Stats & Info: Jose Fernandez

Double and Nothing

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
David Price beat the Red Sox with his MLB-leading fourth 10-strikeout, no-walk game of the season, collectively pushing 2014 one step closer to history

One throws from the left, one from the right and just a few days ago it appeared that there was a chance that they could be teammates in Seattle. On Friday night David Price and Félix Hernández showed why they’re the hottest pitchers in the American League.

Pitching at home against the Red Sox, Price allowed three earned runs in eight innings to earn his 11th victory of the season, extending the Rays season-high winning streak to 8 games. He also struck out 10 batters while walking none. That gave Price four double-digit-strikeout, 0-walk games this season, breaking a tie with Chicago’s Chris Sale for the most in the majors.

Just a couple of hours later, Sale would find himself tied again, this time by Felix Hernandez who went seven innings against the Orioles, striking out 10 while walking none in a no-decision against the Orioles. Hernández did emerge with a share of an all-time record, tying Tom Seaver for the major league mark for most consecutive starts of at least seven innings pitched and two earned runs allowed or fewer.)

Price, Hernández and Sale are three of the seven pitchers (with Johnny Cueto, Jose Fernandez, Zach Greinke and Corey Kluber) who have multiple games with 10 strikeouts and no walks this season. They’re all part of the 29 individuals who have done it a total of 40 times in 2014. If that seems like a lot, it is.

Looking back to 1900, there have only been two years in which there were more individual outings with double-digit strikeouts and no walks than we’ve had with six full days remaining in July. That’s ENTIRE seasons. And those came the past two years.

The standard was set way back in 2013 when 31 individuals went to the hill 45 times to rack up 10-K’s and no walks. Cliff Lee and Matt Harvey led the way with four apiece (Harvey’s came in just 26 games due to his season being cut short by Tommy John surgery) while Yu Darvish had three. That broke the old mark of 43 such games set in 2012 when nobody had as many as four.

Now we stand at 40 and there's a lot of baseball yet to be played. History will be made. By how much the old record will be shattered is the only question.

José Fernandez surgery confirmed as Tommy John epidemic continues

May, 15, 2014
May 15

ESPN Stats & InformationTommy John surgeries among major-league pitchers are on the rise.
The Miami Marlins have confirmed the news that baseball fans feared the most: Jose Fernandez has a torn UCL and will need Tommy John surgery, sidelining the ace pitcher for at least 12 months.

Fernández will be the 18th major-league pitcher to have Tommy John surgery this year. That’s the most ever through the month of May and would equal as many as there were all of last season.

Since the surgery was first performed in 1974, only one year has seen more than 18 MLB pitchers undergo the surgery: in 2012 major-league pitchers got 35 Tommy John surgeries.

The trend among pitchers who need the surgery this year has been young players, with an average age of 27 years old.

Just one of the 18 MLB pitchers to have Tommy John surgery in 2014 was older than 30 -- Peter Moylan, who is 35 years old -- and it was the second time Moylan had the surgery.

Signs of trouble?
Prior to Fernández’s injury, perhaps the most notable recent pitcher to undergo Tommy John is Matt Harvey last fall.

The two had very similar careers prior to undergoing the surgery, including each making the same amount of starts.

The Marlins were careful not to overwork Fernández, as they managed both his pitch counts and innings during his MLB career.

Among the 104 pitchers to make at least 30 starts over the last two seasons, Fernández ranks 72nd in pitches per start. He threw more than 110 pitches only once in 36 starts and more than one-third of his starts were 90 pitches or fewer.

One sign of trouble in his last start was a sharp decline in his velocity. Fernández’s fastball averaged 94.6 MPH over his first four innings and only 90.7 MPH in his last two. He allowed four runs in the sixth inning before being removed with nobody out.

Impact on Marlins
The Marlins obviously have a much better chance of winning when Fernandez takes the mound compared to other Marlins starters. Over the last two seasons, they are 23-13 (.639) when Fernández starts and 59-106 (.358) when anyone else does.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, only one team has a larger positive difference in its win percentage since 2013 when a particular pitcher starts in comparison to all other games (min. 15 starts by that pitcher). The Diamondbacks are 23–9 (.719) during that period when Patrick Corbin starts and 73-98 (.427) in other games.

The Marlins are off to one of their best starts in recent seasons at 20-19 and just two games back in the NL East. However, with Fernández now out of the rotation, their chances of playing in October take a big hit. According to, the Marlins’ playoff odds declined from 22.5 percent to 12.4 percent with the news that Fernández is out for the season.

