The Marlins’ Next Batch

Any ink spilled over the Florida Marlins usually pertains to ownership, fire sales, or (until recently) relocation ideas. Their front office consistently works under a mysterious shroud and probably doesn’t get the due they deserve because of their economic standing. When one references Andrew Friedman or Billy Beane, the usual statement that follows is, “Imagine if they had Brian Cashman’s payroll.” With the Marlins, it’s more like, “Imagine if they had the Rays’ payroll.”

One of the areas the Fish seemingly succeed at – and rightfully so – is finding cheap relievers. Some of the skill is simply adaptation, since the Marlins wear gloves when looking at the more expensive options just to ensure they aren’t forced to purchase the product after a stain or smudge appears. They may as well wear Isotoners. Only three relievers have received more than $2M from the Marlins in one season since 2005. For comparison, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the third lowest payroll in the majors last season, and they had two relievers making more than $2M.

Here’s how the Marlins have ranked in reliever ERA and FIP in each season, with steady improvement noted:

2005: 27th in ERA, 16th in FIP
2006: 24th in ERA, 23rd in FIP
2007: 15th in ERA, 17th in FIP
2008: 12th in ERA, 17th in FIP
2009: 11th in ERA, 10th in FIP

The line of one-and-done relievers since 2005 is startling, with its length making John Calipari blush. First came Todd Jones, then Joe Borowski and Matt Herges, then Joe Nelson, then finally Doug Waechter, Brendan Donnelly, and Kiko Calero. Throw in a few extended stays, like Justin Miller and Kevin Gregg, and the picture becomes clear.

Even with rumors of Gregg potentially returning, the Marlins have added a few arms who look like the next junkyard rental. First came Scott Strickland, who’s pitched well since flaming out with the Houston Astros in 2005. Then Clay Hensley, technically a re-signing who spent most of his 2009 starting with the Marlins Triple-A affiliate. A pair of power arms followed, with Jose Veras and Derrick Turnbow also signing on this week.

Veras split last year between the Indians and Yankees. His fastball routinely touches over 95 MPH, although his contact rate is essentially league average. Issues with walks and longballs left him on the outside looking in. Turnbow is similar, with an extra dosage of Steve Blass’ disease. He’s thrown 30 innings in MLB and Triple-A over the last two seasons and walked 63 while doing so.

In other words, look forward to those two leading the N.L. in reliever ERA come next July.




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6 Responses to “The Marlins’ Next Batch”

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  1. Jon says:

    Since the Malins are so good at getting pitchers who werent as good as they used to be, what are the chances they get back the D-Train? Would love to see him back with the team for the new stadium opening (as a reliever tho)

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  2. fanofdefenseagain says:

    Seriously, let scott strickland pitch on a MLB club!

    I just checked out his AAA stats over the past 3 years and they have looked damn impressive. Give the guy a second shot.

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    • Joe R says:

      Strickland’s MLE FIP’s from 06-09 according to minorleaguesplits.com:

      2.77
      4.10
      3.67
      4.05

      For about a 3.48 weighted average FIP.
      So, like, Jose Valverde on average, but probably closer right now to LaTroy Hawkins. Meh, decent pitcher, so I’d have to agree with you.

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  3. Temo says:

    So of all the guys you mentioned, all were in their mid-30′s, with the exception of Doug Waechter. And all of them were either rescued from injury, stints in hitting-favorable ballparks, or the AL East, or all of the above (they also seem to love ex-Cleveland relievers, for whatever reason).

    It’s not like the Marlins are doing anything new. They’re just a low-payroll team doing what a low-payroll team should do: take risks, increase their variance, and hope to strike gold.

    I believe that they’re also exploiting a market advantage. Relievers will sign with the Marlins knowing that they can rehabilitate their careers in a low-stress environment in a favorable environment (other than the occasional trip to Philly, pitching in the NL East is a decent proposition), and they’ll get a real shot at a roster spot. For your typical mid-30′s reliever trying to re-make his career, the Marlins are a much better situation to accept a spring training invite than say, the Yankees. You better be striking out 12 batters per 9 in Spring training if you want to even make the Yankee’s roster, nevermind get real playing time and not just mop-up duty. With the Marlins, you could piece together a decent spring and get a shot at 50 IP during the season.

    Not that high-payroll teams can’t do something similar. For the longest time, until they changed their philosophy more recently (or were forced to), the Braves would skimp heavily on their bullpen budget, filling in holes by promoting minor leaguers and rehabbing older pitchers. Their main attraction at the time was that all the down-on-your-luck pitchers wanted to work with Leo Mazzone. I’m not sure how much of the successful rehabs were Mazzone’s doing and how much of it was just his reputation (and the reputation of the big 3 starting pitchers) was giving the Braves a market advantage that they exploited for a long time.

    I wonder if the Cards will use (or are using) a similar advantage they have with Dave Duncan’s reputation.

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    • gnomez says:

      If you look at some of the garbage the Cardinal have brought in, I think they used to have a similar strategy, and just currently have had a wealth of young relief prospects.

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  4. I think Dan Szymborski said it best in his 2010 ZiPS projection for the Marlins: “The Marlins continuing to win 85-90 games relies on Beinfest and Hill continuing to spin straw into gold faster than Jeff Loria can give it away, which is a very difficult task.”

    http://gameofinches.blogspot.com/search?q=marlins

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