What is wrong with Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena?

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MIAMI, FL - MAY 25: Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins in the dugout after the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on May 25, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MAY 25: Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins in the dugout after the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on May 25, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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Jose Urena has started 14 games this season and only has one win to show for it. In fact it took Urena 13 starts to finally get his first win. After a 2017 campaign that saw Urena win 14 games it appeared he was poised for a breakout in 2018. Why has the Marlins starter struggled so mightily to win games and build upon last season?

First things first, the win-loss column is not the end all be all when it comes to a pitcher. However Jose Urena‘s 1-8 record this season is far from impressive. Urena’s ERA has bumped up about three quarters of a run compared to last season (3.82 in 2017 to 4.59 in 2018). That being said there is more to the story here besides a simple ERA comparison.

Fielding Independent Pitching and Jose Urena

Jose Urena
ST. LOUIS, MO – JUNE 5: Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins delivers a pitch against the Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on JUNE 5, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

In the case of Jose Urena this is what needs to be examined most. Fielding Independent Pitching or FIP gives a more accurate analysis of a pitchers performance. FIP relies on events that only a pitcher has control over. This means balls in play are not a factor. Urena’s FIP for this season sits at 3.85 which is extremely close to his ERA from last season. This suggests that once the ball is in play that the Marlins defense is costing Urena about three quarters of a run.

When analyzing Urena’s stats per nine this season this seems to line up with his FIP. Urena is giving up just under a hit more per nine, walking one and half less batters per nine and giving up half a home run less as well. Urena’s strikeout numbers are up as well as he is striking 7.4 batters per nine and is already more than halfway to matching last seasons strikeout total (113 in 2017, 66 in 2018).

It appears that Urena will turn things around sooner rather than later. That is at least what these numbers suggest based off of his performance this season.

Numbers that suggest that Jose Urena will continue to struggle

Jose Urena
ATLANTA, GA. – May 19: Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins throws a first inning pitch against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Field on May 19, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Just as there are numbers that suggest Jose Urena will turn things around, there are numbers that suggest he will continue to struggle. The glaring issue with the Miami starter this season is that when he gets hit, he gets hit hard. An astounding 44 percent of pitches hit by opposing batters have registered as hard hit balls, this is the highest percentage of Urena’s career by far. His previous high was 32.5 percent in 2016. Urena’s medium and soft contact percentages are by comparison the lowest of his career, 41.2 and 14.8 percent respectively.

Part of the issue could be that Urena is throwing 31.6 percent of his pitches in a very hitter friendly part of the strike zone. These pitches are coming in about belt high or just a bit lower right down the middle or just off to the right side of the strike zone. Given how frequently Urena throws his fastball this season (55 percent) and that pitches frequently end up in about the same area it becomes easier for hitters to sit on a fastball in that specific spot resulting in more frequent hard contact. Even extending the pitch selection to just off the plate on the right side the pitch location frequency jumps up to 46.3 percent. For Urena to turn things around he will need to throw to different locations more often.

Jose Urena is not the only one at fault for his 1-8 record

More from Marlins News

On four occasions Jose Urena gave up only one run this season. On all four occasions the Marlins lost. These outings were against Boston, Colorado, Philadephia and San Diego. In three of the four starts Urena went seven innings and gave the Marlins a chance to win. Unfortunately the Miami offense could not pick him up or the bullpen could not keep the opponents off the board. Blown saves against Boston and San Diego cost Urena two wins. The offense managing 11 runs but zero runs also cost Urena another two wins. Urena could have easily won all four of these games unfortunately the offense or the bullpen came up short.

Can Jose Urena turn it around?

This hard to say. Jose Urena’s FIP suggests that a turnaround is coming but how many hard hit balls he is giving up suggests otherwise. In a perfect world Urena mixes up his pitch location more, the offense puts up more runs and the bullpen holds leads. However this is not a perfect world. Urena must control what he can control and that is pitch selection and location. The Marlins bullpen and offense will have to pull their weight for Urena to win more ballgames. Jose Urena has pulled his weight. Now it is time for everyone else to pull theirs when he is on the mound.

Next: Spotlight on Zack Leban

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