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The Marlins have found their new relief ace

Pairing an elite fastball with an unhittable slider, this rookie already has a significant role in Miami’s rebuild.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In recent years, and especially last year’s playoffs, there has been an emphasis put on bullpen depth and abandoning the starting pitcher earlier and earlier in the game. Andrew Miller, Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, and Aroldis Chapman have become stars due to the growing importance of relievers in today’s game. Relievers have the ability to throw max effort for an inning or two, which can be devastating for the opposing hitters.

Starting pitcher usage dramatically decreased between 2015 and 2016 and the trend looks poised to continue. Starting pitchers averaged 5.81 innings pitched per game started (IP/GS) in 2015 and that decreased to 5.65 IP/GS in 2016. Once again, last year there was major decrease to 5.51 IP/GS. Entering Thursday’s games, the average for this year was 5.43 IP/GS.

For context, the Marlins have an average starting pitcher usage of 5.37 IP/GS. This is mainly due to the Marlins not possessing the starting pitching strength to go deeper into games, but it still puts a lot of emphasis on bullpen strength in order for the Marlins to hold leads and win games.

Relievers are beginning to rule baseball and the Marlins may have found their own “relief ace” in Tayron Guerrero. Guerrero is 6-foot-8 and he brings the heat. He was acquired from the Padres in the 2016 trade that included Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea. Since then, he has increased his fastball velocity by more than four miles per hour. He has topped out at over 100 mph on his fastball this year and ranks second in the league in average fastball velocity (min. 25 results) behind Aroldis Chapman. Those are elite numbers and his fastball velocity has been a big reason for his success so far this year.

Although Guerrero overpowers opposing hitters with his fastball, it may not even be his best pitch. Through 12 13 innings this year, he has dramatically increased the usage of the slider and the results are proving it to be a wise decision. He is getting hitters to whiff on his slider 35% of the time. For comparison, Kershaw’s curve and Kluber’s slider only have a 23% whiff rate. Those are two pitches that are considered the best in the league and Guerrero’s slider is outperforming both pitches easily.

In the future, I would like to see Guerrero increase his slider usage even more. It would allow him to become less predictable and showcase the wipeout pitch, much like Chapman has done this year going to his slider more and more.

The peripherals look amazing for Tayron. Although he carries a 5.11 ERA, his 2.77 FIP and 2.22 xFIP indicate that he has suffered from some bad luck early on in 2018. As the season continues, maintaining this level of performance will improve his ERA. Should the right-hander maintain his 40% K rate, he will remain among the league leaders in that category.

Marlins fans should be very excited for what Tayron Guerrero brings to the Marlins. Controllable through at least the 2023 season, he can hold down their bullpen during their current rebuild, or prove to be a very valuable trade chip when the deadline comes around in July.