Jose Fernandez virtually irreplacable

May, 13, 2014
May 13
Jose Fernandez is headed to the disabled list with an elbow sprain, with Miami Marlins management reportedly fearing that he’ll need surgery and be lost for the season.
Jose Fernandez
Fernandez has a 2.25 ERA in his career, second-best among pitchers over the last two seasons. Opponents are hitting .183 with a .525 OPS against him for his career. Those numbers are the lowest for anyone in the majors over that same span.

Fernandez rates fourth among pitchers in Wins Above Replacement, trailing only Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright.

Since earned runs became an official stat in 1913, 132 pitchers have thrown at least 200 innings through their age-21 season. Only two of them have a lower ERA than Jose Fernandez’s 2.25- Al Mamaux (who pitched from 1913 to 1915) and Babe Ruth (who pitched from 1914 to 1916).

The Marlins have won 64 percent of Fernandez’s starts (he's 12-0 in his career at Marlins Park). They’ve won only 36 percent of starts with their other starting pitchers.

The telling sign for the Marlins in knowing that something was amiss was Fernandez’s fastball velocity. He averaged only 90.7 mph on his fastball in the last two innings of his start against the Padres last Friday. He’d been consistently averaging 94 to 96 mph in his three starts prior to that.

Fernandez can't be beat in Miami

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
With each start, Jose Fernandez just keeps getting better and better.

And when Fernandez pitches at home, it’s a mismatch for him against his opponent.

Fernandez improved to 12-0 at home for his career with his eight innings of scoreless, two-hit dominance against the Atlanta Braves. His career ERA at home now sits at 1.00.

The Elias Sports Bureau provided a bevy of notes on Fernandez.

Let’s run through them:

The 1.00 ERA is the lowest for a pitcher in his first 19 career home starts in the last 100 years. The previous low was Vida Blue’s 1.28 (1969 to 1971).

He’s the fourth pitcher in baseball’s modern era (since 1900) to win his first 12 home decisions, joining LaMarr Hoyt (16), Johnny Allen (16) and most recently David Palmer (13 from 1979 to 1982).

Fernandez is the second pitcher in the last 100 years who allowed no earned runs and had eight strikeouts in three straight starts at the age of 21 or younger.

The other was the Rangers' Ed Correa in 1986 (also three straight).

In terms of more recognizable names, Fernandez joins a list of pitchers 21 or younger to throw three straight starts of at least seven innings without allowing an earned run. The others to do so in the divisional era (since 1969) are Dwight Gooden (five straight), Matt Cain (four) and Fernando Valenzuela (three).

How Fernandez won
Fernandez had a very effective breaking ball on Tuesday, which isn’t unusual.

He threw 31 against the Braves, the third-most he’s thrown in a game in his career. They netted him eight outs (including a career-best six strikeouts) and yielded only one baserunner.

Location-wise, Fernandez's control was pinpoint. He threw 48 of his 98 pitches on the outer third of the zone or off the outside corner, and the Braves were 0 for 17 with 6 strikeouts in at-bats ending in a pitch to that location. The 17 outs were a career-best.

Fernandez got hitters to expand the strike zone. He threw 52 pitches out of the strike zone and the Braves swung at 26 of them. His 50 percent chase rate and 13 outs recorded out of the strike zone were both career-bests.

The Braves tried to get to Fernandez early in at-bats, but that didn’t work. He got a career-best five outs on the first pitch.

Giancarlo Stanton in a supporting role
Usually, Marlins games are dominated by the story of monstrous home runs by Giancarlo Stanton, who was overshadowed by Fernandez on this night.

Stanton’s home run on Tuesday measured 391 feet, notable as it was his shortest home run this season. He’s averaged 427 feet on his eight home runs in 2014.

Stanton’s average home run over the last four seasons has averaged 416 feet. Among those with at least 20 homers in that span, only Justin Upton averages more distance on his long balls (419 feet).

Fernandez brings his best to the table

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22

Baseball Tonight picked a good day to debate who the best pitcher in baseball is.

Jose Fernandez left little reason to vote for anyone other than him.

Fernandez finished with 14 strikeouts and no walks in a 1-0 win, the second pitcher ever to have such a line against the Atlanta Braves. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the other was Nap Rucker in a no-hitter for the Brooklyn Dodgers (then known as Superbas) in 1908.

Fernandez became the fifth pitcher in the Divisional Era (since 1969) with a pair of 14-strikeout games before turning 22. The others are Dwight Gooden (5), Jose Rijo (2), Frank Tanana (2) and Kerry Wood (2).

