The baseball family suffered a tremendous loss when Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins was killed Sunday in a boating accident. He was 24.
Never in the 22-season history of Box-Toppers tracking has a more prominent player died in midseason.
Box-Toppers most improved players from 2015Jose Fernandez led all players in the gain of Box-Toppers points from 2015 to 2016. He had a gain of 17.7 points in 2016 over 2015, 5.0 more than the second-place player. Fernandez, coming off Tommy John surgery, had 4.7 points in 2015. He had 22.4 points in 2016 and ranked third among all players. Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer, ranked second, is the top-ranked rookie player—0.0 points in 2016, 12.7 in 2016 for a gain of 12.7. Here are Box-Toppers top 10 most improved players as of Sept. 25:
|1||Jose Fernandez||pi sp||died†||4.7||22.4||17.7|
|2||Michael Fulmer*||pi sp||det al||0.0||12.7||12.7|
|3||Tanner Roark||pi sp||dc nl||1.0||12.7||11.7|
|4||Rich Hill||pi sp||lad nl||4.0||14.4||10.4|
|5||Jon Lester||pi sp||chi nl||12.0||22.1||10.1|
|6||Kenta Maeda*||pi sp||lad nl||0.0||10.0||10.0|
|7||Matt Moore||pi sp||sf nl||0.0||9.7||9.7|
|8||Drew Pomeranz||pi sp||bos al||3.0||12.4||9.4|
|9||Elvis Andrus||ss||tex al||0.0||9.2||9.2|
|10||Junior Guerra*||pi sp||mil nl||0.0||9.0||9.0|
† Fernandez, killed in a boating accident Sept. 25, played for the Miami Marlins.
Fernandez was ranked third among players and third among National League pitchers in Box-Toppers points with 22.4, behind only Max Scherzer of the Nationals (24.7) and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (24.4).
Fernandez ranks first among all players in the increase of points from 2015 to 2016. In 2015, coming off 2014 Tommy John surgery, he did not make his first start until July 2 and finished the year with 4.7 Box-Toppers points. His 22.4 points in 2016 represents an increase of 17.7 points, most of any player. (Second-place player, Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer, a rookie, has an increase of 12.7—that’s 5.0 points fewer than Fernandez’s gain.)
Fernandez was also first in season-over-season gain in Box-Toppers points in 2013, his rookie year, when he had a gain of 19.0 Box-Toppers points from 0.0 in 2012 to 19.0 in 2013. Fernandez won National League Rookie of the Year honors that year.
The only player approaching the prominence of Fernandez who died in midseason is Darryl Kile in 2002. Kile, a Cardinals pitcher, died in his sleep of a heart attack on June 22, 2002. He was 33. That season, Kile had only 2.0 Box-Toppers points. But in the previous season, 2001, he had 16.0 Box-Toppers points, 10th among all players and fifth among NL pitchers. While it was his best season under Box-Toppers tracking, he made his Major League debut in 1991, prior to the start of Box-Toppers record keeping in 1995. In 1993, he went 15-8 with the Astros, pitching 171 2/3 innings, striking out 141 and recording an ERA of 3.51.
It is the most trivial thing to do at this point, considering the gravity of the situation, but I’m left with the decision about what to do with Jose Fernandez’s Box-Toppers statistics for the season.
After some consideration, I’m letting the way I set up the Box-Toppers database 22 years ago guide me. Like any player that is released, is designated for assignment, retires or in any other way has their connection to the team cut, I’m removing Fernandez from the Marlins team.
Top 10 NL pitchersHere are the top 10 players in Box-Toppers points (BTP) among National League pitchers for the 2016 season as of Sept. 26:
|1||Scherzer, Max 2588||pi sp||dc nl||24.7|
|2||Kershaw, Clayton 2494||pi sp||lad nl||24.4|
|3||Lester, Jon 2173||pi sp||chi nl||22.1|
|4||Arrieta, Jake 2738||pi sp||chi nl||15.7|
|5||Syndergaard, Noah 3472||pi sp||nym nl||15.7|
|6||Cueto, Johnny 2400||pi sp||sf nl||15.4|
|7||Strasburg, Stephen 2736||pi sp||dc nl||15.1|
|8||Hill, Rich 2215||pi sp||lad nl||14.4|
|9||Lackey, John 1640||pi sp||chi nl||13.4|
|10||Hendricks, Kyle 3386||pi sp||chi nl||13.4|
NOTE: Jose Fernandez, who played for the Marlins, died Sept. 25. His 22.4 Box-Toppers points would currently rank third among NL pitchers for 2016.
Last week, when pitcher Bud Norris was designated for assignment by the Dodgers, his 5.7 points for the season were removed from the Dodgers team total, which was the chief cause for the team’s drop from second to third place in Box-Toppers team rankings. If Norris is designated to a Dodgers minor league team, his points would be restored, but that hasn’t happened. And as long as he is not available to the Dodgers as an active roster player at any level, his points are withheld.
Fernandez, I realize, is a different situation. But Fernandez is no longer there. His points no longer benefit the Marlins. Without Fernandez’s 22.4 points, the Marlins would fall from 12th place, where they were in last Friday’s Box-Toppers team rankings report to 22nd. The Marlins, as of last Friday, had 95.7 team points, ranked between the 11th-place Giants (104.0) and the 13th-place Astros (93.1). Losing his points, the Marlins would have 73.3 and would rank between the 21st-place White Sox (78.4) and the 23rd-place Angels (71.8).
