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Marlins poorly analyzing Nathan Eovaldi, starting pitchers

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The Miami Marlins are doing a terrible job of analyzing the quality of their starting pitchers, in particular Nathan Eovaldi, whom they are considering trading.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins are considering trading Nathan Eovaldi now that they have acquired a large number of Major League-quality starters in recent trades. By getting both Mat Latos and Dan Haren (provided he does not retire), the Fish may begin ramping up their efforts to trade Eovaldi, though for what Major League help has yet to be determined.

The Marlins have made Eovaldi a subject of trade rumors for much of the offseason, in part due to his disappointing 2014 season. He posted a 4.37 ERA in 199 2/3 innings pitched, completing his first full big-league campaign but also struggling to keep runs off the board despite the easier run environment. Combined with Eovaldi's known weaknesses, it seems as though the Fish have soured on him.

Which brings us to another anonymous pitcher comparison!

We will look at three guys from 2012 to 2014, all of whom started at least 40 games in that time span. One of them, based on the topic of the post, is going to be Nathan Eovaldi, obviously. Each player will have four rate stats given, plus an innings pitched count per 32 starts made, which simulates a full season. These numbers will only come from starts that a player made, so no bullpen numbers will be included. I'll also give you their age in 2015.

Player, 2014 Age IP/32 K% BB% GB% HR/FB%
Pitcher #1 25 192 1/3 14.6 10.7 54.3 6.2
Pitcher #2 25 186 1/3 16.3 7.1 44.8 7.0
Pitcher #3 29 187 1/3 17.3 8.6 44.6 9.1

Two of the three pitchers are the same age, so they are more comparable to each other. Pitcher #1 is a ground ball artist with good home run prevention, so it is safe to say he would allow the fewest number of homers of the three. But he also has major issues with control and swing-and-miss stuff, as he has the worst strikeout rate and the worst walk rate among the three. Pitcher #2 has the best walk rate and a comparable rate of homers on fly balls, but neither Pitcher #2 nor Pitcher #3 have a comparable ground ball rate or home run prevention when compared to Pitcher #1. Pitcher #3 has a better strikeout rate than the three of them, but he also has a higher walk rate than Pitcher #2 and is the oldest of the three.

Which of these guys will be better next season? Based on just these numbers, I think it would be hard to make a definitive answer, but if you asked me, the argument is between Pitcher #2 and Pitcher #3, with a harder argument to be made about Pitcher #1. The issue with the first guy is that he lives on the extremes and it is hard to say where his game will go or whether it will continue this way, whereas the other two have steadier, more seemingly repeatable numbers. Knowing that strikeout and walk rates along with ground balls are the most repeatable things on that list, the order seems to me to logically make Pitcher #2 the best choice, followed closely by Pitcher #3, then Pitcher #1.

But it is not an easy determination, and it is probably by no means clear-cut. I'll add a little more information and bold the parts I think the Marlins' front office is focused on.

Player, 2014 Age IP/32 K% BB% GB% HR/FB% ERA
Pitcher #1 25 192 1/3 14.6 10.7 54.3 6.2

3.26

Pitcher #2 25 186 1/3 16.3 7.1 44.8 7.0

4.11

Pitcher #3 29 187 1/3 17.3 8.6 44.6 9.1

4.12

Now, who would you decide on? The first pitcher has an impressive ERA, but it's built on funky peripherals that are not good signs of future success. The next two guys are comparable in performance once again, even on the ERA front. But as we all know, ERA does not guess future ERA better than things like strikeouts and walks, so who are we to believe?

Based on the identities of these guys, you will probably know which argument the Marlins chose.

Player, 2014 Age IP/32 K% BB% GB% HR/FB% ERA
Jarred Cosart 25 192 1/3 14.6 10.7 54.3 6.2 3.26
Nathan Eovaldi 25 186 1/3 16.3 7.1 44.8 7.0 4.11
Tom Koehler 29 187 1/3 17.3 8.6 44.6 9.1 4.12

The Marlins made it pretty clear that they wanted no part in trading Cosart this offseason, at least not for a first base option.

Making Cosart as untouchable as Henderson Alvarez seems absurd given his peripherals since he reached the majors, and yet the Marlins said just that. Meanwhile, a comparably aged and perhaps even better pitcher in Eovaldi has been dangled all offseason as a spare part and pitching depth, and the Marlins are still prepared to do this despite potentially not having Haren due to retirement and having gotten rid of a good amount of their pitching depth in trading Heaney, DeSclafani, and Flynn.

The argument here is not that Eovaldi is a better player than Cosart. The scouting information on both players is important to give context to these numbers as well. We know that Eovaldi has weaknesses, but we also know that Eovaldi has significant strengths as well. The same can be said for Cosart, whose stuff has struggled to induce whiffs much like Eovaldi but who also has elite ground ball material. If we put the information all together, you might get an estimate of each guy that is not all that dissimilar. Based on my analysis, I think Eovaldi is slightly better than Cosart, but it would not be by much.

The problem is that the Marlins are not using all the information. They are not looking at Eovaldi's strong trends in walk rate. They are ignoring the fact that, over the last three years, he has upped his strikeout rates to acceptable levels. They ignored Cosart's poor performance in 2013, when he walked more guys than he struck out. They saw his shiny ERA, especially in the first month, and ignored that his numbers fell back the following month to his typical levels. You can bet that the Marlins' brass has strongly ignored the numbers that predict future performance better and relied rather strongly on cursory glances at ERA and their own scouting judgments.

This is why, when you have three guys with comparable statistics and overall performance, the team can still call one essentially untouchable and the other eminently available. There is a disconnect between the truth in the numbers and the opinion of the Marlins' brass. They seemingly have made an opinion on Eovaldi despite the statistical support against that opinion, and now the focus has been solely on his negatives. Likewise, they've made an opinion on Cosart and the focus is only on his positives and not his negatives.

This is a problem, and not just in a potential Eovaldi trade, but in all player personnel decisions. The Marlins' continued ignorance to proper statistical evaluation could cost them badly in future transactions. One Eovaldi trade may not doom the franchise, just like one Gordon deal may not. But over time, these smaller transaction "losses" could certainly add up. This remains one of the largest concerns under the new Michael Hill / Dan Jennings regime in Miami.