How he dominated
Fernandez had a devastating breaking ball, one that netted him 11 strikeouts, nine of which were swinging.

Fernandez’s fastball averaged 96.1 mph, the third fastest average in a game in his career.

He finished with 26 swings-and-misses, four more than any other game he’s pitched in his career.

Making his case
Fernandez has a 2.16 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 33 starts since the start of last season. The only pitcher to rate better in those stats is Clayton Kershaw, who is currently on the disabled list.

However Fernandez's opponents' batting average in that span is .184, 11 points better than Kershaw's, and his opponents' OPS against (.522) trails Kershaw's by only three points.

On the other side
Alex Wood threw 8 innings for the Braves, gave up 1 run and got the loss. It was his second straight loss allowing one run in eight innings or more.

He’s the first pitcher to have two straight such starts in a row since Mike Norris of the 1980 Athletics and the first in the National League since Tom Seaver for the 1973 Mets.

Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Night
Fernandez (age 21) and Wood (age 23) both had at least 11 strikeouts.

This is the second time since 1900 that two pitchers age 23 or younger both had at least 11 strikeouts in the same game.

The other game was on July 31, 1901, when the Reds' Noodles Hahn (age 22) had 11 and the Cubs' Long Tom Hughes (age 22) had 15.

Fernandez is the fifth-youngest pitcher to have a 14-strikeout, no-walk game in the Modern Era (since 1900), the youngest since Kerry Wood had his 20-strikeout, no-walk game against the Houston Astros in 1998.

The teams combined for 28 strikeouts and no walks. This is the first time in the modern era that two teams combined for at least 28 strikeouts and no walks in a game.

NL aces channel their 2013 best

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
For a number of National League Opening Day starters, the first day of the baseball season was about picking up right where they left off.

That was true for 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, who dominated the Colorado Rockies for six innings in a Miami Marlins rout. Fernandez tied Josh Beckett’s club record for most strikeouts in an Opening Day start with nine.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Fernandez was only the second starting pitcher to have a nine-strikeout, no-walk game on Opening Day in the last 16 seasons.

The full list of pitchers to have that sort of game puts Fernandez in elite company. It is noted in the chart on the right.

Fernandez starred because he had a pitch mix that kept hitters guessing once he got two strikes on them. He threw 35 two-strike pitches, but didn’t throw more than 12 of any pitch type. Fernandez set a tone for how difficult he would be to hit when he struck out Troy Tulowitzki on an 84-mph slider in the top of the first.

Wainwright’s curve still pretty good
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright hasn’t lost anything from the curveball that made him among the top pitchers in the league last season. Wainwright (with help from a homer by catcher Yadier Molina) beat the Cincinnati Reds, 1-0, marking the first time in Reds history that they lost a season opener, 1-0.

Wainwright threw 22 curveballs and they netted him six outs, yielding no hits and one walk.

Liriano sharp
Some of the Pirates’ magic from 2013 carried over into their season opener with the Cubs, a game they won 1-0 on Neil Walker’s walk-off home run in the 10th inning. It was the second walk-off homer on Opening Day in Pirates history. Bob Bailey had the other against Hall-of-Famer Juan Marichal in 1965.

Elias notes that those mark the only two instances of a player hitting a walk-off homer in a 1-0 Opening Day win.

The Pirates got another great effort from Francisco Liriano, who struck out 10 in six scoreless innings. Liriano got misses on 45 percent of the swings against him. Ten of them came against his slider, resulting in seven strikeouts.

Top stats to know: 2013 Cy Young race

November, 13, 2013

ESPN Stats & InformationClayton Kershaw dominated lefties and righties, putting him among the NL Cy Young Award finalists.
The National League and American League Cy Young Awards will be announced Wednesday night, with Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Detroit Tigers starter Max Scherzer the favorites to win in their respective leagues.

Why they’re favored

Kershaw was the dominant pitcher in the National League throughout 2013. He began his season with a shutout of the San Francisco Giants on Opening Day, which set the tone for one of the best seasons by a lefty in a long time.

Kershaw’s highest ERA for the year at the end of any start was 2.14 on April 23. He finished with a major league-best 1.83 ERA, the best by any southpaw since Ron Guidry had a 1.74 ERA for the New York Yankees in 1978. He joined Sandy Koufax and Greg Maddux as the only NL pitchers to win three consecutive ERA titles.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kershaw would be the fifth pitcher to win multiple Cy Young Awards before turning 26, joining Bret Saberhagen, Denny McLain, Roger Clemens and Tim Lincecum.

