The Marlins set out to address a glaring problem this offseason: the bullpen. They acquired five new arms to help with relief and the results have been, well, pretty remarkable. The ‘pen has been excellent thus far this year, most recently demonstrated by an 8-0 shutout against Arizona on a bullpen day, a feat that would have been near impossible just eight months ago.
With a 3.67 FIP, the Marlins rank eighth among team bullpens. They also own the second highest K/BB ratio at 3.46. While their collective achievements are impressive, the individual contributions from the new acquisitions has propelled the team to these results.
No doubt, evaluating offseason moves just two months into the season is risky business. But if there’s anything I’ve learned as a Marlins fan it’s this: You have to board the hype train as soon as possible because odds are good that the ride will be short.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the major contributors to the bullpen’s recent success.
(New acquisitions in italics, stats as of 5/20)
Garcia was one of the best arms for the Marlins last year, working a late-inning role and setting up Brandon Kintzler. With Kintzler moving on this offseason, the role was open for competition. Garcia has settled into the closer role for the Marlins, and he has become the anchor of this bullpen. His WHIP is a miniscule 0.96, and he has struck out 25.5% of the batters he has faced. In a recent appearance against the Brewers, Garcia struck out the side to take the ballgame to extra innings.
Pop is perhaps the most surprising arm so far this season. A selection in the Rule 5 draft, Pop had a strong showing in Spring Training and made the roster. Pop worked a 1-2-3 scoreless inning in his MLB debut against the Rays on April 3. It remains to be seen whether he will remain a reliable bullpen piece. The stuff is there; four out of his 12 appearances have been multi-strikeout games. On the other hand, he owns an alarming 5.27 FIP and when the runs come, they come in bunches. For a pitcher who has never pitched above AA, the results we have seen so far from Pop this season merit a cautiously optimistic perspective.
Coming into the season, Bass was the favorite to land the closer role vacated by the departure of Kintzler. However, Bass struggled early in the ninth inning. In two of his first three appearances, he gave up a combined six runs and got pinned with the loss in both games. In the span of 14 appearances since that unfortunate start, Bass has given up just one earned run. He has found success as a setup man, typically inserted in the seventh or eighth inning.
All but three of Floro’s 21 appearances this season have been scoreless. Acquired in a trade with the Dodgers in February, Floro has become a reliable late inning option. The right-hander elicits soft contact and ground balls, while also sprinkling in strikeouts on the regular. Of the balls in play, 53% have been groundballs and just 18.6% have been hard hit. Floro averages nearly a strikeout per appearance, and to top it all off, he has one of the most unique pre-pitch routines.
Bleier is the go-to in tight situations when the game could get out of hand quickly. In a recent appearance against the Diamondbacks, Bleier (a ground ball pitcher), came in with the bases loaded and struck out the side to keep the Marlins in the game. He is a clutch pitcher that has been used in long relief in the past, but has mostly seen middle-inning, high-leverage situations this year.
Coming out of spring training, Bender was one of the top storylines for the Marlins. After several seasons in the Royals farm system, Bender pitched for the Milwaukee Milkmen in 2020, an independent baseball team. Bender impressed in Spring Training with the Fish this season, punching out 10 batters in eight scoreless appearances. The Marlins called Bender up on May 5, and he has six scoreless appearances and eight strikeouts to his name.
Detwiler has slotted into the early inning relief role and has two bullpen day starts. At 35, Detwiler is the oldest member of the pitching staff, and joins Bleier as one of two lefties in the bullpen. While his career is unremarkable, the last two years have been somewhat of a resurgence for Detwiler. This season, Detwiler has reintroduced a cutter, using it at a greater clip (37%) than any one of his other pitches over the past three seasons. Taking a look at his percentiles further highlights a higher level of play, as he is posting numbers that he hasn’t been remotely close to in the past.
|Highest percentile (2015-2019 seasons)
Curtiss plays the role of a middle reliever, typically coming in when the margin is great or the starter gets pulled early. Currently boasting a career-high K/9 of 11.49, Curtiss has worked out of several jams and has yet to walk a batter this season. Last year was his longest full season in the majors, pitching 25 innings for the Rays. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this value with an increased workload, as he is already at 15.2 innings pitched this season.
Acquired from Cleveland this offseason, Cimber has been an effective arm for Mattinly to deploy when the Marlins are behind or have a healthy lead. The sidearm pitcher utilizes just three pitches: fastball, slider, and sinker. However, these three pitches prove extremely effective from Cimber’s unique arm slot – Cimber averages a release height of 2.5 feet. With an FIP of 2.98 and a groundball percentage of 42.2, Cimber has been a solid option to throw hitters off balance and get outs.
Miami’s bullpen was bound to improve after numerous offseason acquisitions. Last year the Marlins faced a multitude of injuries, illness, and other hardships that resulted in countless pitchers getting innings at the big league level. Still, the improvement has been greater than expected, and the major players involved in the rebound bring renewed confidence in tight ballgames and key support for a limited offense. Time will tell if the bullpen can keep this up, but it sure looks like this group is built to last.
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