While we wait for the Marlins to shift out of neutral on the manager front and begin talking to candidates, a few of which are presumably occupied with the postseason, we turn our attention to Randy St. Claire, who completed his first season as Marlins pitching coach.
Looking at staff earned run average as a general guideline figure, the Marlins remained unchanged from 2009 and '10, ranking ninth both seasons in the National League. As a unit, Marlins starters ranked 11th in the NL. But consider: If you eliminate Nate Robertson and Andrew Miller -- unsuccessful left-handers who received 25 combined starts -- from the equation, the Marlins vault to fourth among NL starting staffs. Obviously, lots of starting staffs could probably make a similar claim by simply erasing the stats of one or two pitchers. But the point here is that merely finding an adequate fifth starter would make a huge difference. St. Claire deemed the starting staff a success while allowing that work needs to be done with the bullpen.
"The last month was kind of rough, losing J.J. (Josh Johnson) and Ricky (Nolasco)," St. Claire said. "But the starting staff, I was pleased with. (Anibal) Sanchez overcame the shoulder issues, pitched the whole year, and put up good numbers. (Chris) Volstad, I thought, improved a lot, made a lot of adjustments, and I think is on his way to becoming what everybody hopes he can be.
"For me, you've got four very solid guys who all won 11 or more games, which is big when your fourth and fifth guys are winning double digits and are over .500. You expect that out of your first three guys. But, when your numbers four and five can do it, then you're in good shape."
On the bullpen:
"The bullpen's early struggles hurt us a lot the first 2 1/2 months. They kind of got going the second half. But we had a low of blown saves (a league-league leading 25). If we can convert 10 more out of that 20-something that we blew, there you go. All of a sudden, you're near that 90-win mark. To me, that bullpen is the key to being successful, especially when you've got good starting pitching."
On the need for lefty relief improvement:
"It would be nice to have a couple of them (effective left-handed relievers), where you can really match things up, especially in the National League East with the Phillies and Braves. As the bullpen goes, I would see that need as a big area. It would be nice to have that tough lefty -- a couple of tough lefties -- coming out of that bullpen."
On a potential fifth starter:
"(Alex) Sanabia has done a nice job. As a young kid, he's done a tremendous job. He's probably established a good chance to come in to be one of the frontrunners fighting for that job. If he goes to spring training and throws the ball like he's thrown it here, you would think he would be the frontrunner."