The Miami Marlins got solid performances from each of Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Tom Koehler, depending on the wins metrics and sources that you use. But in the wake of Jose Fernandez's injury, it was hard to find suitable starters beyond the three mentioned previously. The team had to rely on a number of other names this year. Here they are, in order of innings pitched for Miami.
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The Marlins turned to Hand after a strong Spring Training, but one month into his stint as a starter, the team realized he was not playing well and demoted him from the rotation briefly. Then Fernandez got hurt and Hand bounced back and forth from the rotation to the pen. Throughout most of the year, that meant poor play from him, as overall, Hand put up a 4.38 ERA and 4.20 FIP. Those numbers were between 13 and 19 percent worse than the league average, meaning that the Fish put up with mediocre production for 84 innings this year (you'll see why they did a little bit later).
But in one month, Hand secured his spot in the rotation with a good ERA. After coming back from an injury in July, Hand threw 36 2/3 innings that month and posted a 2.70 ERA and 2.97 FIP. Those numbers were mostly on the back of a homer-free month, as he only struck out 11.8 percent of batters faced and walked 6.6 percent that month. He had a terrible August before following up with a strong September to finish the year. Overall, his second half was at least improved, with a 3.89 ERA and 3.97 FIP to help.
Hand was better than expected, particularly later in the season, but he was still a poor choice to be the next Marlins starter with the most innings. Miami would have preferred better from their minor league system, but circumstances prevented that too.
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Cosart was acquired in a decently successful midseason trade that still may have later implications. Miami gave up a lot for a former top prospect who had just come off a year in which he walked more batters than he struck out. They gave up a lot for a player who was looking like a groundball version of a pitcher they just traded away.
Cosart did one better when he arrived in Miami. He exhibited better control with the Fish, hanging around in the strike zone in 52 percent of his pitches versus the 46 percent mark he put up in Houston. He dropped his walk rate slightly as a result and maintained a passable strikeout rate, particularly for a guy who was trying to post a huge groundball rate. The 2.39 ERA and 3.32 FIP show that he pitched well in his 64 innings for Miami.
But still, there were some questions. The ground ball rate actually dropped this past season, down to just 50 percent with Miami after hanging around at nearly 57 percent for the Astros. Cosart still could not miss bats in Miami. His .267 BABIP in Miami probably will not stick around for too long. And can he stay in the zone and repeat that walk rate, which he will need to continue his success? Cosart pitched well enough in a small sample, but Miami will need more proof of success.
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Turner had a struggle of a season for Miami in 62 2/3 innings for the Fish, but that struggle did not come without some positives. Turner struck out just 14.2 percent of batters faced as a starter in Miami, but that was a slight improvement over last year's ugly season. He also dropped his walk rate slightly. Combine that with a strong stint out of the bullpen, and you could see there was some improvement in Turner's game, even as it was buried under the ugliness of a 5.97 ERA. When you consider his bullpen outings as well, he posted a 4.00 FIP, which would have been eight percent worse than league average.
The odds of Turner improving into a league average starter were not great, but at his age, at least they were present. Miami could have at least kept him in the bullpen to see if he could develop into a good option there, and chances were they would have given him that opportunity had Alvarez not gotten hurt right when Turner was sent back to the pen right after Cosart was acquired to take his place. Instead, Turner had another two go-arounds in the rotation, pitched poorly, and was traded away to the Chicago Cubs.
I spoke plenty about the opportunities wasted in trading Turner away in season where he showed slight improvement, but this is not that space. Even with that improvement, Turner's season could not be judged as anything but bad.
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Heaney was supposed to take over a rotation spot by midseason, and the Marlins gave him the opportunity to do so. But then he struggled in his four starts. But in fact, in his first three starts, he was an unfortunate hard-luck loser with decent peripheral numbers in support of his staying in the rotation. Then an ugly multi-run outing versus the St. Louis Cardinals came around and the Marlins quickly demoted him in favor of a returning Hand.
Heaney got another shot in late September but gave up four runs in four innings with three strikeouts and one walk. Overall, he whiffed 16 while walking seven, but gave up six home runs in those five starts. It was not good, and Miami kept him out of the rotation despite continued success in Triple-A. The Fish should give him all the chances to win a rotation spot in 2015, but 2014 was not the best way to start.
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DeSclafani had the exact same issues as Heaney, minus all the hype of being a first-round draft pick. The two starters had nearly identical strikeout and walk numbers, but DeSclafani also gave up four home runs en route to an even uglier ERA. The same likely applies to him, as he also pitched well in Triple-A this season.