MLB Dirt

Jose Fernandez is Having a Historic Season


A lot of people were shocked, myself included, when the Miami Marlins announced that 20 year old rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez made the Opening Day rotation this year.

The Marlins just sold off almost every asset and were a virtual lock to finish dead last in what we thought was going to be a competitive National League East. Why bring up your top prospect and start his arbitration clock early? I doubt the answer to that question is what the result has been: a historic age 20 season for the young Jose Fernandez.

After his 14-strikeout performance a few nights ago, the 20 year old Jose Fernandez, who would likely win the National League Rookie of the Year award if the season ended today, was leading all rookie pitchers with 2.9 fWAR and 3.9 rWAR with the Cardinals’ Shelby Miller second at 2.3 fWAR and 2.9 rWAR.

Jose Fernandez was also looking good with the eight best ERA at 2.54 and his H/9 was the second best mark in baseball at 6.06, just behind the Dodgers’ Clayton Kersahw.

But, enough about comparing Jose Fernandez to players this year. After all, he is in his age 20 season and had just 138.1 innings under his professional belt, none above High-A. Let’s see where he ranks compared to other 20 year old pitchers in the history of the game.

Jose Fernandez is sporting a nice 2.54 ERA but, if you want to compare him to past generations, we must use ERA+ rather than ERA. For those unfamiliar with ERA+ it is a stat that compares a pitcher’s ERA to the league average and adjusts for park effects. A pitcher with a 100 ERA+ has a league average ERA. An ERA+ of 120 means the league had an ERA 20% higher than the pitcher’s ERA after it has been adjusted for the park effects.

Jose Fernandez currently has a 153 ERA+ in his age 20 season. Let’s take a look at how many pitchers in the history of the game have posted at least an ERA+ of 150 with a minimum of 125 innings pitched:

Rk Player ERA+ IP Year Age Tm Lg ERA HR/9 H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB WHIP
1 Dwight Gooden 229 276.2 1985 20 NYM NL 1.53 0.42 6.44 2.24 8.72 3.88 0.965
2 Silver King 195 584.2 1888 20 STL AA 1.63 0.09 6.70 1.17 3.97 3.39 0.874
3 Harry Krause 174 213.0 1909 20 PHA AL 1.39 0.08 6.38 2.07 5.87 2.84 0.939
4 Kid Nichols 170 424.0 1890 20 BSN NL 2.23 0.17 7.94 2.38 4.71 1.98 1.146
5 Scott Stratton 164 431.0 1890 20 LOU AA 2.36 0.06 8.31 1.27 4.32 3.39 1.065
6 Bob Feller 154 296.2 1939 20 CLE AL 2.85 0.39 6.89 4.31 7.46 1.73 1.244
7 Don Drysdale 153 221.0 1957 20 BRO NL 2.69 0.69 8.02 2.48 6.03 2.43 1.167
8 Jose Fernandez 153 127.2 2013 20 MIA NL 2.54 0.56 6.06 3.03 9.73 3.21 1.010
9 Smoky Joe Wood 151 196.2 1910 20 BOS AL 1.69 0.14 7.09 2.56 6.64 2.59 1.073
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/3/2013.

No 20 year old has posted an ERA+ of 150 or higher (min 125 IP) since Dwight Gooden did it in 1985 and this is only the ninth time any pitcher has ever done so at age 20 since baseball began in 1871. Jose Fernandez is also only the fourth pitcher to do so in the last 100 years. That is pretty amazing, but it gets better.

Jose Fernandez currently has 138 strikeouts in 127.2 innings pitched for a K/9 of 9.73. Only one other pitcher has a K/9 over 9.0 in his age 20 season in the history of the game and that was former pitcher/current outfielder Rick Ankiel who has the highest mark at 9.98.

And if you thought Jose Fernandez was a difficult to pitcher to get a hit off of due to all those strikeouts you were correct. His H/9 (hits allowed per nine innings) of 6.06 is the lowest mark for any pitcher in his age 20 season.

Without a doubt, Jose Fernandez currently stands as the most unhittable 20 year old to ever play this great game. It’s a shame Jose Fernandez pitches for the Miami Marlins because he is having a historic season that very few people are noticing and even fewer are witnessing.

About Jonathan C. Mitchell

I am a husband, a father, and a son. I have been redeemed by the Son. I love numbers, predictions, analysis, and prospects. I have been a guest on ESPN Radio and have had posts featured on ESPN and Fangraphs, among others. You can follow me on twitter @FigureFilbert

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