Marlins begin to slowly display their true colors in MayBy
The fresh, re-branded Miami Marlins stepped into a new ballpark in the Little Havana area in Miami with hype bigger than some fans expected, hype that was regularly shot down and brought back up by the general public, writers, and bloggers. The Fish dropped into their new ballpark on April 4th and battled the Cardinals, a game that unfortunately goes down in history as a four-hit loss. Josh Johnson had given up 10 hits on the night, and the Cardinals’ Kyle Lohse brought a no-hitter into the seventh. Immediately following the game, speculation poured out on social websites, sports networks, and more. The Fish would go on to lose six of their first nine games of the season. To finish up April, they went 8-14, with a .364 winning percentage, and stood in last place.
At the end April, the Marlins were in bad shape. Star-shortstop Jose Reyes had a majorly-disappointing .220 batting average, center fielder Emilio Bonifacio had a .244 batting average, third baseman Hanley Ramirez finished with .207 batting average, and first baseman Gaby Sanchez had a .205 batting average. The only players who seemed to be getting the hitting-portion of the game were Omar Infante, who finished with a 1.070 OPS, a .323 batting average, and a .344 on-base percentage; and Giancarlo Stanton, who was still considered to be struggling at the time, as he finished with a sub-par .247 batting average, .286 on-base percentage, and one home run.
Closer Heath Bell finished April with three blown saves and two saves, a 10.80 ERA, allowing 10 runs (eight earned), 10 hits, and 8 walks. It seemed either Bell was throwing strikes and watching the ball get launched, or he was walking four-consecutive batters. As for ace starter Josh Johnson, he finished with a 5.34 ERA and 0-3 record, allowing 10+ hits in three of his five starts. As for the rest of the starters and relievers, they threw pretty consistently, helping the Fish achieve their total 3.64 ERA on the month, better than N.L. East opponents’ Atlanta Braves, who stood in second place in the N.L. East at April’s end, and New York Mets, who stood in third place at April’s end.
Miami walked into May with that 8-14 record, a broken Heath Bell, a struggling Josh Johnson, a struggling lineup, and a calmer Ozzie Guillen (significantly calmer, and more careful with just about everything he does, following his comments on Cuban dictator Fidel Castro).
Miami walks into Houston on May 7th with a .500 record.
The Fish went on a seven-game winning streak following their sub-par April, and had the best start of May the team’s ever had. Going back in time, on May 25th in a series against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, Giants catcher Buster Posey had his leg broken in a collision with Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins; marking it as the beginning of the end for the 2011, for the then Florida, Marlins. The Fish would go 5-23 that June. A little less than a year later, the Fish traveled to AT&T Park, where they began their winning streak by sweeping the Giants in three games and sweeping the San Diego Padres in three at Petco Park.
The biggest parts of the winning streak were the quality starts that were actually being held and saved, and hitting finally came around. Ramirez is batting .250 in May so far, with two homers (six this season) and eight RBI’s. Stanton has hit five homers within eight games this May, with an .867 slugging percentage, and a .300 batting average. Infante has six RBI’s, one homer, a .281 batting average, and a .802 OPS. Although the hitting changes weren’t significant- at all- they’ve finally become a little-bit more consistent. Reyes, Bonifacio, John Buck, and now Logan Morrison still haven’t done much to start off May, but if you think of the fact that when all those players are hitting like they’re capable of, which will hopefully be soon, this team’s standing will certainly heighten.
Bell’s closer role was temporarily terminated after blowing yet another save in a four-hour, 45-minute, 12 inning game versus the San Diego Padres on May 6th. The Marlins will most likely have RHP Steve Cishek take the closing role as Bell works in middle relief. The rest of the bullpen has fared pretty well through the games this season, and looks to continue that trend. OF Bryan Petersen and LHP Dan Jennings were optioned to AAA-New Orleans on the 5th and were replaced by RHP’s Chris Hatcher and Sandy Rosario; the move following the 12 inning game in San Diego.
It’s safe to say that the Marlins record this May, which is 7-1 as of May 8th,very, very, very slowly shows the true colors and the true potential this team has. Yet, those stats I threw out earlier, they simply mean this: the Marlins have been pretty awful offensively so far. If Omar Infante is your All-Star at this very moment, you’ve got a few issues. I do believe that Omar is overlooked and has potential to be an All-Star as a Marlin anyways, but the point of the matter is that the Marlins need to step up the hitting game. Stanton has been producing, well, home runs, mainly, and Sanchez, Buck, Reyes, Bonifacio have been awful for the most part. The small guys are getting it done, like Greg Dobbs. He’s only had 38 at-bats this season, and still has 10 hits and a .286 batting average. Brett Hayes continues to succeed offensively, too, as he has a .300 average and a 9-for-30 stance.
Pitching is the part of the team that’s showing off their real, true colors. Mark Buehrle is 2-4 with a 2.83 ERA, Ricky Nolasco is 4-0 with a 2.72 ERA, Carlos Zambrano is 1-2 with a 1.98 ERA, and Anibal Sanchez is 2-0 with a 2.01 ERA. Josh Johnson, as said earlier, continues his struggles with a 0-3 record and a 6.61 ERA. But besides JJ, the Marlins have some magic with that starting rotation. Miami has 23 quality starts, which leads the majors (tied with the Washington Nationals). When you have Buehrle pitching effectively and going seven to eight innings, A. Sanchez striking out 14 in a single game, Nolasco dominating, and Zambrano going deep into games, it shows how effective the Fish can be. And now, with Bell out of the closer role, I look forward to him fixing his problems in middle relief, and watching Steve Cishek (or anybody, at this point) take the reigns for a little while, as we score some W’s. Who knows how long the great starts will last, but it seems like it could have potential to go the distance this year, pending on how the rest of the gameplay goes this season. All the pitchers in our rotation are proven starters, nobody is even close to being new to the game. Once Josh Johnson finally bears down and pitches at least somewhat-effectively, and the offense starts to kick in, going forward is the only thing you can think of.
A month makes a big difference, as you know from June of last year. Is May 2012 the beginning of the Marlins’ turnaround?