2012 Miami Marlins Season Review: Turner, Eovaldi, and LeBlanc Fill In

Kevin C. Cox

The Miami Marlins filled in the remainder of their starting rotation innings thanks to trades and ineffectiveness from two-thirds of its expected staff. Wade LeBlanc and trade acquisitions Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi performed well in their place.

The Miami Marlins had to employ a number of other starting pitchers to fill in for the absence of Anibal Sanchez due to trade and Carlos Zambrano due to ineffectiveness. Surprisingly, however, the three starting pitchers that primarily filled the gap for those two at the tail end of the season each delivered decent performances on their way to successful first years with the Marlins. In the case of the two young pitchers, Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi, the Marlins have to be excited that the team has already witnessed solid play from two guys whom they expect to help anchor the future Marlins rotation.

Wade LeBlanc

Marlins, 2012 IP K% BB% ERA FIP fWAR rWAR
Wade LeBlanc 68 2/3 15.1 6.7 3.67 4.04 0.6 1.1

LeBlanc was the first pitcher to begin filling in for the Marlins' absences in the rotation, and he did a good job to start following a successful stint as a long reliever for the team. LeBlanc's success came while mostly doing what he usually does, which is to limit walks as much as possible in order to best utilize his low-strikeout skillset.

The other aspect of his game that remained was his staggering fly ball rate (45.8 percent in 2012) along with a low home run per fly ball (HR/FB) rate of 45.8 percent. When LeBlanc does well on home runs, he can look like a passable pitcher, but the problem is that his home run skill is usually worse than this, and as a result his 4.56 SIERA and 4.79 xFIP, both statistics that regress home run rate based in part on fly ball rate, show the picture of a pitcher who could very well struggle if he continues to pitch the way that he has.

In 2012, LeBlanc was one of many pitchers who took advantage of the spacious walls in Marlins Park, as he allowed four of his seven homers on the road in similar innings. However, it is questionable whether he can continue to suppress homers like this, but at least in 2012, it was a success and his remaining skills were good enough to post decent run totals.

Jacob Turner

Marlins, 2012 IP K% BB% ERA FIP fWAR rWAR
Jacob Turner 42 2/3 17.1 5.3 3.38 3.89 0.6 0.4

As has been mentioned many times before, Jacob Turner's season with the Miami Marlins has to be considered a relative success. He answered the questions about his ability to induce strikeouts. While the low walk rate was a major positive, it is less likely that it was due to legitimate control but perhaps more due to an unusually high number of contacted balls in play versus foul balls. The reason why that did not affect Turner was because he had a .220 average on balls in play, indicating that he should perform a little worse going forward.

Turner's primary problem with home runs persisted while he was with the Marlins, and that issue remains to be resolved. The ongoing theory is that his lack of command has led to one too many meatballs down the middle of the plate that were sent over the fence. If Turner can reel that in, he may be an effective pitcher as early as next season.

Nathan Eovaldi

Marlins, 2012 IP K% BB% ERA FIP fWAR rWAR
Nathan Eovaldi 63 15.4 9.3 4.43 4.16 0.7 0.6

Nathan Eovaldi has also been covered a good amount this season, as his problems versus lefties continued for much of the season. However, as the season progressed, Eovaldi improved slightly, even putting great strikeout numbers thanks to his fastball in a career game. His strikeout rate improved over his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his control got better as the season progressed with the Marlins. He still has platoon issues about which to be concerned, but his late-season burst (22.5 percent strikeout rate and 3.72 ERA in September) left just enough confidence to have Eovaldi fill in a back-of-the-rotation spot for next season at least.

The Marlins were lucky to have a few solid replacements for their lost starters over the season. Anibal Sanchez put up 1.4 WAR for the Detroit Tigers the rest of the way this season, and Eovaldi put up half of that production in 10 fewer innings this year for the Fish. Add on Turner and LeBlanc's performances, and the Marlins perhaps evened out their production versus what Carlos Zambrano would have done. What the team lost in Sanchez and Zambrano, they received more than a few years of two young starters and one decent performance by a surprise replacement starter.

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