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Jose Fernandez Don’t Go Breaking My Heart


dom2613
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Chris Moran

 

Jose Fernandez was great in 2013. Prior to the season, the 20-year had not pitched above High-A, and had fewer than 140 professional innings. Armed with a blazing fastball, a devastating curve, and a changeup, he struck out 27.5 percent of hitters on his way to a 2.19 ERA in 28 starts before the Miami Marlins shut him down for the season.

 

In 68 second-half starts he pitched to a 1.32 ERA while striking out 32.7 percent of hitters. His 176 ERA+ was the best mark by a rookie pitcher in over 100 years. And by the way, Taylor Jungmann, who managed a 4.33 ERA and a 13.8 percent strikeout rate as a 23 year-old in Double-A was drafted ahead of him.

 

You probably know this stuff, but I thought I would rehash it and thus cast some brightness on a cold, gloomy, and otherwise baseball-less day.

 

On a darker note, you probably also know that Matt Harvey, who was even better than Fernandez, had his season terminated prematurely due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Three years prior, another rookie phenom, Stephen Strasburg, dazzled us with high 90′s heat and impeccable control before his elbow gave way to the knife. My point is to show that great young pitchers have a way of breaking your heart.

 

Here are some of the greatest seasons by a rookie hurler in baseball history. Unfortunately, many of these young stars burned out all too soon.

 

Brandon Webb, pitched to a 165 ERA+ in his rookie season, which was the best mark since 1911 until Fernandez came along. The next season he forgot where the strike zone was, and led the NL with 119 walks. He rebounded and was very good the following four seasons. However, a litany of injuries would ruin his career, and he made just one more start after a 2008 season in which posted a 140 ERA+ and 5.5 fWAR.

 

Mark Fidrych was more myth than man. He made 29 starts in his 1976 debut season, 24 of which he completed, with four shutouts. He led the AL in bWAR with 9.6 (4.8 fWAR). Unfortunately, he wouldn’t make more than 11 starts in a season after that, and threw his final game in 1980, at the age of 25. Maybe he was before my time, but I feel some retroactive angst for what could have been.

 

After striking out 300 hitters in Single-A Lynchburg, Dwight Gooden made the jump to the major leagues the next season. As a 19 year old, he posted an otherworldly 49 FIP- and struck out 31.4 percent of hitters, which was more than twice the NL average. Gooden dominated again the next season, and would have strong seasons in 1988 and 1990. Thanks to shoulder injuries and drug problems, he would never be able to match the greatness he displayed as a 19 and 20 year-old.

 

Michael Pineda provided a bright spot for a Seattle Mariners team that would lose 95 games. The giant hurler used mid 90′s heat and a wipeout slider to strike out 24.9 percent of hitters on his way to an 87 xFIP-. In the offseason, he was swapped to the New York Yankees for then mega-prospect Jesus Montero. Two years later, Montero has managed a .252/.293/.377 line for the Mariners and proven himself totally inadequate as a catcher. Adding insult to injury, he was suspended for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic. Pineda underwent shoulder surgery and missed the entire 2012 season. He suffered several setbacks in 2013, and made 10 minor league starts.

 

Rick Ankiel was electrifying, if wild as a 20 year-old flamethrower in 2000. Over 175 innings, he posted a 26.4 percent strikeout rate that trailed only Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. However, he famously unraveled in the playoffs, walking 11 hitters over four innings. He made six starts the next season, and three years later made five relief appearances. After abandoning pitching, Ankiel remade himself as an outfielder with a cannon arm that served as a painful reminder of how good he was.

 

Kerry Wood struck out a shocking 33.3 percent of hitters in 1998, the highest rate in the major leagues. His 20 strikeout game, which came as a 20 year-old in his fifth career start, is the highest Game Score achieved in a 9 inning game. He struggled with his control and injuries the next season, and would never match the 4.2 fWAR he produced in 1998. Along with Mark Prior, he would form a dynamic duo of strikeout pitchers for the Cubs in 2003. Neither of them would even reach 3 fWAR again, and between the two they would make only 95 more starts. A little part of the baseball fan in me died once it became clear that Prior and Wood would never be the same.

