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Saturday, May 17, 2008
MarlinsNation citizens! Fear NOT! We are moving our site over to a new host so that we can get more involved with our content.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Ok all you faithful MarlinsNation readers, your patience will finally be rewarded... presenting the first edition of Nolesmarlins' Power Rankings of 2008! Sorry about the delay, a simple password SNAFU was to blame. Fortunately, these rankings come out right in time; about 1/4 of the season has passed. And what a quarter it has been... many surprises, many disappointments, many entertaining moments (especially if you're a Marlins fan). I plan on updating the rankings weekly (every Tuesday), but since I am not one of those highly paid idiots-in-disguise working for ESPN or FOX, I do anticipate that at multiple points during this long season the ranking updates will come sporadically. As always, feel free to respond to these rankings with your comments, suggestions, praise, constructive criticism, disapproval, complaints, and plain old below-the-belt insults. So, without further ado...
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Probably the best young lineup in baseball, excellent rotation anchored by the best starter in the National League (Brandon Webb), ROY front runner and future superstar in the outfield (Justin Upton), good bullpen, whoopin' a55 and taking names in the tough NL West... all around best team in baseball. Whats there not to like about these guys?
2. Boston Red Sox: Everyone thought they would be among the best, and they haven't disappointed. Then again, they haven't really exceeded expectations either. Their superior talent is undeniable, Dice K is an absolute beast and worth every penny, but if they want to be considered a true dynasty they need to not just win, but dominate. I don't see any domination here. However, the fact that they have easily survived Big Papi's early season slump speaks volumes.
3. Florida Marlins: Yeah I said it. I say in all seriousness and with a straight face that the Marlins are the third best baseball team on the planet... you can go ahead and label me as biased, but then I'd promptly instruct you to kiss my teal and black derriere. As of this moment, and as we all are aware, the Marlins are tied for the best record in baseball. This is no fluke at all, the numbers speak for themselves. Hanley Ramirez is the best young player in baseball, Uggla is en fuego, and this team is hitting homers like it's their job (umm, maybe because it is their job...). You may hear many of the so called "experts" on TV claiming that the Marlins' recent surge is an aberration because of pitching issues, but what these jabronis don't point out is that the Marlins' recent successes (most notably a 7 game winning streak) were not due to Dan Uggla's power explosion (that sounds almost like a porno... I apologize to the kids and social conservatives who happen to be reading this) but due to multiple successive quality starts from the rotation. This team is for real, and if you don't believe now, trust me, you will soon.
4. Chicago Cubs: Why did I put the Cubs below the Marlins even though they have the same record? Because they're the Cubs, stupid! In all seriousness, the Cubs and Marlins are very close, but I gave the Marlins the edge because I feel that the NL East is a stronger division than the NL Central. The Cubs also have many more intangible advantages that the Marlins do not enjoy (massive payroll, larger market, a stadium, etc...) but still have the same record. That being said, Geovanny Souto (I apologize if I misspelled his name) is one excellent young catcher. Fukudome has been even better than advertised. DLee is also having another monster year, and maybe, just barely maybe, beginning to merit consideration for the HOF once he retires. 100 years after their last title, the Cubs finally may have enough talent to end the longest championship drought in sporting history.
5. Tampa Bay Rays: The future of the American League. They have the young pitching to dominate their division for years. We have seen this happen before... Atlanta about 18 years ago... and right here in South Florida earlier this decade. Tampa's new ownership has certainly been paying attention. It's an exciting time for Florida baseball.
6. St. Louis Cardinals: Next person who calls Tony LaRussa a genius for leading the Cards back to relevance is gonna get slapped. What happened last year was the Cards ran into a little bad luck... this team always had talent. However, when predicting the fortunes of the 2008 Cardinals one must keep in mind the fact that Albert Pujols requires Tommy John surgery and is very likely to spend significant time on the DL because of this in the near future. The Cards can win without him, but losing a player with Pujols' game-changing ability can trip up even the best of teams, even with Ludwick doing what he does. The Cards are good, but probably not good enough without Pujols. As a side note, congrats to Rick Ankiel for his successful return to the major leagues as an outfielder. I must admit that I didn't think he had a snowball's chance in heck at returning to the bigs. Mmmmm, crow tastes good!
