Sep 23, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins relief pitcherSteve Cishek
(31) throws during the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Ballpark. The Marlins won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
3. Miami Marlins
If you go by a pitcher’s WAR statistic, the Miami Marlins had the second best bullpen in the National League, according to Fangraphs. The only team that had a higher bullpen WAR than Miami was the Washington Nationals. In fact, the NL East had four of the top five in that category.
Miami’s closer is Steve Cishek, who in my opinion, is one of the more underrated closers in the game. He has appeared in at least 67 games in each of the last three seasons. In 2014, he saved 39 games in 43 chances, had a ERA of 3.17 and a FIP of 2.17 (second lowest of any closer in the NL East). His strikeout rate has either stayed the same or increased in each of last four seasons, culminating in a 11.6 K’s per nine innings last year. It will be interesting to see if the 28-year old can continue his success in 2015.
As far as setup men go, Mike Dunn had 10 wins out of that spot. Dunn has appeared in 75 games in each of the last two seasons in Miami. Dunn also had a 10+ K’s per nine innings in 2014, but his walk rate is a major concern as he has a career 4.7 walks per nine in his six years in the league.
Miami made two interesting moves this offseason in trades for Aaron Crow and David Phelps. Crow was 6-1 with the Royals last year, but had a 4.12 ERA, only five K’s per nine innings and almost four walks per nine. As for Phelps. The 28-year old starter/reliever has a career ERA of 3.84 out of the bullpen, but has over two more strikeouts per nine than as a starter.
The key for the Marlins’ bullpen is to avoid giving up so many free passes. If they can do that, they can do better than Fangraphs’ #16 projection. Cishek is a great closer, but they need the setup men behind him to gain better command of their pitches.
Next: Number Two?