JOSE FER­NAN­DEZ (1992-2016)

Cecil Whig - - INSIDEBASEBALL -

The death of Miami pitcher Jose Fer­nan­dez on the morn­ing of Sept. 25 stunned the base­ball world. Fer­nan­dez, 24, was found dead with two friends af­ter a boat­ing ac­ci­dent. He was the 2013 Na­tional League Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star, and had a ca­reer 38–17 record, a 2.58 ERA and a re­mark­able 589 strike­outs in 471.1 ca­reer in­nings.

At his death, the 10 most sta­tis­ti­cally sim­i­lar play­ers to him, ac­cord­ing to Base­bal­lRef­er­ence. com, in­clude a pair of cur­rent Mets, Ja­cob deGrom (No. 1) and Matt Har­vey (No. 3), seven men who started their ca­reers be­fore the end of World War II, and Dick Hughes, who pitched for the Car­di­nals from 1966-68; his ca­reer ended pre­ma­turely due to torn ro­ta­tor cuff.

Ex­cept for the cur­rent play­ers, those aren’t great com­par­isons. Fer­nan­dez was a su­per­star, and he may have been get­ting bet­ter. Af­ter mak­ing 11 starts last sea­son since re­cov­er­ing from Tommy John surgery in 2014, Fer­nan­dez was 16– 8 this sea­son with a 2.86 ERA. His 253 strike­outs at the time of his death were nine be­hind Max Scherzer, who had thrown 35 more in­nings. In Fer­nan­dez’s last start on Sept. 20, he pitched eight in­nings of shutout ball with 12 strike­outs, no walks and just three hits. He told team­mates that was the best game he’d ever pitched. The 12.49 strike­outs per nine in­nings was the high­est of his ca­reer.

We’ll miss much more than Fer­nan­dez’s base­ball tal­ent. The Cuban de­fec­tor, who be­came an Amer­i­can citizen last year, played the game with a child­like joy and en­thu­si­asm that’s very sel­dom seen. That was one rea­son that so some play­ers on other teams hung “Fer­nan­dez” jer­seys in their re­spec­tive du­gouts the day of his death. Bos­ton’s David Or­tiz, who had been Fer­nan­dez’s child­hood idol and a good friend, can­celed the “farewell” cer­e­mony for him sched­uled in Tampa that day and wept on the field in a pregame mo­ment of si­lence for Fer­nan­dez. All 30 teams paid trib­ute in some form.

Fer­nan­dez is on a small list of play­ers who’ve died dur­ing the sea­son. The last was An­gels re­liever Nick Aden­hart (2009), a 22-year-old who had thrown just 18 MLB in­nings, and be­fore that, Car­di­nals’ re­liever Josh Han­cock in 2007. Both were killed in car ac­ci­dents. Other prom­i­nent play­ers who’ve passed away dur­ing the sea­son in­clude Hall of Fame pitcher Ad­die Joss ( menin­gi­tis, 1911), Ray Chap­man ( hit by pitch, 1920), Twins out­fielder Ly­man Bo­s­tock (mur­dered in 1978), Yan­kees’ seven-time All-Star catcher Thur­man Mun­son (plane crash, 1979) and three-time All-Star pitcher Darryl Kile of the Car­di­nals (heart at­tack, 2002).

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