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Nearly six months ago, a tweet from the Biz of Baseball’s Maury Brown suggested futility within the new and upcoming Marlins logo, which was officially leaked just a few days ago on none other than the site that Maury writes for. At the time of his tweet, Maury basically warned us that the new logo featured some ungodly colors and most of all, was just a giant piece of “yuck.” I’ve got to say, rather often do I agree with the opinion and analysis of Maury, and yet again the man was spot on.
If you didn’t happen to glance at the BOB article compiled by Maury, the logo, which I’m pretty sure was created accidentally by a nine-year old in his or her second grade art class, is a non-exciting “M” decorated by red, yellow and blue to commemorate the opening of the Marlins new ballpark, which is yet to be named. In any case, there’s nothing we can do about changing it. I mean, writing about the Marlins for the ESPN Sweetspot blog is pretty frickin sweet, but I’m still unable to complain to the Marlins management in person. But even with that said, we can still make fun of the logo all we want.
I’ll be honest – I don’t understand how the Miami Marlins, who, are expected to play in colors not too different than the ones they currently hone will sport those uni’s while representing a multi-colored, lucky charm-themed logo. This is even something I wouldn’t have expected the Marlins to do, and that’s saying a lot. But I guess the bright side is that they’re still a baseball team. For those who wish to complain, such as myself, it’s better to have a logo than no logo, am I right?
Or maybe the Marlins just see this as a temporary move. Who knows? We may possibly see the new “M” turn teal and black following the 2012 season, and damn I wouldn’t mind that one bit. I for one was quick to jump on the “aw, come on, we really have to deal with this logo?” train until I thought about how pointless the argument really is. I can almost guarantee that the new logo wont affect the wins/losses column for the Marlins, but the losses will probably come regardless.
But if this is a rant post, which it is, we might as well continue. As many have recently pointed out, the current Marlins logo and choreography is somewhat attractive. Not only that, but it has significance. It brings back memories of those Marlins teams that won it all. And in addition, the logo just looks nice. Changing the name from “Florida” to “Miami” makes sense, and while I’m not in favor of the switch I get it, but the logo doesn’t necessarily need to change much. And neither do the colors.
So while we all should try and hope that these colors wont be here to stay, it’s important to also keep in mind how pointless these arguments really are. It shouldn’t at all affect the way the Marlins perform on the field (but lets just be honest, they really couldn’t get any worse) and the real Marlins fans care about what’s on the field, not what’s on the players who are on the field. But hey, I’m just a blogger — rant all you want.
The first thing I do each morning is get onto ESPN and check all of the box scores from the previous night. I save the Marlins for last, and I can’t help but skip down to Stanton and Hanley’s lines. Frankly, once it seems like the Fish aren’t headed for the playoffs, a Stanton or Hanley home run is almost as good as a win to me. But with both of them out, who do I look for now in the waning days of the season? I guess Lomo, but don’t ask me to get excited about Gaby Sanchez (.280/20/75 caliber 1B….yawn). I can get excited for a preview of a top prospect, but don’t ask me to get excited about Dominguez, who has only had one good year in the minors….three years ago in single-A (seriously, where does his hype come from?).
Now we Marlins fans are not prone to complaining. Generally speaking, we don’t have high expectations going into the season, and are hardly surprised when we fall out of contention. But this year was different. We had a young core of position players, some good young starters, and had supplemented these with a veteran pitcher (Javy Vazquez) and catcher (John Buck). Now that young core of position players is in doubt, our lack of starting pitching depth has been exposed, and our two free agent pickups don’t look quite so savvy as they once did, even though Vazquez has found himself in the last month or two. To put salt in the wound, starting pitcher Andrew Miller started to show some ability for the Red Sox with a few good starts this year, and center fielder Cameron Maybin has come into his own in San Diego. How do we deal with our first real letdown? I propose that, instead of just complaining to make noise a la the Mets (or NYC drivers honking their horns)—which leads to horrible off-season decisions a la the Mets—we start discussing what went wrong, to allocate blame appropriately. Here are my candidates:
“There is a sense in FLA front office that Jeffrey Loria and David Samson will be taking a greater role in making player personnel decisions.”
