I know that at 9:00 in the morning most of you are still looking back at last night’s action instead of ahead to tonight’s, but sorry, I can’t wait. I’m rather excited about Roy Halladay and the Phillies facing Josh Johnson and the Marlins.
It was a little less than a year ago when these two faced off in what turned out to be Halladay’s perfect game. Lost in that was the fact that Johnson had a nice game himself, giving up only an unearned run in seven innings of work. Also lost in that was the fact that the two faced each other two weeks later, with Johnson beating Halladay and the Phillies 2-0. Further lost in that is the fact that it was Johnson, not Halladay, who led the league in ERA last year (2.30 to 2.44). Johnson was also right behind Halladay in WAR for pitchers (7.2 to 7.0).
Which isn’t to say that they’re entirely comparable. Halladay is the better pitcher at this moment in time, and I presume that approximately 100 out of 100 people would chose him over Johnson if Earth needed to win one game against the Martians in order to save humanity.
But the gap is smaller than you think, and with Johnson being six years younger than Halladay, there will come a time when he takes assumes the role of the NL East’s top dog. Just as, with the Marlins’ youth and talent, there may very well come a time when they take that title from the Phillies as a team as well.
First pitch is at 7:10 PM Eastern.
The Marlins are intent on adding one of the three best relievers available on the free agent market, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Those three, of course, are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon.
As Ashley noted earlier, Melancon is reportedly fielding multiple four-year offers in excess of $60 million. The price tags for Chapman and Jansen are likely to match or exceed that. The Marlins haven’t typically been eager to whip out the checkbook for free agents but with the bullpen being the name of the game in baseball these days, GM Michael Hill may feel the need to match his rivals.
The Nationals, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers are the teams most often linked to the “big-three” group of relievers, so it won’t be easy for the Marlins.
A.J. Ramos handled the closer’s role for the Marlins this past season and did an admirable job, saving 40 games with a 2.81 ERA and a 73/35 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. There’s no doubt, though, that Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon would represent a significant upgrade in the ninth inning.
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Reds manager Bryan Price is likely going to use a trio of pitchers in the closer’s role: Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani, and Michael Lorenzen. At RedsFest on Saturday, Price said:
I’d say right now that we have a series of guys that I’m comfortable with in the ninth inning and that would include (Raisel) Iglesias, (Tony) Cingrani and (Michael Lorenzen). Should we stay with this format – which I intend to do – all three of those guys and maybe more could have opportunities in save situations. At this point in time, there’s no defined closer. There are multiple options and I’d like to stick with the philosophy that we’re going to have our multi-inning guys, so we’re going to need multi-closers.
This seems to be part of the new bullpen zeitgeist in which managers are shying away from strictly-defined roles for their relievers. Indians manager Terry Francona’s postseason success using Andrew Miller likely had some degree of influence on Price’s willingness to go with a three-headed giant.
Iglesias started the 2016 season in the Reds’ rotation but missed two months with an injury, then moved to the bullpen in late June. Price put him in the closer’s role down the stretch in September. The right-hander overall finished the season with a 2.53 ERA and an 83/26 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings.
Cingrani battled control issues in his 63 innings of work this past season, finishing with a 4.14 ERA and a 49/37 K/BB ratio. He’s left-handed, though, and gives Price some matchup flexibility in the late innings.
Lorenzen impressed in his first full season as a reliever, ending the year with a 2.88 ERA and a 48/13 K/BB ratio in 50 innings. The right-hander uses a fastball that sits around 96 MPH on average along with a cutter and slider.