Well, it happened - the Miami Marlins made a move to "strengthen" their rotation by acquiring Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea this morning. Here’s the problem: I’m not sure these two pitchers are significant enough upgrades to warrant their price tag. Both pitchers have been average to below average starters for the entirety of 2016.
It is easy to simply say that a pitcher has been below average, but you need stats to back this claim up. Take a look at the table below, which includes advanced metrics to compare Cashner, Rea and the league average for starting pitchers. To add some perspective, I’ve also included our very own Tom Koehler.
Table 1. Advanced metrics tell us Cashner and Rea have been below average in 2016
As I have said before, the trifecta of FIP, xFIP, and tERA are considered the "gold standard" when analyzing pitcher performance. No matter what metric you use, both Cashner and Rea have been below average starting pitchers this season. They compare surprisingly well to Koehler, who, as we all know, has been anything but stellar. What you’ll notice is that all these pitchers strikeout hitters at a rate lower than league average, but also walk batters at a rate higher than league average. That is not a winning combination that indicates future success.
I included BABIP in the table to emphasize that neither Koehler, Cashner, or Rea have been particularly lucky, or unlucky. They are what they are, for better or for worse. Now, that isn’t to say that Cashner doesn’t have potential - he has been an excellent pitcher in the past, as recently as 2014. Indeed, even Rea was a serviceable starter in 2015, and he isn’t arbitration eligible until 2019. He is the important longterm piece in this trade, and his development will be something to keep an eye on. I will also note this: having more pitching depth is always a good thing.
However, we will have to wait to see if the additional pitching depth was worth the price tag. The trade hinges heavily on Josh Naylor’s career, Colin Rea’s career, and whether the Marlins make the playoffs this season. Better hang on folks, because it is going to be a wild ride.
Data obtained from Fangraphs.