Just call him Tommy Tenacious.
While perhaps not as household a name as the Patriot’s Tommy Terrific, the Miami Marlins Tom Koehler has painstakingly carved out a home in the hearts of Miami fans ever since first carving out a rotation spot back in 2013. Never dazzling enough to make us forget our own golden armed star, Jose Fernandez. But also never bad enough to make us pine for his being supplanted by the next Adam Conolinorena either.
If nothing else, Mr. Koehler could probably win you some bar bets next time you’re cruising South Beach trying to dazzle all comers with your baseball knowledge. Most wins by a Miami pitcher since ’13? Koehler, with 26. Most innings pitched in that span? Koehler, with 521. Most strikeouts? Koehler, with 382; he’s actually led the team each of the past two seasons in that area as well.
He’s never been worse than tied for second on the club in wins, and actually was the clubhouse leader for W’s in 2015.
Of course, that’s only half the story with Koehler; this is where you can double down in the bar bet department. Most losses by a Miami pitcher since ’13? That would also be Koehler, with 30 losses to his credit. Most earned runs allowed in that span? Koehler, with 201. Most home runs allowed? Yes, that’d be Koehler too; good thing the fences are coming in. Most walks? Koehler, with 174; he’s actually led the team each of the past two seasons in that area as well.
He’s never been better than second worst on the club in losses, and actually was the clubhouse loss leader in 2015.
What do we possibly make of that?
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The big takeaway should be what is ultimately his greatest asset: his durability. Koehler’s total starts over the last three years? That’d be 74, good enough for the team lead. Impressive, but not earth shattering when stacked against the rest of the league. What should make you look twice though is that the second best figure on the club is 45. Every fifth day, Tommy Tenacious is out there, giving his all. Having a guy you can count on to take his turn is extremely valuable, and more often than not, Koehler can be counted on to keep the team in the ball game.
If he had been shipped to the Yankees instead of Nathan Eovaldi, he could very likely have been a twenty-game winner.
In terms of his 2015 campaign specifically, it was business as usual. In terms of his win-loss record, he did regress. The 2014 season saw Koehler notch double-digit wins and a .500 record at 10-10; 9-12 was this year’s final tally. And the ERA, strikeouts, and innings pitched were all down relative to the previous season as well.
In fact, 2014 might well represent Koehler’s ceiling. What did stay constant was his grittiness. While not a sexy sabermetric, there’s definitely some value here. Yes, Koehler is absolutely capable of turning in a dud outing. But what he has consistently done since June 2013 is to spread those sub par outings out. June 2013 was the last time he had three starts in a row where he allowed four ER or more, and over the last two seasons, there have only been two occasions where he strung two such outings together.
In a nine game stretch this season covering June and July, Koehler went 5-4, with seven quality starts. While he did “lose” twelve games in 2015, seven of those losses saw him surrender three runs or less across, five innings or more of work.; five of those losses saw him surrender two runs or less.
Four times out of five, he’ll keep you in the game; not bad at all for a fourth or fifth starter. Unless you’re the Nationals, winning teams need a Tom Koehler or two in their rotation to get to October. Three of the Kansas City Royals leaders in games started this season have ERAs over 4.00; two members of the New York Mets rotation do.
The problem the Marlins have had the last few years isn’t that they have a Tom Koehler in the rotation, but that they haven’t had at least two starters putting up better end of year totals than the Tom Koehler in their rotation. He’ll never be the guy you want taking the mound Opening Day. But when it comes to who gets the ball to start the second series of the season?
Might be harder than you think to find a better option.
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