Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Marlins Season Preview

Perhaps we're a little Marlin heavy recently, and that's just fine by me. I was really looking forward to the Deadspin Marlins season preview, but they got a damn bitter Mets fan to write it. There are certainly some negative things about the Marlins organization but I feel that the good far outweighs the bad.
The Marlins don't have typical baseball fans. We don't pack the stadium but we do watch and listen to the games. I don't want to turn this into a Defend the Marlins Fans post, but here's why actual stadium attendance is low.
1) 1997 firesale
2) 2005 firesale
3) Florida's summer weather consists of really hot broken up by thunderstorms
4) Dolphins Stadium has bad sitelines down the third and first base lines
5) Lack of a strong city identity

The Marlins are an exciting team because they're modern baseball on steroids(pun intended). They can start young, develop, win a World Series, sell off the players, rebuild, and win another World Series in the span of 6 years. It's like following a college team. The most important players for the Marlins in the past 10 years have been their scouts and Larry Beinfest. Despite all the heart-rending trades, they keep coming up with gold. The most notable example is of course that Dontrelle Willis was a "player to be named later" when they traded away then-ace Matt Clement. More recently, they got both Anibal Sanchez and 2006 Rookie of the Year Hanley Ramirez in exchange for Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett.

I think they have a reasonable shot of making the playoffs this season. Dontrelle Willis leads the rotation, followed by Scott Olson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco...and some guy who will probably turn out to be awesome, because that's how these things work. If Josh Johnson is able to successfuly return by mid-season, they will have one of the best rotations in the NL. In the bullpen they have Randy Messenger and Taylor Tankersley as the always underrated Middle Relievers(or "set up men"). Tankersley was very solid last season and Messenger did well too. As mehmattski touched on, they aquired Jorge Julio to close, which I'm sure will work out fine.
On the other side of the equation, the offense is lead by Miguel Cabrera. So much has been written about how special a player he is, so I'll only add a little more. He had an off year for home runs last year and "only" hit 26, but that didn't stop him from batting in 114 runs. Also, he hit for .339. The joke at the beginning of last season was that the best hitter after Cabrera was Dontrelle Willis(who hit a disappointing .172, but still hit 3 HRs including a grand slam against the Mets). By the end of the season that was certainly not the case as Hanley Ramirez(.292 119 R 17 HRs), Dan Uggla (.282 27 HR, 90 RBI), Josh Willingham (.277 26 HRs), and Mike Jacobs (.262 20 HRs 77 RBIs) stepped it up.
Everyone is talking about a sophomore slump for the rookies, but if the Marlins keep improving they are certainly a threat to make the playoffs. I predict they'll win around 87 games and flirt with a Wild Card spot. If they make the playoffs, it'll be from their pitching and you do NOT want to bet against the Marlins in the playoffs.

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