In the American League, Scherzer was 21-3, becoming the sixth pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) with at least 20 wins in a season in which he had three losses or fewer. He led the American League in WHIP and ranked second with 240 strikeouts. He pitched a career-high 214 1/3 innings and posted both the lowest home run rate of his career and the best strikeout-to-walk ratio.

According to Elias, since 1967, the first year that the Cy Young Award was handed out in both leagues, 13 other pitchers have finished a season at least 18 games above .500. Only one didn’t win the Cy Young that year. In 1999, Mike Hampton went 22-4 for the Houston Astros but lost out to Randy Johnson.

Darvish, Iwakuma will be the first
No Japanese-born pitcher has ever finished in the top three in the Cy Young vote, but that is assured of being broken this season. Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish and Seattle Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma are the other two finalists with Scherzer in the American League.

The previous high finish by a Japanese-born pitcher was fourth -- done twice by Hideo Nomo (1995, 1996) and Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2008.

Wainwright, Fernandez formidable finalists
The other NL finalists are Adam Wainwright from the St. Louis Cardinals and Jose Fernandez from the Miami Marlins.

Wainwright led the NL with 19 wins and 241 2/3 innings pitched. His season was fueled by a 17-start stretch spanning from mid-April to early July in which he had a 2.19 ERA and allowed only five homers in 127 2/3 innings pitched.

Fernandez, who won NL Rookie of the Year honors Monday, closed his debut season in strong fashion -- 10-3 with a 1.50 ERA in his last 18 starts. Fernandez would be the second player to win the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year in the same season, joining Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.

What the advanced stats show
Kershaw led the major leagues in Wins Above Replacement as a pitcher (7.9), a little bit better than Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies (7.3).

Iwakuma was the American League leader (7.0), though his margin was thin over Chris Sale (6.9) and Scherzer (6.7).

Did you know?
If Scherzer and Kershaw win, it would mark the first time that both Cy Young Award winners lost the game that knocked their team out of that year’s postseason. Kershaw and Scherzer were the losing pitchers when the Dodgers and Tigers were eliminated in the championship series round.

Stats to know: Rookie of the Year winners

November, 11, 2013

Jose Fernandez was almost unhittable in 2013.
The state of Florida produced baseball teams with vastly different records in 2013, but they shared a common bond-- the top rookies in their respective leagues.

Jose Fernandez of theMiami Marlins and Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays won Rookie of the Year honors on Monday night.

This marked the first time that the same state’s teams produced both Rookie of the Year winners since 1993 when Mike Piazza of the Dodgers and Tim Salmon of the Angels were selected.

How Fernandez won
The heat map atop this story shows how difficult Fernandez was to hit for both left-handed batters and right-handed hitters this season. Opponents hit a combined .182 against him this season, the lowest of any starting pitcher in baseball. His .522 opponents OPS trailed only Clayton Kershaw’s .521 for the major-league lead.

Fernandez was the second-best right-handed pitcher in baseball against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .546 OPS (surpassed only by Matt Harvey of the Mets. In his last six starts, Fernandez held lefties to a .138 batting average and .453 OPS.

Fernandez held right-handed hitters to a .494 OPS this season, the lowest among any of the National League pitchers who qualified for the ERA title. In fact, all three of Fernandez’s slashline stats (.175/.227/.267) were NL bests.

Fernandez won with a nasty fastball, breaking-ball combo. His fastball averaged 94.8 MPH, the third-best among starting pitchers. His two breaking pitches netted 119 strikeouts, with his slider being the nastier of the two.

Fernandez’s slider netted him 104 outs (65 strikeouts) and yielded only nine hits and one walk. Opponents only had one extra-base hit against his slider.

How Myers won
Myers won in a year in which the AL did not have a rookie who dominated the way Mike Trout did in 2012. He had a .293/.354/.478 slashline, generated by his success against pitches in the upper half of the strike zone and above.

Myers was nearly equally adept against right-handed pitching as he was against left-handed pitching, as noted in the chart on the right.

Myers hit .393 in at-bats that ended with pitches to that area (conversely, last year’s AL winner, Mike Trout, was baseball’s best hitter against pitches in the lower half of the zone). That batting average ranked best among the 268 hitters who saw at least 500 pitches in that location.

Myers closed the season strong, hitting .323 with four home runs, 12 doubles, 14 RBIs and 19 runs scored in his last 26 games in helping the Rays make their playoff push.

Looking ahead for Myers, one thing to keep an eye on is his .362 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Myers was able to push his batting average up by hitting .322 when he hit a ground ball. That ranked sixth-best in the majors in 2013.

Some players (Trout among them) are able to replicate that level of success. Next season will be telling in figuring whether Myers can do so.

Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Day
Fernandez was the first rookie to win at least a dozen games and post an ERA below 2.50 in a season with at least 170 innings pitched since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.

The Rays became the second AL team to have three players win the Rookie of the Year Award in a six-season span, joining the Athletics, who had three winners in a row from 1986 to 1988 and three spanning 2004 to 2009.

Top stats to know: Rookie awards preview

November, 10, 2013

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesYasiel Puig provided the offensive spark the Dodgers needed at the time of his recall.
Awards season begins Monday with the announcement of the National League and American League Rookie of the Year winners.

Though there weren’t any rookies who performed at the level that Mike Trout did a year ago, there were still a number of notable performances.

Fernandez, Puig top this rookie class
Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig are the three finalists for NL Rookie of the Year. The award should come down to Fernandez versus Puig.

Fernandez had one of the best seasons by a rookie starter in a long time, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA. He led the league in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (5.8).

Fernandez’s 2.19 ERA was the best by a rookie who qualified for the ERA title in a non-strike season since Stan Bahnsen had a 2.05 ERA for the New York Yankees and Jerry Koosman had a 2.08 ERA for the New York Mets in 1968 (which was known as The Year of the Pitcher).

Fernandez got his ERA down that low via a strong finish. He had an NL-best 1.50 ERA from June 1 through the end of the season.

His season was slightly better than that of Miller, who had 15 wins and a 3.06 ERA in 31 starts with the Cardinals. Miller’s 15 wins were the most by a rookie pitcher in 2013, one more than Hyun-Jin Ryu and Julio Teheran.

Puig made his debut on June 3 and made a huge impact on the Dodgers' lineup. The Dodgers, after a 23-32 start, were 69-38 from that day forward.

Puig led rookie position players with a .319 batting average, .925 OPS and 5.0 WAR (wins above replacement). He didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, but if you lower the minimum to 400 plate appearances, he ranked 10th among all players in the majors with a .925 OPS.

Puig is trying to become the Dodgers' first Rookie of the Year winner since Todd Hollandsworth in 1996. Hollandsworth’s win capped five straight Rookie of the Year selections for the Dodgers.

Myers, Archer going head-to-head
Rays outfielder Wil Myers and starting pitcher Chris Archer are two of the three AL finalists.

Each is trying to become the third Rays player to win the award, joining Evan Longoria in 2008 and Jeremy Hellickson in 2011.

Myers had the highest OPS (.831) by a wide margin among the 13 AL rookies with at least 250 plate appearances. The next highest was Brad Miller of the Seattle Mariners (.737).

Myers closed the season strong, hitting .323 with four home runs, 12 doubles, 14 RBIs and 19 runs scored in his last 26 games in helping the Rays make their playoff push.

The Rays went 14-9 in Archer’s 23 starts, in which he was 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA. He was at his best in three starts against one of the Rays' division rivals, the Yankees, going 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings against them. He was the first rookie to beat the Yankees three times in a season since Kevin Brown did so for the Texas Rangers in 1989.

Archer would be the fourth rookie pitcher to win the AL award in the past five seasons, joining Andrew Bailey (2009 Athletics), Neftali Feliz (2010 Rangers) and Hellickson.

Iglesias steady at shortstop
Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias provided flash with his defense (winning the "Baseball Tonight" Web Gem of the Year award) and performed respectably on offense, hitting .303. He was one of only two rookies with at least 250 plate appearances to hit .300 this season, along with Puig.

If Iglesias won, he would be the first Rookie of the Year winner to play for two teams in the same season.

Did you know?
If either Archer or Myers wins the AL award and Fernandez wins the NL award, it would be the first time that two teams from the same state produced Rookie of the Year winners since 1993, when the winners were Mike Piazza of the Dodgers and Tim Salmon of the Angels.

Fernandez rookie season among best by a P

September, 11, 2013

Yasiel Puig has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention this season, but when it comes to National League Rookie of the Year honors, it is another Cuban phenom that has had the better season.

Jose Fernandez wrapped up his season on Wednesday with another well-pitched game, beating the Braves with both his bat and his arm. Fernandez is being shut down by the Marlins due to an innings limit.

Entering play Wednesday, Fernandez had a WAR of 6.1, a number that will likely bump up a little bit after this start.

That total doesn’t just lead all NL rookies this season; it is the fifth-best total in the entire National League and nearly a win-and-a-half better than Puig’s 4.7.

What else was impressive about Fernandez's season?