Buster Olney, via Twitter (@Buster_ESPN)
One issue that often faces informed sports fans is the difficulty of reconciling the emotional attachment to the team on the field with the financial relationship to team ownership. In an ideal situation, fans’ and owners’ interest are perfectly aligned towards winning as many games as possible. This is the situation of the Green Bay Packers, in that they are the only public (i.e. fan) owned professional sports franchise. In reality, sports teams have owners that are focused on profits. In most cases, winning and profitability are highly correlated, so fans’ and owners’ interests are aligned.
Jeffrey Loria is currently the Marlins owner, and David Samson is the team president [Full disclosure, Samson is Loria's stepson]. Loria made his money as an art dealer, while Samson was an investment banker for Morgan Stanley. Loria purchased the Marlins in 2002. Prior to this he owned the Montreal Expos, which he sold back to Major League Baseball because the local government refused to contribute taxpayer dollars to a new stadium.
It was a jam packed night for Marlins news.
With a loss to the Mets officially eliminating the Fish from N.L. East contention and nagging injuries possibly ending the seasons of both SS Hanley Ramirez and RHP Josh Johnson, Marlins fans focus is quickly shifting to 2012.
Oh, the possibilities.
The newly minted Miami Marlins will be preparing to move into brand new Sun Life Stadium next spring and many wonder what kind of moves owner Jeffrey Loria will give the green light on this winter.
To this point there’s been a lot of speculation, and the gut feeling here is Loria, or Mr. Brightside, shoots for a huge splash in this, the stadium’s inaugural season.
Chicago Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez is a free agent and would definitely be a sensible choice to fill the Marlins hole at third
The consensus in some baseball circles is the Marlins are one front line starter away from competing, even in the stacked N.L. East.
At the start of this season a buddy of mine asked me, “What do you want to see from Stanton this year?” My first thought, of course, was a shirtless picture in ESPN the Magazine’s body edition. Even Tim Kurkjian has acknowledged similar curiosity, stating “I’ve never seen anyone fill out a uniform as well as Mike Stanton.” After that I began to consider what type of numbers would be realistic, but still represent a healthy step forward for a budding superstar. With how lost he looked at times last year, I knew not to get my expectations up for the same dramatic leap forward Miguel Cabrera took in his second season (.793 OPS up to .878, .268 BA up to .294). Instead, I decided that I would be happy if Stanton could keep his average above .250 for the year, hit around 35 dingers, and drive in 100 or more runs.
Well, as of last night’s game, Stanton’s projected numbers in those respective categories are .263/38/98. Furthermore, his OBP has taken a nice leap forward from last season, jumping from .326 to .351. Even his slugging percentage has risen from .507 to .547, despite the fact that Stanton was one of the most potent power hitters in the game last season (in fact, if you include minor league numbers, only Jose Bautista hit more HRs last year, true story).
And yet, I’m worried about Mike Stanton’s future. I, like pretty much every other Marlins fan, have looked at Stanton as our chance to finally land a middle-of-the-order cog who can bat cleanup and protect <insert #3 hitter here> . I picture him batting .290 or so with 40 or more HRs every year, maybe 120 RBIs as well. To bring up a timely example, I have seen Stanton as a potential right-handed Jim Thome; a patient 40-HR guy who bats .300 in a good year, .260 in a bat one. Sure, we had Miguel, but we’ve never had a consistent 40-HR threat who drives fear into the heart of the opposing pitching staff (well, we had Piazza for a long weekend).
So what am I worried about? Stanton is on pace to exceed my expectations for this season, and is still only 21! More importantly, he has taken to the middle of the order quite well in the last few weeks, and has even hit a clutch extra-inning grand slam. He threw Jose Reyes out at home on the fly for Conine’s sake! He’s just about the only bright spot we have to salvage this season and assuage our fears that our young core may be crumbling (it is, by the way).
In short, Stanton still looks lost at the plate. Don’t get me wrong, he can look extremely—even freakishly—found at the plate from time to time, and even I pitch a little hope-filled tent when he does. But when he looks lost, good night does he look lost! It’s as if he’s never played baseball before; like the Marlins just found some awkward giant in some jungle overseas and just threw him in on the off-chance he connects with it. He reminds me of the cave troll in Fellowship of the Rings, just wildly swinging his giant club of death all over the place. Of course, everyone is entitled to a bad night, but Stanton can go all Jekyll and Hyde within the same game. If I were to make up a line score that I thought represented Stanton, it would be 1-4, with a HR (450 ft or more), a BB, and 2 Ks (both on sliders bouncing in the dirt 5 feet off the plate).
