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Florida Marlins the surprise team

Or at least Jayson Stark thinks they are.


Florida Marlins

I can't get Bobby Cox's words out of my head. It was the last week of September. And here's what he said: "You know who's got the best starting pitching in our division? It's the Marlins. And it's not even close." Nobody, of course, was saying that about that team a year ago, when the Fish were getting ready to roll out a rotation that had won a total of 23 games the year before. But now, they haveRicky NolascoJosh JohnsonChris VolstadAnibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller lined up.

Of course no one was saying that about the Marlins a year ago, the Marlins rotation on opening day consisted of  Mark Hendrickson, Andrew Miller, Rick VandenHurk and Scott Olsen with Ricky Nolasco rehabbing in the pen.

But there maybe a problem with this year's starting rotation and it has to do with the Verducci effect.  Actually, I never knew what it was called until I saw it on Beyond the Box Score.

To totally rip them off, the Verducci effect is:

It's like training for a marathon. You need to build stamina incrementally. The unofficial industry standard is that no young pitcher should throw more than 30 more innings than he did the previous season. It's a general rule of thumb, and one I've been tracking for about a decade. When teams violate the incremental safeguard, it's amazing how often they pay for it.

Pitchers generally feel the effects of abusive increases in workload the next year, not the season in which they were pushed. In other words, you might be able to finish that marathon for which you didn't properly train, but your body will have hell to pay for it. I call it the Year After Effect.

Ricky Nolasco threw 212 innings in 2008.  In 2007, Ricky threw a grand total of 21 innings.  While I didn't major in math in college, I do own a calculator and when you subtract 21 from 212 it is a wee bit more than 30.

Of course, Ricky has just recently turned 26 years-old, so according the data that should help.  But in his case I sincerely doubt it.  Does that mean Ricky has forgotten how to pitch?  Not in the least, it just a matter of whether is body will function properly to allow him to perform his craft.

Josh Johnson pitched 87 innings last season as compared to the 15 the season before.

Also there is Anibal Sanchez who is still recovering from shoulder surgery.

The future is bright for the Marlins rotation but there is a very real chance that they may not perform at their peak levels in 2009.  Of course we all hope they do, but in all honesty we may still feel the effects of the abuse they were put through in 2006.

If the above mentioned starters don't achieve the level they are capable of, for understandable reasons, then the bullpen becomes that much more important.  Especially since the Marlins may not be able to slug their way into wins like they did in the early part of 2008.

Hopefully, the Marlins will be the exception to the sort of rule of thumb.