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2015 Miami Marlins Season Review: Other starting pitchers

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The Marlins sent a flurry of other starters to mixed results to the mound in 2015.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins were supposed to have a good amount of pitching depth heading into the 2015 season, but the team ended up trading some of that depth and losing a good amount of the others to injuries and other difficulties that come with being a Major League starter. The team was forced to use more than a few names as a result, and those names ended up showing mixed results for the team.

PLAYER IP K% BB% ERA FIP AVG WAR
Henderson Alvarez 22 1/3 8.8 6.9 6.45 3.85 -0.2

Alvarez was supposed to be the other half of a rotation that anchored the fort while Jose Fernandez returned from injury, but the injury bug instead bit Alvarez squarely in his right shoulder. The chronic shoulder inflammation that had been causing persistent problems with Alvarez for the last three years bit him hardest this season. While in 2013 and 2014, he spent time on the disabled list for shoulder inflammation, this time it was far more serious. He spent an initial 15-day stint before returning for one start and immediately relapsing on symptoms, causing the Marlins to shut him down for the rest of the year. No structural damage was noted in Alvarez's shoulder, so one would think that this would be a positive sign. However, the Marlins have not had a great history with shoulder injuries, and Alvarez's chronic problems are comparable to those of Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez before him.

PLAYER IP K% BB% ERA FIP AVG WAR
Jarred Cosart 69 2/3 15.9 11.2 4.52 5.12 -0.1

Cosart was supposed to be a contributor after a solid second half with the Marlins following the controversial trade with the Houston Astros. And for the first month of the season, it looked like that might happen. Cosart threw 25 1/3 innings and put up a 2.49 ERA, which sounds like it might be impressive. Of course, in that month he struck out just 12 batters versus seven walks and put up a less impressive 4.04 FIP and 4.24 xFIP, numbers that have basically followed him throughout his career.

His subsequent months were far more questionable, as Cosart only pitched 14 1/3 innings in May before going on the DL with vertigo that became a persistent problem throughout the year. He returned in June and July for one bad start each before being sent down to Triple-A to rehab his ongoing vertigo problems. There was suspicion that this vertigo issue had kept him down all season and might have explained much of his May struggles. He returned only in September, throwing five starts that month with a 2.96 ERA that once again hid a poor underlying performance. In 24 1/3 innings, he whiffed 18 batters but walked 13 en route to a 4.86 FIP.

PLAYER IP K% BB% ERA FIP AVG WAR
Brad Hand 93 1/3 16.4 7.8 5.30 4.08 -0.5

Hand made 12 starts but mostly worked out of the bullpen, but in neither situation did he look good. Hand did keep the sinker that gave him some second-half success last season, so that aspect of his game was retained. However, he only mustered a 46 percent ground ball rate compared to the 50 percent mark he had last season. Those ground balls ended up turning into hard-hit balls this year, as his hard-hit ball rate went up four percentage points, so that was not a successful conversion from 2014 to 2015. Plus, Hand continued to struggle with his usual issues with inducing strikeouts and walking too many hitters for a pitcher of his limited skills.

Admittedly, his numbers in the bullpen were better than the 4.71 ERA indicated, but he still mostly just got away with not giving up homers; his strikeout-to-walk differential was better at 12.6 percent, but it was not good reliever-level. Here's hoping Miami can keep him in the pen and let him develop there rather than forcing him into a starting role anymore.

PLAYER IP K% BB% ERA FIP AVG WAR
Justin Nicolino 74 7.6 6.6 4.01 4.85 0.2

I never expected to watch a strikeout-less year like the one that Alvarez put up with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012, but somehow the Marlins' Nicolino quietly put up one of the lowest strikeout rates in league history. Out of the 4939 individual player-seasons with at least 70 innings pitched since 1993, starter or reliever, Nicolino's 2015 season owns the 13th-lowest strikeout rate. That year is in less than the 1st percentile in terms of strikeout rate. It is difficult to even process how little Nicolino missed bats last year. His fastball got whiffs in only 6.8 percent of swings, and with good reason; the pitch did not have as much vertical sink as one would expect from a sinker, and it came in at just 89.3 mph according to Brooks Baseball. Of his secondary offerings, his curveball's 20 percent whiff rate was the highest among them. For a comparison point, Nathan Eovaldi's awful changeup, his worst offering, got 20 percent whiffs in 2014.

Nicolino's ERA worked out decently at 4.01, but this was obviously a mirage given what his strikeout rate showed. His walk total barely sneaked under his strikeouts, and he benefited from the Marlins' defense with a .259 BABIP. No pitcher who whiffed fewer batters than Nicolino managed an ERA better than 3.67, and that guy was Aaron Cook in 2005 with a 62 percent ground ball rate in Coors Field. The 2015 season was a bad sign for the Marlins' most "ready" pitching prospect.

PLAYER IP K% BB% ERA FIP AVG WAR
Adam Conley 67 21.0 7.5 3.76 3.81 0.6

I've spoken already on Conley's interesting 2015 season, but needless to say, his game appears to be more portable to the majors than Nicolino or the next prospect on the roster.

PLAYER IP K% BB% ERA FIP AVG WAR
Jose Urena 61 2/3 10.2 9.1 5.25 4.64 -0.3

Nicolino at least managed a decent ERA, even if it was backed up mostly by defensive performance. Urena was similarly terrible but had a more deserved ERA, as he too was unable to find the strike zone consistently or get hitters to miss. It yielded an equally awful set of numbers for the young righty. The only good takeaway to note is that at least he posted a 48 percent ground ball rate, which should help him to avoid the home run issues that plagued him this year.