Tagged: Marlins

Baseball Remembers Jose Fernandez

Arturo Pardavila III photo

Jose Fernandez/Arturo Pardavila III photo

By Glen Sparks

The life of Jose Fernandez ended in the warm, calm waters off Miami Beach.

The Miami Marlins ace died, along with two friends, following a boating accident early Sunday morning. While on routine patrol, U.S. Coast Guard personnel discovered a capsized craft on a rock jetty at about 3:15 a.m., according to news reports. Divers with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue found two bodies underneath the 32-foot SeaVee. They found a third victim on the rocks.

An investigation into the accident will take several days to complete, said Lorenzo Veloz, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The boat probably hit the jetty at between 50 mph and 65 mph, Veloz said.

Baseball continues to mourn Fernandez, who was just 24 years old.

The Toronto Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman tweeted: “Sick to my stomach. Can’t believe this.”

Fernandez’ good friend Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers sent out this tweet: “You loved striking me out and teasing me about it. I’m going to miss you, bro.”

The Kansas City Royals’ Eric Hosmer, who grew up in south Florida, tweeted: “Absolutely crushed hearing the news about Jose. Brought so much energy and passion toward life. You will be missed, Papo.”

Evan Longoria, third baseman for the Tampa Rays, tweeted his grief about the tragedy: “Words can’t express the shock and sadness the MLB community feels over the loss of Jose Fernandez. Thoughts and prayers for all his family.”

Fernandez, a big right-hander (6-feet-3-inches, 240 pounds) with a ready smile and an electric arm, played only four seasons in the majors. He pitched in just 76 games–all of them starts–and compiled a 38-17 won-loss record.

Mets pitcher Jacob DeGrom told an MLB reporter: “He was very fun to watch play the game. I don’t think anybody really brought more energy out there to the field, and even when he was in the dugout, you’d look over there and he’d been rooting on his team, probably more than anyone you’ve ever seen.”

slgckgc photo

slgckgc photo

Fernandez was born July 31, 1992, in Santa Clara, Cuba. The Fernandez family tried and failed to defect three times from their native land. In 2007, they were finally successful.

The family, together with several others, set off on a flimsy boat. One night, the waves were high, and the people were frightened. A woman fell into the frothy surf and began to yell. She was drowning. Jose Fernandez, 15 years old, jumped into the dark saltwater. He swam toward the woman and saved her life as the waves shook them in the face. The woman, it turned out, was Jose’s mom.

The Marlins drafted Fernandez in the first round of the 2011 draft, out of Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa. The following year, he went 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA for minor-league squads in Jupiter. Fla., and Greensboro, N.C. That flashy campaign earned Fernandez a nod as the game’s fifth-best prospect, according to Baseball America.

Fernandez put his four-seam fastball and assortment of tough off-speed pitches on display for the Marlins in 2013 and earned National League Rookie of the Year honors. He went 12-6 with a glittery 2.19 ERA (176 ERA+). In 172.2 innings, he struck out 187 batters. Named to the All-Star team, ernandez finished third in the Cy Young race.

Not many batters squared up Fernandez. Troy Tulowitski, then of the Colorado Rockies, ripped a hot liner off him one game. Fernandez snagged the ball; Tulo couldn’t believe it.

“Did you catch that?” Tulowitski asked.

“Yeah,” Fernandez said. The pitcher grinned. He grinned and laughed a lot. He was good, he knew it, and he enjoyed himself. Jose Fernandez loved baseball.

Then, he suffered a setback. The Marlins placed Fernandez on the 15-day disabled list May 12, 2014, due to elbow pain. An MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the right elbow. Fernandez underwent Tommy John surgery on May 16. He started eight games that season and went 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA (153 ERA+)

During limited action in 2015, Fernandez pitched 64.2 innings over 11 starts. He compiled a 6-1 record and posted a 2.92 ERA (131 ERA+).

Fernandez was 16-8 in 2016 through 29 starts. He had a 2.86 ERA (137 ERA+) and, most amazingly, he had struck out 253 hitters in just 182.1 innings (12.5 K/9, tops in the league). Not surprisingly, he made his second All-Star team.

Marlins owner Jeff Loria sent out a press release following the accident. It read in part: “It is with the deepest sorrow that I, together with my family and the entire Marlins organization, mourn the tragic loss of Jose. Sadly, the brightest lights are often the ones that extinguish the fastest. Jose left us far too soon, but his memory will endure in all of us.”

