The Marlins strike out a lot. This isn’t just a “hey, that’s a lot of strikeouts,” this is a monolith of strikeouts. Four of their starters topped 100 last year, none had fewer than 81. And that was a good season for them.
In 2008, the Marlins came close to breaking the record for most strike outs by a team in baseball history, striking out an incredible 1,371 times, a record set by the 2001 Brewers’ awful 1,399.
Why bring this up now? Well …
Today, a knuckleballer (the Dodgers’ Charlie Haeger) struck out 12 Marlins in 5 innings. That isn’t normal. Knuckleballers give up weak ground balls, give up fly balls, give up walks, give up home runs. They don’t strike out anyone. The best part was the Marlins began walking when all of a sudden they figured out they didn’t have to swing at every pitch.
Maybe the best part is that the Marlins haven’t faced much in terms of pitching. Here’s who they faced (how many strikeouts the starter got / the starter’s career K/9 / how many strikeouts the Marlins had in the game).
Johan Santana (5, 9.1, 7)
John Maine (3, 6.1, 7)
Jonathan Niese (3, 8.2 (in minors), 3)
Hiroki Kuroda (7, 6.1, 10)
Vicente Padilla (6, 6.2, 9)
Charlie Haeger (12, 6.6, 13)
So six games played, 8.17 K/9 for the Marlins batters. (That 2008 Marlins team averaged 8.42; 2001 Brewers, 8.64). They haven’t even been facing optimal pitching talents. Santana’s just back after an injury sidelined him for most of 2009, John Maine is John Maine, Niese is a prospect with a ways to go and the three Dodgers are the back end of the rotation. Best of all, with the exception of Santana’s 7.9 K/9 last year, all of these pitchers had below league average K/9 in 2009. How hilarious is that. What’s gonna happen when the Marlins start facing pitchers with league average K/9?
The Marlins have averaged 1,294 strikeouts the last four years. They had the second-most in history in 2008, and then dropped to a somewhat normal 1,226 in 2009, but a number of last year’s lower K-rate batters have been replaced. Jeremy Hermida’s meager 101 strikeouts from last year will be replaced with Cameron Maybin, who had 50 strikeouts in 200 PAs in the majors last year and 125 strikeouts in 450 plate apperaances in AA. Dan Uggla and the platoon of John Baker/Ronny Paulino behind the plate gives them at least another 300 combined. Imagine Cody Ross puts up 125 or so. Then throw in Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu posting in the low 100s and Gaby Sanchez’s likely 100 K finish (~75 in 500 PAs in the minors). If Chris Coghlan posts 80, that’s 955 in the bank from the position players. Throw in another 150 or so from the pitcher’s spot. And another 150 from the bench players and another 50 from the bench spot you give up from Maybin playing center field now. So they’re in the ballpark of 1,300. If Uggla, Baker/Paulino and Ross overachieve, they could break the 1,400 barrier.
Take into consideration that the Phillies also upgraded their starting pitching to include Roy Halladay, the Nationals will have a full year of Jordan Zimmermann and Strasburg’s high K-rate will be in the majors before year’s end, Johan Santana will likely pitch 200-220 innings this year after 166 last year and the Braves will have replaced Vazquez’s 2009 year with a reasonable 2010 Tommy Hanson fill-in.
Obviously it’s way, way early for any kind of talk like this, but I like kicking around these ideas.