The 2010 Best Rotation for the Money Debate… Marlins Rotation Delivers Greatest Pitching Value

April 7, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

Well, the Florida Marlins are up to their old tricks again. The not-so-lovable cheapskates have again stockpiled talent in a very under-the-radar manner. While the offensive talent is debatable (for another day), the pitching rotation talent is secure. In fact, for the money, the Marlins have the best rotation in baseball.

For proof of my seemingly bold statement take a moment and review the salaries of each pitching rotation in baseball. The Yankees… it is hard to argue with the money that organization has spent on pitching considering it did earn a World Series championship. Still, $63M-plus is a lot of money just for pitching. The Cubs are laughably overpaying for that mishmash of talent that includes Carlos Silva as one of the more highly paid members of the staff. The top ten are all over $30M, 11-18 on the list all surpass $20M, and 19-27 all exceed $10M for a five-man rotation. The most value is found in the sub-$10M range.

Now, I have written here at The Sports Debates about how great I believe Seattle’s rotation is this season. I have also sung the praises of the San Francisco Giants. For me, however, the Marlins provide the most value. They feature a lot of talent considering the measly price tag of $9.6M for an entire five man rotation.

Josh Johnson ($3.75M committed for 2010 season) – when healthy – may be one of the top pitchers in the National League. The 2009 season finally yielded health and consistency for Johnson, who was able to squeeze in over 200 innings. Johnson struck out nearly 200 (191 to be exact) and had an impressive 3.23 ERA. The 15-5 record – along with two complete games – solidifies both his role as the staff’s ace and the fact that Johnson is still part prospect.

Former Chicago Cubs farmhand Ricky Nolasco ($3.8M committed for 2010 season) will prove the rule – just wait. What rule? The rule that ex-Cubs become great. Former Cubs’ minor leaguers, once traded, always seem to have nice careers (can you tell I’m a Cubs fan??). Nolasco battled injuries and confidence dips last season but often showed flashes of potential. In 2008 Nolasco posted a 3.52 ERA and notched 15 wins, very reachable goals for the hefty right-hander. Nolasco showed in the final two weeks of the 2009 season that he has the ability to be a dominant pitcher. In his last three outings he struck out 33 batters and gave up just five earned runs.

Third in the rotation is Anibal Sanchez ($1.25M committed for 2010 season), a young right-hander who already has a no-hitter under his belt. Like Nolasco, Sanchez has battled injury problems, having made only 32 starts in the last three seasons. Sanchez did, however, manage to make 16 starts in 2009 and post a promising 3.87 ERA. In his last seven starts in 2009 Sanchez had only one start that was not a quality start (going 4.2 innings in a game the team still won 11-3). In those same seven starts Sanchez only gave up 12 earned runs.

Fourth is the mercurial Chris Volstad ($420,000 committed for 2010 season). Many of you may know him as the pitcher who had a 2.67 ERA in April last season, when you most-assuredly picked him up off of waivers in your fantasy league. No doubt you were not too pleased when his ERA ballooned to nearly five in May, then nearly seven in June. He averaged an ERA of over nine in the last two months of the season. Nevertheless, if Volstad can extend his magical April touch to the rest of the season he will be tough to face.

Newly acquired Nate Robertson (who is still getting the vast majority of his salary paid for by the Detroit Tigers) is not being counted on to be a major contributor. But, because most of his cash is coming from Detroit, anything Robertson gives the Marlins is gravy. He will have the time to regain his pitching form without the high(ish) pressure and expectations in Detroit. If Robertson can stay relatively healthy and pitch 110 innings, the Marlins are getting another value-oriented contributor to the rotation.

The Marlins have a pitcher-friendly ballpark and a fast and athletic defense, too. The actual talent of the pitchers is, of course, the most important reason why the Marlins’ rotation provides the most bang for the buck. But when the pitchers are not getting strike outs, a speedy defense has their collective backs. The combination of pitchers with great stuff – even no-hitter stuff – and the defense behind them gives the Florida Marlins the best rotation for the money in baseball this season.

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