Let’s face it, this is nothing short of biblical.
Right now, the Marlins starting staff is churning out impressive outing after impressive outing. It may not be the kind of starts that will get on ESPN – a rare feat for the Fish to get on ESPN to begin with – but they are the kind of starts a winning ballclub needs.
Who is most responsible? Not to be overlooked should be Mark Wiley, the Marlins pitching guru. He stopped being a coach and went straight to guru status once Andrew Miller started throwing strikes.
Now, let’s not downplay the talent on this starting staff. But let’s not play it up either. Mark Hendrickson was valued as a middle relief/long relief pitcher and signed with Florida because he had the opportunity to start. He was named their opening day starter and everyone practically laughed. Scott Olsen had a ton of question marks, most notably is he mature enough to play in this league and be a productive professional? Andrew Miller, despite his high draft pick, has been knocked for not having good control. Burke Badenhop was practically a throw-in, the kind though that the Marlins tend to make a killing on with other teams. Ricky Nolasco, in 2006, was looking very promising but until recently hasn’t produced much for the Marlins as a starter.
All this has changed and the Marlins are on a 7 game winning streak. Their staff ERA, over the last 7 days, is 1.67. That isn’t just the starters, but the entire staff. To start the season, it was clear the bullpen was going to do a lot of cleaning up. Yet, the starters had 3 new starters in their rotation (Hendrickson, Vandenhurk, Miller). Vandenhurk was sent down in favor of Badenhop, but all that has happened since is each starter has become more consistent. What is the secret? Wiley’s 10 commandments – because although we have joked that on the 7th day God created Mark Wiley, and some have joked the other way around, there is something miraculous going on here.
- Thou shall poundeth the strike zone
The starters’ strike percentage has risen to 63.2% which means they are less likely to be behind in the count – see commandment #4.
- Thou shall quicken thy pace
Olsen has been quoted as saying what has helped him has been picking up the pace. Miller did the same once he was struggling at the beginning of the season and it helped him keep his velocity up as well as stay focused.
- Thou shall have great command
Locating your pitches is more important than the velocity of those pitches according to Wiley. In fact, it is more about having command of your pitches. Just ask any pitcher that has ever been successful like Greg Maddux.
- Thou shall not get behind in the count
When pitchers fall behind in the count, they become easier for hitters to predict which means more likely to get blasted. Control your pitches, control the count, control the hitters.
- Thou shall trust your defense
The Marlins defense is not among the best, but they are capable and are improving. One example is their timely double plays, which have saved them in past starts. They are middle of the pack for DPs based on total chances (1368) and the total dps (31) resulting in 2.2 percent (league best is 3.2%).
- Thou shall not walk batters
Only 20 BBs in 54.0 IP. That is showing a big sign of improvement.
- Thou shall work on you defense
The starters are also very good athletes and can field the ball. This will help their own cause and something the Marlins starters – and relievers – have become more known for.
- Thou shall trust your pitches
Andrew Miller had to trust in his changeup. Ricky Nolasco has a nasty curve, but wasn’t throwing it for strikes. When both started to trust their pitches, better results came – and it was predicated on having good command, #3 on Wiley’s list.
- Thou shall trust in your bullpen
The bullpen is deep and has been a source of strength dating back to last season. When the starters struggled to start the season, it was the bullpen that bailed them out. And if things get too hectic out there, the bullpen can come in and slam the door. This is an extra source of confidence that should allow the starters to go out and be aggressive as their bullpen will be able to pick them up but so can their offense.
- Thou shall have no other coaches besides Mark Wiley
This needs no explanation, Marlin fans. Ever since Wiley left, and we were replaced by Kranitz, we had a string of success followed by injury and inconsitency. Dontrelle Willis was vaulted into Cy Young contention under Wiley’s tutelage.