There’s a lot of Jose Fernandez talk going around. And he looks to be a legit young starting pitcher — his gas sat above 95 mph, his slurve/slider thing got plenty of whiffs, and he lived in the zone. But curves and sliders have platoon splits — to different extents — and it’s always good for a pitcher to have at third pitch when he’s encountering the lineup for a third time.
This is Jose Fernandez’ third pitch.
That looks legit to me.
By all scouting reports, the changeup is his worst pitch. And, to be fair, our sample here is small and the reports all say that it lacks consistency. But if this is the upside for his third pitch, it’s well within reach. He only threw five changeups, but three went for strikes and one was a whiff. So far so good.
The other two pitches were plus-plus. The fastball averaged 95.6 mph and got seven whiffs in 51 tries per Brooks Baseball. That’s well above the league average for fastballs, which only get about 7% whiffs league-wide. The fact that it’s over 94 is alone a noteworthy benchmark. He kept it in the strike zone (2/3 strikes) and with 5.7 inches of horizontal movement, his fastball would have placed in the top twenty in that category. Yum.
Brooks Baseball says that Fernandez threw five sliders and 18 curveballs. That’s certainly possible, but all that’s separating them is a couple inches of vertical break and a tick or two on the gun. Most likely, that was one pitch, the one that has been described as a slurve and also has quite the nickname:
I’m freakin pumped for Jose Fernandez today! Great kid and a bulldog! Nicknamed his curveball the defector!!
— Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) April 7, 2013
If you lump the ‘sliders’ in with the ‘curveballs,’ you only get two whiffs on 23 pitches, which isn’t actually great for a breaking ball. Back to those pitch type benchmarks, sliders and curves get between 11 and 15% whiffs. And slurves, if it truly is a slurve — it has more vertical break than the slurves in Max Marchi’s pitch type platoon splits — have some of the worst platoon splits in the game. But it is a one-game sample, and the pitch was legit, obviously.
By all accounts, Fernandez had a great first game. He kept his velocity late into the game — he hit 97 on his second-to-last pitch — he kept his release point, used his lower half well, and got swinging strikes on more than one in ten pitches. He could get strike one more often — his 52.6% yesterday was worse than the league average, and that’s an important peripheral for walk rates — but his minor league history didn’t one show even a league-average walk rate.
Jose Fernandez never pitched in Double-A. Using him now has financial repercussions for the organization, and it might not be the right move. The team did demote him to minor league camp just last month, and they do have Jacob Turner waiting in the wings with plenty of high-minors experience and an arb clock that’s already ticking.
All that said, Jose Fernandez looks ready. After all, just look at how good his third pitch can be.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.