Braves Prepare To Barbeque Marlins
The Marlins come to Atlanta tomorrow for one of the newish two day miniseries no one really likes. After a slow start, the Marlins have been hot lately pushing themselves up the standings toward the surprising but fading Mets. The Fish have always been a pain in the Braves backside and this year they’ve moved to Miami, opened a new ballpark, spent money to improve the roster and brought in a personality to manage the team.
The Marlins have won 8 of their last 11 games and have a tough lineup from Jose Reyes at the top to John Buck at bottom. Wednesday they send another of their new signings to mound when Mark Buehrle squares off against Mike Minor. In his last two starts Florida’s new lefty is 1-0 with a 1.72 ERA and a 1.085 WHIP. Few everyday Braves players have a history against him and most of it was a few years ago.
Minor started well but has struggled a bit of late. If he can return to earlier form this game could be a quick one and b0th he and Buehrle work very quickly. I recommend he watch Buehrle work as Minor has similar stuff, he could do worse than have a career like that of Buehrle.
On Thursday The Marlins send Ricky Nolasco out to face the Major leagues new ERA leader Brandon Beachy. Nolasco’s an extremely talented pitcher but prior to this year never found the consistency to make him a top of the rotation guy. he started the year very well and still has a 3.65 ERA on the year in spite of being manhandled In his last start against the Mets when he lasted 4 2/3 innings, gave up 6 runs on 9 hits and walked 3. It’s hard to know which Nolasco we will see. Braves hitter however have enjoyed facing him in the past as the table below shows.
Brandon Beachy has improved with every outing this year. While his K rate is down he’s pitching a little more and throwing a little less each game. As I said earlier, Beachy’s 1.60 ERA leads the majors after the Braves sent Johnny Cueto to his room early in last night’s game. Beachy is rounding into a top of the rotation guy and I look for that to continue against the Fish.
In order to get a view from the other side I spoke with Ehsan Kassim over at Marlin Maniac. He answered a few questions I had about the Marlins and I returned the favor for our Braves. You can find his half of our chat over at Marlin Maniac and I’m sure you’ll let me know where I erred.
You guys stumbled out the gate like we did but a lot of that was due to injury to LoMo and Stanton (knees) as I understand it. Is everyone (starters) fit these days? I saw Hanley wearing a compression sleeve last night.
Omar Infante‘s hamstring is still not 100% and Logan Morrison is still battling his knee issues. That is as far as I can tell you about the Marlins injury woes. Unlike last season, the team has managed to stay relatively healthy, which has been great for our pitching staff, as we have the talent to match-up with anyone in the division. Hanley Ramirez has looked a lot better this season, although his numbers have not exactly indicated that early on. Jose Reyes has avoided the injury bug, as has Josh Johnson, which is amazing news for the team. The team is as healthy as they will be all season, which is why it is disappointing to be losing some of the games that we have been losing.
With Heath Bell having issues sealing the deal, what’s the state of your bullpen, are their defined roles or is Ozzie winging it?
Never was a big fan of the Heath Bell signing. We overpaid for the most overrated position in all of baseball. Bell has been a shell of himself, as he has shown no control and walks the bases loaded every time he is out there, it seems. Right now, Ozzie Guillen and the Marlins front office are stuck on making Bell work. They will give him as many opportunities to keep that role as they can.
It does seem to me that Ozzie is winging his bullpen situation. Our best reliever would have to be Steve Cishek. He has been excellent thus far in his MLB career. I am in the boat that suggested that he should have been the Marlins closer outright heading into this season. That did not happen, obviously.
Mike Dunn has been a major disappointment and continues to help the Braves make the Uggla trade look good. If the Marlins acquire a reliable left handed arm soon, I expect Dunn to spend the rest of the season in the minors. The rest of the Marlins rotation has been exceptional. Edward Mujica has had a few up and down outings, but has seemed to correct himself his last few times out. For the most part, the relievers seem to have a set role, just Mujica and Cishek are moved around. I personally have issues with that. Cishek is our best reliever and I feel if he only pitched the ninth, he would be wasted. Ozzie does the smart thing rather, and usually brings Cishek in a tough situation where the Marlins need their best arm out there.
We get Buehrle and Nolasco during this mini-series. What’s the scoop on these guys heading into it, Hot, Warm or Frigid?
Mark Buehrle has given the Marlins a quality start 6 of the 7 times he has been out there. Buehrle does not have the best stuff on the Marlins staff, but he does have the most consistent game. I enjoy watching him pitch, as he works quickly and the game moves along much smoother. Two starts ago, Buehrle hurled a complete game for the Marlins and has a nice sparkling 2.81 ERA thus far. He like over the course of his career, is outperforming his FIP and xFIP. Buehrle has pitched well against the Braves in his 14 career innings against them, with a 3.21 ERA in 21 innings. Left handers always seem to give the Braves some problems, so I can see Buehrle having a very strong start against the Braves.
