On Tuesday, the Miami Marlins did what many Marlins fans had clamored for a while, they designated Jacob Turner for assignment. On the surface, the move looks fine, as Turner has a 5.98 ERA on the season.
The move cannot be looked at just on the surface, though. Turner is still just 23-years old and has the potential to be an impact player for the Marlins for years to come. In my estimation, the Marlins are giving up on Turner too soon.
Part of the issue with the Marlins decision comes from the team is seemingly allergic to advanced statistics. They are only looking at Turner’s ERA and are not looking at the rest of the numbers that support Turner can be, and likely will be, a better pitcher than he has shown this season.
Proof that the Marlins pay attention to the wrong statistics is in the pudding. Look at the following table, comparing two pitchers that have been pretty similar for their careers, except for one number.
Player A cost the Marlins two top prospects to acquire and Player B was designated for assignment on Tuesday. The main difference that I did not include in the chart, the ERA’s: Turner: 5.97 and Cosart: 4.51
The Marlins, unfortunately, are slaves to the ERA stat, which does not always tell the whole story about a pitcher. Turner’s been incredibly unlucky this season and when things normal out, he should be an equal pitcher to Cosart.
And I’m not alone in the assessment that Cosart is an equal pitcher to Turner:
To be clear, I don’t think Jacob Turner is very good, but if you like Cosart’s skill set, you should like Turner too.
— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) August 5, 2014
At the trade deadline, last Thursday, the Marlins traded two of their top hitting prospects, in Colin Moran and Jake Marisnick, to the Houston Astros to acquire a package headlined by starting pitcher Jarred Cosart. In his rookie season last year, Cosart pitched to a 1.95 ERA. At the time, Fangraphs labeled it as the worst 1.95 ERA in history. Undoubtly, the 1.95 ERA is probably among the chief reasons the Marlins acquired Cosart.
Despite Cosart besting Turner in ERA, the peripherals would suggest that Turner is the better pitcher. Unfortunately for Turner, he has run into a lot of bad luck with his .368 BABIP, compared to Cosart’s .299 BABIP. Once that normalizes, Turner and Cosart are both essentially the same pitcher, with neither being super impressive, but possess some upside.
The Marlins bought high on Cosart and sold low on Turner. Both moves could come back and bite the Marlins hard in their rear end in the coming seasons. That’s especially true if Colin Moran turns into a special player at third base.
Move to the Bullpen?:
CJ Nitkowski, former reliever and now sports analyst on Just a Bit Outside, suggested a move to the bullpen being a benefit to Turner. A move that I have actively endorsed both on Marlin Maniac and behind the scenes to the other writers. Here’s what Nitkowski had to say:
If it were me, I’d turn Jacob Turner into a two-pitch reliever with a potential 7th or 8th inning role. Those two pitches would be his two-seam fastball and his curveball.
His two-seam fastball touches 96, sits 92-93 and has the life and movement you cannot teach. The GB% on that pitch was a strong 63.6% this year with 0 HR allowed. His curveball can be hellacious, in 2013 he posted a .147 batting average against and a 27:2 K:BB ratio with his breaking pitch. Inexplicably, he has used it half as much this year.
As is common, it is very likely Turner would see a velocity jump as a reliever. Couple that with a simpler repertoire and shorter outings and you may just develop a dominant setup man. Come to think of it, the Marlins could really use a guy like that.
The Marlins did actually try Turner in the bullpen, earlier in the season, when he struggled as a starter. He was reinserted into the rotation following the All-Star break, when the Marlins decided to send Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani back to Triple-A.
Here is how Turner performed out of the bullpen as opposed to being a starter:
Again, the ERA numbers don’t look great for Turner, but the rest of the peripherals are very encouraging. Turner was doing a better job of getting ahead of hitters and putting them away with strikeouts. He was also walking a significantly less amount of hitters. Not having to work against hitters for a third or fourth time through the lineup was a major benefit to his game.
As Nitowski pointed out, Turner has the stuff to be an elite setup man, something that would have been a major benefit to the team like the Marlins that seems to think they still have a shot to make a playoff run, for whatever reason.
False Playoff Hope:
That brings us to our next point. The Marlins have given up prematurely on Turner because the team thinks they have a chance to make a playoff run.
Yes, the Marlins come into Wednesday trailing the division leading Washington Nationals by 5.5 games. Yes, they are also out of the wild card by just 5.5 games. But the issue in the wild card is that they would have to leapfrog ahead of four teams, just to play in a one-game playoff, to move onto the NLDS.
As of the writing of this article, the Marlins playoff chances are slim. Fangraphs gives them a 1.3% chance to win the division and a 3.4% chance to win a wild card spot. The odds on those don’t look good at all.
Instead of Turner, the Marlins could turn to former World Series champion Brad Penny. While Penny has done fine in his stint at Triple-A, lets remember he’s 36-years old and is not someone the young Marlins should be running out there, halting the chance for young players to develop.
In my estimation, the Marlins gave up on Turner too soon. He is still just 23-years old and has a chance to latch onto another organization and make an impact on the league. They could have demoted him from the rotation again and let him work out his issues in the pen. There are two months left in the season and the team could have tried to iron out whatever issues they felt he had during the off-season.