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A look behind the struggles of the Miami Marlins' bullpen

The Miami Marlins' bullpen has struggled early on in the year. The key to those struggles is the word "early," as it is simply too early to tell just how good this group is.


Earlier this week, Ehsan Kassim wrote a solid post about why Miami fans shouldn't worry about the slow starts of Giancarlo Stanton and Steve Cishek. In that piece he used the table below to tell us how Stanton has always struggled in April.

2011 22 80 .235 .350 .426 2 .346
2012 21 77 .247 .286 .342 1 .277
2013 7 30 .174 .367 .261 0 .304
Career 50 187 .232 .326 .366 3 .311

Now it's more than likely that Stanton will bounce back from his rough start to have another solid season that Miami fans have grown accustomed to, the early struggles of the bullpen has concerned most people. Before the season, our very own Michael Jong did a preview piece about Miami's bullpen where he basically talked about how they would struggle. Now that's pretty common for a team that's in the beginning stages of rebuilding, but they've still been extremely awful after the eight games of the season.

To really take a glance at the bullpen, you have to compare and contrast to the starting rotation to see who's really at fault. As most Marlins fans would agree with, the starting rotation has been pretty solid for the first week and a half of the season. Of course the main focus has been on the great play of Jose Fernandez but the combined effort of the rotation has been relatively solid. First off, the starting rotation's WHIP (1.18) is in the top 10 in all of the MLB while the bullpen is in the lower half of the league with a 1.43. Yes, it's easier to judge the WHIP of a starter than a reliever because of course the starter plays more innings than a reliever but the stats above are still a little troubling even though the sample size is small.

What's also troubling is the team's 5.29 FIP (24th in the MLB). FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, is a stat that combines strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and home runs into a formula to estimate ERA, because those are aspects that the pitcher can best control. For example, Miami's relievers are in the top half in both walks and home runs allowed, which is a common theme when you look back to last season. Remember that Miami has played around 75 percent of their season on the road thus far in Washington and New York, but they played in pitcher's parks so that really shouldn't be much of a factor.

Ehsan's post discussed mainly the issues of closer Steve Cishek, who has struggled so far this year but you also have to put the blame on the other pitchers in the bullpen. A.J. Ramos, Mike Dunn and Chad Qualls have each pitched four games with the team this year which is the most by any pitcher so far this year. Both Dunn and Ramos are the definition of fringe relievers because they've either struggled during their stint with the team (Dunn) or are still trying to fight for their role (Ramos). Ramos had a solid stint with the Marlins last season (1.29 WHIP in 9 2/3 innings pitched) but has gotten off to a rough start so far because of some notable control issues. On the other hand, Dunn has kind of been in the thorn in the side of Miami fans because of his struggles and he's continuing that so far this season.

Chad Qualls is a veteran reliever who's been in the MLB for roughly 10 years because of his continued solid pitching throughout his career. It might be an example of super small sample size but Chad has been abused so far this season after allowing 2 HR's in 3 IP which has helped bring his WHIP to 2.100,

The early struggles of the season has already taken a toll on most Marlins fans and not being able to trust their own bullpen will probably turn some people away as the season goes on. There are some talented pitches in the bullpen of Miami so there's still hope that things will turn around for these group of players but you still have to admit that it's still pretty troubling when you look at the full picture. But you know what? It's hard to see the the picture when only five percent of the piece has been painted.