Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Florida Marlins 2008 Preview: Oh Give Me a Home

2007...the year that sucked/was groovy (pick one)

The 2007 Marlins pulled off the amazing feat of having two of the top five players in their league in the lineup all year long and still being a terrible team. Outstanding years by Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez and support from Jeremy Hermida, Josh Willingham, and Dan Uggla gave the team a formidable offense, but the pitching staff was easily the worst in the league. No one who started as much as a single game for the Fish posted an ERA of under 4.65. Over the winter management traded away the Marlins best player and best known pitcher for one super prospect and one good one and signed a fossil to crowd the outfield picture. Of more interest to team ownership, they appear to have finally won their heroic struggle for public funding from the taxpayers of Miami and Dade County for a new cash cow ballpark.

They can put it on the board, yes! no! maybe!

They certainly did it well in 2007, finishing sixth in the NL in runs scored while playing in park that was basically neutral. The trade of Cabrera pretty much eliminates any chance that the 2008 team will do the same.

CF Cody Ross
2B Dan Uggla
SS Hanley Ramirez
RF Jeremy Hermida
LF Josh Willingham
1B Mike Jacobs
3B Dallas McPherson
C Mike Rabelo/Matt Treanor

This still isn't a bad lineup without Cabrera, just not a great one and not one that will be outscoring the Phillies or Mets or Braves. Ramirez pretty much does it all at the plate, compiling both 83 extra base hits and 51 stolen bases. Hermida came on strong in the second half and slugged .501 for the season. Uggla has good power for a second baseman but doesn't really have the OBP to bat second. Ross will get a chance to play center and lead off based on his .411 OBP in 66 games last year, but nothing in his previous major or minor league record indicates that he can repeat this. Alejandro De Aza is younger and a better prospect but was overmatched at the big league level last year and needs more minor league time.

Pitchers, or belly itchers?

Marlins starters were about as bad as can be last year. The effects of Joltless Joe Girardi's scorched earth run to 78 wins in 2006 left the young staff burned out, injured, and ineffective for 2007. Of course, that wasn't Girardi's problem. Woe unto you, Phillip Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy! A comparison of 2006/2007 ERAs:

Dontrell Willis: 3.87/5.17
Scott Olsen: 4.04/5.81
Josh Johnson: 3.10/7.47 and hurt
Ricky Nolasco: 4.82/5.48 and hurt
Anibal Sanchez: 2.83/4.80 and hurt

The bullpen for the Marlins was outstanding; it had to be, or they'd have given up eight runs a game.

SP Scott Olsen
SP Sergio Mitre
SP Andrew Miller
SP Mark Hendrickson
SP Ricky Nolasco/Rick VandenHurk

CL Kevin Gregg
RP Matt Lindstrom
RP Taylor Tankersley

No one among the starters took a step forward in 2007 and it's not easy to pick out one who seems likely to do so this year. Miller has the best breakthrough potential of the lot but was clearly not ready in his 2007 callup with Detroit. Olsen, Mitre, and Nolasco have good arms but will need to gain consistency and better command, which takes time. The bullpen should remain a little known plus.

Witnesses for the defense

I don't think that these guys were witnesses, I think that they were the defendants. The 2007 Marlins were the worst fielding team in the NL, finishing last in both defensive efficiency and fielding percentage, and by fairly substantial margins. Ramirez and Uggla are as bad a keystone pair as you can imagine, and Jacobs isn't exactly Keith Hernandez at first. Willingham is a converted catcher playing the outfield. The Marlins didn't really have a center fielder; ironically, the best of the guys they did use defensively was converted infielder Alfredo Amezega, who can't hit. There aren't any substantial changes to the lineup, so this year's defense should be about as bad. That doesn't help the struggling pitching staff any.

Farm aid

The Cabrera trade yielded a potential superstar in center fielder Cameron Maybin. As Homer Simpson once asked of donuts, scouts wonder, "Cameron Maybin, is there nothing you can't do?" He has power, should hit for a high average, runs like a deer, and has a great arm. However, he really should start this season at triple A; he jumped from double A to the Tigers last year but did not play well at the major league level. Pitcher Gaby Hernandez could help the rotation at some point this year. The rest of the better prospects are all at the AA level or lower and there is no reason to rush them.

Watch out for that tree!

I have no idea why management wanted Luis Gonzalez. Yeah, he's a great guy and all, but he's slugged under .450 in each of the last two years and at age 40 is more likely to free fall than to rebound.

I can make a hat, or a broach...

...but I can't make any kind of a case for the 2008 Marlins being a .500 baseball team. There is certainly plenty of talent here, but much of it is damaged (the starting pitchers), not ready (Maybin), or flawed (Willingham, Uggla, even Ramirez as a shortstop). Even if the young starters do begin to improve, which they certainly might, the defense will not be doing them any favors. These fish will swim in the depths of the NL East standings. But at least we can all be happy that Jeffrey the Destroyer Loira will get a public handout.

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