TSL has been raving about Miami's golden-armed hurler Jose Fernandez ever since his dominating 2013 rookie season when he was Marlins' lone attraction, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 K’s in just 172.2 innings pitched. He crashed fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig’s Rookie of the Year party with a magnificently memorable August and September.
Tommy John surgery cut his 2014 short to eight starts, but he returned with a passion in 2015. The 14th overall selection of the 2011 MLB Draft made 11 strong starts, going 6-1 with 79 K's in 64.2 innings pitched.
When healthy, all he does is win. Fernandez is 33-13 in his career on a team that has been abysmal at times. His return coincides with the talent upgrades within the entire organization. The Marlins are 52-40 in the NL East and holding onto a playoff wildcard spot. The two-time All-Star is 11-4 this season and second in baseball with 168 strikeouts.
Before the Marlins drafted Fernandez and gave him a $2 million signing bonus, he unsuccessfully attempted to defect to the U.S. three times, before finally defected with his mother and sister in 2008. During that saga, his mom fell overboard when the boat hit rocky waters, and a 15-year-old José had to dive in and save her.
When facing challenges like that just to survive, it’s no puzzle why Fernandez is a smooth-operating mound assassin, who devastates batters with his speed, location and ability to finesse his pitches.
This year, Fernandez is healthy for the first time in three seasons and he is picking up where he left off. On Monday night, at just 23 years of age, he became the youngest starting pitcher to ever reach 500 K’s. He also conquered the milestone the fastest, just 400 innings into his MLB career.
According to barstoolsports.com, “He’s not the fastest pitcher in general to reach that mark, though. Aroldis Chapman reached 500 strikeouts in just 292 innings...Fernandez got there in 400 innings, which breaks the record that was set by Yu Darvish in 2014 (401.2 innings) for starting pitchers, only Darvish was 27 years old when he reached the 500-strikeout plateau. Fernandez tied a career high with 14 strikeouts against the Phillies on (Monday) in order to break Darvish’s record, while 14 of the 19 outs that were recorded while he was on the mound were strikeouts."
Dwight Gooden, the subject of a recent ESPN's 30-for-30 called "Doc and Darryl," places third on that list. In my opinion, he was the dopest of them all during his brief window of pure domination, charisma and superior execution. In terms of games it took to get there (since 1900), Fernandez needed 65, and Darvish 62, while "Dr. K" Gooden required just 61 per ESPN Stats and Info.
It’s a new era, but the unpredictable ride for phenom power pitchers remains the same. Fernandez is one of a crew of live, young, killer-hill arms in MLB right now. Fernandez has commanded himself with the poise of a veteran and word on the MLB streets is that his fastball is back up in the triple digits again.
The Return of the Miami Pound Machine keeps getting better and better.