Thirty games into the 2019 campaign, the Miami Marlins rotation has taken six turns each.
Anointed the “staff ace” near the very start of Spring Training, José Ureña took some time to get going. Now after six turns, he ranks fourth out of the starting five, but he’s still really close to last place.
Initially, I was using the original GameScore metric to rate and rank the starters one against the other, but recently swapped over to Tom Tango’s Game Score Version 2.0. The newer model penalizes equally for hits and walks, equally for runs whether earned or unearned, and adds a significant penalty for giving up home runs. I used the last 10 starts, weighted so that more recent games count more than the ones that were played longer ago. Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez, Trevor Richards, and Sandy Alcantara join Ureña in the rotation.
Caleb Smith 66.02
Game Scores: 62, 47, 74, 71, 67, 69
Caleb Smith was already firmly on top of the starting rotation rankings before this week’s performance. In last night’s 4-2 win over the Cleveland Indians, Smith struck out eight and allowed one run on four hits and two walks over seven innings. He’s now 3-0 for the season with an even 2.00 ERA.
Smith has collected a National League 12th-best 45 strikeouts so far this season, and is whiffing batters at an 11.25 K/9 rate. His WHIP is an NL second-best 0.83, only to former Miami Marlins prospect Chris Paddack‘s 0.70 mark, and opponents are hitting just .168 against him, also second in the NL only to Paddack (.126). Only nine batters have reached first base via free pass. Each of his last five starts qualified as Quality Starts, he only fell short in his first start of the season by one inning, and has never finished a game with less than six K’s or more than five hits allowed.
The stats continue to stand out when you get into the advanced side of the numbers. Opponents average 83.4 MPH exit velocity ranks in the top six percent of the majors, and his 21.5 percent hard-hit percentage is top four percent.
Pablo Lopez 55.84
Game Scores: 60, 35, 45, 58, 76, 54
After six starts, Lopez is tracking a 1.16 WHIP and 33 K’s in 32 innings. The only starter to earn decisions in each of his appearances, Lopez is 2-4 with a 4.78 ERA.
In his last start, a 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, Lopez gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings, on there hits and three walks. He struck out four, getting 60-of-94 pitches into the strike zone.
Lopez has only earned one “Quality Start” all season, when he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Indians on April 23rd. The Miami Marlins won that one, 3-1.
Trevor Richards 47.24
Game Scores: 65, 52, 71, 40, 48, 24
Richards has racked up four Quality Starts this season so far, but is 0-4 with a 4.64 ERA. The Miami Marlins have yet to win a game in which Richards is the starting pitcher. In Richards’ last game, this past Saturday, he gave up five runs on six hits and a pair of walks in four innings of work, as the Marlins dropped a 12-9 decision to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Richards efforts in his last game dropped him from second to third in the rotational rankings, and just a shade above fourth. His resultant 24 GameScore was the worst recorded by any Miami Marlins pitcher at the time.
José Ureña 45.64
Game Scores: 26, 37, 34, 66, 44, 54
Ureña racked up some of the worst efforts of the season in his first three starts, but has recovered somewhat in his last three, with Quality Starts in each. On Friday, Ureña held the Phillies to four hits and two runs over seven innings, reaching a Marlins’ season-high 112 pitches.
Ureña has struck out 25 over 33 2/3 innings, going 1-4 with a 5.08 ERA, with a 1.54 WHIP and 43 hits allowed. The only pitcher in the NL with more hits allowed is Max Scherzer.
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Sandy Alcantara 45.20
Game Scores: 86, 40, 32, 53, 54, 23
After his first start, Alcantara seemed bound to lead the Miami Marlins as the resident ace, but since then, he’s tailed off. That eight inning gem in a 3-0 win against the Colorado Rockies on March 31st remains Alcantara’s lone Quality Start of the season. In his most recent game, a 7-4 loss to the Indians on Tuesday, he allowed six runs in 5 1/3 innings, on seven hits and three walks.
Despite Alcantara’s recent struggles, he ranks in the top 13 percentile with a 27.4 percent hard hit rate, the top 10 percent with a 95.5 MPH average fastball velocity, and in the top seven percentile with an 83.8 percent opposing exit velocity.
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