 

Wow. That was depressing. I’m sure I could have included more young pitchers who were bitten by the injury bug, but one person can only dig up so much heartache and disappointment.

 

Rooting for a young pitcher is baseball’s version of a Romeo and Juliet romance. There are so many obstacles to the long-term health and stability of the relationship, but while it’s there, it’s too much to resist. In the end, you often end up crushed (though hopefully not as devastated as Shakespeare’s star-crossed couple).

 

Of course, looking to the bright side, some sensational young hurlers do survive to become sensational older hurlers. Felix Hernandez doesn’t throw 100 any more, but he’s been remarkably durable, and remarkably good. For some reason, people were ready to stick a fork in Justin Verlander‘s acehood, but then he reminded us just how good he is by allowing one run in 23 innings this postseason. Hopefully Jose Fernandez can follow their career paths.

 

Overall, as a baseball fan, you’re better off with someone steady and dependable, like a Mark Buehrle or a Bronson Arroyo. Someone who is always there to give you 200 innings.

 

Should injury happen I just hope it's two years before we are competitive. Should we ever be competitive that is.

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My main concern is sophomore regression over injury. Eventually hitters will adjust, and it's important that he's able to adjust as well.

 

His unbelievable ability to throw any of his four plus pitches in any count will allow him to never be adjusted to. That's what great pitchers can do, and if he ain't great, that rookie year was one hell if an impersonation.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't know where else to put this, but Braves signed Teheran to 6/$32.4.

 

This is what smart franchises do not to keep beating a dead horse. Marlins could probably get Fernandez right now for something like 6/$40, and I think they could get 7th and 8th year team options for $15-17 range team options after that. Same thing I keep saying with Stanton, still lets him be a free agent in his prime, and sets himself up for life 2 full seasons away from arbitration. This number is going to radically surge upwards if they don't do something. Saying that, I am not insulted if they wait until next offseason, but doing it now isn't really a negative because of course you're going to do it next offseason as long as he doesn't get hurt (I have no doubts he does not pan out).

 

This is of course, assuming the Marlins think Fernandez is a franchise player unlike Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton who certainly are not franchise players...

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I don't know where else to put this, but Braves signed Teheran to 6/$32.4.

 

This is what smart franchises do not to keep beating a dead horse. Marlins could probably get Fernandez right now for something like 6/$40, and I think they could get 7th and 8th year team options for $15-17 range team options after that. Same thing I keep saying with Stanton, still lets him be a free agent in his prime, and sets himself up for life 2 full seasons away from arbitration. This number is going to radically surge upwards if they don't do something. Saying that, I am not insulted if they wait until next offseason, but doing it now isn't really a negative because of course you're going to do it next offseason as long as he doesn't get hurt (I have no doubts he does not pan out).

 

This is of course, assuming the Marlins think Fernandez is a franchise player unlike Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton who certainly are not franchise players...

As you mentioned, I'm not upset letting them make Jose prove some consistency before his payday. However I agree next offseason that's a priority. Hopefully we can start this new business model under the new FO now that our revenue in the new ballpark is pretty much established.

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Jose Fernandez shouldn't have to prove anything else. The only thing that could potentially stop him from being great is an injury which could happen at any time. The Marlins should already be trying to do this, but they're not because they're stupid.

 

The only thing he has left to prove is consistency. That's what makes great pitchers great.

 

Perfect example is Josh Beckett. He can dominate any game, but every season is a question mark of what Beckett you're going to get. Considering Jose has pitched only one season, it's a legitimate concern until he does it again.

 

With that said, he should absolutely do it again.

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Jose Fernandez shouldn't have to prove anything else. The only thing that could potentially stop him from being great is an injury which could happen at any time. The Marlins should already be trying to do this, but they're not because they're stupid.