Historical perspective
Fernandez finished with a 2.19 ERA on the season. Only three other rookie pitchers to qualify for the ERA title have finished with an ERA under 2.20 since the Rookie of the Year Award began being given out in 1947.

Two of those (Stan Bahnsen in 1968 and Dave Righetti in 1981) went on to win Rookie of the Year (the other, Jerry Koosman, lost out to Hall-of-Famer Johnny Bench for the NL award in 1968).

A little help?
Wednesday’s win for the Miami Marlins got them to a meager 54-90 this season, but where would they be without Fernandez?

The Marlins are 18-10 this year with their rookie on the mound, meaning he has been on the mound for a third of their wins.

As for the 10 games the Marlins lost with Fernandez pitching, he allowed two runs or fewer in six of them.

Keeping the home crowd happy
Fernandez finishes the season a perfect 9-0 at home with a 1.19 ERA.

That rated by far the best in baseball.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the only pitcher in the Live Ball Era to have a lower home ERA in which he went at least 9-0 was Orel Hershiser in 1985 (1.08 home ERA)

The best breaking ball in baseball?
Fernandez has been the toughest starting pitcher in baseball to get a hit off of this season with an opponent’s batting average of .182. Next closest is Yu Darvish at .191.

Fernandez’s most effective pitch though has been his breaking ball which he threw about one-third of the time. Opponents hit .116 against Fernandez’s breaking ball and chased it nearly 40 percent of the time, making it one of the best putaway pitches in the sport.

And he can hit too
Fernandez is the only pitcher this season to have hit at least one double, one triple and one homer this season.

He finished with a .220 batting average on 11 hits in 50 at-bats.

Kernels: Pitchers going beyond their duty

September, 1, 2013
Zack Greinke isn’t just pitching extremely well, he’s doing everything he possibly can to help the Los Angeles Dodgers keep winning.

Greinke stole his second base of the season on Sunday against the Padres. He became the first pitcher for any team to have two steals in a season since Orlando Hernandez for the Mets in 2007. The last to do it for the Dodgers was Orel Hershiser in 1987.

This was one of a number of interesting and unusual pitching feats this week. Here’s a run-through of our favorites:

• Miami Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez hit his first career triple to start the third inning against Atlanta on Friday.

Fernandez just turned 21 on the last day of July. In the past 40 years, only two pitchers younger than Fernandez have ever tripled in a game: Rick Ankiel (April 5, 2000) and Fernando Valenzuela (September 6, 1981). Both were 20 at the time.

The last three 21-year-old pitchers to triple (all further into the year than Fernandez): Steve Avery, John Smoltz, and Dwight Gooden.

• Jonathon Niese of the Mets pitched a three-hit shutout against the Phillies on Tuesday, but he made bigger noise as a batter. In the bottom of the 6th inning, Niese came up with the bases loaded and doubled to center field to score all three runners and provide the final victory margin of 5-0.

Niese became the fifth pitcher this season with a three-RBI game, but the first Met since Al Leiter also had a three-run double against the Padres on August 12, 1999.

But throwing a shutout on top of driving in three runs? No pitcher had done that since Arizona's Brandon Webb on May 20, 2006 (also a three-run double, against Atlanta); and only one other Mets pitcher had ever done it. That was Pete Falcone who had a solo homer and a two-run single against the Phillies on September 29, 1981.

Weirdness of the Week: The rain-shortened complete-game
Ticketholders at Comerica Park didn't quite get their full nine innings this week.

Tuesday's game against the Oakland Athletics was called in the top of the sixth inning due to rain. Athletics starter Tommy Milone ended up with a five-inning complete-game victory.

Bartolo Colon received credit for a seven-inning shutout in April during a rain-shortened game in Boston. Before that, the last Oakland pitcher with a complete-game win of less than nine innings was Steve Ontiveros in 1995. The Athletics hadn't had a pair of shortened complete games since 1949.

On Friday night it rained again at Comerica, causing the Tigers' game with Cleveland to be called after seven frames.

It was the first time the same stadium had seen two shortened games in four days since September 26 and 27, 2008, when games between the Orioles and Blue Jays at Camden Yards were both stopped after seven innings.

More Weirdness of the Week: The Extra-Inning Balk
In the 10th inning on Tuesday, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler reached on a one-out single, eventually stole third, and then scored with two outs on a balk by Seattle Mariners reliever Danny Farquhar.

Not only was Tuesday's the first balk ever called on Farquhar, but it was the first one called on a Mariners pitcher this year. From 2006 to 2012, they got called for 48 of them, the most in the majors over that span (the Rockies had 47).