7. Oakland Athletics: Every pundit tends to point to the Marlins as the division leader most likely to fall out of first. As you probably can guess, I disrespectfully and emphatically disagree. Not counting the Twins (the AL Central is all sorts of FUBAR right now...) the Oakland A's most likely will succumb to the temptations of mediocrity... and the LA Angels. Why? They just don't do anything that special when taken in context. I'm not saying they aren't good, they are, I believe that they will finish above .500, and that Danny Haren trade was pure genius... but there are better teams out there, even in their division (like LA...). In my pseudo-expert opinion they are a year away from serious contention.
8. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Torii Hunter appears to be an excellent addition to this team. Garland has also turned out to be a decent pickup, bolstering a potentially suspect rotation. No reason why the Angels cannot overtake the A's at some point this year; they have the most talent in this division by far. Kelvim Escobar's injury doesn't help, though.
9. Philadelphia Phillies: BOOOOO!!!! Hehe, just had to get that out, sorry. Clearly the best of the rest in the NL East. But if this team wants to even whiff the playoffs (instead of Utley's BO) Ryan Howard needs to start hitting immediately. Chase Utley: so easy a caveman can do it!
10. Los Angeles Dodgers: Oh what might have been... if they had just kept the Dbacks from virtually wrapping up the division by the end of April. Joe Torre has finally made the correct decision by finding any way he can to put Matt Kemp in the lineup. Another up and coming young team... but unfortunately for them they are overshadowed by the other, better up and coming teams in the National League.
11. Cleveland Indians: Cliff Lee is all that is standing between this team and extreme disappointment. After the first week of the season, and Detroit's hilarious and dramatic stumble out of the gate, Cleveland was poised to take advantage of a huge opportunity. On paper, they were the most complete team in the AL behind Boston, and had the reigning AL Cy Young award winner pitching every fifth day. However, CC has been anything but CY, and the Indians have suffered because of this. But, tribesman can take comfort in the fact that this is a very long season, one that Detroit apparently wants no part of, and that the AL Central is one wacky division where anything can happen. I predict that they will pull it out in the end, they just have too many weapons not to.
12. Minnesota Twins: How is this team leading the division with Liriano in the minors and Santana on the Mets? Because the rest of the division is playing like crap. Like I said, they will eventually fall to Cleveland, but second place and a surprise wild card isn't totally out of the question.
13. Houston Astros: You can thank (or curse) three things for this team's recent success: the weak NL Central, the Marlins sweep of the Brewskis, and Lance Berkman. In case you happen to be wondering, no, there is no way this 9-1 streak will last. Not a fart's chance in a hurricane.
14. New York Mets: Look on the bright side, Mets fans (if any happen to be reading this...), imagine how horrible your team would be if you didn't pick up Johan. And that's not all guys, I have some more silver lining to the dark cloud that 2008 has become for you... believe it or not, the Mets aren't even the most disappointing team in New York! Celebration, bitches!!!
15. Atlanta Braves: I'll try to use small words as a courtesy for our uneducated, toothless friends from Dixie... Not this year, guys. Yes, Larry Jones may be hitting pretty well right now, but seriously folks, who could possibly be afraid of a man named "Chipper"? He is going to make a real run at .400? Please.
16. Baltimore Orioles: I guess this has become a yearly thing with them... start off strong and give their long suffering fans a wee inkling of hope... then they hack out their fanbase's collective hearts with a rusty machete. In douchebag owner terms, Jeff Loria aint got squat on Peter Angelos. That man really ticks me off, and I don't even care about the O's.
