The success of this team is not going to be based on its offense, its defense or even, for a change, its bullpen. It will be based on how consistent their starting pitching can be.
This season, like last season, the Marlins are starting out short-handed as most of their rotation is out with injuries. Sergio Mitre is out with a strained forearm, Anibal Sanchez has undergone shoulder surgery while Josh Johnson, arguably the staff ace, had Tommy John surgery.
The new rotation for this season is going to be free agent Mark Hendrickson, followed by Rick Vandenhurk, Andrew Miller, Scott Olsen and Ricky Nolasco.
Last season, the Marlins were hard pressed to get into the 7th inning with any starter not named Dontrelle Willis: and even the now-departed D-Train had his struggles.
The starting five is not going to turn heads with name dropping. Unless you’re a die hard baseball fan and you probably won’t recognize the names of Mark Hendrickson or Andrew Miller. Rick Vandenhurk might only be recognized by his native Netherlands and the few dedicated Marlin fans here at MarlinsNation.
One of the more established members of this staff is now Scott Olsen. Olsen has had success and is no longer considered a prospect. He was 12-10 in 2006 with 166 Ks in 180.2 IP with a 4.04 ERA. Yet last season, he regressed a bit. His walks went up (85BBs) while his Ks and his IP went down (133Ks in 176.2 IP). His ERA also shot up to 5.81.
Olsen also had some off the field problems that only contributed to his rough season last year. Hope is renewed and the Marlins are expecting him to take another step forward this season and get back on track to being the promising lefty he was shaping up to be after the 2006 season. Another benefit for Olsen could be the return of Mark Wiley, the Marlins pitching guru that was dismissed a few seasons ago in favor of Rick Kranitz when Joe Girardi was hired as the Marlins manager. Wiley helped Dontrelle Willis get back on track a few seasons back and is being expected to do the same with this young staff.
Andrew Miller has a lot to prove as a highly-touted pitching prospect coming out of the Tigers’ system. The stakes are raised a bit more as he is one of the two main assets the Marlins received in exchange for Willis and Miguel Cabrera. He seems to have control problems and the Marlins main focus this season, with the return of Wiley, is to throw strikes.
If Miller falters, there is always Gaby Hernandez and Chris Volstad waiting to step in and give it a go.
Yet the challenge will be getting consistency out of the starters this season. The bullpen was very much improved but also a bit overworked last season. With consistency, the Marlins pitching can remain in their usual roles which could lead to more wins. But will it be enough to improve on a 71-91 season of a year ago?