It was the fourth extra-inning balk called this season, and the second to score a run. Shawn Camp of the Cubs committed one on April 14 to score Hector Sanchez of the Giants, also with the go-ahead run in the 10th.

And it was just the second time in Mariners history that they had ever balked in a run in extra innings. Mike Stanton (that's the earlier Mike Stanton, not the one who pitched for the Braves throughout the '90s) had the other against the New York Yankees in 1984.

Dodgers have no answers for Fernandez

August, 19, 2013

Steve Mitchell/Getty ImagesWith his win over the Dodgers on Monday, Jose Fernandez is 6-0 in his past eight home starts.
Two rookie of the year candidates were going in different directions on Monday in Miami.

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig is having a great rookie season, but he's been streaky most recently.

After hitting .383 from Aug. 1-14, Puig is hitless in his past 11 at-bats and 2-for-17 in his past four games.

And, on Monday, Puig and the Dodgers ran into Miami Marlins' rookie Jose Fernandez, who might be Puig's stiffest competition for National League Rookie of the Year.

Fernandez pitched six innings and allowed one earned run, his seventh straight start allowing two earned runs or fewer. Since June 1, Fernandez has a major league-best 1.64 ERA and has allowed more than two runs once in 14 starts.

Fernandez improved to 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA at home this season, and the Marlins have now won each of his past eight starts at Marlins Park.

Fernandez was opposed by yet another NL Rookie of the Year candidate in Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lost for the first time since June 19. In fact, the Dodgers were 9-0 in in Ryu's previous nine starts.

Dodger bats have gone somewhat cold in the past two games on the heels of their record-setting 42-8 stretch. They have scored exactly two runs in each of their past two games -- the first time they've scored two runs or fewer in consecutive games since July 25-26. Los Angeles is also 1-12 with runners in scoring position in its past two games, including 0-8 on Monday.

The Dodgers have now lost back-to-back games for the first time in two months (June 20-21). Over that span, every other team in baseball has had a two-game losing streak, and 20 teams have had a losing streak of at least five games.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers will try to avoid losing their third in a row for the first time since June 10.

Fernandez keeps Indians off balance

August, 3, 2013
Hector Gabino/El Nuevo Herald/Getty ImagesJose Fernandez has 27 strikeouts in his last two starts.
Jose Fernandez is quickly emerging as one of the most impressive young pitchers in Major League Baseball.

After striking out 13 batters with no walks in eight innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates in his previous start, Fernandez struck out 14 batters with one walk in eight innings against the Cleveland Indians on Friday.

Fernandez is the first pitcher with consecutive 13-strikeout games since Randy Johnson in 2004. He’s the first pitcher age 21 or younger with multiple 13-strikeout games in a season since Kerry Wood had five such games in 1998.

Not only is Fernandez striking out batters at a high rate, but he’s doing so without walking many batters. He’s the first pitcher with consecutive games of at least 13 strikeouts and one or fewer walks since Curt Schilling in 2002.

Fernandez is the fifth pitcher age 21 or younger with consecutive 13-strikeout games in the modern era (since 1900), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He’s the fourth-youngest pitcher with consecutive 13-strikeout games. Only Dwight Gooden in 1984, Kerry Wood in 1998 and Jose Rijo in 1986 were younger.

How did Fernandez dominate the Indians?

• Fernandez registered 22 of his 24 outs via strikeout (14) or ground ball (8). He's the first pitcher in the last two seasons to go at least eight innings and get just two or fewer of his outs in the air.

• Despite his fastball averaging 95.5 mph (his second-fastest this season), Fernandez threw a season-high 50 percent offspeed pitches. He recorded a season-best 18 outs on those offspeed pitches, including 13 strikeouts.

• Fernandez's breaking balls, in particular, were dominant. Twelve of his 14 strikeouts came on his curveball or slider, tied for the most by any pitcher in the last five seasons.

• Fernandez had success getting Indians hitters to expand their strike zone, particularly with two strikes. He threw 13 two-strike pitches out of the zone and Indians hitters missed on all nine they swung at. His nine strikeouts out of the zone were one shy of the most in baseball this season.

Royals, Indians lead red-hot AL Central

August, 2, 2013

Jason Miller/Getty ImagesRoyals pitching has fueled a nine-game win streak.
Three of the four teams with the longest active win streaks in baseball call the American League Central home, making it the hottest division around.

The Kansas City Royals lead the way with a nine-game streak, followed by the Cleveland Indians at eight straight and the Detroit Tigers with five in a row of their own. The Elias Sports Bureau notes this is the first time the AL Central has ever had two teams with concurrent win streaks of at least eight games.

