The Marlins and Phillies have been jockeying for last place in the division for the past few weeks. The Fish have battled the antics of Ozzie Guillen’s mouth, and the pressure of filling a debt financed stadium all year long. These issues haven’t been biggest problem clouding the Marlins early season however. The play on the field has been the main reason why the Fish sit in 4th. With fans and the media looking for a scapegoat, enemy number one has become Hanley Ramirez. It makes sense, given that he is one of the longest tenured Marlins in addition to being one of the highest paid. His numbers have dropped steadily since 2009, and haven’t shown any signs of turning around. The Marlin’s may end up regretting the contract extension they gave him, if they haven’t already, and could put him on the trade block.
When Last we Met: The first weekend in June saw the Marlins take 2 of 3 the Phillies at the Bank. Despite having a very dry offensive month the Fish had no trouble scoring runs. Hanley Ramirez, who has become center of Miami’s frustrations, looked like an all-star belting multiple home runs. The series defied conventional wisdom as Kyle Kendrick was the only Phillie to pick up a win, and Cole Hamels was hung with his second loss. For some reason Hamels has not had good luck against Miami (0-2) this year, giving him yet another reason to like the west coast.
1) Despite his recent struggles, Phillies pitching will continue to make Hanley Ramirez look good.
2) The team doesn’t miss Dolphins stadium at all, but becomes dizzy and distracted by all the bright colors and dancing sculptures at the Marlins new park.
3) Hamels can’t figure out how to beat the Marlins, stretching his record to 0-3, and causing him to look up condos in LA.
Fansided Perspective: Marlins Maniac writer Geoff Parkins issues grades for the team’s free agent pick-ups, and it looks like most will get into a good school.
1) The Marlins haven’t met their lofty pre-season predictions yet. How would you grade the teams big free agent acquisitions after 3 months?
Big Acquisition No. 1: Jose Reyes. Doesn’t have slugging and power hitting, but that’s not why he was picked up. He’s been hitting well, even through JuneSwoon II. A definite threat once he’s on base, and with only six fielding errors this year and one of the best arms in the league, he’s a base-hit killer. He’s been in on 42 double plays this year, on track for a near career high. Winter naysayers predicted he’d have a blown hammy by May, and he’s still playing hard. Finally, he’s been instrumental in making Hanley Ramirez’ transition to third a positive move for everyone. I would say he’s in the “B+” to “A-” range.
Big Acquisition No. 2: Mark Buehrle. He’s got the best ERA and W-L record in the rotation. ’nuff said. A solid “A” acquisition.
Big Acquisition No. 3: Heath Bell. Cue the crickets. When he’s on, he’s awesome. When he’s off…we give up 4-run leads in the ninth inning. That level of inconsistency is incompatible with a high-level closer. I give him a “C” unless he evens out in the “on” mode.
Bonus Big Acquisition: Carlos Zambrano. No legendary temper tantrums. In fact, coming to Miami has Z looking
like a kid on Christmas morning, and his throwing reflects that happiness. He had a horrible first inning the other day, and battled through it with as strong a display of grit as I’ve seen in a long time. That mental toughness, plus a good bat, reminds me of Don Drysdale. I see him as a big positive for the Fish. Another “A”.
2) Are people still showing up to Marlins games, or has the luster of a brand new stadium worn off already?
Attendance this year has gone up an average 10,000 per game from last year. Anticipated parking problems never materialized, and widespread Guillen boycotting never materialized. I still hear from first-time visitors, and the reviews are universally positive. Enjoyable summer baseball in South Florida trumps slumps. The best part is that Marlins Park is no longer Fenway South.
3) It seems there is a great debate brewing in Miami, open roof or closed roof. Does it really make a difference on the field, or is it just another thing the players can be superstitious about?
Right now, the limited amount of statistical data is pointing to a mildly batter-friendly park. Baseball Reference has Marlins Park at a 106, with Coors Field at 117 and PETCO Park at 91 (100 is the break point between pitcher-friendly and hitter-friendly). The roof has been closed far more often than not, and will probably remain that way going forward. I would say that those that feel the debate is monumental and has a significant effect on the game in Miami might be trying to make mountains out of molehills. Let a few seasons of stats accumulate, and then take a hard look. My vote is that it’s superstition, not significant difference.
