In a season that has already featured many tough losses for the Miami Marlins, the team suffered probably it’s worse loss of the season last night. Starter Wade LeBlanc labored through his 3 1/3 innings of work, allowing 9 hits and 7 earned runs.
This came as a disappointment to many, as Marlins fans had seen the Marlins starting pitching as the early silver lining for the team. Earlier today, Michael Jong on Fishtripes pointed out this morning that in actuality, the Marlins starters have not been a silver lining for the Fish early on.
As Michael pointed out:
When you set aside Fernandez’s spectacular early season performance (0.82 ERA, 1.48 FIP, 31.7 percent strikeout rate!), the rest of the staff looks pretty mediocre despite the relatively shiny 4.00 ERA. Only LeBlanc remains a positive sign thanks to his strikeout rate, as this evaluation caught him right after a terrible game. He still appears to be on track to have a nice season and just needs to erase the stink off of the nine-hit outing in 3 2/3 innings that he just had.
Alex Sanabia has been the Marlins worst pitcher so far and is going to be the first pitcher shown the door, as his strikeout rates and walk rates and lack of ability to induce grounders make him a weak major league starter. Sanabia is a nice option for the Marlins to have as organizational depth and make a few spot starts, but he should not be in any rotation full-time.
One of Kevin Slowey or Wade LeBlanc will also be taken out of the rotation and likely moved to the bullpen. Michael believes that Slowey should be the one moved to the pen, as his peripherals indicate a huge regression should be on the way for him.
The Marlins then have to choose between LeBlanc, who has good peripherals but one bad start thus far, versus Slowey, who has gotten away with mediocre performances by stranding runners at an extreme rate. The bet is still on LeBlanc to hold his rotation spot, but do not underestimate the Marlins’ ability to make mistakes in evaluating early-season statistics.
While I am in complete agreement with Michael that based on the numbers, the Marlins would be making the right decision by keeping LeBlanc in the rotation. But the issue that rears its head is the Marlins personnel.
The Marlins already have a number of soft throwing right handers in the pen and lack a second left handed pitching option behind Mike Dunn. Dunn, as Marlins fans know, is not exactly a shutdown option out of the pen, as he too often struggles with his command.
With the Marlins playing in a division with an appendage,of tough left handed hitters, the Marlins best option would be to send LeBlanc back to the pen, where he actually pitched well last season.
With no other great options in the minor leagues to use as the lefty out of the pen, the Marlins need to give serious consideration to moving LeBlanc to the bullpen upon the returns of Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi. Kevin Slowey may not be an ideal option for the rotation, but until Jacob Turner (8.53 ERA turns things around in Triple-A, the Marlins don’t have many other options.
Brad Hand could be a name to watch, as he has pitched well in his Triple-A stint so far this season. Hand has struck out 12 hitters in 11 1/3 innings of work, but walked 6 hitters and allowed 7 hits. He has not fared well in the majors and is not one of the Marlins better options.