Miami Marlins: Mike Redmond Should Look to Solidify Bullpen Roles


I always feel impotent when writing articles that are address how Mike Redmond should use his players. I feel that both lineup optimization and proper “bullpenning” to borrow a term for Brian Kenny are fields where the less analytically inclined managers and front offices seem reluctant to change their ways. Mike Redmond might be young, a recently retired catcher, but he seems to be another baseball “lifer” who seems unwilling to question the status quo.  To be blunt, Red seems to be a manager struck from the Fredi Gonzalez school. Dumb. Dumb may not be fair, but it applies.  Organizations and managers who don’t want adapt, who are not willing to change, managers who are more Kirk Gibson than Joe Maddon hurt their teams now and will only hurt their more and more as analytics becomes more mainstream in baseball.

May 3, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins relief pitcher

Carter Capps

(22) throws during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There are some clear examples of this.  An unwillingness to use the closer in a tie game on the road.  The concept of the closer in itself.  Not understanding leverage and game situations as well having a “LOOGY” and being blind to the fact that maybe left handers can get right handed hitters out. So I want to write this piece to advise Red on how to better deploy his bullpen.  But I have no illusions this will have no effect at all. The Marlins bullpen so far in 2014 has been puzzling, last year’s group which included Chad Qualls and John Rauch had the 7th best bullpen ERA in the National League and was 11th best in MLB.  A simple reason for this  was that Marlins had the luckiest HR/FB ratio in the NL in 2013.  Keeping the ball the in yard is important for all pitchers but it especially impacts the contributions made by relief pitchers. Below is a table detailing the significant rate stats for Marlins relievers in 2014.  Including players who are not longer with the team like Carlos Marmol and Arquimedes Caminero.

[table id=38 /]

So far in 2014 the Marlins bullpen has allowed a 7.7% HR/FB rate,  which ranks them 19th in MLB and 5th in the NL.   This number could be lower, for both Caminero and Marmol, allowed 2 and 3 homers. 5 of the 11 home runs allowed by the Marlins bullpen in 2014. Another factor that has affected the Marlins bullpen ERA in 2014  has been a 74.0% strand rate which puts the Marlins at  15th in MLB and 10th in the NL. Strand rate is one of the “luck” stats that vary wildly from year to year and from month to month.  Pitchers are able to “strand” runners with their skills. But according to Fangraphs, “Pitchers that record a high numbers of strikeouts can pitch their way out of jams more easily than pitchers that rely upon their team’s defense, so they are able to maintain LOB%s higher than league average”  A median strand rate and decent HR/FB rate combined with BABIP tells the true story of  why certain players or entire bullpens performances might swing wildly from year to year.

At .302 the Marlins have the 18th best BABIP in MLB this year. Putting them in the same neighborhood as the Cardinals, Reds, Orioles and Dodgers. A lot of this regression could be rested on simple unicausal explanations. Simply blame Marmol. That is an easy reaction but it would not be correct. Kevin Slowey has had freakishly unlucky BABIP and strand rate. Meanwhile Mike Dunn has also had a bad year leaving his runners on base and not giving up the long ball. I also think that the Marlins have a simple problem of bullpen construction.

Why are both Kevin Slowey and Brad Hand pitching in relief for the Marlins. There is no reason why Hand with his 5.4/4.73 K/BB rate and Slowey with a 5.71/2.6 K/BB rate should be pitching in a Major League bullpen.  Maybe one but not both. It is better if a a relief pitcher is able to get outs via the strikeout and both Hand and Slowey do not. In 2014 it is important to have power pitchers in your pen. It is good that the Marlins do have guys like that.

Now it is up for the Marlins to use the players they have in the bullpen correctly.

Closer/Relief Ace

Steve Cishek is clearly the Marlins best pitcher and should be used not only as a traditional 3 out ninth closer but as a player that can be deployed in other situations to get the Marlins out of jams. Redmond also need to learn that it is not against federal law or the Ten Commandments to pitch your “closer”  on the top half of the inning with the game tied on the road in the extra innings. It is profoundly stupid to let your best relief pitcher languish away in the bullpen because of some unwritten, common wisdom, Baseball rule.

High Leverage/Setup Man Mike Dunn is not a true LOOGY. He is left-handed so people want to make him one. But in his career he has allowed equally solid stats to both righties and lefties.

Totalvs L10.784.382.460.6127.8 %11.3 %.215– – –.29581.6 %3.073.53
Totalvs R9.215.291.741.1223.1 %13.3 %.237– – –.29271.0 %4.424.54

Any pitcher who has strikeout rates in the 20s and BAA below .240 against both righties and lefties should not be pigeonholed to being a LOOGY. A.J Ramos, is probably the Marlins pitcher on the current roster with prototypical closer’s  “stuff.” A fastball/slider pitcher who can touch 95 and has nasty slider. Ramos must cut-down on the walks to improve but outside of that not more can be expected from a pitcher with 28.2% strikeout rate, .169 BAA and no home runs allowed.

Medium Leverage/Middle Relief 

I already wrote about Carter Capps after the Logan Morrison trade. I feel like in the future he could be a setup man and even a closer but at the moment he won’t be elevated to such an important role by Redmond or the front office.  It is great for a team to have a middle reliever who can throw as hard as Capps is obviously able to. So far in 2014 in only 10 IP he hasn’t allowed a home run and has a solid BABIP.

Maybe the Marlins signed Randy Wolf to be a a another left-handed reliever because the Brad Hand experiment has failed. But it is beyond me why the Marlins would need a left hander like Wolf who can’t touch 90 MPH in the bullpen. It confuses me and maybe Dan Jenning isn’t great but he is better than Wolf and Hand could ever be as relief pitchers.

Low Leverage/Mop-up/Swingman/Long Reliever Hand and Slowey are in limbo. They Marlins called up DeSclafani instead of having either of them pitch after Jose was put on the DL. In the end they’ll just languish in the Marlins bullpen get called in long relief, in 13+ inning extra inning games, blow outs etc. It is what it is but in the end, the Marlins did this to themselves.

The Marlins have not been as lucky this year as they were last year. But by getting rid of Marmol and better deploying their relief pitchers the Marlins bullpen can be an asset as the season continues.