September 12, 2013
What You Need to Know
Jose Fernandez's Closing Argument
The Wednesday Takeaway
One of the questions Sam Miller proposed earlier this week was whether backstop Jeff Mathis has had any effect on Jose Fernandez’ increased curveball usage since the start of June. With the Marlins absent Mathis behind the plate on Wednesday due to a bruised thumb, the proposition was put to the test. Being paired with backstop Koyie Hill for the first time all season, Fernandez didn’t shy away from his curveball, relying on the offering for 36 of his 100 pitches. For the young Marlins hurler, it was his highest curveball rate in a start without Mathis behind the dish and just a tad less than his average with his veteran battery mate.
Fernandez decided that his final outing of the season was a good time to start relying on essentially a two-pitch combination, as he failed to mix in his changeup for the first time with the Marlins. The young fireballer had to work out of a few jams early on, such as in the first inning, when Jordan Schafer led off the game with a double to the left-center gap. Justin Upton moved Schafer over to third with a fly ball to right, and Fernandez proceeded to make Freddie Freeman look silly on a 1-2 fastball.
Fernandez managed to work around an Andrelton Simmons two-out double in the second inning and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning by inducing a weak two-out pop up from Elliot Johnson. With a four-run lead in the sixth inning, he challenged Evan Gattis with a first-pitch fastball up in the zone, but the Atlanta outfielder took Fernandez’ heater 421 feet out to the left-field bleachers.
In his age-20 season, Fernandez eclipsed even the most optimistic projections on the mound, so it was only fitting that he added one more feat to his list of accomplishments. In the bottom of the 6th inning, Fernandez took a 1-0 changeup from Mike Minor deep for his first career home run. While beat writers from the west coast were busy declaring their affection for Fernandez, the Braves took offense to the rookie admiring his first career long ball.
Fernandez’ age showed and Brian McCann let the rookie know it, confronting him at home plate. Chris Johnson, who had been jawing with Fernandez following his previous at-bat, came running in from third base, the benches cleared, and Twitter erupted, but Fernandez quickly made it back to the Marlins dugout and the issue subsided—at least for one night.
After inducing a whiff from Upton on one of his nastier curveballs of the night, Fernandez walked off the mound for the final time of the 2013 season to a standing ovation from the 25,111 fans at Marlins Park.
With seven innings of one-run ball against the Braves, the 21-year-old closed his rookie campaign with a 2.19 ERA—putting him behind only Clayton Kershaw among starting pitchers. Since the pitching mound was lowered in 1969, Fernandez’s ERA is the second lowest by a rookie pitcher, trailing only Dave Righetti’s 2.05 mark in 1981. Fernandez’ 0.97 WHIP easily bests Fernando Valenzuela’s 1.04 WHIP from that same 1981 season.