Ricky Nolasco has finally been pitching to his capabilities this season. Forever, we analytical folks have wondered when Ricky would live up to his FIP and xFIP numbers, it has not happened until this season. Ricky Nolasco will be aiming for the Marlins all-time wins record in this game. He is currently tied with Dontrelle Willis with 68. Nolasco had been pitching really well, up until his last time out. Nolasco gave up six runs on nine hits in a loss to the Mets. That by far was the worst start of the season for Nolasco. Over the past few seasons, Marlins fans have learned to deal with hot Ricky and cold Ricky. We should know within the first few batters how Nolasco will fare. For his career, Nolasco has a 4.80 career ERA against the Braves in 110+ innings. Nolasco has also had some success against the Braves, striking out 18 hitters a few years ago. It will be very interesting to see which Ricky shows up for the Marlins, especially in a game where runs will be hard to score for the Marlins against Beachy.
You’ve had a month and a half with Ozzie at the helm – well minus the suspension – what are your impressions of him not that you get to watch him up close?
Ozzie Guillen has done a decent job of managing the Marlins so far, and by decent, I mean that he has not screwed much up, yet. As long as the team is winning and Ozzie is not the cause of the Marlins problems, I have no issues with anything he says or does. Yes, his Castro comments were out of line, but so were the media reports that contorted what the manager actually said and made it seem worse then it really was, but that is what journalist (sic) has become, sadly.
Guillen is a loose-manager and he keeps the players loose, but at the same time, he will hold the players accountable if they mess up, but at the same time, he will take the blame when it comes to the media. My impression early on is that the Marlins players love playing for Ozzie and I can see why. He is a fun-loving manager that loves to enjoy the game. Ozzie has an aggressive baseball attitude and that is something I enjoy. There are of course times I yell at my TV set, wondering what the hell Ozzie is doing, but I would take Ozzie Guillen over Fredi Gonzalez any day of the week.
What’s surprised you most about the team this year?
This answer to this question has to be Carlos Zambrano. Yes, Omar Infante has been a nice surprise, but he in reality is a better player then most give him credit for. Anibal Sanchez has been among one of the best pitchers in baseball so far this season, but this is something I saw coming as well. Heath Bell’s decline should come as no surprise to anyone with common sense, as his K rate has been dropping for a while now. Josh Johnson has been a disappointment, but he has turned it around as of late and seems to be falling into where he should be. It seems the superstar Johnson of old is gone, but he can still be a decent pitcher.
So that leads back to Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano has been stellar for the Marlins so far. Baseball reference has Zambrano with a 1.9 WAR so far, Fangraphs has him with just under a run above replacement. Zambrano has a Marlins best, 1.88 ERA. Big Z has only allowed one earned run in his previous three starts. Zambrano is the Marlins number four pitcher and the Marlins acquired his services for Chris Volstad, who is struggling mightily in Chicago, and the team is only paying him two million dollars this season. The Marlins have quite a bargain right now.
Of course, I don’t see Zambrano maintaining this same path he has started on. Sooner or later, Zambrano will regress and pitch like the Zambrano that frustrates Marlins fans after rewarding the fans with a great start. It would have been excellent to see Zambrano take the mound against the Braves in Atlanta, where his final issues with the Cubs arose, but that is not going to happen this series.
What hasn’t happened that you expected to happen when you looked at the roster the day before the season started?
Gaby Sanchez has not gotten off to the first half hot streak that he has gotten on in his first two seasons. He his currently only hitting .198 with only 1 home run. Gaby was supposed to be a big part of the Marlins lineup, but it seems like he is not showing any improvement as the season wears on. With first base being the offensive premium position it is, I don’t know how long the Marlins can last with Gaby struggling as bad as he has. The more and more Gaby struggles, it just makes my argument that the Marlins would be better off moving Logan Morrison to first and trading Gaby Sanchez (to get) stronger.
Follow up thoughts
Thanks to Eshan for his assistance in getting to know the Marlins a little better. Just a few thoughts on his input.
Ozzie is a good baseball man. For all of his faux pas he knows the game and plays an aggressive and entertaining style of ball. What he lacks is a filter, something that says “Uh, wait a second, breathe, go you really want to do or say that?” I do agree he knows much more about baseball that Fredi. Having said that Fredi has apparently been taking lessons somewhere as he hasn’t made as many obvious goofs this year as last. he is standing up for his pIayers more when they feel abused by the umps and not abusing his bullpen to the point that Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters may actually be under used.
I said when the trade was make Zambrano would have a good year. He is no longer in the spotlight as the ACE of the staff and he has good stuff. Even a regressed Zambrano is preferable to Volstad.
I believe that trading Sanchez may happen. I like him a lot but either he or LoMo will go eventually and if he continues to struggle he may be the guy. The flip side of that is that if he struggles his value is way down. Milwaukee might be a good trading partner as they really need a first baseman right now.
That’s A Wrap
It loos to be an interesting series with Ozzie returning to Atlanta and the new look Marlins hot. If the Braves bats can find their way against Buehrle we could sweep it. I think however that a split is the most likely ending. Let me know your thoughts on this or anything Braves.
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