August 2013

Facts and fiction regarding Stanton trade rumors

PITTSBURGH — It’s a week after MLB’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, and still speculation circles around Giancarlo Stanton.

The fact the Marlins are at Pittsburgh didn’t help them go away, because the Pirates are one of the teams that checked in on Stanton’s availability.

Shortly after the July 31 deadline, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported the Pirates made a “substantial offer” for Miami’s 23-year-old slugger.

Recently, another report claimed the Pirates offered Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte, James Taillon and Stetson Allie for Stanton, Steve Cishek and Justin Ruggiano.

If so, that would have indeed been a blockbuster trade, and in interesting one considering it would have meant the Pirates were willing to part with their prize young pitching propsect (Cole) and leadoff batter (Marte).

But the fact is, such an offer was never made.

Not one, not two, not three, but four high-placed sources all claim such a proposal never took place.

“Absolutely not,” one source said with conviction.

Clearly, a number of teams in search of pop in their lineup made inquires. Other teams that were on the fence, checked in, because they didn’t want to be “blindsided” if the Marlins were indeed shopping Stanton.

Face it, if Stanton was on the market, the Marlins would have opened up the bidding to far more than one or two teams. The Red Sox, after all, were primed to make their pitch. So were the Nationals, and others.

Basically, the Marlins told interested clubs Stanton was not available, and no names were exchanges. Perhaps some general concepts were tossed around, like, it would take a couple of established big leaguers and a top prospect or two. But nothing like moving two core players from a playoff frontrunner for Stanton and more.

What is very real is the Marlins are hoping to build around Stanton, and the plan on discussing a multiyear deal with him after the season.

Stanton is headed for arbitration in 2014, and he would qualify for free agency after the 2016 season. Even if he says no to signing long-term, and he wants to sign year-to-year through 2016, the Marlins are hopeful to have Stanton in the middle of their order next season.

Also, what’s very real is Stanton is struggling at the plate, and he is the first to admit it.

“I haven’t shown up to play, all season,” Stanton told before Miami lost 4-3 to the Pirates on Tuesday. “And that’s the most frustrating thing in the world. I’ve probably had two 15 at-bat stints where I’ve played OK, and that’s it — all season. All [darn] season.”

Don’t misinterpret Stanton’s candor for him saying he hasn’t cared or properly prepared.

“Read it exactly how it is. I haven’t shown up to play,” the slugger said. “Did I prepare less? No. Did I care less? No. It just hasn’t been there. As the person that I am, and how prepared as I am, that’s unacceptable.”

— Joe Frisaro

Inside the numbers, Marlins

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — A little offense could go a long way for the Marlins.

Sunday was another frustrating afternoon, as the Marlins were blanked, 2-0, by the Indians in their series finale at Marlins Park.

The Marlins have now been shutout an MLB-most 13 times.

Unable to manufacture even one run wasted an impressive start by Nathan Eovaldi, who remarkably has not had one run of support in any of his last four starts.

In seven innings, Eovaldi yielded one run on his way to a loss.

With an inexperienced squad, the Marlins are certainly enduring their growing pains. Even so, their pitching has performed way above expectations, while their bats have lagged.

Consider, the Marlins have played 110 games and in 72 of them they’ve scored three runs or less.

Miami is a mere 13-59 when scoring three or fewer runs.

Overall, the Marlins’ 354 runs scored are last in the Majors, 40 behind the White Sox, who rank 29th out of 30.

Boston paces the big leagues with 568, and the Cardinals have the most in the National League with 549 runs.

As frustrating as it’s been at the plate, the reason why there is tremendous optimism surrounding the ballclub is the pitching.

When the Marlins pitchers allow three or fewer runs, the team is 35-21.

Overall, the Marlins have given up 439 runs on the season, the 11th fewest in the Major Leagues.

Breaking down the pitching even further, since May 30, when the team started to come together and perform better, the Marlins have allowed 207 runs, the sixth fewest in the Majors. Over the same span, Pittsburgh has given up the least amount of runs, 196.

Clearly, in their rebuilding process, the Marlins have an abundance of arms to lead the way. Eventually, if they are to become contenders in another year or two, the bats will need to scrape up enough runs.

