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Dwork On Sports: Marlins' Bullpen Issues Start With Cishek

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Welcome to the Dwork On Sports blog.  This is a place where I'll cover all things related to South Florida sports, with a steady combination of facts and opinions while ultimately keeping a close eye on anything and everything related to our local teams.

Dwork On Sports

It's been a very up-and-down season for the Miami Marlins thus far.  A 3-11 start wasn't ideal but when that was followed by a run of nine wins in ten games, it seemed as though the Fish were getting on the track that many thought they would be on in 2015.

Since then the team has been trading wins and losses on a fairly consistent basis, which is frustrating because it's clear that the team has all the components needed to be a playoff team.

The good thing is that we're only 32 games into a 162-game season and the main problems seem fairly simple to resolve.

The issue lately has been in the bullpen, especially on the back end.

Guys like Bryan Morris and A.J. Ramos have shown the same good components that saw them succeed with the Marlins in 2014 but the consistency has been lacking.

Mike Dunn has always been hit-or-miss, though the poor outings seem to be getting further apart.

Those issues aren't sinking the team though. Right now the main problem is with Miami's closer, Steve Cishek.

There was no question about Cishek as the Marlins closer heading into the season.  He's been extremely effective over the past two years, converting on 73 of his 79 save opportunities, though they never seem to come in 1-2-3 innings.

Therein lies the problem with Cishek. It's difficult to be a successful closer when you are constantly allowing runners to get on base.

His career WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched) is 1.20.  That's just not going to cut it over the long haul.

This season, as you can imagine, his numbers are pretty ugly.

After Sunday's blown save in San Francisco, his third in six opportunities this season, Cishek's ERA rose to 8.18 and his WHIP is up to 1.82.

While the 29-year-old has all the tools to be an MLB closer, his struggles this season have left him without anything to hide behind.

In the past he has survived allowing runners to get on base by producing a lot of ground balls and getting batters out at the plate.

Clearly, that hasn't been the case this season.  Opponents are slashing a staggering .277/.370/.489 against Cishek, which is a far cry from his career .225/.300/.323 numbers (which have been inflated slightly due to his struggles this year).

The bottom line is that Cishek just isn't getting the job done.

Can he turn things around? Absolutely.

He has the stuff to be a successful closer in the big leagues and the season is still young, but you can be sure that Mike Redmond isn't going to put up with the blown saves much longer.

Take a look at guys like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Michael Morse, who Redmond didn't take long to yank out of the lineup when their early season struggles didn't show any signs of improvement.

Unfortunately for Redmond and the Marlins, there isn't a clear-cut favorite to take on the closer role should Cishek prove unworthy of the task any longer.

This is likely the reason why Miami made a push to sign veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez during the offseason, but K-Rod elected to re-sign with Milwaukee.

One name on the Marlins roster that comes to mind is Sam Dyson, though he's still miles away from working in the ninth inning.

Dyson has good movement on his breaking pitches and a high 90's fastball but his location isn't there yet, and he can't seem to string together several good outings in a row.

It appears that Redmond is giving Cishek the chance to get his feet under him, which is due to the Marlins not allowing their closer many opportunities during the first few weeks of the season.

That probably isn't going to last much longer though, as we are now entering mid-May and the team can't afford to keep giving games away in the final inning.

Hopefully Cishek can bounce back and regain the form that has seen him be one of the more effective closers in the National League in recent years.

If he doesn't however, Redmond may need to adopt a closer-by-committee approach until someone proves worthy of the role.

For now the job remains Cishek's to lose.  One or two more blown saves will almost certainly change that.

Follow David on Twitter (@DavidDwork


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