2011 Marlins Season Preview: Filling out the pen

The Marlins spent the 2010 season mired with a pen that, despite the strong peripherals, struggled in the clutch and ultimately cost the team a fair share of games. In the offseason, the team addressed those concerns by filling out the pen with fresh, new arms for the 2011 season. Out go the old guard, names like Renyel Pinto (and the Marlins fandom rejoiced), Jose Veras, and Tim Wood, and in come new faces such as Ryan Webb, Mike Dunn, and Randy Choate. So where will these names slot in, and how well should they do in 2011?


7th/8th inning: Mike Dunn, Ryan Webb
LOOGY: Randy Choate
7th inning: Brian Sanches, Edward Mujica
Long relief: Burke Badenhop

It is possible the Marlins will open the season with a slightly inflated bullpen including all of these names, as the early season always provides enough off days to work with a four-man rotation and a larger bullpen. If and when the team does eventually need its fifth starter, one of these names will likely be sent down in favor of a 12-man pitching staff, but do not worry, as we’ll be seeing all of these pitchers pitch decent innings in the majors in 2011.

Mike Dunn

I already discussed Dunn in quite a bit of detail in this article, as he was supposedly a big part of the controversial Dan Uggla trade. My general points still stand; Dunn is exactly the type of guy who either succeeds greatly in the majors or flames out miserably, because his skillset is one of the most volatile among relievers in the game. If he ever figures things out, he’ll be amazing, but if he doesn’t, we’ll see him go by like so many other power lefty relievers.

Projection: 60 IP, 0.2 WAR

Ryan Webb

Webb has a similarly strong arm from the right hand side to go along with an impressive physique. However, as I detailed here, that really is all that he has to offer. For a guy who hits 95 mph on the radar gun consistently with his heat, he sure does seem to be lacking in whiffs category. In 2010, Webb got a swing and miss from hitters in just 9.1 percent of pitches, which actually stands slightly below the league average rate for relievers. The interesting thing is that he has established this sort of track record in the past; his minor league swinging strike rate has only exceeded 10 percent once in his seven-year professional career. Part of the problem is that he used to be a starter and was only recently converted to a relief role in 2009, so some slack has to be afforded to him. Still, his skillset and subsequent peripherals results remind me a lot of Matt Lindstrom, which isn’t saying a lot of good.

Webb does own a career 60.7 percent ground ball rate in 84 2/3 major league innings, and such a rate appears to be real, as his early 2010 minor league numbers suggested a similar ground ball style. If he can continue that pace, he’ll beat out the projections that have his ERA in the 4.50 – 5.00 range; the lack of home runs should deflate his FIP and ERA enough to assist his other weak peripherals.

Projection: 70 IP, 0.4 WAR

Randy Choate

Choate’s job will be similar to the one Arthur Rhodes served in his short stint as a Fish in 2008. Choate should primarily be facing lefties and (I can’t stress this enough) avoiding right-handed batters. For his career, Choate has struck out 25.8 percent of lefties faced, while only whiffing 10.4 percent (!) of righties. He has walked 7.8 percent of lefties and 13.0 percent (!!) of righties. In short, he is very strong against lefties (career 2.45 FIP) and downright deplorable against righties (career 5.25 FIP). If the Marlins are smart, they’ll avoid doing what Fredi Gonzalez did to make Taylor Tankersley look bad and keep Choate away from right handed hitters. The good news is that, to go along with those strong rates against lefties, Choate has a career 56.5 percent ground ball rate against them, meaning the balls shouldn’t be leaving the park often.

Projection: 55 IP, 0.5 WAR

Edward Mujica

Mujica was extremely intriguing last season, if only because his strikeout rate and home run rate skyrocketed while his walk rate plummeted. The problem he has is that he is primarily a fly ball pitcher who only recently received the strikeout stroke, though his walk rates have always been consistently low. There are a lot of different parts that are in line for regression when it comes to Mujica, but I’d be inclined to (mostly) believe the strikeout increase (he’s added a split-finger pitch and has been increasing his use of it for the past three seasons) while regressing those home runs a bit more. However, his career 3.88 xFIP sounds about right, and PECOTA agrees with that assessment, so that’s good enough for me in terms of relief projection.

Projection: 65 IP, 0.5 WAR

Brian Sanches

I’m not high on Brian Sanches simply because I think he has been getting lucky on his home runs; despite allowing more than 50 percent of his balls in play to go for fly balls the past two seasons, only 12 of those fly balls have left the yard in 120 innings. Outside of the good home run fortune, Sanches has been pretty much the same guy, striking out just around his average of 20.9 percent of batters faced along with walking 10.6 percent of them in both seasons. His career xFIP of 4.89 should tell you something about how I feel about him, but right now he’s shown just enough to maintain decent innings.

Projection: 40 IP, 0.1 WAR

Burke Badenhop

I kind of feel bad for the Hopper, since he has been one of the team’s best relievers each of the past two seasons. He has sort of been buried by the influx of new arms and is likely going to start off back at his old long relief position. The rap on him just hasn’t changed; he still gets plenty of grounders (career 55.0 percent rate) and still is very strong against righties (career 3.03 FIP) while being terrible versus lefties (career 5.00 FIP). I think he would be better served as a sort of ROOGY for the Fish, but with the team trusting other right handers in their pen at the moment and with Badenhop being the only pitcher still stretched out enough to work two or three innings in case of long relief, he will be stuck in this role despite a halfway decent track record.

Projection: 40 IP, 0.2 WAR

Tags: Brian Sanches Burke Badenhop Edward Mujica Miami Marlins Mike Dunn Randy Choate Ryan Webb

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