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The Number 4 Starter

First off, who was really the number four starter for the Marlins last year?  Sure, at the start of the season it was Jason Vargas but that did change - thankfully.  But towards the end of the season it became less apparent who was the number two through five.  I suppose the case could be made that the order was Johnson, Olsen, Sanchez and Nolasco in the two through five slots.  Or perhaps you saw it differently, no matter, call last year's order anyway you would like.

Since Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN ranks Anibal Sanchez as the fourth starter and Ricky Nolasco as the fifth starter for the Marlins in the upcoming season.  I will use them.

My SBN colleague, Jeff Sackmann of Brew Crew Ball fame, penned an article for The Hardball Times entitled "How Good Is Your #4 Starter?"

Jeff calculated the ERA for all 30 MLB teams starting five and also broke down the results for each league.

Lg      #1      #2      #3      #4      #5
MLB    3.60    4.14    4.58    5.10    6.24
AL      3.70    4.24    4.58    5.09    6.22
NL      3.51    4.04    4.57    5.11    6.26

The Marlins starters finished with the following results:

Team    #1      #2      #3      #4      #5
FLA     2.96    3.65    3.99    4.58    6.56

The Marlins 1-4 finished better than the NL or MLB average.  Only the 5th slot in the rotation was above the average and it wasn't by that much.  I would expect in the upcoming season that the 5th in the order of the rotation will improve over last season, and possibly dramatically.  Since for our discussion purposes it will be manned by Nolasco and not Moehler, et al.

Baseball Think Factory published their 2007 ZIPS projections for the Marlins and they have a mean projection of Sanchez's ERA at 4.22 and Nolasco's at 4.68.  Always take projections with a grain of salt.  But if they are in the ballpark the Marlins will have one of the better rotations in the NL, if not the best, from top to bottom.  But you already knew that.

The key will be if the young arms can hold up throughout the season and also if none of them have a sophomore coming out season a la Jason Vargas.  But if even something goes wrong, the Marlins have a whole mess of arms waiting for their shot in the show. Now, if only the bullpen will come into their own.