Miami Marlins Starting Rotation Least Of Their Worries
The Miami Marlins had a very specific blueprint in mind for 2017 success when they entered the offseason; a consistently productive offense, an elite bullpen, and just enough from their starting rotation.
Thus far on the 2017 season, at least until Wei-Yin Chen‘s flameout Thursday night, the Miami Marlins starting staff has provided exactly what the front office expected of them.
It is that expectation, that blueprint, that affords me the luxury of making that claim. Fans were never told, and coaches and players themselves never even suggested, that this was a rotation that was regularly going to play into the seventh or eight innings of ballgames.
These are not Jack McKeon‘s Marlins, which if nothing else is probably good news for the starting five ulnar collateral ligaments. All that Michael Hill and Don Mattingly are asking of these guys are that they keep the club in the game for five or six frames, before handing it off to the likes of David Phelps, Junichi Tazawa, and A.J. Ramos.
What will it take to win?
If the Marlins offense holds up their end of the deal, “keeping the club in the game” need no longer be a Jose Fernandez-esque 1 ER or less outing. Tom Koehler‘s 5 to 6 IP, 3 ER line from Wednesday’s Braves heartbreaker would easily fall into that range as well. And that’s what the starters have provided six times out of nine tries.
Not bad, and arguably even better when you realize one of the exceptions was an Edinson Volquez 6 IP, 4 ER performance that had the misfortune of coming on a Noah Syndergaard night.
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Case in point, if the Marlins had gotten that level of production from their starter Thursday, they win that game. They win it in regulation, and we feel a lot better about ourselves heading into the rest of this series.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to worry about either. Off the top of my head, this writer can see three problems that loom much larger than any starting pitcher.
What are the issues?
The most obvious is that elite bullpen. Nine games in, that’s a unit that has made very little effort to hold up its end of the deal when it comes to that offseason master-plan. Three of Miami’s five losses have come at the hands of a reliever.
While I’ll acknowledge that I might be being unfair to the bullpen by counting Adam Conley‘s relief appearance against them, I feel no guilt whatsoever about bringing up Phelps’ eighth inning, or the fact that Miami’s 8-4 win against Atlanta never actually felt secure.
These games are supposed to be over after five innings, not just getting started. Phelps stands out the most, with Tazawa right behind. Be it a walk, a blooper, or a bomb. The only thing that has been consistent about this unit so far in 2017 is that someone can be relied upon to have an off night.
Plenty of relievers did play great last night. As colleague Phil Kimmel can attest, but that has been much more exception than rule. Getting the pen on track is priority one.
Offense, offense, offense.
Secondly would be an issue on offense, and more to the point, one specific part of it. Health aside, three things had to happen offensively for the Miami Marlins to contend this season.
Dee Gordon had to get back to hitting near or above .300, Marcell Ozuna had to get back to being 2016 first-half Marcell Ozuna, and Justin Bour needed to continue to develop into a consistent threat in the lineup.
Yes, Martin Prado being out has probably hurt the offense the most. Sure, it would be nice if Christian Yelich had picked up exactly where he left off in the World Baseball Classic.
Without doubt, we might not be writing about this had Ichiro come through with a big pinch hit last night. But those are all likely to be quickly correctable issues.
As far as first base goes though, Tyler Moore is looking pretty good at the moment…and that’s with a .203 batting average. Bour needs to improve, or the front office needs to start fishing for a platoon mate.
Timing could not be worse
Lastly, there’s this 0-2 slide. Particularly the timing of it. Over the next two games, the Marlins will be taking on Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. That’s a prospect that would be disconcerting at any time, for any club.
But the Fish are heading into it having just blown two extremely winnable chances; one against a Braves team they remain significantly more talented then, and another against the worst starting pitcher the Mets will be throwing out there for the entire series. Good teams can’t blow those opportunities, certainly not both of them.
This is a problem Miami had time and again last year, taking full advantage of “springboard” opportunities. Nothing I’ve seen so far has given Marlins fans reason to believe that has changed. That had better change in a hurry.
Next: Marlins-Mets Stories To Watch
So there you have it. Plenty to sort out before even getting to that starting rotation. Hopefully a forthcoming road trip against some struggling and/or weaker squads. Combined with the return of Prado to the lineup, helps the Marlins smooth those wrinkles out.