Thursday night’s 7-2 win over the Twins capped a three-game sweep and marked the first time the Royals reeled off nine consecutive wins since beginning the 2003 season 9-0.

Excellent pitching has fueled this run, as Kansas City pitchers have posted a 1.50 ERA over the streak, allowing just 1.8 runs per game.

In fact, Kansas City has allowed three or fewer runs in each game. Over the past 20 years, the only team to reach double digits with a streak like that was the 2002 Angels, who won 10 in a row (per Elias).

Tonight, the Royals send Wade Davis to the mound to take on the Mets (NL-best 8-2 in interleague play this season) as they try to make it 10 straight wins for the first time since a 1994 14-game streak. It would also match the third-longest win streak in club history.

Davis will look to build off a solid start last time out -- 7 1/3 scoreless innings against the White Sox, which came on the heels of a 10.91 ERA over his previous four starts (all losses).

After capping a four-game sweep of the White Sox, the Indians have won eight straight games for the first time since April 2011. Over this stretch, they’ve been powered by walk-off homers from Jason Giambi and Carlos Santana. The offense has combined to bat .307 with a .372 OBP averaging 6.3 runs per game, and the pitching has been excellent with a 2.28 ERA.

Keeping it going will be a challenge tonight as the Indians head to Miami to face Cuban rookie Jose Fernandez, who turned 21 earlier this week. The defector is coming off a career-high 13 strikeouts in eight innings against the Pirates his last start out and has posted a 1.87 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 9.6 K/9 in his last 10 starts since June 1.

Looking Ahead
For all the streaking the Royals and Indians have done, they haven’t been able to gain much ground in the standings with the Tigers winning nine of 10 and 18 of their last 25.

The Royals face the toughest remaining schedule of the group by remaining opponents’ combined win percentage (.494), but they will play the most games at home. The Indians have the fewest remaining games against teams currently at or above .500 (22 of 54 games) of the bunch.

If all three teams win tonight, Elias tells us it would be only the second time in history three teams in a single division held concurrent win streaks of at least six games. The only time it happened was in June 1978 in the AL East (Orioles, Red Sox, Brewers).

Fernandez has come up fast in many ways

July, 2, 2013
The Miami Marlins are doing their best to avoid being baseball’s ultimate cellar-dweller. After winning 15 of their first 59 games this season, they’ve now won 15 of 22 since June 8.

And one of baseball’s brightest young pitchers is part of the reason why.

Jose Fernandez was dominant on Monday, allowing two hits and a walk in eight scoreless innings in a win over the Padres.

Fernandez became the third pitcher age 20 or younger to strike out at least 10 in a game in which he allowed no more than two hits and one walk.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that the other two were Dwight Gooden (against the Montreal Montreal Expos in 1984) and Kerry Wood (in his 20-strikeout game against the Houston Astros in 1998).

How Fernandez is winning
Fernandez averaged 95 mph with his fastball on Monday, his third-fastest average velocity with that pitch this season.

He threw the pitch 75 times in his 100 pitches, the most often he’s thrown it this season.

Fernandez is averaging 94.7 mph with his fastball this season, an average velocity only topped by Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg and Jeff Samardzija among starting pitchers.

He then used his breaking ball as his putaway pitch. Padres hitters were 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts in at-bats ending with Fernandez’s curveball or slider.

It hasn’t taken long for Fernandez to establish those pitches as something special as well.

In April and May, Fernandez threw 247 breaking balls, allowing 12 hits and six walks, and netting 23 strikeouts.

But since June 1, he’s thrown 193 of them and allowed only three hits and five walks and netting 31 strikeouts.

Looking Ahead
Fernandez should have two starts left before the All-Star Break, one against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday and then another against the Washington Nationals next week.

Fernandez also had 10 strikeouts (his career high) against the Cardinals on June 14.

The start against the Nationals presents an opportunity for an interesting matchup with another 20-year-old, Bryce Harper, who returned to the majors with a home run in his first at-bat after missing 31 games.

That should be a fascinating confrontation given Harper’s history against hard throwers.

Harper is 7-for-47 with 15 strikeouts in his career in at-bats that end with pitches thrown 95 mph or faster (albeit with eight walks).

He does not have a hit in eight at-bats against such pitches in 2013.

Looking a little beyond that, Fernandez and Harper could be teammates on the National League All-Star team at Citi Field.

Fernandez could be the fifth pitcher under the age of 21 to pitch in an All-Star Game. Elias notes he’d be the first since Mets flamethrower Dwight Gooden in 1984.