Joe Frisaro

JoFz on pace to set team rookie K mark

MIAMI — At the rate Jose Fernandez is going, he should easily shatter the Marlins’ rookie strikeout record.

Barring any unforeseen setbacks, the 21-year-old will do so while not pitching at all in September.

Fernandez is currently third all-time on the Marlins’ rookie strikeout list with 138. The club leader is Scott Olsen, who had 166 in 2006. Dontrelle Willis is second at 142, so Fernandez should surpass that total next Wednesday at Pittsburgh.

Needing 28 strikeouts to catch Olsen over probably five more starts shouldn’t be an issue for Fernandez.

The Marlins have set a firm deadline to shut Fernandez down at around 170 innings. If he throws every fifth game, and he averages seven innings per start, the rookie’s last start could be Aug. 30 at Atlanta.

But that is assuming he isn’t pushed back because of off days or any other reason.

Fernandez turned in one of the greatest pitching performances ever by a Marlins’ rookie on Friday night. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out 14, a franchise rookie record.

Another Marlins’ milestone Fernandez reached is the most strikeouts in back-to-back starts. His 27 eclipsed Ricky Nolasco’s 23 in 2009.

Armed with a 97-mph fastball, coupled with breaking pitches he can throw for strikes in any count, should make Fernandez a candidate to post huge strikeout totals in his career.

“For sure,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “He’s got his secondary pitches. His command is solid. He’s able to move the ball in and out. And he’s got the ability to throw his breaking ball at a couple of different speeds. He can flip it in there for strikes, and when he needs a strikeout, he can throw it a little bit harder and make it spin a little bit tighter. He’s going to be a strikeout pitcher, just for sure.

“He puts pressure on you when you’re hitting. He gets ahead of you. With a couple of at-bats with those guys, he gets to 2-0 and then he’s able to throw his breaking balls for strikes. Most guys aren’t looking for a 2-0 breaking ball in that count. You’re looking dead-red for a fastball. Now, you’re back to 2-2. It seems like he’s able to lock it in and get it to that next level, whenever he wants.”

Joe Frisaro

JoFz Mania brings back memories of the D-Train

MIAMI — “Jose Mania” continues to build.

Jose Fernandez, the Marlins’ rookie sensation, takes the mound on Friday night in the series opener against the red-hot Cleveland Indians, riding a season-best eight-game winning streak.

Fernandez, who turned 21 on Wednesday, is garnering more and more attention with every outing.

In many ways, the passion Fernandez is creating rivals when Dontrelle Willis broke on the big league scene as a 21-year-old in 2003.

“He’s similiar,” said Juan Pierre, who witnessed both pitchers. “Jose is a high-energy guy. He brings out a few more fans to the game when he was on the mound. Dontrelle, he brought everybody to the game when he pitched. So there are a lot of similarities.

“Being young and energetic — running off the field, staying in the dugout after he comes out of the game, signing autographs. He’s always upbeat with the fans. It’s refreshing to see, that’s for sure.”

Back in 2003, “D-Train Mania” was the rage, as the left-hander energized the Marlins on his way to receiving NL Rookie of the Year honors.

While the 2013 Marlins are a young team with emerging, young talent, Fernandez has been a spark to the club’s turnaround after going 14-41 in April and May. Since then, the Marlins are 28-24.

Fernandez has been a big part of the team’s improvement.

Like Willis, Fernandez was named an All-Star as a rookie.

Fernandez also is putting himself in the conversation for NL Rookie of the Year. Chances are, he is a long shot, largely because the Marlins plan on shutting him down when he gets close to 170 innings.

In his first 20 starts, Fernandez has 119 2/3 innings. His 124 strikeouts match St. Louis’ Shelby Miller for most among NL Rookies.

If Fernandez averages seven innings over his next six starts, chances are he will be shut down at just over 160 innings in late August.

Fernandez’s 2.71 ERA is the lowest among rookie NL starters.

Pierre is impressed with how Fernandez has handled himself at such a young age.

“He was probably a little more reserved before that, because he was new,” Pierre said. “Now, he is more like, everybody knows him and his personality. It’s fun to watch.”

Joe Frisaro