Marlins phenom took home NL Rookie of the Year Award earlier in the week
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Being a National League Rookie of the Year Award finalist was expected, but Jose Fernandez had no clue he would be in the top three in the NL Cy Young Award picture.
When the results were announced on Wednesday night, the Marlins' ace ended up taking the bronze medal in the voting. In the big picture, third place is no small consolation for the premier prize for an NL pitcher.
As expected, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers was the overwhelming winner, capturing the crown for the second time in three seasons. Kershaw received 29 of 30 first-place votes and finished with 207 points. Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals was second with one first-place vote and 86 points. Fernandez ended up with nine second-place votes and 62 points.
The Cy Young Award, as voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), was announced two nights after Fernandez was named the winner of the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
To Fernandez, just being mentioned as a Cy Young finalist was a form of victory.
"To be in that group, I was lost," Fernandez said.
Fernandez noted that he didn't even pay attention to the Cy Young race because he never expected to be listed. A week ago, Fernandez learned he was a finalist for both the NL Rookie of the Year Award and the NL Cy Young Award on the same night.
"On my Instagram, they came out with my NL rookie top three, I was expecting that," Fernandez said. "Then they did National League Cy Young candidate, and my picture came up. I was like, 'No way! There's no way!' That caught me by a big, big surprise."
Fernandez went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 172 2/3 innings. Opponents batted a mere .182 against him, and his WHIP (walks plus hits per nine innings) was a miniscule 0.98.
Expected to open the season at Double-A Jacksonville, Fernandez found himself at age 20 in the big leagues on Opening Day due to injuries to Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez.
Fernandez turned 21 on July 31, and he kept getting better with each start. From June 1 onward, it is difficult to say any starter in the NL was better than the Miami rookie. Fernandez posted a 1.50 ERA over that span, which topped Kershaw's 1.82 and Wainwright's 3.17. Fernandez was also 10-3 during that stretch, while Kershaw was 11-6 and Wainwright was 12-6.
In his final 120 1/3 innings, Fernandez struck out 135. Kershaw had 150 strikeouts in his final 148 2/3 innings and Wainwright had 145 strikeouts in his final 161 2/3 innings.
"I'm just more than happy to be named in [the final three]," Fernandez said. "Those two guys are incredibly good. Just the chance to be top three [is an honor], and this was my first year in the big leagues."
Working against Fernandez was the fact he was on a team-imposed innings limit because of his age and inexperience. The Marlins will loosen that limit in 2014. But Fernandez's agent, Scott Boras, is mindful that history shows pitchers who log a substantial number of big league innings before turning 25 tend to decline more quickly.
"The rule is, basically, you want to keep these guys under 600 innings before they're 24," Boras said. "This is something that really needs to be managed, because the metrics are not good for retaining velocity and durability. They did a good job of it this year, and hopefully, they'll continue with that as they go forward."
Fernandez has yet to get into his offseason throwing program. He's staying in shape by riding his bicycle about 50 miles a day on a trail near where he lives in the Tampa, Fla., area.
A month and a half into the offseason has given Fernandez time to reflect on all he accomplished in his first big league season.
"To one point, I'm happy," Fernandez said. "To another point, I think I can get a lot better. I learned a lot this year about what is really, really important. I like to learn every start. I think next year is going to be a lot harder, too, than my first year. But I've been working out."