The Marlins wanted a “super bullpen.” Now, they have one.
After adding Janichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler over the weekend, Miami’s bullpen could emerge as one of the best in the National League. But in order for such a bullpen to be beneficial, the starters have to pitch deep into games.
From the outset, the Marlins’ approach was clear. Instead of overpaying an inexperienced free agents, the Marlins sought established relief help. Though they were unable to add Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman, reportedly two of their top targets, they improved the relief options Manager Don Mattingly has to choose from.
Tazawa and Ziegler both have experience pitching late in games and can both be called upon to pitch in the ninth inning if necessary. Add those two to a mix featuring A.J. Ramos and Kyle Barraclough, two back-end arms who had success in 2016, and you would take your chances. Still, all eyes are rightfully on the starting rotation.
The importance of a deep bullpen was made clear throughout the most recent playoff matchups, but if starters don’t pitch deep into games, the relievers don’t have much of an influence. And that’s why the Marlins are still considering improving their pitching staff.
Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley, Edinson Volquez, Jeff Locke and Tom Koehler are all capable of pitching into the sixth and seventh innings. Whether any of them can do so routinely, with the exception of Conley who did so last season, remains to be seen.
To make the so-called “super bullpen” work, Miami’s starters would ideally pitch six innings. Then, any three of a core featuring Ziegler, Tazawa, Barraclough, Phelps and Ramos would pitch the final innings. If Miami’s starters prove to be consistent, the bullpen plan will work. If not, the bullpen will be overused before the All-Star break.
The Marlins have the bullpen resources to turn to but they have to be used correctly. For that to happen, the starters need to pitch late in games routinely, which could prove to be challenging for a staff that lacks a clear ace.