Marlin Maniac Midseason Review: Pitching

The Marlin Maniac Midseason Review wraps up the first-half look at the Marlins by discussing the team’s pitching staff. The Marlins have kept themselves afloat on the back of a decent pitching staff that could have been a great pitching staff had a few more bounces gone the right way.

Pitching:
Team Runs Allowed: 396
Team ERA: 3.92
Team FIP: 3.86
Team xFIP: 3.79

Those numbers look favorable compared to the numbers the Marlins posted last season, but remember that the run environment as a whole has decreased since last season. The Marlins are actually right around the average when their ERA / FIP / xFIP are compared to the league’s improved run prevention, which is right about where they were last season as well. But the team has performed better as of late and do have a few players who could use a bit of help from the luck dragon, so there are improvements to be had going into the second half.

Best Performer: Anibal Sanchez

We looked at Sanchez’s surprising success last season and said “it cannot continue.” He was reeling in the walks, but he was still striking out the same amount as he did in 2009, with the big difference being the strange suppression of home runs despite the average ground ball profile. Well, this season Sanchez’s home runs were up to a more expected level, but he has made up for it by drastically increasing his strikeout rate. His strikeout rate is up from 18.7 percent in 2010 to 24.9 percent his season, with no major changes to his walk rate.

What could be attributed to this change? It might be that Sanchez has finally gotten fully healthy from his shoulder. His velocity is up to an all-time high:

He is averaging 91.8 mph on his fastball this season, up from last season’s 91.3 mph average. This has made him look better than ever before, getting him to induce the highest whiff rate of his career (11.5 percent of his pitches were swung on and missed). The only question right now for the Marlins is whether they should bet on him in the future or allow him to leave. My thought is that the Fish can afford to pay Sanchez a deal similar to that of Josh Johnson‘s or Ricky Nolasco‘s that carries him through his age 30 season and allows another team to consider paying him long-term. But if the Marlins are not interested in taking that offer, they should allow him to be available to the market.

Worst Performer: Javier Vazquez

Let’s acknowledge what actually happened before splitting Vazquez’s season in half. He has a 5.23 ERA, which is a bit overstating his 4.54 FIP / 4.53 xFIP / 4.68 SIERA. No matter how he has been doing lately, it is hard to imagine that he has not proven to be a disappointment for the Marlins. The Fish signed him to a one-year deal for $7 million this offseason in order for him to serve as a respectable third or fourth starter on a team that already had three good-to-great starters. In the first month of the season, it seemed like the Marlins were never going to get the pitcher they paid for. Vazquez looked awful in April, continuing his trend of low velocity and subsequent poor pitching by posting a 6.39 ERA to go along with FIP and xFIP totals also above 6.00. May did not look much better until the end of the month, when the magic that has enchanted Vazquez began.

Key Second-Half Improvement: Javier Vazquez

Right at around early May, we were all ready to write off Vazquez as a lost cause. But it seems that at some point at the end of the month, pitching coach Randy St. Claire noticed something in his delivery that caused him to use less lower body strength in his throws. I would not be surprised if this change occurred right before Vazquez’s May 21 start, because since then he has appeared to be a changed man. Here is the table once again showing the results before and since that start.

Vazquez IP FB Vel ERA FIP
First eight starts 39 1/3 88.2 7.55 5.52
Last 10 starts 57 90.4 3.63 4.04

He’s clearly a changed man, and the fact that both his peripherals, velocity, and actual runs allowed have all improved tends to lean towards less of a fluke and more of a situation of actual results. I think we can expect to see continued strong play for Vazquez going forward, which should help him gain some value back in the open market, even if that will not necessarily help us this season.

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Tags: Anibal Sanchez Javier Vazquez Miami Marlins

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