Miami Marlins: How Does The Rotation Look Its First Time Through?

dillonmurrell
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With the completion of Jarred Cosart‘s start on Saturday, we have had the chance to see each starter in action. For the most part, the starters have produced in their first times through. In fact, the rotation has probably been the one positive area of this Marlins time through the first week.

Let’s evaluate each pitcher’s start so we can try to get an idea of what to expect from each pitcher going forward.

Henderson Alvarez

There isn’t much uncertainty with Alvarez, so we largely know what we’re going to get from him. While he only struck out two hitters, he showed a lot of the things that make him a front of the rotation starter. He didn’t walk a single batter while generating a ton of groundballs (64% GB%) and managed contact well, posting a .231 opponent’s BABIP. Ultimately, he only gave up 2 runs in 7 innings, which comes out to a 2.57 ERA.

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The focus now isn’t on how he’s going to perform going forward, but instead how healthy his elbow is. Even if he misses a start or two, it would be nice for him to avoid a DL stint or worse. This team cannot take a hit this big, especially as it’s scuffling out of the gates.

Losing their de facto ace and replacing him with back end types such as Brad Hand or David Phelps, or minor league arms like Justin Nicolino or Jose Urena, for an extended period of time will not bode well for this team. Hopefully he doesn’t have any major issues and he can continue to his progression to being an upper echelon starting pitcher.

Mat Latos

Let’s get this out of the way: Latos was awful in his first start. Worse than the start itself is the possible reason why he had an awful start.

As I talked about last week, his fastball velocity at the beginning of the season will be a major sign of how effective he’s going to be. According to Pitchf/x, his average fastball was 91.1, about even with last year’s 90.7. That right there isn’t a great sign, but I noted that even if his velocity doesn’t rebound, he could still be around league average.

The problem in his start was his fastball command. He couldn’t command his fastball or his breaking pitches, so hitters sat on the fastball when he came back over the plate with it. With the velocity being down, this was a recipe for disaster.

The most telling stat: Latos generated one swinging strike, and even that was a check swing that was called. Hopefully this is just a blip for Latos, but the rough spring and coming off elbow surgery means this could be a sign of something. As with Alvarez, his health is a concern.

The Marlins need him to give them a lot of innings of above average production if they want to make a run at the postseason.

Tom Koehler

Koehler had a solid start despite walking 3 hitters and surrendering a home run. Mostly, this looked like a typical Koehler start. His velocity was down 1.3 mph, to 91.5 mph, and since fastball velocity stabilizes very quickly, this might be something worth watch.

Koeher has made himself into a back end starter, so it’s nice to have at least one constant in the rotation, even if there isn’t much upside here. However, his swinging strike and chase rates were down compared to his career averages, with his contact rate being up. These stats need more time to stabilize, but if his velocity doesn’t bounce back then this could be a sign of things to come.

All in all, Koehler will be something along the lines of what we’ve come to expect form him. Maybe just knock him down a peg as he’s inching closer to age 30.

Dan Haren

Haren only surrendered one run in 6 innings, but his velocity continues to trend downwards, with Pitchf/x putting it at 86.6 mph on average. He generated a measly 2.5% swinging strike rate and had only 2 K’s. This resulted in a lot of contact, where he was helped by luck and his defense.

If he can’t find a way to generate swings and misses with lesser stuff, then he’s going to get hit hard with some regression. He’s also generally been home run prone over his career, even though he’s spent a lot of time in pitchers parks. While Marlins Park is death for home runs, hitters are going to tee off on mid 80s fastballs. He can’t continue to rely on balls in play and his defense to have success.

Guys are going to hit him hard and this team needs him to be a big part of its rotation, whether or not that’s a good thing. If Alvarez and Latos are injured or ineffective, then this becomes even more true. It might not be a good idea to place that much stock in him considering the Dodgers are paying him to pitch for a different team.

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Jarred Cosart

Cosart has always had great stuff, but it hasn’t always translated. His strikeout rates have been lackluster and he’s struggled with limiting walks.

This was certainly the case in his 6 innings of work in which he walked 3 batters and struck out just one. The team needs him to take a step forward, but his first start doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of hope. While he only gave up 3 hits and one run in his start, that’s actually where the problem lies. His successful start was based around a very low BABIP, which is going to regress over the season, and if the ball is being put in play a lot, this is going to lead to a lot of hits. Combine that with a high walk rate and low strikeout rate and you’re not looking at the kind of production this team needs out of Cosart.

This isn’t to say Cosart is going to pitch like this all season, it’s just that they needed him to make improvements, and so far it doesn’t seem he has. He still has 30+ starts to go, so obviously there’s plenty of chances for him to make those improvements. Unfortunately, the team can’t sit around and wait for him to find it.

Despite the success the rotation had in its first go-round, there are a lot of concerns. Are Alvarez and Latos healthy? Are they going to pitch at the high levels we’ve come to expect from them? Are Haren and Cosart going to figure out how to make adjustments? Neither one can rely on his defense all season long, and the team can’t afford to have these spots in the rotation going to pitchers that are below average. Koehler is a constant, but at the back of the rotation. His impact is limited because his upside is limited. It’s nice to know that you can rely on him for a full season, however. The Marlins’ 2015 is relying on the success of its starting rotation, especially in the months prior to Jose Fernandez‘ return from Tommy John surgery. These are real concerns, and I’m not so sure the team is able to handle so many things going wrong at once.

Next: Alvarez to have MRI on Elbow and Shoulder

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