Greatest Strength Showing Weakness
By Phil Kimmel
What was originally thought to be the Miami Marlins strength has turned into one of their biggest weaknesses on the young season. What can the Fish do to fix this and is their a cause for concern?
The Miami Marlins went out and spent what money they had on their bullpen. Bolstering the bullpen depth with the likes of Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa.
These players were brought in to help out the pre-existing pen, which was pretty darn good last season. However, we have seen even the most reliable of relief pitchers falter heavily.
It was thought that with these additions, the Fish may have a fighting chance. Given their terrible starting rotation, it was really all they could do.
Edinson Volquez was brought in to help the starters, but from the onset of the season, the focus was the pen. We are now a full month into the season and it does not look good.
Where are the struggles?
It started with Tazawa. Signed in the off-season as one of the better relievers the Fish could have picked up, Tazawa struggled in his new home. Posting a hideous 9.00 ERA through the first four games he pitched in, Tazawa needed to turn things around.
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So far in May, that has happened, but Tazawa has not been the only issue within the struggling pen.
Last season, David Phelps was far and away the Marlins’ most reliable reliever. The beginning of this season, not so much. April saw Phelps get tagged for 10 runs, nine of which were earned.
Showing the complete opposite early on has been Ziegler. During the first month of the season, Ziegler was lights out. Ziegler allowed just one earned run over the course of 12 frames. However, this month has been completely different for the soft-tosser.
Just in the month of May alone, Ziegler has allowed six runs, and that’s not counting the runs inherited from Kyle Barraclough last night.
The biggest woe the Marlins pitching staff has faced so far has been their inability to limit walks. When they can do that, they are nearly impossible to hit. Dan Straily proved that last night, allowing just one walk.
Losing games, courtesy of the pen.
The Fish are paying the price early on for using their bullpen endlessly. The Marlins have gone into two games, just recently, with rather large leads.
May 5th, the Marlins had what seemed to be an insurmountable lead over the Mets. Then the meltdown began. A 7-3 lead quickly turned into an 8-7 deficit. Ziegler, who had been our best reliever on the season, gave up a whopping fiver earned runs that sealed the fate for the Fish.
Still fresh in our minds, last night. The Marlins had been dominating the Red Birds. Straily had just finished pitching his best outing in a Marlin uniform. Barraclough came in for the hold, and could not record a single out.
Ziegler then allowed the base hit to destroy the Marlins’ lead. Not all the blame can go on those two however. A.J. Ramos came in to hold the game and take it to extra innings when he gave up the go ahead run.
No, the failure for this bullpen cannot rest on just one person. This has been a valiant team effort at failing.
Is there anything good about the pen?
For as bad as the bullpen has been, we have also had light shed on a few players. Jarlin Garcia, Jose Urena, Nick Wittgren, and Brian Ellington have all made their mark in the pen. Garcia, who was originally called up to replace Wittgren after a three inning outing against the Mets, has been phenomenal.
Urena has shown his versatility by providing spot starts and long relief innings out of the pen. Wittgren has been amazing as well, truly proving himself during his three inning outing at the beginning of the season.
Finally, we are starting to see Ellington and what he can do. The hard throwing righty has made some appearances over the last few years. Hopefully this will be the time that Ellington will stay in the pen instead of dropping back into the minors.
Next: Miami Marlins option Adam Conley to Triple-A New Orleans
While the starting rotation has been terrible, they are not solely to blame. Unless the bullpen can pull itself back up, we may be in for a long season.