Historically, the price difference between giving guys the deal after 1 and 2 years is not drastic. I agree Fernandez may be a special case because he could be at the top-top end of any comparable (I'm talking Kershaw/Felix here) so maybe there is a significant value in price difference between now and 10 months, but if we're not going that far (and I don't think is necessary, based on win totals which absolutely count in arbitration hearings, as well as he probably gets shut down at 190 IP which also is not doing it over 230, etc., plus it's unlikely he improves on the era/peripherals so the Marlins do get 'something' leverage wise out of waiting even if he is still amazing at a 2.6 era or whatever), it's obviously smarter to wait a year just to see what happens/if he gets hurt as you're not risking much in a difference with the bottom line. That's why I am not "insulted" they aren't actively trying to sign him now. It's only about risk assessment and the difference between now and next year isn't very much, unlike with a guy like Stanton where last offseason and this offseason was a $30 million (at least) mistake. You get it.

 

But saying that, yea. I am risk-averse with him as he is incredible and would absolutely sign longterm without hesitation. They are insane if they don't get it done before spring training next year.

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I feel like the sooner they trade Stanton, the sooner they'll start focusing on locking Fernandez up. I refuse to believe they're dumb enough to make the same mistake THREE times.

I'd raise that number. Hanley they waited to long, that should have been a year early as well. That was another no brainer. Also, arguable Uggla should have been bought out too, but he was a 50/50. I can go both ways, but a 5 year deal and getting two more years out of him (where he WAR'd 2.2 and 3.4) would have been pretty solid (and ignoring that it worked out better with Infante/Dunn anyways). And while it would have backfired, I can admit to the idea of giving Dontrelle a deal post 04/05.

 

But clearly Fernandez is a different animal than all of this. He is the Cabrera of pitching. Absolute no brain decision, and the fact he likes Miami, Cuban, enthusiastic….. I mean, Loria just doesn't deserve him.

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Brian McCann on Jose Fernandez

 

''He was the best pitcher I faced last year. He's going to be great for a lot of years to come. I've got respect for him. I enjoy the way he pitches. His stuff is incredible.''

 

NOTE: He had 6 PAs against Kershaw in 2013, and faced pitchers like Strasburg (5 PA), Wainwright (7 PA), Cliff Lee (8 PA) and Bumgarner (3 PA) last season.

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As you mentioned, I'm not upset letting them make Jose prove some consistency before his payday. However I agree next offseason that's a priority. Hopefully we can start this new business model under the new FO now that our revenue in the new ballpark is pretty much established.

 

 

Couple bad examples there. Miggy didn't want to stay here. And so far Stanton dosen't even want to talk long term. That's not looking good either. I have nothing against waiting AT LEAST one more season before seeing if he is interested in signing long term. So far he has been saying all the right things about being in Miami, so this could turn out differently.

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Couple bad examples there. Miggy didn't want to stay here. And so far Stanton dosen't even want to talk long term. That's not looking good either. I have nothing against waiting AT LEAST one more season before seeing if he is interested in signing long term. So far he has been saying all the right things about being in Miami, so this could turn out differently.

Miggy was never offered a longterm contract 04/05 before arbitration, neither was Stanton 12/13/14. Your comments are irrelevant to the issue.

 

If the Marlins stepped up and offered them market rate or better longterm arbitration buyout contracts, there is a 100% chance they would have signed. These kids would have made less than $2 million total at that point, been 21-22 years old, been 3-4 years away from free agency, and only eligible for single year tendered contracts drastically impacting their lifestyle and expected salary moving forward. This is compared to guaranteed money for life in case anything happens (like an injury, underperformance), while still letting them be a free agent in their prime. It's not arguable. It's a no brainer. The Marlins position has always idiotically been "pay for performance," which I think is their way of saying "Loria is cheap." This is contrary to all other teams in baseball who buy out their premier youth.

 

The only bad examples are all of your posts on this matter. You really don't get it and understand baseball finances at all. They have missed a huge opportunity with Stanton the last 2 years, and if they don't deal with Fernandez by the end of 2014, it's going to happen again. Completely irresponsible for a "small market" franchise.

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