01 May 2011
The Marlins ended April with a disappointing loss to the Reds on Saturday night, but that still did not stop the Marlins from having their winningest April in team history. Although with all the great things that the Marlins had go for them in their 16-9 start, there are areas that they need to improve.
The Bench Players- The Marlins have had a lot to deal with, with minor injuries to Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton and Chris Coghlan, Lorgan Morrison going to the DL, and having be take turns playing third base. That being said Emilio Bonifacio, Scott Cousins, Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs, and Brett Hayes have all played very well when asked upon. One month into the season, and these players have already have a combined 162 at bats, and they are hitting .309 with 3 home runs, 18 RBI, 25 runs, and 3 stolen bases. Unlike most bench players, these guys are not just coming in to pitch hit, they have been asked to play a lot of time in the field as well. As a group they have done a great job filling in in the field with a total of 1 error (Bonifacio), which is good when you see that the Marlins as a team had 13 in April. As great as these guys have played the Marlins need to get healthy and need to find an answer at third. It is hard to beleve that these players are going to be able to keep up those kinds of numbers over the entire season if they are asked to play as much as they have been. If these players can be used just as pitch hitters, pitch runners, and to give a player a day off every once and a while (like a bench should be used) then the Marlins become a very dangerous and deep team in late game situations.
Starting Pitchers- The team has one of the lowest team ERA's, has over 15 quality starts, and has had several bids for a no hitter already this year. Their is no doubt that the Marlins starting pitching was great in April. Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson both had great opportunities to get no hitters, and Ricky Nolasco is 3-0 with a 3.35 ERA. Josh Johnson is pitching like a leading Cy Young candidate with 6 quality starts in 6 starts and is 3-0 with a 0.88 ERA, he should be actually 5-0 but the bullpen has blown Johnson's last two wins. The Marlins other two pitchers, Javier Vazquez and Chris Volstad, have not done as well in April (Vazquez is 2-2 with a 6.39 ERA and Volstad 2-1 with a 5.32 ERA). However both have been pitching better with almost each start as the season has progressed, with Vazquez lowing his ERA from 15.43 down to 6.39 and Volstad going 7 innings giving up 2 runs after giving up 5 runs in each of his last two starts.
Chris Coghlan, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez- Sure the starting pitchers have been good, and so has the bullpen for the majority of April, but these are the guys I am crediting to carrying the Marlins to their incredible start in 2011. These 3 players lead the Marlins in almost every offensive category. Coghlan, although got off to a slow start, is hitting .297 with 4 homers, 16 RBI, 16 runs and 8 double. Gaby, who is slowing down since, is hitting .303 with 4 homers, 10 RBI, 14 runs, and Morrison, who was the most productive Marlin before getting hurt, hit .327 with 4 homers, 11 RBI, 8 runs and an OBP of .424. Every time you hear baseball reporters talk about the Marlins they say how the Marlins have gotten off to this hot start and Hanley Ramirez hasn't even played well. Well, it is because of these three players that Hanley's struggles have not cost the Marlins from winning games. Also it needs to be mentioned that Chris Coghlan has done a tremendous job for the Marlins playing center field thus far even though he is a natural infielder. Coghlan has made some great plays in center, and more importantly has not made any really bad plays despite this being his first year playing the position along side two other young outfielders everyday.
Injuries- While the Marlins have not been devastated by injuries, they are very lucky that only Logan Morrison has gone to the disabled list. Morrison was the most productive player in the Marlins batting order when he hurt his left foot, hopefully he should be back with the team for the weekend series versus Washington. Outside of Morrison that Marlins have seen Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, and Donnie Murphy all miss several starts due to nagging injuries. Plus the Marlins have seen Chris Coghlan be taken out of a game and miss a start because of soreness in his shoulder, Omar Infante left a close game because of cramping in his hamstring, and Clay Hensley could not pitch on Friday or Saturday against the Reds because of fall down some stairs. All these missed starts and and nagging injuries have only shinned a light on the Marlins problems at third base and Hanley Ramirez's struggles from the plate. The fact that the Marlins were able to go 16-9 just shows the resiliency of this team, and also now good they could be if they could stay healthy.
The Last Week for the Marlins Bullpen- For the first three weeks the Marlins had the best bullpen in the Major leagues, and even with the troubles of the last week the Marlins still have one of the better pens in the National League. Clay Hensley is #5 in the NL with 8 holds, Randy Choate an Mike Dunn combine for 8 more, and Leo Nunez's 9 saves are third in all the majors. However the Marlins bullpen has struggled lately. The bullpen has a record of 6-5 and has 4 blown saves. In the last 7 games the Marlins bullpen has given up 13 runs off of 21 hits and 11 walks in 19.1 innings. While I would like to believe that this is just a rough patch and the Marlins they will get back on track in the next few games, I really can not say. The 2011 Marlins bullpen players individually all had good years in 2010, but that does not automatically mean that they will be successful as a group in 2011.
3rd Base- I have praised the play of the Marlins bench players already, and most of them have put up their numbers while playing at 3rd, but that being said this position is a problem. Bonifacio, Helms, and Dobbs are great players to have on your bench, with the Marlins needing one of them to start here everyday and another to fill in for an injured play it weakens the team. If those guys are being forced to start the game, it means that they are not available to come in and pitch hit later. The Marlins hoped Dominguez to play here, but he struggled to hit in spring training. Then they tried Donnie Murphy as an everyday player to start the year, but he hit only .103. Mnager Edwin Rodriguez announced May 2nd that for the forseeable future the Marlins are going to platoon Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs at 3rd, but the Marlins need to go out and get an someone to fill this huge hole in the Marlins lineup soon. This team has the talent to win now, but they are going to come up short if they are un able to fill this spot who can contribute regularly.
Hanley Ramirez- When you are a superstar and the face of a franchise a lot is expected of you, and often may say you are playing poorly just because you do not put up huge numbers for a stretch. However this is not the case with Hanley's performance in April. The numbers that he put up are bad no matter who you are in baseball. Hanley batted .200 in April going 17 for 85 with 9 runs, 9 RBI, 0 home runs. Hanley actually had 15 strike outs this month and only 5 extra base hits (all doubles). But his poor play has not been limited to the plate, after the first month of the season his fielding percentage is ranked 24th among MLB shortstops at .949, and he has 5 errors. While Ramirez has never been the best fielding shortstop, he had only 16 errors in 2010, and only 10 in 2009, so being at 5 one month in is really bad for him.
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