Jose Fernandez is coming off a year that saw him win the Rookie of the Year for the Miami Marlins and finish as a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award. He is the Marlins’ ace and will be on the mound on Opening Day 2014 barring injury. In sports, it is common for a player to fall off a bit in his second season which is better known as a sophomore slump. Some players avoid this and Fernandez will be one of those players.
One reason for a sophomore slump for pitchers is that teams have faced the pitcher before and know what to expect. His delivery and pitch selection are no longer a mystery to coaches and hitters alike. Fernandez is a different kind of animal than most pitchers, however, due to his exceptional talent and his ability to change his style to keep hitters guessing. Take into consideration the fact that Fernandez often improved when facing a team for a second time in 2013. In fact, Fernandez faced the New York Mets four times and was actually at his best in his last two starts against the team. It’s easy to write that off as the Mets simply not being a powerhouse except for the fact Fernandez also improved against the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies to name a few.
If you go back in history and look at another young ace for the Marlins in Dontrelle Willis, you’ll see he did succumb to the dreaded sophomore slump. His second year in the big leagues was not even close to as stellar as his first year which resulted in a Rookie of the Year. Then in year three, Willis was back to normal which is often how things go with the sophomore slump. Another name to look at, though, is Dwight Gooden, a player that is being compared to Fernandez often by analysts and fans alike. After lighting the world on fire in his rookie season, Gooden won the Cy Young in his second year. Forget a slump, he had arguably one of the best seasons ever by a starting pitcher and he was only 20 years old.
Fernandez, just like Gooden was, is currently 20 years old and coming off an exceptional year. He’s not going to slump; instead, he’s going to be in line to pick up the first Cy Young in franchise history.