Floro’s 2023 has been ugly on the surface, but underneath the hood, advanced metrics illuminate that his impressive skill set is still intact.
“He’s up all night givin’ runs
I’m up all night and I’m bummed
He’s up all night, no fun
I’m up all night like he’s unlucky”
In an amalgamation of music and baseball, I’ve inserted Miami Marlins reliever Dylan Floro into a melancholy parody of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” Floro hasn’t exactly been a valuable contributor for the 2023 ballclub, especially not recently, but how much of that is actually his own doing?
Floro enters Wednesday with an uncharacteristic 4.54 ERA and 96 ERA+, on pace to be the worst marks of his career for any season in which he’s received more than a cup of coffee in the majors. Likewise, he’s yielding more hits (10.9 H/9) and total baserunners (1.49 WHIP) than we have grown accustomed to.
And yet, Floro’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is firmly under 3? Hey, that’s encouraging!
The veteran right-hander is preventing homers (0.5 HR/9) with exactly the same proficiency as he did from 2021-2022. A walk rate in the 78th percentile among MLB pitchers? An xSLG in the 85th? A barrel rate in the 96th?!? I think we’re onto something.
Dylan Floro’s third season in Miami is the not only the most unlucky of his career, but it may be the most unlucky campaign for any Marlins reliever…ever.
This has been such a stark departure from the first two seasons of the Floro-Marlins marriage. Among relievers with at least 100 IP between 2021 and 2022, Floro’s 2.91 ERA ranked 22nd, beating out the likes of Josh Hader (3.06) and Tyler Matzek (2.95). His Dolly the sheep-esque 2.96 FIP placed him 16th of the 106 qualifiers. For better or worse (but mostly better), Floro’s results matched his underlying performance.
Even in his first 9 appearances of 2023, opposing offenses failed to register a run—earned or unearned—on the ledger of the man affectionately referred to as “Flo.”
However, since being touched up by Atlanta for 3 runs on April 26, the narrative has taken a strange turn. We’ve seldom seen a season like Floro’s in Marlins history or in MLB history altogether.
Since the franchise’s inception in 1993, there have been 187 individual reliever seasons of at least 35 innings pitched in Marlins history. If we were to sort all of them by ERA-to-FIP gap, the largest underachiever is none other than Floro (1.76). In an ERA-only context, that’s the difference between 2023 Jakob Junis (4.55) and Floro’s terrific teammate, 2023 Tanner Scott (2.81).
Dating back to 1871—the first year in which we have even the scantest bit of statistical data for major league players—only 19 primary relievers with a comparable workload to Floro have finished with an ERA north of 4.50 despite a FIP south of 3.00.
Circling back to that April 26 inflection point, Floro has pitched to a 6.14 ERA in 29.1 IP over that span, with opposing offenses doing their Ty Cobb impersonation, hitting .359 with a .463 BABIP. Of the 203 relievers who threw at least 20 innings since, Floro’s ERA ranks 189th.
Let’s hold our noses and relive the aforementioned Atlanta game because it best exemplifies the limitations of a pitcher’s influence on a game.
Entering in the bottom of the 8th with Miami clinging to a 4-2 lead, Floro would immediately be greeted with a solo home run off the bat of Matt Olson. That long ball registered at just 91.5 miles-per-hour off the bat, and with an xBA of .060. Only 6 home runs across Major League Baseball all season were hit with a lower xBA than Olson’s. It was mere feet away from settling into the glove of Jesús Sánchez for an out.
Following Olson’s anomalous dinger, Floro induced an Austin Riley ground out. Amusingly, it had an xBA more than .100 points higher than the homer (.170).
He would soon be followed by a 67.8 mph single off the bat of Sean Murphy. If you thought an .060 xBA was low, then Murphy had his “hold my beer” moment when his hit registered an xBA of merely .050. Atlanta wasn’t done yet, though, as Eddie Rosario‘s 84 mph triple (.110 xBA) brought home Murphy for the Braves’ second run of the inning, tying the score at 4-4.
Next, Vaughn Grissom drove Rosario in with a single that left the bat at just 76.4 mph (.100 xBA) to put the Braves ahead for good.
When all was said and done, Floro had allowed 4 hits and 3 runs in just one-third of an inning. The average exit velocity of those 4 hits? 79.9 mph. The average xBA? .080. Floro entered with the objective of getting consistent, weak contact and he executed that plan, yet the baseball gods chose to “reward” him with a blown save and a loss.
If you treat this as Floro’s mulligan outing for the year and extract it from the record, there wouldn’t be much in writing about a pitcher with a 3.89 ERA over a near-40 inning span. It wouldn’t be a particularly extreme deviation from his career 3.11 ERA entering this season.
Although I have gone to great lengths to defend Floro, it should be noted in conclusion that relievers of the pitch-to-contact breed are resigning themselves to this kind of volatility. Seemingly innocuous balls in play can come with major consequences when clustered together. In the absence of whiffs, Floro can’t dictate the outcome of a game like many of his high-leverage brethren.