The pitcher profiles are back for 2013. Every Monday I will be breaking down a starting pitcher’s performance pitch-by-pitch so you can see an in-depth review of their velocity and how much luck factored into their numbers.
Jose Fernandez, the Miami Marlins 1st-round pick in 2011, had an unreal ascent through the Minors up until Spring Training a few months back. In a surprise move a few days before Opening Day, the Marlins decided to put the big righty in the rotation to start the season. A similar comparison could be made to Michael Pineda when he came up with the Mariners in 2011. A big, hard-thrower beginning in the Majors in the Opening Day rotation perhaps too early in their careers. Just look at what happened to Pineda’s shoulder. Hopefully Fernandez can avoid similar fate.
Listen, I know these can sometimes be a little drier than Grey’s mustache on a Caribbean beach. But they offer a different perspective on a pitcher’s outing other than looking at only stats. I will tend to pick young pitchers or fringe-owned starters, but if you have any suggestions of a pitcher you’d like broken down, pick a guy starting over next weekend and shoot that comment below.
Here’s how Fernandez looked:
First Inning: Fernandez’s first pitch of the game and of his MLB career is a 93-MPH fastball taken for a strike to Collin Cowgill. At 6-2, 240, he’s not quite the height of Pineda, so I should probably stop that comp. That first one looked like a two-seamer with a hard drop and tail into the lower inner half. The next pitch is a 93-MPH that looked like a four-seamer that stayed up at the hands; Cowgill gets a hold of it but flies out directly to Justin Ruggiano. The first pitch to Daniel Murphy is a 96-MPH fastball taken for a strike. There’s the heat! The next pitch is a 95-MPH fastball that looked straight which Murphy crushes opposite field to the warning track, but it’s caught by Pierre moving back, two down. Two fairly hard hit outs to start the game. Up now is the only real dangerous hitter in the Mets lineup, David Wright. He starts him with a 96-MPH fastball that Wright gets jammed on and fouls back, 0-1. His next pitch is his first breaking ball, a 80-MPH curveball that shoots down with huge movement, 1-1. Man, command of that and it’s gonna be a long career. Wright fouls another one back, 1-2. The next pitch is a breaking ball that hangs and Wright hits it opposite field to Giancarlo Stanton right in front of the track for a 1-2-3 inning. However every ball was hit pretty well.
Second Inning: The first pitch to Ike Davis is a fastball way outside at 93-MPH. He then paints at the same speed on the outside corner, 1-1. Then Fernandez goes to a change-up that moved something like 10-4 at 85-MPH and got Davis to look silly half-swinging at it. That was a pretty incredible pitch, and shows Fernandez could have 3 plus offerings with the heat, slider and change. The next pitch is another 80-MPH curveball that bends into the zone for his first ML strikeout with Davis looking. Fernandez starts Mike Baxter with a fastball fouled off, 0-1. Yes Mike Baxter is hitting 5th for your Mets. Wow. Fernandez misses on his next two fastballs, 2-1. Again he’s outside at 96, 3-1. He’s able to paint the outside corner, full count, then blows him away at 95-MPH right down the middle. 2 Ks. The first pitch to Lucas Duda is a two-seamer that tails too far out of the zone at 96-MPH, 1-0. Serious, serious movement on that. Then he blows him away at 96-MPH swinging, 1-1. Again outside, 2-1, then Duda fouls one straight back, 2-2. Then on the outside high corner, dots a 97-MPH fastball to get Duda swinging and Fernandez strikes out the side in order, wow.
Third Inning: After getting a run of support, Fernandez starts Ruben Tejada with a 95-MPH fastball inside, 1-0. He misses again 2-0. His mechanics look like he’s finishing a little differently, but I may be applying two straight balls to that thought. He gets a 93-MPH over that Tejada fouls off, 2-1. The broadcast is interviewing his pitching coach (I assume from before he got drafted) who said they applied a lot of Japanese mechanics and philosophy to his development. He sticks with the heater at 95-MPH that Tejada lines into the opposite field but right to Stanton, one down. The first pitch to Anthony Recker is a 97-MPH two-seamer, strike one. Literally never heard of this Recker guy. He then gets the curveball in the zone at 83-MPH, 0-2. That one didn’t have as much movement, but got over. Then it’s 97-MPH on the outside high corner again that blows him away, another K. I think his delivery is the same, it’s smooth but he finishes off a little weird, with a lot of torque on his wrist. He gets one over to opposing pitcher Aaron Laffey, then low, then Laffey very weakly grounds one to first, inning over. It’s been 9 up 9 down, what a debut.
