As many of us now know, José Fernández tragically died in a high-speed boat crash off the coast in Florida early this Sunday morning. While José Fernández was very accomplished during his short career, he was simply more than just a player; José represented the American Dream through his immigration from Cuba to the United States. He represented something more than baseball and served as a hero and role model to many back in his home country.
During his short time in the majors, José Fernández was simply on another level. Despite missing a majority of the 2014 and 2015 seasons because of Tommy John Surgery, Fernández still managed to be the Rookie of the Year in 2013 and an All-Star in both 2013 and 2016. Let’s analyze his too short, but incredible career:
Even though he has not been as stellar as he was in his rookie campaign in 2013, Fernández has been nothing short of spectacular this season. Through his first 29 starts, Fernández has averaged 12.488 strikeouts per 9 innings, which is by far the most in the league, as the next guy, Robbie Ray, only averages 11.405 strikeouts per 9. In addition, Fernández is also 9th in the league with a 2.86 ERA and tied for 9th in the league with 19 wins this season. Fernández has a 4.1 WAR, which is also among the league leaders this season.
In terms of added value to a team, in terms of WAR, Fernández is easily one of the league leaders due to his low salary but incredibly high performance. According to FiveThirtyEight, MLB teams are willing to pay about $7.7 million per each win added. In his 2 full seasons played, Fernández recorded WAR’s of 6.3 in 2013 and 4.1 in 2016, which would equate to $48.5 million in 2013 and $31.6 million. Let’s average this out generously and say he’s worth about $38 million when he’s healthy. He was paid just $2.8 million this year, which gives him an insane surplus value of $35 million.
In 2014, Fernández hurt his arm and was forced to have Tommy John Surgery, which in turn shortened both his 2014 and 2015 seasons. Many doubted Fernández, citing that most pitchers don’t recover well from this surgery, especially flame-throwing, strikeout specialists such as Fernández. Well, it’s pretty safe to say they were wrong, as Fernández has been spectacular this season, as shown by all of the stats above.
What’s even more crazy about Fernández is that he probably hadn’t even hit his peak yet. Fernández’s best year, statistically speaking, was probably 2013 when he won Rookie of the Year and was an All-Star. However, that was his rookie season, and he certainly has room to improve.
It’s so devastating to see José Fernández go at such a young age. He was likely on pace to be a Hall of Famer, maybe even one of the best ever. But what Fernández did on the field, he more than replicated off of it, by acting as a hero for so many people. We will miss you, José Fernández. Rest in peace.
Data courtesy of ESPN, Baseball Reference, Fan Graphs, MLB.com, and FiveThirtyEight. Thanks for reading!
Written by Jason Platkin
Cover Photo Credits: Getty Images