An incredible year for Miami Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez will come to an end on Wednesday night against the Atlanta Braves. He has already accomplished more than anyone thought he would, but he looks to finish things off in style. If not for injuries to Nate Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez in Spring Training and an ineffective Jacob Turner, Fernandez would have started the year in Double-A Jacksonville. Instead he started the year on the mound pitching against the division rival New York Mets.
In his first start, Fernandez dominated by going five innings, striking out eight and only giving up one run on three hits. He was removed after five innings because he was put on a strict pitch count for the game and innings count for the season. In his rookie season, Fernandez is a 11-6 with a 2.23 ERA playing on the worst team in the National League. He has struck out 182 batters in 165.2 innings and leads all starting pitchers in Batting Average Against, Slugging Percentage Against and OPS against. These numbers aren’t just good enough to be Rookie of the Year, but he should be considered in the top 3 for the National League Cy Young Award. He was also the lone representative for the Marlins in the All-Star Game this year and pitched one perfect inning while striking out Dustin Pedroia and Chris Davis.
Most young pitchers begin to fade in late August and early September. They haven’t pitched that many innings before and start to fatigue and eventually get shut down, but all Fernandez has done is get stronger and have his best month. In August he went 3-1 with a 1.15 ERA in six starts. He gave up only 22 hits and struck out 49 batters in 39 innings. There is no doubt he could finish the season and make all of his starts, but the Marlins front office capped his innings to protect him from overusing his arm.
If Fernandez were to make his last four starts, he would run away with the Rookie of the Year and challenge Clayton Kershaw for the Cy Young Award. Since he is being shut down Wednesday night, expect him to leave everything on the field like he does in all of his starts and give the Rookie of the Year voters a dominating last impression.
His major competitor for the Rookie of the Year is Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The advantages Puig has is that he is an everyday player, he will be playing until the end of the season and his team is going to win the division and maybe even the World Series. However, Fernandez started the year in the big leagues whereas Puig spent the first two months of the season in the Minor Leagues. If voters look outside the statistics, they will see how Fernandez brings his team together, whether or not he is starting that night or never leaves the dugout. He is always on the top step to cheer on his team and the first to greet them when they walk in. Puig, on the other hand, has been benched for his actions and has been heavily criticized for his cocky attitude.
If Fernandez can dominate the Atlanta Braves in his final start, not only will he cement himself as the Rookie of the Year but also as one of the best pitchers in baseball at age 21. In a dismal season for the Miami Marlins and their fan base, Fernandez has taken their mind off the team’s struggles once every five days and given fans something to look forward to in the future.