I understand that the Marlins don’t have a lot to fight for this season. The rest of the year will be dedicated to (1) developing core players like Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Jose Fernandez and Justin Ruggiano and (2) trying to hold on to whatever fan base they have left. But given that righty reliever Jon Rauch is already owed $1 million for the rest of the season (which is actually about 2.5 percent of the Marlins’ entire payroll for 2013), all Miami is doing by releasing him is allowing another team to get a quality reliever for next to nothing, as well as decreasing the quality of its own bullpen (which is currently 10th in the NL in ERA).
Before even looking at the quality of Rauch’s performance this season, let’s look to the quantity: He’s had 16.2 innings, which is a really, really small sample size to decide to let a player go during a historically poor season. You would think he’d get a little more time to straighten the ship given that Miami isn’t exactly in a rush to do anything, but apparently the front office has seen enough.
Now to the quality. Rauch has a 7.56 ERA, which is obviously awful. However, even a cursory look at his peripheral statistics will show you that he has simply gotten unlucky and is actually not pitching too poorly. Rauch is walking 3.78 batters per nine innings, which is significantly above his career and recent season average and is likely to drop. But he’s also striking out 8.10 per nine, which is also above his career trend but not likely to drop by much. That gives him a 4.22 xFIP, and a low home run per fly ball ratio puts him at a perfectly respectable 3.45 FIP.
So why the high ERA? His BABIP is at an absurdly high .393 (for his career it’s at .277), which is completely unsustainable and is probably compounded by Miam’s below-average defense. He also has a left on base percentage of just 57.4, a number far below league average that will almost certainly regress. Rauch is having a career high season in his groundball rate, which is absolutely fantastic for a pitcher, but grounders also have higher BABIPs than fly balls, which also helps explain his lack of luck.
ZiPS thins he’s good for a 3.91 ERA for the rest of the season, and Steamer is even more bullish with a 3.56 mark. Miami’s mistake will be some other team’s gain, and there’s one team in particular who makes a lot of sense for Rauch. He’ll find a major league spot somewhere.