John Smoltz. Greg Maddux. Tom Glavine. These were the bedrock of the Braves rotation for their great runs in the 90’s and around the turn of the millennium. They anchored the staff and paced the competitive mentality of the Braves organization. They were so good, they didn’t compete with their peers but with themselves within their own rotation.
The way that Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi, and Jose Fernandez are pitching nowadays, there are a lot of reasons why this young staff could draw immediate comparisons. And it isn’t just hyperbole.
Marlins broadcaster Glenn Geffner has the stats:
Turner (22), Eovaldi (23) & Fernandez (20) the last 3 days: 23 IP, 13 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 17 K. That's a 0.39 ERA & a darn good weekend. #Marlins
— Glenn Geffner (@GlennGeffner) July 2, 2013
Staggering stats indeed. Over the last three days alone, the trio has 23 IP, 13 H, 1 R, only 5 BBs, and 17 K’s to go along with a 0.39 ERA and 3 wins in a row.
Jacob Turner has a 1.78 ERA in 6 starts over 41 IP. He has 27 Ks and only 12 BBs. Hitters are hitting just .229 against him. Although some were citing his lack of velocity as a major problem, those observations are being proven false. His fastball velocity sits 90-95 and he is a heady guy who keeps hitters off balance with 4 strong pitches and changing speeds. When expectations are tailored to the kind of pitcher he is, rather than the assumption he is a prototypical flame thrower, a picture emerges that this kid is the real deal and going to anchor the staff for years to come. He’s only 22, and has been among rare company in comparison to major league history, One can make an argument that he has similar stuff to Roy Halladay – not a bad guy to have in your rotation.
Then there is Nathan Eovaldi. His stuff is off the charts. His velocity sits in the upper 95+ range and he can throw it all night. He has a strange delivery which is a bit reminiscent of Ryan Dempster but he’s had a pretty successful career. Now he’s only had 3 starts, but his WHIP is 0.94 (lower than Turner’s 1.10) and he has 10 Ks in 18 IP. Still, with his repertoire of pitches, he has the ability to shut down a team’s offense on any given night. And he’s only 23.
The last kid in this trio, Jose Fernandez, probably has the greatest potential of the three. He has a sparkling personality that is refreshing to watch. Much of it comes from his makeup – and his story is perfect for the Miami market. A Cuban refugee who tried to flee three times before finally escaping with his mother, he spent time growing up in Tampa where he refined his tools and got drafted. At age 20, he’s arrived. In fact, after tonight’s shutout, he became the 3rd pitcher, aged 20 or younger, to have 10 Ks and a max of 2 hits and 1 BB (the others are Kerry Wood and Dwight Gooden). So, you know he’s got the potential to make an impact. He has a 5-4 record and dropped his ERA to 2.72 on the year and he could possibly be the Marlins All Star representative.
But there is something very telling developing – there is a friendly competition brewing on this young staff. Jose Fernandez was sitting in the 90’s with his pitch count after 8 innings. You could see him lobbying with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and skipper Mike Redmond about keeping him in the game. Then Jacob Turner heads over, smiling, and taps Fernandez and points back at himself. You could almost feel the sneer as Turner was ribbing Fernandez for not getting the extra inning of work to get the complete game. Both had a laugh and Fernandez went right back to lobbying – this time with added verve because Turner got his chance just two days ago.
The Marlins have a plan though with Fernandez, who was slated to pitch AA this year but due to injury was called up. So it is a good move for the long term. Yet what will really show this young staff to be a great one in the making, or just another imitator, will be whether or not they will maintain a friendly competition with each other. That is what drove Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux to greatness and that could be what makes these three young Marlins mainstays in the bigs.