Dominant finish gives Fernandez a shot in Cy race
Rookie posted better overall numbers than Kershaw, Wainwright after June 1
ORLANDO -- Jose Fernandez is no stranger to overcoming long odds.
At age 20, and two years after being selected 14th overall in the First-Year Player Draft, the hard-throwing right-hander became a fixture in the Marlins' rotation.
Showing talent can trump experience, Fernandez emerged as one of the elite rookies and overall starters in the National League. On a 100-loss Miami team, Fernandez did the improbable by finishing 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA, and 187 strikeouts in 172 2/3 innings. Opponents batted a mere .182 against him, and his WHIP (walks plus hits per nine innings) was an eyebrow-raising 0.98.
Fernandez's dominant season already led to him being voted the NL Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He is one of three finalists for the NL Cy Young Award.
For the Cy Young, whose winner will be revealed Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.com, the Miami rookie might have had an uphill climb against favorite Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Cardinals mainstay Adam Wainwright in voting held at the end of the regular season.
Among his rookie peers, Fernandez showed he was worthy of being at the top of his class. To make a compelling case that he should be the Marlins' first Cy Young winner, he will be hoping the voters paid closer attention to how his initial season finished -- instead of how it started.
Several factors might have worked against Fernandez. Foremost, his season was cut short due to a team-imposed innings limit. Because he was being handled with care, he eased into extending his innings.
When discussing the Cy Young, the top pitching prize, the complete body of work is taken into account. The first few months is where Fernandez's case is hurt.
From Opening Day through May 31, Kershaw ranked third in the National League among starters with a 1.85 ERA, and Wainwright was eighth with a 2.48 ERA. Over that same span, Fernandez was a mere 2-3 with a 3.78 ERA through his first 10 big league starts. The right-hander logged just 52 1/3 innings, because he wasn't yet being stretched out longer.
Still, the constant for the rookie all season was his ability to miss bats and get strikeouts. He had 52 strikeouts in those starts, averaging 8.94 strikeouts per nine innings.
In order to pull off the upset and capture the Cy Young, Fernandez will be hoping the voters paid closer attention to what he did after June 1.
Certainly the numbers work against Fernandez at the beginning of the season. But from June 1 onward, it is difficult to say any starter in the National League was better than the Miami phenom.
ERA? Fernandez was at 1.50 over that span, which topped Kershaw's 1.82, and Wainwright's 3.17. Fernandez was also 10-3 during that stretch, while Kershaw was 11-6 and Wainwright was 12-6.
The Miami rookie, who turned 21 on July 31, struck out 135 in 120 1/3 innings. Kershaw had 150 strikeouts in 148 2/3 innings, and Wainwright had 145 strikeouts in 161 2/3 innings.
Fernandez will see on Wednesday night if his strong second half was enough.