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2015 Miami Marlins Season Review: Tom Koehler

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Tom Koehler completed a quiet complete season as one of the Marlins' starters, though it wasn't a good one.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Koehler threw 187 1/3 innings for the Miami Marlins, making 31 starts for the team. That led the Fish on both accounts.

This is something I never expected to say many moons ago in 2013, when the Marlins were flush with interesting pitching prospects.

Alas, here we are. Koehler hit the 180-inning mark for the second season in a row for a pitching-starved Marlins team, and while the 2014 season showed a little better promise, Koehler ultimately proved to be an unspectacular back-end rotation player in 2015.

PLAYER IP K% BB% ERA FIP AVG WAR
Mat Latos 187 1/3 17.1 9.6 4.08 4.53 0.6

In 2014, Koehler put up about a league average season according to almost all resources, thanks in large part to an increase in strikeouts. He whiffed a career-high 19.1 percent of batters faced, and while his control was never fantastic, he allowed just enough walks and home runs to get by without hurting the roster. Two-win seasons are scarce, and the Marlins of 2015 would have loved for Koehler to repeat that year on the cheap.

That did not happen, unfortunately. The strikeouts came down for Koehler, back down to a 17.1 percent mark for the season, while the walks climbed up to 9.6 percent on the year, his highest single-season rate. That is a brutal combination even if you end up with normal numbers the rest of the way, but Koehler also gave up a career-high 22 home runs on the year. All of this led to the troubles he had all year long.

Initially, one would say this does not necessarily portend badness, as the Marlins saw Koehler limit home runs in 2014 well enough. He allowed six fewer bombs in a similar innings count in 2014. However, it is hard to say which of these two types of numbers is more "real" in terms of performance. Koehler is not a heavy-grounder pitcher, though he did up his ground ball rate to 46 percent from 43 percent in 2014. That addition in grounders was not significant enough to dip his home run rate for the Fish.

Koehler also did suffer from a dip in velocity from 2014 to 2015, which was concerning for his performance. The 28-year-old went from an average of 93.9 mph according to Brooks Baseball at exit velocity from hand to 92.9 mph, a drop of 1 mph. This would usually drop an ERA down about a third of a run, and that is about what we witnessed in 2015. The fastball was worse at getting swings and misses as a result of the velocity drop, going from 15 percent of swings in 2014 to 10 percent in 2015.

All told, the Marlins did not get a fantastic performance from Koehler, which is unfortunate because he was the only pitcher who actually stayed healthy for them all season long. Koehler made one bullpen outing on a night he was close to a scheduled start, and he missed one outing with a day-to-day injury. He spent no time on the DL and was the most consistent presence on the roster, having spent the entire year on it. The Fish got an average of a little less than six innings per outing from Koehler, for better or for worse.

The Fish would have been happy with this kind of performance had it come from a back-end starter, but the Fish got more of Koehler than anyone else. The team needed those innings soaked up, as the team had limited options once Henderson Alvarez essentially missed the entire year and Jose Fernandez had to miss even further time with a biceps injury. The team was left with fodder like Brad Hand and David Phelps, who are likely at best Koehler-level pitchers, and a series of struggling high minors starters.

Still, after a good 2014 season, the repeat campaign for Koehler was a disappointment, and the Marlins should know ahead of time that this could happen again in 2016.