate. As I noted last week, Fernandez's starts drew an average of 23,771 to Marlins Park in the second half of 2013 and an average of 28,924 this year, well above the club's averages both seasons. He's a guy Marlins fans will pay to see.

They're not alone. It's probably never been more apparent than it is today that Fernandez is a player that all baseball fans want to watch.

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

Take a moment to peruse Twitter, and you'll find a lot of hearts breaking over the thought of Fernandez being lost for the season.

Here's ESPN's Jayson Stark:

And MLB.com's Adam McCalvy:

And Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher (and two-time Tommy John survivor) Daniel Hudson:

And Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, via Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles:

The sorrow is understandable. Major League Baseball has a lot of players, but none quite like Fernandez.

A lot of pitchers, for example, are putting up good numbers these days. But none with stuff quite like what Fernandez packs when he pitches. When he's not blowing hitters away with mid-90s heat, he's freezing them with a diabolical breaking ball straight from some mad scientist's lab.

A guy with his pitching dominance shouldn't also be allowed to field and hit with the best of 'em. But it so happens these are talents Fernandez possesses as well.

We've seen him make impossible snares on line drives and save runs with creativity on defense, and based on OPS, Fernandez has been one of the 10 best hitting pitchers in the game since his debut in 2013. With hitting talent like that, he can be forgiven for hot-dogging on his first career home run last year.

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

Whether he's excelling pitching the ball, fielding it or hitting it at any given moment, one thing that's for certain is Fernandez is going to have a smile on his face. From the moment he arrived, he's worn his enthusiasm for baseball on his sleeve.

Heck, he's shown that he can even smile when a guy hits a home run off him, nor does he even need to be involved in a game for his enthusiasm for baseball to bubble to the surface.

“Nobody’s ever going to take that away from him,” Redmond told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald earlier this year. “That’s the beauty of Jose. He’s like a little kid out there, just having fun.”

Between watching him play the game and watching his sheer enjoyment of it all, it is fun to watch Fernandez have fun. Anybody who's seen him in action will agree, and the laments you can now hear go to show that nobody wants to do without such a spectacle for as long as it would take him to recover from Tommy John surgery. 

Since it's not yet a given that Fernandez's year is over, say it with me: Get well soon, Jose.

 

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

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