In Little Havana on Friday night, the red-hot Cleveland Indians were first introduced to one of the best pitchers in baseball: a 21-year-old Cuban named Jose Fernandez.
One of the game’s best-kept secrets in 2013, the Marlins right-hander continued his dominant pitching with the most impressive start of his young MLB career (21 games) in the shocking 10-0 Miami win. The victory snapped an eight-game winning streak for Cleveland, which entered the game with the third-best offense in baseball.
Fernandez’s final line: 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 14 K, 89 GameScore. Per GameScore, it was the most dominant start against the Indians since Ervin Santana’s no-hitter (94) on July 27, 2011.
According to FanGraphs, Fernandez now has produced a sensational 1.2 WAR (!!) in striking out 27 of 56 batters in his last two starts. That’s good for an insane 48.2% strikeout rate. He currently ranks fourth with a 27.3% strikeout rate on the season (min. 500 batters faced), trailing such distinguished names Darvish, Scherzer and Harvey.
His last 11 starts since June 1 have been most impressive. He has allowed three runs just once, while limiting opponents to one run or less six times. Over that span, per MLB Advanced Media, he leads qualified MLB pitchers with a 1.67 ERA and .164 batting average against. Fernandez has 86 strikeouts (10.3 K/9) against just 22 walks (2.6 BB/9), good for a sensational 0.831 WHIP and 30.3% strikeout rate. Opponents have posted a measly .453 OPS in 284 plate appearances.
Fernandez’s success at such a young age is notable in baseball history since 1947, per Baseball-Reference. Among all 21-and-under pitchers with 500 batters faced, his strikeout rate ranks third, his ERA+ ranks sixth and his OPS+ ranks second. The pitchers that bested Fernandez in various categories: Dwight Gooden, Vida Blue, Mark Fidrych, Ralph Branca, Jim Nash and Kerry Wood.
Although the Marlins exist in a sad state of baseball affairs, Fernandez is an incredibly bright spot. The All-Star is shining in his rookie season and with three more years pre-arbitration eligibility, is suddenly one of the best assets in baseball.
[Related: And You Thought The Dolans Were Bad….]