Jose Fernandez keeps racking up wins, throwing sliders

Jose Fernandez has been super-sharp for the Marlins this season. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Now that the Cubs have lost a start by Jake Arrieta, Jose Fernandez at home is just about the surest thing in baseball these days.

The Miami Marlins’ ace ran off his fifth straight excellent start and beat the Pirates 3-1 on Tuesday. He allowed no runs and three hits in seven innings, striking out six without a walk. Fernandez has won seven straight starts, and in his last five starts he is 5-0 with a 0.79 ERA, with 49 strikeouts and nine walks. He’s the first pitcher this season to have five consecutive starts of six innings or more while allowing one run or fewer (Madison Bumgarner can become the second in his next start).

Fernandez is the first Marlins pitcher to win seven straight starts since A.J. Burnett in 2005. Stump your friends with this piece of trivia: The Marlins’ record for consecutive starts with a win is eight, set by Chris Hammond in their first season, 1993.

In 32 career home starts, Fernandez is now 22-1 with a 1.59 ERA.

How he’s done it

Fernandez has gotten misses on 36 percent of the swings against him. That’s the highest miss rate in the major leagues. His miss rate was 30 percent on Tuesday, his third-lowest in a start this season. That’s a rate that would be great for almost any starter in the majors, outside of Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, Cole Hamels or Max Scherzer (the only other pitchers with a miss rate in the 30s).

Fernandez gets misses on 28 percent of the swings against his fastball -- the second-highest rate in the majors (Rich Hill ranks first, 36 percent) -- and on a major league best 52 percent of his sliders.

The downside of getting so many missed swings is that it means at-bats tend to run deep and pitch counts run high. Fernandez has not pitched more than seven innings in a game since April 29, 2014.

The spaciousness of Fernandez’s home ballpark has played a role in his success. He has allowed only 10 home runs in 204 1/3 innings at home. He allows a home run every 17 fly balls at home. The average major league pitcher allows a home run once every nine to 10 fly balls.

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Fernandez is one of five pitchers since 2000 to reach 30 career wins with 11 losses or fewer. The other four are Tim Hudson, Roy Oswalt, Tim Lincecum and Lance Lynn. The former two had pretty good major league careers. Lincecum is trying to return to the major leagues after a rapid drop in effectiveness. Lynn is out for the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Trying to stick around

The question for Fernandez isn’t quality of work. It’s staying power. He pitched 172 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2013, but has thrown only 184 overall since, thanks to injuries. What might be a concern for the future is Fernandez’s pitch mix.

He has thrown 28 percent sliders this season, easily the highest usage for that pitch in his major league career. The 309 he’s thrown total rank ninth-most in the majors.