Fourth Inning: Fernandez gets two more runs of support, and is pitching with a 3-0 lead. He starts Cowgill with a fastball way high and tight, 1-0. Then 94-MPH right down Broadway, 1-1. Another curveball over at 80-MPH, 1-2. That one hung a bit too. Then he blows away Cowgill on the hands at 96-MPH with the two-seamer that moves a good 8-inches into the hitter. 10 up 10 down. The first pitch to Murphy is that change-up that barely misses, then a fastball misses, 2-0. Then on a 95-MPH fastball down the middle, Daniel Murphy slams a single right up the gap. There goes the perfect game! Fernandez gets ahead 0-1, then 0-2 on a 96-MPH heater that Wright fouls off. Catcher Rob Brantly then set up low and away for a curveball, but Fernandez hung it a tad and it started in on the plate and ended up right down the middle, but Wright took it for a strikeout looking. I don’t think he gets away with that next time to Wright but it’s 6 Ks now. Fernandez makes his first pickoff move and Murphy is back easy. Not the best pickoff move. He checks again to no avail then misses outside to Davis 1-0. He then gets a change-up over at 85-MPH, 1-1. I just figured out what the delivery anomaly is. On fastballs, his wrist finishes by cocking up, then on that change-up, his arm is completely across his body. If there’s anything hitters can pick up on that difference as it’s leaving his hand, that might be a problem. Then it’s another one at 86-MPH in the dirt, couldn’t tell if a change or curve, with that same arm across the body. He then hangs a curveball at 77-MPH that stays high, 3-1. He then loses Davis on a 92-MPH fastball outside. Not only a decline in velocity with the curve that didn’t break, now one of his slowest fastballs that didn’t locate, and his wrist didn’t flare up like it had on those 97-MPH heaters. He starts Baxter with a 95-MPH heater, 0-1. Then the curve misses at 79-MPH outside with little break, 1-1. The fastball is way outside at 92-MPH and Fernandez goes for the rosin bag. He gets Baxter to swing and miss on a 93-MPH heater, 2-2. He goes back to the curve that stays over the middle of the plate, but Baxter hits it right to the mound and Fernandez makes a nice play to throw him out at first, inning over.
Fifth Inning: The first pitch to Lucas Duda is a 86-MPH change-up taken for a strike, 0-1. Again, the arm across the body. A fastball misses, then is in at the knees, 1-2. He then goes to the backdoor breaking ball taken for strike 3. Wow, I just re-watched his arm, it whipped across his body to his left hip, as opposed to his wrist staying up towards his right shoulder on the fastball. That’s a MAJOR difference, he tries to bounce it back up but the arm motion looked different. But it’s 7 Ks. Fernandez starts Tejada on the inside, 1-0. Tejada fouls one back, then gets a curveball in there 1-2. Fernandez is low with the curve, 2-2, then barely misses in again with the curve, full count. Tejada fouls off three pitches, then weakly grounds it right up the gap for a single. What an at-bat at 9 pitches. Fernandez misses with the curve, 1-0. Just not as much sharp movement on that anymore. Then Recker misses on a 92-MPH fastball, 1-1. There’s a tough curveball, biting hard outside and low that Recker misses, 1-2. Then a hanger right down the middle, and Recker crushes a double down the third base line that scores Tejada. On that one, it looked like Fernandez tried to finish it like a fastball, his wrist was up high. Pinch-hitter Marlon Byrd fouls two straight off to get up 0-2. A 95-MPH fastball is fouled off again, then misses, then on the 1-2 gets a very sharp breaking ball to bury and Byrd swings and misses, 8 Ks, two down. Fernandez misses to Cowgill, 1-0, then one is fouled off 1-1. Another is fouled off on 96-MPH heat, 1-2. That velocity is still there. A heater is outside, 2-2, then Cowgill pops up to second to end the inning. Fernandez doesn’t return, and a Steve Cishek blown save costs him his first ML Win.
Final Line: ND 5.0 IP (80 pitches) 3 Hits 1 Walk 1 Earned Run 8 Ks
Final Analysis: A fantastic debut for Jose Fernandez, who struck out 8 in only 5 innings. But I’m not as impressed when looking at the tape.
First you have to realize it’s a terrible Mets offense at Citi Field. Marlins park is a good pitchers’ park as well, so that’s not a big issue and the park factor maybe only saved that catch by Pierre in the first from being a double. But Fernandez will primarily face better offenses.
The real issue for me was the mechanics. Fernandez has a smooth delivery up until he finishes his pitch. Then there’s a stark difference between the fastball and off-speed. His wrist cocks up on the fastballs with his arm staying on his right, then the off-speed his arm and wrist finishes across his body, then he bounces his back up. And if I can pick up on this, I know Major League scouts are looking at similar film, but this could be something hitters can’t pick up on in time. It looks like his arms sweeps across his body consistently on all pitches, it’s just the finishing motion after the ball has left his hand. Seeing his pitches from the main pitcher view, it’s tough to tell as I didn’t see any pitches from the catcher’s view. These finishing mechanics also varied for Fernandez who didn’t have consistent velocity or movement mainly in that 4th inning.
Listen, it’s one game, a ML debut for a 20-year-old no less, and maybe Fernandez can work out these issues if they cause any problems, and maybe they never will and I’m reading too much into it. They certainly didn’t get him into much trouble yesterday. His 97-MPH heat can cause serious damage and his two-seamer has explosive movement. But the change-up wasn’t there all day (nor did he use it much) and neither was the curve.
Marlins president Larry Beinfest is going to limit Fernandez to 150-170 innings, plus I doubt he gets into the 90-pitch range very often. The limited outings plus a terrible offense behind him is going to severely limit his win potential. If you picked up Fernandez, you’re holding on and trying to sell high while the iron is hot. I wouldn’t try to trade for him right now, I think the cost is just too high.