The Miami Marlins have finally said for certain what they will do with Jose Fernandez as we finish up the year. We reported that the Fish would only give the rookie phenom two more starts, but that they wanted to stretch out those starts into September. It turns out the Fish will essentially move Fernandez back one day and have him start a game after Brian Flynn, who will make his Major League debut tomorrow afternoon versus the Chicago Cubs. That leaves Fernandez to make his final two starts at home, versus the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves.
It does not sound as though the Marlins had a very scientific method to determine the final limit for Fernandez.
"That was the range as an organization that we felt comfortable leaving him around, 150-170, depending on how many starts he did," Redmond said. "It was kind of the unknown at the beginning of the season, how he would do, and how he would perform. We were looking at ways to protect him, based on how many innings he had gone before. That’s the number we came up with."
It is not as though 170 innings is not reasonable. It would be nice for the Marlins to have an actual method beyond what sounds like a simple guess when it comes to managing one of its most important assets for the near- and long-term future.
Then again, the question of limiting innings is in and of itself a speculative one. No one really knows if these innings or pitch limits are of positive or negative influence to pitchers, and there are simply no substantive studies on this sort of question. Last year, Stephen Strasburg was famously held out of the final month and the playoffs, and there is no way to tell if he was better or worse for wear because of the move. The Verducci Effect seems to be minimal at best and meaningless at worst, meaning that there could be no significant workload effect or one that we just are unable to tease out from the noise.
The Marlins are speculating that Fernandez would benefit from maybe 12 to 21 innings off over the next month. They might also figure that home games may be less stressful and more successful for a young pitcher like Fernandez. Finally, the Fish may be merely trying to squeeze a few more dollars in attendance out of the rookie this year by moving his game to a home setting. Either way, his season now officially has an end date, and Marlins fans should enjoy it while it is still around.