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred also issued a statement on Fernandez: “… He was one of our game’s great young stars, who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. …”

Fernandez’ career numbers, now frozen, read like this: 38-17, 2.58 ERA (150 ERA+), 589 strikeouts in 471.1 innings, 6.8 H/9, 11.2 K/9. He was special. Fernandez pitched his last game on Tuesday, Sept. 20, against the Washington Nationals in Miami. It may have been the best one of his career. He threw eight shutout innings and struck out 12. He gave up just three hits and didn’t allow a walk as the Marlins won 1-0.

Keith Allison photo

Keith Allison photo

Miami’s first-year manager Don Mattingly fought through tears as he spoke about Fernandez on Sunday. Several Marlins players stood in the background for one of the saddest press conferences you’ll ever see. “When I think of José, I see such a little boy, the way he played,” Mattingly said. “When you watch kids play Little League, that’s the joy that José played with and the passion that he felt about playing. That’s what I think about.”

Outside Marlins Park, many fans placed flowers as a makeshift memorial to Fernandez. A member of the team’s grounds crew wrote in Fernandez’ uniform No. 16 on the mound. Someone else added a Marlins cap and some flowers.

Retired pitcher Dan Haren, a teammate of Fernandez’ in 2015, tweeted: “Jose Fernandez is one of the most genuine guys I’ve ever played with. He loved life, he loved baseball…..he will be missed dearly. Jose Fernandez is one of the most genuine guys I’ve ever played with. He loved life, he loved baseball…..he will be missed dearly.


Miami’s Stanton Goes Way, Way Out of Dodger Stadium

Frederick Dennstedt photo/Only five home runs have ever been hit out of Dodger Stadium.  Giancarlo Stanton hit the most recent, Tuesday night.

Frederick Dennstedt photo/Only five home runs have ever been hit out of Dodger Stadium. Giancarlo Stanton hit the most recent, Tuesday night.

By Glen Sparks

Giancarlo Stanton blasted a pitch nearly to Silver Lake on Tuesday evening at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Stanton, a 6-foot-6-inch, 240-pound slugger for the Miami Marlins, belted an 85-mph cutter thrown by Dodger starter Mike Belsinger. The ball traveled 475 feet before landing beyond the stadium’s left-field pavilion, if it did in fact land at all.

Stanton, a hometown guy who graduated from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks and who was recruited to play football by UCLA, joined a select group of players who have hit balls completely out of 53-year-old Chavez Ravine. Willie Stargell did it twice for the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 1969 and 1973. Mark McGwire did it once while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1999. Mike Piazza did it the only time for the home team. He belted out a ball during his Dodger days, in 1997.

Incredibly, Stanton’s homer ranks just No. 3 on the 2015 tape-measure list. Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners hit a ball that went about eight feet farther. Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays hit one that beat Stanton’s homer by six feet. Stanton, meanwhile, once rocketed a baseball 494 feet, in the high-altitude of Denver’s Coors Field on Aug. 17, 2012. Last year, at sea level in Miami, he sent a baseball on a 484-foot ride.

Here is the question, though: How do the stats guys know just how far a home-run ball travels? I wrote a post April 17 about Mickey Mantle’s epic 1953 home run that he hit at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Supposedly, the ball stopped 565 feet from home plate. Supposedly, the guy who relayed that figure to reporters used a tape measure to calculate the exact distance. Turns out, he didn’t.

Not surprisingly, stats guys these days use some high-tech gadgetry to measure homers. One system is known as “tale of the tape.” This estimates how far a ball would have gone had it not hit a seat or other obstruction. “Tale” requires using a detailed rendering of the stadium, one that includes measurements from a host of angles. The spotter marks the exact location of the landing point and also checks the elevation of that stadium section. He then must decide if the hit is a line drive (1.2), a normal fly (0.8) or a high fly (0.6) based up the arc of the ball.

The numbers help determine how many feet the ball would have traveled horizontally for each foot in elevation that the ball was hit above ground. So, let’s say the ball stops 410 feet from home plate. The formula is: (410 + {58 X .08}) = 456.4 feet.

The second measurement is known as “True Track.” With this, two camera follow the ball as it flies through the air. By using a virtual 3D grid of the ballpark, the cameras can calculate where the ball is in relation to the grid. Then, it’s a matter of calculating the position of the ball and the position of home plate on the grid. ESPN uses True Track, which like Tale of the Tape, estimates how far a ball would go if nothing had gotten into the way.

Stanton’s solo crush job (in an 11-1 loss) was his eighth home run of the season. He led the National League last year with 37 round-trippers despite missing the last few weeks of the season after getting hit in the face with a pitch. He has 162 home runs in his career and is only 25 years old. The odds seem good for Stanton to once again hit a pitch or two out of Dodger Stadium.