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Big Four in Florida?


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February 24, 2011

By David Marcus

MarlinsBaseball.com Writer

 

This offseason, the talk of the baseball world was about Cliff Lee joining the Philadelphia Phillies, creating a powerhouse rotation of Lee, Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels. That’s a combined 553 wins, 3 Cy Young Awards, 12 All Star game appearances, and a 20-8 postseason record. Journalists, fans, analysts, coaches, even players around the baseball universe are already calling this the best rotation of all time. How is it possibly for any team to compete with that?

 

While the Marlins starting rotation may not have that kind of resume, there is still reason to be optimistic. The top four Marlins pitchers (Johnson, Nolasco, Vazquez, Sanchez) have all shown the ability to put up the kind of numbers that rank them among the best in baseball.

 

Josh Johnson is without a doubt the ace of this staff. After an outstanding rookie season where he posted a 3.10 ERA, Johnson went into the 2007 season with high expectations. However, lingering elbow problems forced him to have Tommy John surgery, which led to him missing the rest of the 07 and most of the 08 season. After returning to the rotation, Johnson showed why he was so highly regarded, striking out batters at an impressive rate while showing his durability by pitching over 200 innings in 2009. Last season, Josh Johnson was one of the best pitchers in baseball, compiling a 2.30 ERA while baffling hitters all season with a high 90s fastball and a vastly improved slider. This offseason, Johnson has followed an exercise regimen usually practiced by mixed martial artists. He feels that the intense nature of these workouts will improve his endurance and help him deal with the wear and tear that goes along with a 162 game season.

 

Anibal Sanchez is coming off a season where he posted a highly respectable 3.55 ERA. Other than the fact that his numbers were above expectations, Anibal proved that he is able to pitch at a high level after undergoing labrum surgery in 2007. Outside of Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez was the Marlins most consistent pitcher last season. He pitched at least 6 innings in 24 of the 32 games he started while giving up 3 runs or less runs in 20 of them. There are still questions about whether Anibal can maintain this kind of performance this season, but based on his numbers previously and the fact that he is completely healthy heading into the season, there should be no reason why he shouldn’t be able to have a mid 3 ERA with 180+ innings pitched this season as a #3 or #4 pitcher.

 

Javier Vazquez is one of the the wild cards in regards to this rotation. Vazquez is coming off a dreadful season. He had a 5.32 ERA, and for the first time since his second season in the majors that he didn’t pitch at least 198 innings. His season was a far cry from his 2009 season, where he finished 4th in the NL Cy Young voting. Despite questions about his decrease in velocity from his time with the Braves and his inability to get left handed hitters out (as well as his age), the Marlins decided to offer him a 1 year, $7 million contract. Wanting to be closer to his family, Vazquez decided to go to the Marlins over more lucrative offers elsewhere. Despite his poor 2010 season, the Marlins are banking on the fact that Yankee Stadium tends to inflate pitchers numbers. Considering the consistent performance he has had throughout his 12 year career, Marlins fans should consider Vazquez’s 2010 season to be simply a blip in the road. Now that he has moved to pitch in the vastness that is Sun Life Stadium, fans should be prepared to see another 200 IP season from Vazquez and a solid improvement from last year.

 

The final piece to this puzzle is Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco proved he could be brilliant at times, becoming the ace of the staff in 2008 and pitching an impressive 212 innings. When the 2009 season started, there were very high expectations of Nolasco. He was expected to help lead this team to possibly a playoff spot, pitching at an all star caliber level and earning himself a long term contract. However, things just didn’t work out that way. He crumbled under the pressure, posting an ERA near 6 and even got himself demoted to the minors midseason. Nolasco has been nothing short of inconsistent these last two seasons. One day he is dealing, striking out batters with ease, while other days he looks completely lost, giving up home runs left and right. Despite the inconsistency, the Marlins decided to give Nolasco a 3 year extension in hopes that he will finally harness all that talent and uses it day in and day out. The great thing about Ricky Nolasco is he’s shown the ability to be dominant, so the team is not banking on a false hope. We’ve seen him strike out 16 Braves hitters, which includes future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. He’s got the right pitches, the right command, and the right attitude, all he needs to do is use all of those right attributes together, and he could possibly reach Josh Johnson caliber someday.