So, am I being overly dramatic, or is there something to my fears? Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
Hitting Good Pitches – Contact Percentage and Zone Contact Percentage
When I think of the pressure that a true cog puts on opposing pitchers, much of it is derived from a feeling that you can’t throw a pitch over the plate without it being hit. Unfortunately, Stanton’s Z-Contact% is 81.8, which is 16th worst in all of baseball and puts him in the company of such other non-cog power hitters as Dan Uggla, Adam Dunn, Carlos Pena, Ryan Ludwick, and Nelson Cruz. His aggregate Contact% is even worse at 66%, tied with Mark Reynolds for last in MLB. Yeah, Mark Reynolds; marinate on that for a moment.
Discipline – Outside Swing Percentage
In addition to hitting pitches in the zone with regularity, a true cog puts pressure on opposing pitchers by refusing to chase pitches outside of the zone. Stanton, however, has never seen a slider he didn’t like, and has an O-Swing% of 34.4% (32nd highest in MLB) and an O-Contact% of 46% (dead last in MLB…2% lower than the aforementioned Mark Reynolds).
Impact on Pitchers – Swinging Strike Percentage and Zone Percentage
In short, when a true cog swings, he should swing at a good pitch, and he should hit it. This leaves pitchers stuck between a rock—walking the cog by nibbling and throwing pitches out of the zone—and an even harder rock—throwing a pitch over the plate and risking a big hit. So how do pitchers pitch Stanton? Well, his Zone% (percentage of pitches thrown in the strike zone to him) is 38.9%, good for second lowest in MLB. Lowest is Prince Fielder, but he also has a 91.9% Z-Contact%, and still has a 67.4% O-Contact%. In his case pitchers are simply choosing the rock, in Stanton’s case they just don’t have to throw it over the plate for him to swing, as evidenced by his SwStr% of 15.4%, 3rd worst in MLB behind Miguel “my OBP is .279” Olivo, and (you guessed it) Mark Reynolds. Overall, this makes Stanton too easy to pitch to, and takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of the pitcher.
Battling – 2-strike counts
Finally, the pitcher should never feel safe when pitching to a true cog. Even with an 0-2 count after two Uggly (force of habit) swings, no pitcher is taking the at bat for granted with Prince Fielder at the plate. And with good cause! Here’s a quick comparison:
Prince Fielder Mike Stanton
(BA) (SLG) (OPS) (K%) (BA) (SLG) (OPS) (K%)
0-2 .306 .449 .769 28% 0-2 .081 .167 .248 58%
1-2 .281 .544 .861 38% 1-2 .183 .352 .546 67%
2-2 .196 .339 .535 48% 2-2 .235 .506 .759 48%
3-2 .310 .595 1.166 17% 3-2 .163 .349 .795 38%
So what does this tell us? It tells us that if you get ahead of Stanton, he’s pretty much dead to rights. No stress, no pressure, just bounce a couple of breaking balls and you’ll probably strike him out.
The Silver Lining
Okay, so not all of the indicators are negative. After all, at age 21 Stanton is already fourth in Isolated Power at .282. For some perspective, bear in mind that the MLB average last season was .145. That means that Stanton, despite the atrocious numbers given above, is still in company with the likes of Bautista, Teixeira, Granderson, and Berkman when it comes to power.
Ultimately, we knew (or should have known) that these issues would be issues. It is very difficult to become a great hitter with a long swing, and it is very difficult not to have a long swing when you are 6’5” or taller. The power comes easy, and baseball history is full of 6’3” and taller guys who became 40-HR hitters despite struggling with a low batting average. But we want more from Stanton, and due to his tremendous hype, we’ve come to expect it. Unfortunately, with the exception of Dave Winfield and a few isolated seasons here and there, the track record is not good for exceptionally tall players becoming dependable middle-of-the-order cogs in their careers. Not all of them go the way of Ryan Minor and Joel Guzman, but even those who do make it are often fragile and inconsistent, think Richie Sexson. More often than not, these players become Jay Buhners, guys who will hit a lot of home runs, but never really become the feared centerpiece of a playoff lineup. Even a patient taller player can struggle to hit for average a la Ryan Howard. Those who get away with it are freaks, with hands like Vladimir Guerrero (only 6’3”), or overall athleticism like Winfield or Andre Dawson (also only 6’3”). Stanton has that athleticism, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. Unfortunately, the hitter’s approach at the plate has almost nothing to do with athleticism, and right now he adheres to the school of Reggie Abercrombie, who probably should have played strong safety for the Dolphins instead of outfield for the Marlins. Will Stanton ever figure it out and realize his full potential? Maybe. It’s possible this is a lot of hand-wringing for nothing. It’s possible I will eat these words in a year or two, and I would gladly do it if he’s still in a (Miami) Marlins uniform, filling it out juuust right for all the Tim Kurkjian’s out there. But at some point, when a guy lunges at the slider down and away for the umpteenth time, you start to lose a little faith.
