I tell ya, I woulda lost money if I had bet on the Marlins at the beginning of the season. No, not because they have failed to be a championship team. Rather, because I would have given them at least a year before the sell-off began, not less than four months.
Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante were traded. Hanley Ramirez is gone. Josh Johnson is being shopped (more on this in a few minutes). All of these may very well end up being wise baseball moves at some point down the road, but coming as they do after all of the money spent to benefit Jeff Loria and the Marlins by Miami taxpayers, all of the hype Loria created and basically demanded and all of the fan attention that, reluctantly, after years of having their hopes crushed by a penny pinching owner, was given to this team, this sell-off is an insult to Marlins fans.
This truly is remarkable. Between 2004 and 2011, the Marlins averaged the lowest payroll in all of baseball. Then they are handed a sweetheart deal on a new stadium, get everyone’s hopes up for the first time in nearly a decade and … after three-plus months, 40% of the rotation, the second baseman, the third baseman and possibly the closer are out the door. On a team that can more accurately be described as underperforming as opposed to fatally-flawed. A team that, if the roster they had three days ago was kept together, could reasonably be expected to play better baseball in the second half and into next season but now won’t get to.
Someone, somewhere, explain to me why anyone in Miami should give a flying fish about the Marlins? What possible reason should any baseball fan in south Florida have for giving a dime to a team run by Jeff Loria?
Last week, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reported that Astros starter and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander changed his mechanics in order to prolong his career. Specifically, Verlander lowered his release point from 7’2″ to 6’5″.
As Brooks Baseball shows, Verlander drastically altered his release point after being traded to the Astros from the Tigers on August 31, 2017. The change resulted in a huge bump in his strikeout rate. Verlander’s strikeout rate ranged between 16% and 27.4% with the Tigers, mostly settling in the 23-25% range. With The Tigers through the first five months of 2017, Verlander struck out 24.1% of batters. In the final month with the Astros, he struck out 35.8% of batters. He then maintained that rate over the entire 2018 and ’19 seasons with respective rates of 34.8% and 35.4%. Just as impressively, the release point also resulted in fewer walks. His walk rate ranged from 5.9% to 9.9% with the Tigers but was 4.4% and 5.0% the last two seasons with the Astros.
Verlander finished a runner-up in 2018 AL Cy Young Award balloting to Blake Snell before edging out teammate Gerrit Cole for the award last season. Despite the immense success, Verlander described his mechanics as unsustainable. Per The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan, Verlander said, “I changed a lot of stuff that some people would think was unnecessary. But I thought it was necessary, especially if I want to play eight, 10 more years.”
Verlander is 37 years old, so 10 more seasons would put him into Jamie Moyer territory. Moyer, who consistently ranked among baseball’s softest-tossing pitchers, pitched 25 seasons in the majors from 1986-2012. He threw 111 2/3 innings with the Phillies in 2010 at the age of 47 and 53 2/3 innings with the Rockies in 2012 at 49. But aside from Moyer and, more recently, Bartolo Colon, it’s exceedingly rare for pitchers to extend their careers into their 40’s, let alone their mid- and late-40’s.
The Astros have Verlander under contract through 2021. The right-hander will have earned close to $300 million. He’s won a World Series, a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, two Cy Youngs, and has been an eight-time All-Star. Verlander could retire after 2021 and would almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2027. That he continues to tweak his mechanics in order to pitch for another decade speaks to his highly competitive nature.