COMMENTARY - One of the many questions I have wanted to ask about baseball and the death of Jose Fernandez was finally discussed the other day in Anthony Castrovince’s story on MLB.com on Friday.
Will Fernandez get a significant amount of love from the baseball writers when it comes to regular season awards and does he win the NL Cy Young Award posthumously?
“So let's just put this out there: Fernandez is worthy of receiving the National League Cy Young Award as well as multiple MLB Awards posthumously?”
A case can be made for the 24-year-old pitcher – who was dominant on the bump and arguably the most consistent player on the Miami Marlins roster this season – despite being handled with kid gloves by the coaching staff.
By admitting Fernandez is Cy Young worthy, even after his untimely death, the is an admittance that the ace of Miami’s pitching staff was the best of the bunch this season and the best at what he did. I might be a bit biased in my assessment of Fernandez, but I haven’t seen pitchers take command of the game like he did this season in some time.
As Castrovince also points out, before Fernandez's untimely passing, the NL Cy Young Award was going to go to Max Scherzer or a Cubs starter. Scherzer has been the biggest workhorse, with an NL-best 223 1/3 innings and a Major League-best 277 strikeouts and a 0.94 WHIP. He's racked up 19 wins along the way. Kyle Hendricks, meanwhile, has been the stingiest pitcher in the bigs, with a Major League-best 1.99 ERA and a 201 adjusted ERA+, albeit with far fewer innings (185) than the mighty Max. And Jon Lester is sort of the happy medium between the two, currently sitting just shy of 200 innings with a 2.28 ERA.
Fernandez was right there in the thick of this “race” with stats that were comparable to the aforementioned greats of the current game.
Given that Fernandez would have had one more – possibly two more starts – at the end of the season and 16 wins already on his stat sheet for 2016, it’s hard to say where he would be ranked, had he been able to finish the season. The 253 strikeouts were impressive. The 2.84 ERA was solid. Yes, he would have been a strong candidate to win the league’s top pitching honor. But it might not have been enough.
“Fernandez's case is admittedly more about sentimentality than stats, but the stats make it far more than merely maudlin. And because that case is gaining traction in conversation here in the past day or so, those with an NL Cy Young Award vote (and just for the record, I don't have one) are faced with a tremendously difficult decision.
“It's worth noting the MLB Awards take postseason performance into consideration, whereas the Cy Young Award does not. There's also a chance Fernandez will be honored with a special MLB Award.”
Baseball’s lasting impression of Fernandez was an eight-inning, 12 strikeout performance in a 1-0 win over Washington. He would have face Atlanta on the Monday after his death and could have pitched one more game against the Nationals at season’s end. For the sake of argument, would 18 wins and potentially 270 strikeouts been worthy of consideration? Yes, on achievement and merit, not on honoring him for his contributions that some writers might way in on as they make their decision.
Fernandez deserves CY Young recognition. He should be in the top-five voting for the National League. He should get first place votes and he should be considered one of the best this season. If he wins the award, how will the past week’s events play into the decision and what kind of controversy might evolve from such a historic moment?
While Castrovince makes a great argument for Fernandez winning the Cy Young, making the play to award him posthumously might create a firestorm of question that could ultimately taint his season and his untimely death.