After over two months of negotiating back and forth — or the complete opposite, in fact — the Marlins have finally inked Jose Fernandez, their 2011 first round selection. The deal is for two million dollars, according to Baseball America’s Jim Callis. Let’s take a look at the newest member of the Marlins organization.
This courtesy Baseball America:
He throws three swing-and-miss pitches: a fastball that sits 90-95 mph with heavy sink at times and a pair of breaking balls. Scouts aren’t sure if Fernandez means to throw both a slider and a curve, but his slider can be sharp and his curve at times has 12-to-6 break. He’s shown flashes of a changeup as well and could wind up as a four-pitch workhorse. Sturdy at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Fernandez has a mature body and will have to work to maintain his conditioning.
On a personal level, I’m excited about Fernandez for many reasons. One of which is because of his young age and where he fits in to the prospect shuffle in the Marlins organization. If you know the Marlins system, you know that the small amount of prospects they have are in Greensboro, with the exception of Chad James and Kyle Jensen to name a few who are in higher levels of the system. Christian Yelich, Noah Perio, Mark Canha, Ryan Fisher, Jacob Realmuto and Marcel Ozuna all represent the core of the system. Only one of those prospects, maybe two are impact level talents but still solidify a large gap within the franchise. Slotting Fernandez in that same group if not now, very soon, will replicate the influx of talent that the Marlins saw come up when Stanton, Morrison and Sanchez made their way to the bigs.
In any case, he’s a Marlins and the Fish didn’t lose their man. And with the Lomo news that’s occupied nearly the entirety of the internet, I’m quite surprised they didn’t.
Chris Volstad made his return to the Marlins’ rotation today after a brief stint in the minors. It was hardly the glorious conquering return Marlins fans envisioned. He suffered the loss after going a truly mediocre 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, 7 hits, and 2 walks, striking out 7. All 4 runs were earned and came via the long ball; he served up 3 homers in total, a 2-bagger to our old friend Cody Ross as well as solo bombs to Nate Schierholtz and Brandon Belt.
Chris Volstad is no greenhorn regarding serving up dingers to the opponent. In his 94 major league appearances spanning back to 2008, his home run per fly ball rate (HR/FB) is 11.9%. This is slightly above league average, usually around 10.6%. However there is a large variance in his year-to-year HR/FB rates. In 2009 and 2011 (the years in which he has struggled statistically), his HR/FB rates are 17.5% and 14.8% respectively.
Volstad was optioned to AAA New Orleans on July 23rd. He made 3 starts, going 1-1 with a 4.42 ERA (3.85 FIP). Below are the game-by-game stat lines:
AAA New Orleans in the Pacific Coast League, which is notorious for its bandbox ballparks where home runs leave the park like it was 1998. Considering Volstad only allowed 1 home run over 3 starts (181/3 innings), the Marlins brass figured he probably cut down on the hanging meatballs. Considering the team has no shot to make the playoffs combined with the recent struggles of the rotation, he will benefit from continued work against major league hitters.
Chris Volstad is still on 24 years old. He is an affordable young starting pitcher who most likely is still a lock for a rotation spot next year. If he is ever going to develop into more than a National League 5th starter he will have to cut his HR/FB rate to somewhere near league average. It is fairly concerning that he has played half his games at JoerobbieProplayerDolphinsLandsharkSunlife stadium, with the center field where fly balls go to die. No one knows how forgiving the new ballpark will be to pitchers like young Mr. Volstad.
