I’m very excited to provide readers of AZ Snake Pit insights into the Marlins and Kim Ng, their GM. I tip my hat to our Jim McLennan who coordinated so that Alex Krutchick, on staff at our sister site, Fish Stripes, could provide answers to my questions.
Alex Krutchick has been a Marlins fan since he was born (1997), and a writer with Fish Stripes since 2018. He graduated from FSU in 2020. Now he spends his free time covering this interesting ball club.
He sent his answers via email. When his answers prompted thoughts in my mind, I looked further.
Makakilo (M): The Marlins’ player payroll has been reduced to rank 27th in the Majors, and this season is a rebuilding season. What do fans want to see this season? How will fans define a good season?
Alex Krutchick (AK): Fans want to see a competitive team. Of course they want to see positive development from the young guys, but this is now year four of the rebuild, and the team will need to finally start turning that development into wins. Fans aren’t demanding playoffs. But they need to be 1) competitive in every series they play, and 2) in the playoff hunt through all 162 games.
M: In addition to top prospects Jazz Chrisholm and Trevor Rogers who are in their second seasons, two young players were called up from the minors on April 24th and 28th - 21 year old Jose Devers and 24 year old Isan Diaz.
M: Are fans happy with the way GM Kim Ng rebuilt the bullpen with groundball pitchers?
AK: So far, the bullpen has been okay. Anthony Bass was our big groundball guy (and started off as our closer), but he blew his first two save opportunities. He’s been assigned to the 7th/8th inning role, and has excelled since. In my opinion, the bullpen is filled with a bunch of average/above average middle-inning guys, which is great. But there’s no true closer. Yimi Garcia is our current closer, and as good as he is, he’s not automatic in the way that a true closer should be.
M: Alex is correct that Yimi Garcia pitches very well. In his first 7 games as closer, Yimi Garcia was credited with 4 saves and 2 wins; the Marlins won all 7 games. In 7.1 IP, he allowed only 1 BB and 1 ER, and zero of his 2 inherited runners scored.
M: Looking beyond the closer, the bullpen is stingy with free passes. On 28 April, FanGraphs’ team stats showed Miami relievers with a 2.68 BB per 9 innings, the lowest in the Majors. Perhaps bases-on-balls will best reflect the battle between the Miami bullpen and Diamondback hitters, whose 10.6% BB% ranks 3rd/4th highest in the Majors.
M: Follow-up question: Is the bullpen an exception to the Marlin culture of “building talent within the organization?” Please consider two things before answering:
- On 26 April, the FanGraphs’ (Roster Resource) list of bullpen pitchers showed only one (Jordan Holloway) was developed within the Marlins organization. One was acquired in December 2019, and the rest were acquired very recently (November 2020 or later).
- On 30 March, Mike Hazen, the Diamondbacks GM said, “The goal shouldn’t be to rebuild the bullpen externally every year. There’s got to be opportunity for our young pitchers — starters especially that don’t find their way into the rotation right away – to still have opportunity to come here and pitch and get their feet underneath them at the Major League level.”
AK: As for the follow up question, I think it’s a little bit of an exception. Miami has made a few signings each year to bolster their bullpen. This is just my opinion (might be Miami’s opinion too) but I think relief pitchers’ production are so different from one year to the next that it’s better to sign the ‘hot hand’ instead of developing the next Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera.
M: Have Marlin fans posted praises and/or criticisms? Were their posts valid/reasonable?
AK: The biggest criticisms have been against the offense, and the lack of big signings to help booster the lineup. These criticisms were valid. Adam Duvall was the biggest acquisition of the offseason, and he’s been spotty. Since his insane series in Atlanta, he’s slashing .103/.103/.172 with 0 home runs in 8 games.
This offense has some talent on it. They’re not awful. But they need everyone to be firing on all cylinders at all times in order to put up runs. It’s not sustainable for your entire lineup to stay hot for 162 games. You have other teams whose lineups are so good, that they can have a couple slumping players and still churn out some runs, because everyone else in the lineup is so great. Miami is not one of those teams.
M: Alex, your description is on target! Miami fans who expected consistently better-than-average offense were disappointed. Their recent average of 4.22 runs-scored-per-game was close the 4.28 average in the Majors.
M: Which more aptly describes GM Kim Ng - changing the culture or working within the existing culture?
AK: A bit of both. What I mean is: she will work within the culture that Derek Jeter & Co. have implemented. But that culture in itself is a massive change from the last regime of David Samson and Jeff Loria. The current culture revolves around building talent within the organization and not making any blockbuster free agent signings.
M: Alex, you’re spot on. Roster resource listed 9 FA signings at the AAA level since November 2020. Of the 4 FA signings at the Majors level, only one was over $1 Million, Adam Duvall, who will earn about $7 Million this season in arbitration.
M: When is it appropriate to trade a top prospect for a player in the Majors?
AK: When you are on the doorstep of a championship. I’m not talking about being 1 game out of a wild card spot. I’m talking about running away with the division and having legitimate championship aspirations. The future is important, but a championship in the present is the main goal for every team.
M: It’s fortunate that the Marlins are focused on a championship when opportunity knocks because in the last 17 seasons, the Marlins only made the playoffs one time. That season was 2020, with a record of 31-29.
M: GM Kim Ng has said that “Failure is not an option for me.” And she got to where she is by being fearless. Can you shed light on these two imperatives?
AK: She entered a business 30 years ago that was even more male-dominated than it is now. It took guts to even try beginning her career, and now she is a GM. I would have to imagine there were many times where she might have wanted to give up. But she is still here, and I think the lessons she learned over the last 30 years will help ensure that she gets the most potential out of herself and others around her.
M: Negotiation is a second area in which her talent was recognized. My opinion is that another less obvious strength is she can see ground truth when it is hidden by smoke and mirrors.
M: Thank you Alex for providing Diamondback fans with insights into the Marlins and GM Kim Ng.