 

When looking at the Phillies rotation, you see the stats, the accolades, and the experience. They will have the media at their fingertips all season. However, all they have to do is look within the division, and they will find there isn’t just a single “Big Four� rotation in baseball. Right now, there are a lot of questions surrounding the Marlins rotation. Johnson, Nolasco, Vazquez, and Sanchez all have issues that should make Marlins fans question whether sometimes there really is truth in advertising. Sanchez has been sold as an arm ready to collapse due to his labrum surgery. Vazquez has been sold as a pitcher past his prime looking for a final paycheck. Nolasco has been sold as an pitcher unable to decide whether he is ready to take the next step or just be content with being mediocre. And Johnson is sold as an elite pitcher, but many still question his ability to make it through an entire season healthy.

 

Yet, when you look at this group as a whole, you see a rotation ready to pounce, one that is ready to take over the NL East. While being under the radar may not always be fun, it is usually the means to success. This past season, we saw the Rangers go to a World Series when for the majority of the season their rotation consisted of guys like Derek Holland, CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, and Tommy Hunter. Although these guys weren’t big names, they did an effective job in leading the Rangers to a division title and eventually an AL pennant. Just like that rotation, the Marlins may not be flashy, but all four of these guys will be effective. Although JJ, Nolasco, Vazquez, and Sanchez all shouldn’t be expected to all perform at a Cy Young level, we should expect a rotation that is capable of leading the Marlins into October.

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call me crazy, but i liked the way that chris volstad was pitching in the 2nd half...a better bullpen will make the starters look good...so will actually playing defense...im ready for a good year...and who knows...maybe my cousin makes his debut in florida...or at the sox...oh god that would be sweet and bittersweet at the same time

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call me crazy, but i liked the way that chris volstad was pitching in the 2nd half...a better bullpen will make the starters look good...so will actually playing defense...im ready for a good year...and who knows...maybe my cousin makes his debut in florida...or at the sox...oh god that would be sweet and bittersweet at the same time

 

Sorry for being ignorant, but who is your cousin, sir?

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call me crazy, but i liked the way that chris volstad was pitching in the 2nd half...a better bullpen will make the starters look good...so will actually playing defense...im ready for a good year...and who knows...maybe my cousin makes his debut in florida...or at the sox...oh god that would be sweet and bittersweet at the same time

 

Sorry for being ignorant, but who is your cousin, sir?

ah...sorry...i used to post here more often

 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=locke-001jef

 

his name is jeff and in the pittsburgh organization right now...he is a big call of duty fan and so is his roommate, justin wilson(who was the winning pitcher in the 08 college world series i believe)...good guys who love killing digital people and mowing down batters from the southpaw side of life!

 

oh...and he mentioned me to scott olsen during stretching...haha...scott said "a marlins fan in massachusetts? he must be irish and not fond of the sox"

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call me crazy, but i liked the way that chris volstad was pitching in the 2nd half...a better bullpen will make the starters look good...so will actually playing defense...im ready for a good year...and who knows...maybe my cousin makes his debut in florida...or at the sox...oh god that would be sweet and bittersweet at the same time

 

 

 

Your not crazy at all. I agree Our entire rotation will be great

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Highly doubtful the ENTIRE rotation will be great. Rarely are there rotations that has 5 great pitchers. Considering our rotation isn't the mid 90s Braves rotation, I'm going to say it's safe to say at least one of Johnson/Sanchez/Nolasco/Vazquez/Volstad will disappoint us.

 

More than likely, at least two of them will. Alex Sanabia can step in for any one of them that gets injured or fails to meet certain expectations.

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Ahh right, Jeff Locke. I remember him now. :)

I hope to see him this year, then! :D

 

me too...just not against my beloved marlins

 

and id hate to see him have to go against the sox so soon in his professional career being a new hampshire kid and all

 

but thanks and go fish!

Maybe he'd strike out the side twice against Boston with the adrenaline rush. Oh snap.

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Ahh right, Jeff Locke. I remember him now. :)

I hope to see him this year, then! :D

 

me too...just not against my beloved marlins

 

and id hate to see him have to go against the sox so soon in his professional career being a new hampshire kid and all

 

but thanks and go fish!

Maybe he'd strike out the side twice against Boston with the adrenaline rush. Oh snap.

one could only hope...he was amazing against the sea dogs last year right before the playoffs...7 ip,8 k's, 3 hits, 1 bb and no runs

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