Miami Marlins Monday: The Grass Might Be Greener, but the Team Still Sucks

Here’s the latest edition of my baseball beat for HeadlineMiami.com.

This week’s edition: The Grass Might Be Greener, but the Team Still Sucks.

The Miami Marlins entered their second week of the season with nowhere to go but up. As it turns out, they didn’t move at all. Entering the week tied with the worst record in Major League Baseball at 1-5, they remained on pace to give the 1998 108-loss Marlins a run for their dismal mark with another one win week. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the Miami Heat finish with more wins in their 2013 campaign than the Miami Marlins do. By scratching out the one win, though, the 2013 Marlins ensured the dubious honor of worst start in franchise history remained with the ’98 club, as that steaming pile went 1-11 to begin their season.

That’s not to say this year’s club didn’t try to rewrite the futility books, and their lack of offense may or may not have given reserve outfielder Austin Kearns heart palpitations. One week after scoring 14 runs, the Miami Marlins crossed the plate a mere six times this week.

One of the runs that did cross the plate this week came as a result of utility outfielder Chris Coghlan‘s walk-off single to beat the Philadelphia Phillies last Saturday. Coghlan’s little squib off his bat mystified Chase Utley, allowing 370-year-old Placido Polanco to score. Word is the new,  greener grass didn’t slow the ball at all, allowing it to eat up the All-Star second baseman. While the grass in Marlins Park is in better shape, no one would confuse the team to be in better condition.

The Second Week

Game 7: Miami 0 Atlanta 2 The home opener for the Miami Marlins supposedly drew 34,439 fans. I have a hard time believing that. No matter what was announced, those poor souls that did attend got to see Paul Maholm shut down the Dumpster Fire Fish, to the tune of two hits.

Game 8: Miami 2 Atlanta 3 Wade LeBlanc continued his nice pitching for the Marlins early on, giving up just two earned runs over six innings pitched, and C Rob Brantly and 3B Placido Polanco drove in the first runs of the homestand, but the Marlins still fell to the far more talented Braves.

Game 9: Miami 0 Atlanta 8 The Braves finished the sweep of the Marlins, and jumped on starter Alex Sanabia to do it. Sanabia gave up six earned runs in the fifth inning, and the quiet Marlins’ bats didn’t put up any resistance.

Game 10: Miami 1 Philadelphia 3 News went from bad to worse for Marlins manager Mike Redmond regarding his lineup. Giancarlo Stanton sat out with a sore left shoulder, and while the Fish were able to force extra innings, reliever Jon Rauch gave up a game-winning RBI triple to Chase Utley. It was the start of a bad weekend for Rauch.

Game 11: Miami 2 Philadelphia 1 Yay! Walk-off! Former rookie of the year Chris Coghlan was credited with just his second hit of the season when his infield single scored Placido Polanco from third. The team claims 20,037 people were there to see it. Rookie right-hander Jose Fernandez and his curveball (nicknamed “The Defector”) turned in another impressive performance, giving up just two hits and striking out five in six innings of work.

Game 12: Miami 1 Philadelphia 2 Back to normal. With the bats silent again, reliever Jon Rauch gave up the game-winning run when pinch-hitter Laynce Nix homered in the ninth inning. C Rob Brantly showed his inexperience, getting doubled off second base after Adeiny Hechavarria’s fly ball to center field was caught in the seventh inning. Roy Halladay won for the 200th time in his career. Attendance was listed at 21,412. The team may or may not be rounding up stragglers in Little Havana to pass through the turnstiles.

Overall, another shitty week, despite the greener grass and impressive showing by Jose Fernandez. Fernandez’s performance might not have been the only thing cheapskate owner Jeffery Loria smiled about, as former Miami Marlin and now Toronto Blue Jay shortstop Jose Reyes injured his ankle. The injury is expected to keep Reyes out of the lineup for about three months.

With the Atlanta Braves recently in town, former Marlin Dan Uggla was asked by the Miami Herald about his thoughts on how the Miami ownership handled the recent salary purge. Here’s what he said:

I can understand the [fan] anger. I’d be extremely angry if I had been one of the free agents that signed here. It will be hard to sign free agents now.

Uggla had the following to say about Giancarlo Stanton:

He’s one of those special players, but to be special, you have to surround him with legitimate guys.”

Wait, Danny, are you saying Greg Dobbs and Placido Domingo are not legit baseball players? For shame.

Speaking of Giancarlo Grumpy-Pants, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported the following via Twitter:

According to Peter Gammon’s Twitter, though, the Marlins are not shopping Stanton. Yet.

