Miami Marlins oust Steve Cishek as sole closer, turn to closer-by-committee

Andy Lyons

The Miami Marlins will now use Steve Cishek in a closer-by-committee role with Mike Dunn and Chad Qualls after the sidearming righty's early struggles.

The Miami Marlins have given up temporarily on using Steve Cishek as the team's sole closer and are now turning to a closer-by-committee system, as reported by the Palm Beach Post.

Manager Mike Redmond said following the Marlins’ 5-1 win against Philadelphia on Monday night that Cishek will begin sharing those duties with right-hander Chad Qualls and left-hander Mike Dunn.

With Miami leading 2-1 in the eighth inning Monday, Redmond had Qualls warming up to pitch the ninth inning. The Marlins scored three runs in the eighth, costing Qualls a save opportunity.

The Marlins figured Cishek could use a break from being the only man on the job given that he has struggled early in the season. Cishek has a 4.91 ERA and 4.29 FIP, so he was not doing well in his first 18 1/3 innings pitched this year. But Cishek's biggest issue is not necessarily general, but specific to left-handed hitters. Against lefties this season, Cishek has allowed a .325/.438/.564 (.410 wOBA) line thus far in 48 batters faced. His FIP is not much better, as he has walked 16.7 percent of lefties faced en route to a 6.37 FIP. Compare that to his numbers versus righties, including a minuscule .097/.188/.111 (.149 wOBA) in 34 battes faced thus far. He has struck out more righties with only two walks to his name against them.

Essentially, Cishek has made the average right-handed hitter look like a bad-hitting pitcher this year and the average lefty look like Ryan Braun.

Joining him in a three-headed closer monstrosity will be Mike Dunn and Chad Qualls. Dunn does not have as extreme a split as Cishek, and to his credit he has performed well this season thus far (1.74 ERA, 3.03 FIP). He has dropped his walk rate thus far and gotten more hitters to chase his pitches out of the zone. He also has more ground balls this season than ever before, up to a 45.5 percent rate from a career 42.2 percent mark. Then again, this is Mike Dunn, Mini-Mayhem himself, and he has a well-known reputation for throwing too many walks to be relied upon in the late innings. Still, he is likely at this point a better choice versus lefties than Cishek.

Chad Qualls fills the experience quotient for this three-headed monster, but he does not really belong here with the other two. He does have a nice 3.63 ERA and 3.61 FIP this season, but he has always given up more home runs than a guy with a career 57.4 percent ground ball rate probably should, and he brings very little else to the table other than grounders. Qualls is coming off of a year in which he played for three teams and posted a 5.30 ERA and 4.60 FIP, so he certainly has his ups and downs.

Will this experiment work? It is likely just a short-term solution to get Cishek some rest and occasionally let him work in lower leverage environments in order to work out his potential kinks. Qualls is not long for this team after this season, and Dunn should only take over the position of closer if and when Cishek is dealt. It should not seriously affect the Marlins' chances of winning either, as the team just does not run into enough save situations to make this move matter.

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