Without a team designation, Fernandez would no longer have a league designation. As such, he would be removed from the rankings for NL pitchers. He would no longer be the third-ranked NL pitcher. However, given the situation and Fernandez’s special status as someone who I believe was (and frankly, still is) a serious Cy Young Award contender, I will make the effort to denote where his placement would be in the NL pitching top 10 list. Given the fact that there’s less than a week to go in the season and that Fernandez practically pitched the entire year, his standing among the top NL pitchers should not slip much.
Top 10 playersHere are the top 10 players in Box-Toppers points (BTP) for the 2016 season as of Sept. 25:
|1||Scherzer, Max 2588||pi sp||dc nl||24.7|
|2||Kershaw, Clayton 2494||pi sp||lad nl||24.4|
|3||Fernandez, Jose 3147||pi sp||died*||22.4|
|4||Lester, Jon 2173||pi sp||chi nl||22.1|
|5||Kluber, Corey 3200||pi sp||cle al||21.2|
|6||Hamels, Cole 2135||pi sp||tex al||17.8|
|7||Arrieta, Jake 2738||pi sp||chi nl||15.7|
|8||Syndergaard, Noah 3472||pi sp||nym al||15.7|
|9||Cueto, Johnny 2400||pi sp||sf nl||15.4|
|10||Strasburg, Stephen 2736||pi sp||dc nl||15.1|
* Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident Sept. 25. His team was the Miami Marlins.
Still, though Fernandez is removed from his team and from the National League, I don’t remove him from the season entirely. His current status as the third-ranked overall player in Box-Toppers points is unchanged. The overall list is sorted in the database without regard to American or National League—or in Fernandez’s case, no league at all.
Similarly, in one way—but completely not at all comparable in another way—Bud Norris’s 5.7 points were removed from the Dodgers. Norris also became a pitcher without a league. Previously, he would have ranked 50th among NL pitchers, but now has no standing. However, Norris still ranks 169th among all players in 2016 points.
Nothing like this has ever happened before—at least in the 22 years I’ve been doing this. It would be very unusual for a top 10 player to be released or retire in midseason. They’re in the top 10 because they are good and valuable and no one wants to see them go. It would take something very unusual or cataclysmic for a top 10 player to simply stop playing in midseason.
This is unusual and cataclysmic.
In the 22-season history of Box-Toppers tracking, there are 10 active players listed in the database who have died, some in midseason, others in the offseason. Other players may have died during the interim, but the only players listed in Box-Toppers database are those who have earned Player of the Game honors at least once in their career. (Other players have died while pursuing baseball careers after their Major League careers ended. They are not listed.) I hate to assign human qualities to the database, but it did seem reluctant to search out those players who died, unusually buffering with progress bars while it searched, seemingly unwilling to relive the sad memories. In addition to Fernandez, those players are:
- Tommy Hanson, Giants pitcher, died Nov. 9, 2015. He had 31.8 career Box-Toppers points earned from 2009 to 2013. His best season was 2010 with the Braves when he had 13.4 points.
- Oscar Tavares of the Cardinals, died Oct. 26, 2014. He had 1.0 career Box-Toppers point, earned Sept. 6, 2014.
- Greg Halman, Mariners outfielder, died Nov. 21, 2011. He had 1.0 career Box-Toppers point, earned June 5, 2011.
- Joe Kennedy, pitcher, died Nov. 23, 2007. He had 15.7 career Box-Toppers points, including 1.0 in 2007 with the Blue Jays. His best year was 2004 with the Rockies when he had 3.7 points.
- Josh Hancock, Cardinals middle relief pitcher, died April 29, 2007. He had 3.0 Box-Toppers points all earned in 2006 with the Cardinals.
- Cory Lidle, Yankees pitcher, died Oct. 11, 2006. He had 40.8 career Box-Toppers points, including 4.0 in 2006 with the Phillies and the Yankees. His best seasons were 2002 with the Athletics and 2004 with the Reds and the Phillies—he had 9.7 points in each season.
- Dernell Stenson, Reds outfielder, died Nov. 5, 2003. He had 1.0 career Box-Toppers point, earned Sept. 21, 2003, with the Reds.
- Kile, Cardinals, died June 22, 2002. He had 59.5 career Box-Toppers points, including 2.0 in 2002. He likely would have had more career points if his career from 1991 to 1994 were tracked (Box-Toppers tracking began in 1995).
- Mike Darr, Padres outfielder, died Feb. 14, 2002. He had 3.0 career Box-Toppers points all earned in 2001.
Other players have died but some, like Nick Adenhart, Angels pitcher, never earned Box-Toppers Player of the Game honors, so is not listed in Box-Toppers database. Adenhart was killed in a car accident April 9, 2009.
Even without his personal story as a Cuban refugee seeking asylum in America and pitching in Miami, the city closest to Cuba with the largest Cuban population outside of that nation, Fernandez left a lasting legacy. It can be seen in the statistics, in his 2013 Rookie of the Year honor. And it can be seen in Box-Toppers statistics, as he contends (note the present tense in that) for a 2016 Cy Young Award. He is also without a doubt, the player who best bounced back from a setback in 2016. The 17.7-Box-Toppers-point increase he had from 2015 to 2016 will likely not be matched in the final week of the season.
But it is sadly ironic that the comeback player of the year for 2016 is the one player who has gone away and cannot come back.
About Box-Toppers—Box-Toppers tracks who most helps their team win the most games. Using standard box score statistics, Box-Toppers uses a simple formula to determine a Player of the Game for each Major League Baseball game played. That player is the person who contributed most to his team’s win. In regular season games, players earn 1.0 Box-Toppers point for being named Player of the Game and can earn bonus points for being Player of the Day or top player or batter in their league for the day.
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