The National League East might just contain three or four of the best pitching rotations in Major League Baseball. The Miami Marlins have made two major upgrades to their starting rotation for 2012–Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. How the rotation order will fall for Opening Day is Ozzie Guillen’s decision, Marlins Insider host Glenn Geffner says.
On his weekly radio show, Geffner was confronted with many commenters on the Zambrano trade, most of whom had positive comments. He said it is clear that Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle will be one-two, but “how the three, four, five stack up will be Guillen’s decision.”
As of right now, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, and Carlos Zambrano look like the three through five pitchers in the rotation. The vibes coming from the Marlins front office seem to indicate that this is Ozzie’s team, Ozzie’s lineup. So how he decides to place those three pitchers is his own decision.
The makeup of the Miami Marlins’ rotation right now is better than it has ever been in the franchise’s 20 years. Looking back just three years, let’s see how far we’ve come. In 2009, Ricky Nolasco was the number one starter, the ace, the leader of the rotation. The injury-prone Anibal Sanchez looked like he was going downhill, as he had not yet matched his career high 10 wins (2006). Chris Volstad was inconsistent in his sophomore year, and the rest of the rotation was uncertain for the entirety of the season. The rotation’s only bright spot in 2009 was Josh Johnson’s emergence as an ace, the position which he took up in 2010 and 2011.
Nolasco, who is still on the search for consistency, will start the season at number four of five most likely. Nolasco was just as inconsistent in 2008 as he was in 2011. The only difference is, this year he will be debuting in his rightful place at the back of the rotation. Ricky can be a great pitcher at times, and I think as a number four starter the pressure will not be there and he will find his comfort zone. Nolasco four and Zambrano five, “arguably the best four-five in the [MLB],” Geffner said.
After about the first month of the season, however, ones may look like threes, fours may look like minor leaguers, and, who knows, fives may look like aces. Injuries begin to sideline starters, and, “fives don’t always match up against other teams’ fives,” Geffner said in reference to Zambrano, “it’s just a number [for the start of the season].”
Geffner had Chicago’s Bruce Levine on the show later to discuss Zambrano’s future with the Marlins. He said Zambrano is a wonderful person off the field, he’s “involved with church and charity,” contrasting with his colorful, “controversial,” on-field personality, described by Levine as “exciting.” Zambrano is exciting indeed. He has always been a fan favorite as an all-around athlete. Zambrano leads all current major league pitchers with 152 career home runs, with a single season-high 23 in 2007. His incredible batting talent, along with the righty’s ability to throw “75-80 mph left-handed,” Levine said, makes him, “one of the top two or three baseball athletes of the last 50 years.”
Despite his athletic ability, Zambrano’s hot temper has jeopardized his baseball career. But Levine said that Carlos’ salvation might be his new manager, Ozzie Guillen. “Ozzie might be the best person to handle [Zambrano],” during the moments in which Carlos loses his focus. Guillen and Zambrano are great friends, and unlike Zambrano’s last manager Mike Quade, Guillen can “lay down the hammer,” and might be able to control Zambrano’s temper.
Levine also said that the key to Zambrano’s future will be whether or not he “has enough stuff left.” Five years ago, Zambrano could throw 95 mph, and when he got into trouble he could just “blow guys away.” But he no longer has that ability, meaning he will have to be “crafty and creative,” and keep his focus, in order to succeed.
The Marlins’ rotation of Johnson, Buehrle, Sanchez, Nolasco, and Zambrano is comparable to the best of the best in the Major Leagues, and they will certainly compete in the NL East. The best part about it is, three-fifths of the five-man rotation made their major league debut with the Marlins. With homegrown, all-star, and colorful talent, Miami’s pitching rotation will look to compete in 2012, and we’ll see if they can live up to potential, and fill up the new stadium.