17. New York Yankees: Well, if they were going to have an "off year", it was going to be this year. The vets are too old and the kids are too young. Arod is on the DL. Joba is still in the bullpen. Kennedy is back in the minors. And worst of all, Joe Girardi is the manager.
18. Chicago White Sox: At least they stumble out of first with flair. What appeared for the shortest of moments to be a golden opportunity for the White Sox to return to the top slipped through their black and white fingertips after they hit their own rough patch... possibly caused by their manager/resident loudmouth's inability to STFU and focus on the game.
19. Milwaukee Brewers: Milwaukee must mean "Overrated" in ancient Native American. Same thing with "Braun" in Yiddish (yes, he is a son of Abraham if you were wondering...).
20. Detroit Tigers: I want to place them lower, but they just have too much talent. I refuse to believe that they will not get hot at one point this season. However, at this point it would take a miracle for them to completely turn it around and live up to their preseason expectations. Call me bitter, but it does make me smile to see Cabrera struggle. Next year they should return to the upper echelon, they just have too much talent, and Dombrowski is too good of an executive to sit on his butt and not improve the team in the offseason.
And I'm tired of writing, so I'm just going to list 21-30. It's not like they deserve to have anything said about them...
21. Toronto Blue Jays
22. Colorado Rockies: Ok, fine, I'll talk about them. They have fallen hard since their surprise, marlinesque run to the NL title last year, but I do see this team turning it around and having a strong finish to the year, perhaps even breaking .500. Don't get me wrong, they aren't making the postseason, but most of their failures this season have been due to simple bad luck. Trust me, it's hard to win when you have to play the Dbacks 19 times.
23. Pittsburgh Pirates
24. Kansas City Royals
25. Texas Rangers
26. Cincinnati Reds
27. Seattle Mariners: A disappointing team in a disappointing division. Why are the A's in first? Because Texas and Seattle SUCK.
28. San Francisco Giants
29. San Diego Padres
30. Washington Nationals
Monday, May 12, 2008
Quick, which team in MLB has the best winning percentage? Boston? Arizona? Chicago? Oakland? Minnesota? Any team in New York city?
No, its the Florida Marlins who at 23-14 have a .622 winning percentage. It is the best start in franchise history and they are in the midst of a 7 game winning streak.
And none of the pundits saw this coming. Which begs the question, if you were an unsuccessful GM, why are you the lead analyst for your sport?
Anywho, even good ol' BSPN, er...ESPN...is taking notice. They have acknowledged that perhaps times are changing as the Marlins have signed Hanley Ramirez to a 6 year deal (just wait for the theories to start coming out about how the Marlins are going to shop the young superstar). Even paying great complement to Ramirez calling him one of the 5 best players in baseball.
About time someone noticed, huh?
It's still amazing to me that a sport such as baseball can be overlooked in some places by even their talking heads. Still, the Marlins are getting it done and right now, look unstoppable. Dan Uggla has been red hot hitting 3 home runs in the Nationals series sweep along with 7 RBIs. The starting pitching has been much more consistent and the staff ERA over this streak is a paltry 2.20.
Now they will head into Cincinnati who is nursing a 15-23 record. Seems to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Marlins. But they will have their work cut out for them.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Let's face it, this is nothing short of biblical.
Right now, the Marlins starting staff is churning out impressive outing after impressive outing. It may not be the kind of starts that will get on ESPN - a rare feat for the Fish to get on ESPN to begin with - but they are the kind of starts a winning ballclub needs.
Who is most responsible? Not to be overlooked should be Mark Wiley, the Marlins pitching guru. He stopped being a coach and went straight to guru status once Andrew Miller started throwing strikes.