Statistical Shenanigans

Miami Marlins
Marlins catcher Rob Brantly laments over how terrible his team is. (Photo Credit: Alan Diaz/AP)

Former Marlin turned Blue Jay turned New York Met catcher, John Buck, leads the Majors with 19 RBI. That’s right, 19 RBI, or, one fewer Run-Batted-In in 11 games and 41 at-bats than the entire Miami Marlins team has in 12 games and 378 at-bats. Let that sink for a moment.

As a team, the Miami Marlins are 29th in the Majors in Batting, with a whopping .204 average (only the Pittsburgh Pirates are worse at .203). Here are some other numbers:

#28 in On-Base Percentage (.277)

#30 in Slugging (.262) & On-Base Plus Slugging (.539)

#30 in Runs Scored (20); It should be noted that the #29 team in the league in Runs Scored is Tampa Bay, but they’ve scored 33 runs, or, almost twice as many as the Fish.

Pitching hasn’t been soooo bad, as the team is #10 in ERA and #22 in both AVG Against and WHIP. The Marlins, though, are the only team in the league without a Save. Rookie Jose Fernandez has been the best of the bunch, posting a 0.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 13 Ks over 11 innings pitched. Kevin Slowey, who the Marlins absolutely refuse to score runs for, comes in with a respectable 2.04 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 11 Ks over 17.2 innings pitched.

Utility infielder Chris Valaika leads the team with a .400 average (four for 10), but the only regular hitting over .300 is the aforementioned, balloon-headed journeyman Placido Polanco (.333). Giancarlo Stanton isn’t helping his trade market with a minuscule .167 average ( but his OBP is .342). Walk-off hero Chris Coghlan is hitting a crappy .105.

Next Week

Miami finishes its opening homestand by welcoming in the Washington Nationals, who swept them in Washington to start this Season of Woe. Luckily for the Marlin bats, neither Stephen Strasburg nor Gio Gonzalez will take the mound for the Nationals. However, Jordan Zimmerman has been great so far, posting a 2.08 ERA. Once the Nationals are done with the Marlins, it will be the Cincinnati Reds’ turn at them. Miami flies to Cincinnati for a four-game set starting on April 18th.

Prediction? I can’t see the Marlin bats scratch out more than two wins this week, especially if Stanton isn’t even in the lineup. With as anemic as this offense has been so far, to expect them to score three or four runs in a game without their only true source of power seems to be a stretch. I see a 2-5 run this week.

Miami Marlins Monday

 

Miami Marlins

Hey there WordPress Peeps, below is the first installment of my weekly Miami Marlins baseball beat for HeadlineMiami.com. Let me know what you think.

 

The 2013 Miami Marlins season would be funny if it was a comedy with bats and balls, but, really, it’s just sad. Here at Headline Miami we’ll cover the Miami Marlins with a weekly beat called Marlins’ Monday, where the highlights and (more likely) low-lights will be dissected. While this might not be the worst team money can buy (it’s close), and Jeffery Loria might not be a former exotic dancer turned baseball owner (it could be true…), this year of Miami Marlins baseball might have the same script as “Major League” (1989).

Now, when Ricky Vaughn, Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano and Jobu realized Rachel Phelps’ nefarious intentions, they started to win in spite of her. Cleveland fans flocked to the park in droves to keep their team from moving. The Marlins won’t do much winning, and the fans won’t do much flocking. The irony here is Phelps wanted to move the Indians to the warmer climate of Miami.

At this point, I don’t know there’d be very many people who’d bat an eye at the Marlins leaving Miami, considering most of the better/beloved players end up leaving within a few years anyway.

This season started just about as one would have expected, as a dumpster fire. Following a off-season upheaval that rankled the ire of many a Marlins fan and Miamians in general, the team is estimated to spend about $45 million in payroll, or, $73 million LESS than last year. Yes, one short year after the jester masquerading as a baseball owner promised a competitive payroll if the city gave them a stadium. The swindler conned a stadium out of Miami after refusing to be open with the finances.

While many of the young prospects linked to this misbegotten franchise are promising, there isn’t a sane soul in the baseball community that believes those players will be allowed to flourish and become championship contenders in that horrific Marlins uniform. When the team touts major off-season acquisitions 37-year-old Placido Polanco and 35-year-old Juan Pierre as great moves, it’s hard to think newly christened manager Mike Redmond has a shot at a second year as skipper.

I think my Marlins rant has hijacked this post for long enough. Now down to the first week of baseball. (And I do mean “down”).

Opening Week

It took the Miami Marlins 19 innings to score their first run of the season. In Washington to face the Nationals to start the year, the Marlins were shut out in their first two contests. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the 13th time since 1900 that a team (Washington) opened the season with consecutive shut outs.