New York Mets
The Mets continue to make it difficult for me to wear my Phillies cap around town. In years past it was easy to flaunt my Phillies gear, but dropping below the Mets has mad it to hard. There is nothing worse than being made fun of by a Mets fan. The boys from Queens have managed to stay well above the Phils in the standings due in large part to their starting pitching. The return of Johan Santana, coupled with the mystifying success of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey have kept them in most games. David Wright continues to tear the cover off the ball, but no longer seems like a viable trade target given the Mets record. They’ve turned themselves into legitimate July contenders, which is no small feat given their futility last year. It’s not quite do or die time for the Phillies yet, but they have to win these games against the Mets if they ever hope to catch them.
When Last We Met: The Phillies exploded against the Mets in their last series in Queens. I must have been good luck, as i was witness to the team scoring 10 runs in the series finale. The Phils looked like the team of old, not only pouring on the runs, but coming back in the late innings. Chooch came through in the clutch yet again, hitting the go ahead home run. Late inning rallies used to come with regularity, but now they are few and far between. Thankfully, the Mets bullpen is a patchwork job just like ours, so the Phils will have ample opportunity for some late inning heroics.
Series Predictions: 1) Chase Utley will continue to pepper the right field bleachers of Citi Field, providing some much needed fireworks for the holiday series. (Editors Note: Couldn’t help myself)
2) The Phillies and Mets will battle for bullpen futility, with no one coming out on top.
3) The July 4th hero wil be (drumroll) …. Eric Kratz! The backup journeyman catcher is sure to start the day game, and he’s as unlikely a candidate to spark the team as any.
Fansided Perspective: Matt Musico from Rising Apple did his best to explain why R.A. Dickey is so good.
1) R.A. Dickey is leading the league in wins, complete games, and awkward swings induced (new category), what?!?
I’m sharing the same kind of shock that all Phillies fans have. I would have never thought that a couple days from July, Dickey would be leading the league for wins while Cliff Lee is still winless. He’s been unreal this year, using his knuckleball masterfully; changing speeds from his 60 mph one to his 80 mph one, mixing in his fastball a lot to keep hitters off balance, then using his new rising knuckleball, which just doesn’t seem fair. Even though he’s 38 years old, he’s about 26/27 years old in knuckleball years, and the Mets are fortunate to be enjoying the actual prime in his career. He’s been consistent for them since we signed him in 2010, but this has obviously been on another level.
2) What magical aid can we attribute to Ike Davis becoming a major league hitter again?
I would say the fact that he remembered how to hit. When he was hitting badly, he was pulling off everything, stepping in the bucket severely, and pitchers would take advantage of it by throwing him off-speed pitches on the outside corner. Now you can see the difference from earlier in the year; his hands are over his shoulder now, not like earlier in the year when he looked ridiculous with them at his belt, he’s crouching a little bit more, and his stance is more closed toward the pitcher. Ike naturally steps in the bucket a little bit, but now that he’s not starting with an open stance, he’s not leaving himself as vulnerable as he was earlier in the year, and is able to cover the plate a lot easier.
3) It’s still early, but do you see the Mets making a push and becoming buyers at the deadline? (only 1 game out of a wild-card)
This last week and a half will really be the tell-tale sign, but Alderson has been saying for about a month now that he expects this team to continue playing well and to be buyers after the All-Star break. I’m not sure if that’s Moneyball talking, but so far so good. The biggest weakness is obviously the bullpen. Over the past week, multiple sources have said that New York is now looking to go outside the organization for help, but the market for relievers hasn’t formed just yet. The offense has been playing well enough to not merit any big moves, as the resurgence of Davis and the sudden pop from Daniel Murphy’s bat acting as though they were recent additions to the lineup. So, they’ll be looking for at least one reliever, and depending on the asking price, we’ll see if team’s want young MLB talent or prospects in return.