It wouldn’t have been a normal weekend if there weren’t any embarrassing moves made by the Marlins brass. Surely, they remained consistent and induced quite the questionable move, and one that still has Marlins fans scratching their heads over. While Logan Morrison will presumably hit his way back to the Majors, it’s at least worth seeing if Bryan Petersen has anything that would make him a viable candidate for an everyday job. While I don’t see it, Jeffrey Loria very well might. Anyway, wanted to take care of some housekeeping.
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Your daily Marlins Minor League report…
Double-A Jacksonville (in 6-2 win over Montgomery)
Nothing extremely special took place in the Jacksonville’s victory over Montgomery. Although Kyle Skipworth again struggled at the plate, something that’s not the least bit unusual for him. Aside from going 0-2 at the plate, he dropped his average down to .198 for the year. He’s got plenty of work to do but only being 20 years of age means he’s still got some time. There were, however, a few bright spots which you’d obviously expect from the winning team. The intriguing and heartwarming story of newly-turned pitcher Chris Hatcher was displayed again tonight. The right-hander, who’s been enjoying a fine season on the mound struck out two batters in an inning of work while not walking anybody. In addition, former Tigers pitcher Zach Simons struck out three in two innings of relief while not allowing a batter to reach base via the base on balls.
High-A Jupiter (in 6-1 loss to St. Lucie)
Fortunately for the Marlins, despite their farm being amongst the emptiest in the game, there have been quite a few bright spots. One of which is outfielder Kyle Jensen who despite being 23 years of age and in High-A has put on quite a showing this season with the bat. In 361 at-bats on the year he sports a .313/.389/.548 line and has even belted 21 home runs. He strikes out way too much and is basically all bat, thus he isn’t that much of a prospect. It’s unclear what the Marlins ongoing plans for him will be, but we know he can hit, which most hitters in the organization cannot say.
Low-A Greensboro (in 1-0 loss to West Virginia)
Wow, that’s a tough one to lose. I guess it’s a good thing that minor league scores and records mean absolutely nothing. It really wasn’t a bad day for the Greensboro hitters. Marcell Ozuna collected two more hits, Christian Yelich one and same goes for Mark Canha. Good day’s for the three best hitters on the Grasshoppers. Robert Morey, a right-handed starter with fringe stuff fared out well too, pitching seven scoreless striking out basically a batter per inning while only walking one.
Bryan Evans assigned to Double-A Jacksonville from High-A Jupiter
A.J. Battisto also assigned to High-A Jupiter from Double-A Jacksonville
Holden Sprague assigned to Low-A Greensboro from Low-A SS Jamestown
Dallas Poulk has been activated from the 7-day DL and re-assigned to High-A Jupiter
Yes, things could be going a bit more swimmingly for the Fighting Fish, but at least Marlins fans aren’t coming to grips with a possible lockout like NBA fans…at least until December when the MLB’s collective bargaining agreement expires (yikes.)
Let’s stay in the moment though shall we?
The Fish are streaking, and all is not yet lost in the 2011 season.
The Marlins won their 3rd consecutive game, riding the Javier Vazquez wave and a rejuvenated Hanley Ramirez to a convincing 6-3 victory over the punchless Houston Astros.
Ramirez, once mired in a historic slump, is ripping the cover off the baseball in July, batting a robust .448 with 3 round-trippers and 11 Fish driven in.
The second Jack McKeon era has brought some interesting tid-bits. Some good, some not so good.
The unraveling of RHP Anibal Sanchez can be categorized as not so good. A few short starts ago he was considered a fringe All-Star and there was actually some justified outrage among Marlins fans when Gaby Sanchez was the only Marlin with that renowned Mexican surname representing the Fish.
Anibal must not have gotten the memo that the Marlin’s Swoon ended last month, as the suddenly wild righty has gone 0-1 with a 14.09 ERA in July. In short, he’s giving up more runs per nine then the 2000 Baltimore Ravens gave up points.
If you’re looking to feel better by reading a depressing sports story that does not involve the Fish check out this NBA piece about how Kobe, Amare, Carmelo and CP3 are considering taking a page out of Deron Williams book and defecting overseas.
RHP Ricky Nolasco will take the bump tonight against Brett Myers as the Fish look to maintain their recent momentum that was sparked by a walk-off bomb struck of the bat of Mike Stanton earlier this week against the Phillies.
Cherish the good times Marlins fans, because we might end up like NBA fans sooner then we think!