I’ve seen enough. Jose Fernandez is indeed the best pitcher in all of baseball right now. This may not come as a shock to some, but even with a healthy Clayton Kershaw, it’s time to give the crown to Fernandez.
A lot of this recent obsession with the excellence of Fernandez has to do with the fact I personally watched him shut down the Braves twice in the span of a week. The Braves offense may not be clicking on all cylinders this season, but still — 16 scoreless innings, just five hits and two walks while striking out 22 is all I needed to see. That is complete domination. You could see the fear he put into the Braves’ hitters. They knew what was going to happen before they even stood in the box. With two strikes, the slider was coming, and they had no chance.
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He’s dominating baseball with basically two pitches. A well-located fastball at 97 mph and a devastating slider that starts down the middle of the plate before breaking toward the batter’s back foot at the last second. It really is amazing to watch. You know what’s coming and you can’t stop it from happening.
This kid is just 21 years old, but he’s already gaining respect as one of the toughest pitchers in all of baseball. In 35 career starts with a struggling Marlins team, Fernandez has won 16 games, given up 51 earned runs in 219.1 innings (2.09 ERA), given up 141 hits, walked 70 (0.96 WHIP) and struck out 252 batters.
In his first season, he was the runaway NL Rookie of the Year, and he almost took home the Cy Young, too, finishing third. He threw 172.2 innings last season before getting shut down. If the Marlins let him throw 200 this year, there should be little doubt that he’ll get that Cy Young award at the ripe age of 22. That would be one year younger than when Kershaw won his first Cy Young award, making Fernandez the youngest to do it since Dwight Gooden won the award at the age of 20.
This is a kid who only made 27 starts in the minor leagues, not one of which was above High-A. Fernandez is still learning and growing, and he’s going to be even better in the future. If that’s even possible. He’s tinkering with a change-up now to add another pitch to his arsenal.
What really makes an ace like Jose Fernandez special is the way he elevates the play of those around him. The Marlins are in the middle of rebuilding, but with Fernandez, you know they’re going to have a chance to win every fifth day. And no team wants to face the Marlins on that day.
The whole team feels confident with him on the mound, and you can see the confidence building among the Marlins rotation. Miami has the eighth best ERA in all of baseball at 3.30, but their starting pitching is even better, ranked sixth with a 3.13 ERA.
The Marlins are currently atop the NL East at 20-15, a half game ahead of the Washington Nationals. I believe a lot of that success has to do with the presence of Jose Fernandez and how he’s elevated the play of his teammates. If you look back in the history of this great game, and even today, the best players know how to motivate those around them to play like a winner.
Fernandez’ somewhat childish, playful personality rubs some people, including me, the wrong way. But after watching him pitch against the Braves, I saw a guy who was focused, wanted to win and, more importantly, wanted to see his teammates win.
This kid is already a superstar, and that’s no surprise. It’s time to go ahead and label Jose Fernandez as the best pitcher in all of baseball. It’s time for all of us to sit back, watch and enjoy this greatness while we have the chance.