Now, let's not downplay the talent on this starting staff. But let's not play it up either. Mark Hendrickson was valued as a middle relief/long relief pitcher and signed with Florida because he had the opportunity to start. He was named their opening day starter and everyone practically laughed. Scott Olsen had a ton of question marks, most notably is he mature enough to play in this league and be a productive professional? Andrew Miller, despite his high draft pick, has been knocked for not having good control. Burke Badenhop was practically a throw-in, the kind though that the Marlins tend to make a killing on with other teams. Ricky Nolasco, in 2006, was looking very promising but until recently hasn't produced much for the Marlins as a starter.
All this has changed and the Marlins are on a 7 game winning streak. Their staff ERA, over the last 7 days, is 1.67. That isn't just the starters, but the entire staff. To start the season, it was clear the bullpen was going to do a lot of cleaning up. Yet, the starters had 3 new starters in their rotation (Hendrickson, Vandenhurk, Miller). Vandenhurk was sent down in favor of Badenhop, but all that has happened since is each starter has become more consistent. What is the secret? Wiley's 10 commandments - because although we have joked that on the 7th day God created Mark Wiley, and some have joked the other way around, there is something miraculous going on here.
- Thou shall poundeth the strike zone
The starters' strike percentage has risen to 63.2% which means they are less likely to be behind in the count - see commandment #4.
- Thou shall quicken thy pace
Olsen has been quoted as saying what has helped him has been picking up the pace. Miller did the same once he was struggling at the beginning of the season and it helped him keep his velocity up as well as stay focused.
- Thou shall have great command
Locating your pitches is more important than the velocity of those pitches according to Wiley. In fact, it is more about having command of your pitches. Just ask any pitcher that has ever been successful like Greg Maddux.
- Thou shall not get behind in the count
When pitchers fall behind in the count, they become easier for hitters to predict which means more likely to get blasted. Control your pitches, control the count, control the hitters.
- Thou shall trust your defense
The Marlins defense is not among the best, but they are capable and are improving. One example is their timely double plays, which have saved them in past starts. They are middle of the pack for DPs based on total chances (1368) and the total dps (31) resulting in 2.2 percent (league best is 3.2%).
- Thou shall not walk batters
Only 20 BBs in 54.0 IP. That is showing a big sign of improvement.
- Thou shall work on you defense
The starters are also very good athletes and can field the ball. This will help their own cause and something the Marlins starters - and relievers - have become more known for.
- Thou shall trust your pitches
Andrew Miller had to trust in his changeup. Ricky Nolasco has a nasty curve, but wasn't throwing it for strikes. When both started to trust their pitches, better results came - and it was predicated on having good command, #3 on Wiley's list.
- Thou shall trust in your bullpen
The bullpen is deep and has been a source of strength dating back to last season. When the starters struggled to start the season, it was the bullpen that bailed them out. And if things get too hectic out there, the bullpen can come in and slam the door. This is an extra source of confidence that should allow the starters to go out and be aggressive as their bullpen will be able to pick them up but so can their offense.
- Thou shall have no other coaches besides Mark Wiley
This needs no explanation, Marlin fans. Ever since Wiley left, and we were replaced by Kranitz, we had a string of success followed by injury and inconsitency. Dontrelle Willis was vaulted into Cy Young contention under Wiley's tutelage.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Prepare to be shocked.
Over the last 5 starts, the Marlins not only have won games but their starting pitching has been phenomenal. In turn, this has enabled the bullpen to solidify and get back to normal. Look at the numbers, it is quite encouraging and if the Marlins staff can keep this up, who knows how far this team can go. It is clear that Mark Wiley's tutelage is paying off, after all he almost single-handedly turned Dontrelle Willis into a Cy Young candidate.
Today Miller will take the mound and go for another quality start and if he can do that we may have more than just an anomaly but an actual trend. Nolasco finally pitched the way we come to expect and this may be a momentum builder for him.
This team's pitching is coming along at just the right time. Look at the following table and be shocked to learn who has the 2nd lowest ERA over this span.
If you wish to see the entire stat page breakdown, click here.
Also notice the strike percentages. The pitchers are all in that 60% range and one of the basic tenants of Wiley's is to throw strikes.