Game 1: Miami 0 Washington 2 Stephen Strausburg pitched seven dominant innings, including retiring 19 straight Marlins at one point .

Game 2: Miami 0 Washington 3 The pitching wasn’t bad, but native Miamian Gio Gonzalez stymied the Marlins, who managed only seven hits over the first 18 innings of the season.

Game 3: Miami 1 Washington 6 At last, a run! Justin Ruggiano’s homerun in the second inning stood as the first run of the season, and the only run of the three game series in Washington.

Game 4: Miami 7 New York 5 Miracle of miracles! The Marlins won! Mike Redmond notched his first career win as a major league skipper, as minor league call-up Alex Sanabia was the winning pitch. It was Sanabia’s first win in the majors since 2010. Jeffery Loria and the reviled David Samson celebrated with Mike Redmond with some champagne; a odd move on Loria’s part–you know, spending money.

Game 5: Miami 3 New York 7 It was John Buck’s revenge on this day. Traded to Toronto as part of the mega-deal this off-season, Buck was subsequently flipped to the Mets by the Blue Jays as part of their trade from R.A. Dickey. Buck throttled his old franchise, knocking in four runs.

Game 6: Miami 3 New York 4 Steve Cischek blew 20-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez’s major league debut by giving up a two-run single to the corpse of Marlon Byrd. Savvy vet Juan Pierre’s miscue on the play before allowed for the winning run to advance to second base. So much for the idea that the vet would help the team win.

Miami Marlins

Overall, 1-5 and last place in the division. Miami is one of four teams with only one win, and were the last team in the league to notch their first. Journeyman vet Greg Dobbs is leading the team with a .353 batting average, followed by some guy named Donovan Solano (2B) with a .333 batting average. Grumpy Giancarlo Stanton has struggled to start, hitting just .182, with a .308 on-base percentage. Stanton, known for his power, has yet to homer and has only two extra-base hits.

In the pitching department, closer Steve Cishek has struggled mightily to start, blowing his first save opportunity and surrendering an elephantine 15.43 earned run average. In what was surely a wise roster decision, the only lefty in the bullpen, Mike Dunn, has already appeared in four games and pitched in 3.1 innings.

The most frustrating aspect to this season, beyond the obvious bit about the ownership, is there seems to be a lack of direction. At least the Houston Astros have made no qualms about their rebuilding process. Houston, which has the lowest payroll in the league, is focused on developing young talent and building their farm system, a la the Tampa Bay Rays.

Miami? Well, they bring in aged veterans and push their major league-ready youngsters to the minors, in a move that can only be described as one to keep those players’ Major League service times from starting so that they don’t need to pay them yet. But of course, when injuries strike, as they already have, the team finds itself in a directionless middle ground, where some of the prospects are called up, while others are inexplicably kept down.

Prospect Watch

  1.  Jose Fernandez The 20-year-old phenom was caught off-guard recently when he received his call up all the way from Class A ball, but the righty didn’t disappoint in his first start in the Show. Fernandez threw 5.0 innings and struck out eight, while only surrendering three hits and one earned run. The future is bright for the Cuba defector, so I’m sure he’ll be traded soon enough.
  2. Christian Yelich This 21-year-old outfield prospect should be manning the outfield for the Fish. Instead, the team has 35-year-old Juan Pierre as their everyday left fielder. Makes perfect sense.
  3. Jake Marisnick Another highly touted young outfield prospect banished to the minors, ostensibly for more “seasoning”, when everyone really knows that ownership doesn’t want his Major League service clock to start yet.
  4. Justin Nicolino A 21-year-old lefty that should be toeing the rubber for the Fish will sling at some minor league hitters for the time being. Maybe he’ll be called up when Ricky Nolasco is traded.
  5. Andrew Heaney Another young lefty (22) that should be on the fast track to the Majors will have to wait for sometime more, being kept from the Show by the likes of Jon Rauch, John Maine, and Chad Qualls. That’s right, Chad bleeping Qualls.

Next Week

The front office expects more than 30,000 for the Marlins’ home opener on Monday night. They must be giving those tickets away. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are quite a few free tickets distributed this season, as the team will horde all profits from parking and concessions. This week Miami welcomes in the Atlanta Braves (5-1) and major off-season pickup Justin Upton, who’s launched five homeruns already, or, three more than the entire Marlins’ team in six games. Later in the week the Philadelphia Phillies come to town. At the moment, they’re sub-.500 (2-4), but they haven’t played the Marlins yet.

Prediction for this week? They miss the Braves’ Tim Hudson, so they might be able to scratch out one win in that series, and they’ll likely manage the same against the Phightin’ Phils. 2-4 this week, and still the cellar of the National League East.