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Miami Marlins Midseason Review: Starting pitching

The Miami Marlins' pitching rotation got a shot in the arm with the return of Jose Fernandez, but that does not disguise an ugly first half for the team.

Jose Fernandez is the only standout starting pitcher on the Marlins right now.
Jose Fernandez is the only standout starting pitcher on the Marlins right now.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins struggled on offense as a team in the first half, but at least it had the great benefit of an elite player in Giancarlo Stanton and above-average play from Dee Gordon. Fish fans got to enjoy some interesting players amid the rubble of the revamped offense. However, the starting rotation was not the same story. From the very onset, the rotation has been questionable, and only the most recent return of an electric young ace has made it watchable.

Starting Pitching

Rotation IP: 508 1/3
Rotation ERA: 4.02
Rotation FIP: 4.13
Rotation fWAR: 3.6
Rotation Rank: 27th

You can see that the Marlins rank very poorly in terms of the team's rotation. The club has an ERA and a FIP both above 4.00 despite pitching in a neutral park at best and a pitcher's park at worst. Their rotation has also thrown the sixth-lowest number of innings pitched, meaning that the team isn't getting very far into games. Given the quality of the starters, maybe that is not a bad idea for the club.

What is the reasoning? A number of pitchers are underperforming their expectations, and two injuries have kept the club's most effective pitchers away from the mound. Before the season, Miami traded their top-heavy minor league pitching staff in order to acquire a one-year rental in Mat Latos and help at second base in Gordon. The lack of true depth (and the subsequent plethora of fifth starter types) has led to the team's struggles early on.

Best Performer: David Phelps

There were three pitchers in the running for this title, but the middle ground starter with the most certain performance ended up winning this title. Dan Haren owns the team's best ERA among starters with a 3.24 mark, but he also has a 4.14 FIP thanks to a poor job with home runs despite favorable home conditions. Haren has somehow stranded 80.6 percent of batters who reach base and has given up 15 home runs thus far. He has been worth one win for the Marlins according to FanGraphs, but his pitching has been tenuous at best thus far.

Mat Latos struggled with terrible velocity in the early portion of the campaign, but his peripherals remained reasonable despite the bad fastball. Then, after a two-week stint on the disabled list, he returned to the rotation and has been blasting heaters at two mph more than he was hitting before. As a result, he owns the team's best FIP at 3.50, but he also is struggling with a 4.90 ERA and poor sequencing luck. The two veterans are polar opposites right now.

In the middle is David Phelps, who took over in the injury to Henderson Alvarez and has held onto his spot firmly, at least until Jose Fernandez returned from injury. Phelps made 14 starts and posted modest strikeout and walk numbers, but those modest Haren-esque numbers were accompanied with lower homer rates. Phelps has also gotten a few more grounders than he is used to having, helping that home run count.

However, Phelps's stuff is still wholly underwhelming, and for being the "best performer" on the Marlins, he has been fourth or fifth starter material. As a result, he inexplicably lost his job to Tom Koehler when Fernandez returned to the rotation despite being the team's best pitcher.

Worst Performer: Jarred Cosart

Latos was on track to receive this ignominious trophy until he turned his season around. Haren still has a nice ERA and, as ugly as the homers have been, his peripherals are about stable from last year. Cosart, on the other hand, has been thoroughly awful. He has not been bad all year, as his April included 25 1/3 innings of 2.49 ERA and 3.98 FIP ball. However, from there, things just progressed badly. He continued his walking ways, as he allowed free passes on 10.5 percent of his batters faced, and while he upped his strikeout rate to 17 percent, it was not enough to make up for all of the home runs.

Yes, the man with the coveted 55 percent ground ball rate has allowed a lot of homers. He gave up three in 14 1/3 innings in May, then sat out most of June with acute labyrinthitis and vertigo. When he returned, it only took him 1 2/3 innings to give up two more home runs to the Chicago Cubs, earning him a quick demotion to Triple-A. All in all, May ended with a 6.91 ERA, June ended with an injury, and July started with seven runs in less than two innings.

The Marlins traded two decent prospects, including a top-100 talent, for the team control of Jarred Cosart despite his known control issues and lack of strikeouts. They are now realizing the error of their ways.

Key Second-Half Performer: Jose Fernandez

Well, duh.

Jose Fernandez just got back. Jose Fernandez has been a monster on the mound so far. He has 15 strikeouts and no walks in 13 innings pitched. He has been throwing 96 mph on his fastball on average. He has essentially not missed a single beat, manhandling opponents with three ridiculous pitches. The changeup looks even scarier than it did in previous seasons, making him even scarier perhaps.

One of the only joys left in a broken 2015 season is to watch Jose Fernandez dominate. How much more are we going to see of the Defector? Here's hoping it is a half a season of awesomeness leading to a great, healthy, full 2016 campaign.