I am tired of the media droll. There doesn’t seem to be anyone in print, on TV, or stuck inside my radio that thinks the Marlins are capable.
And that is fine, because I wasn’t entirely sure myself. Not entirely sure that they would actually do it, not that they were incapable.
Because, this team has all the weapons to get into the postseason and is entirely capable.
Who has better starting pitching than the Marlins? The Nationals? No. The Mets? Maybe if you were looking to play in an AARP softball game. The Phillies? Not in that ballpark. The Astros? Roger Clemens, sure, but after him no one on that staff – including Oswalt – can be as dominating as Beckett, Burnett or even Willis (who has proven himself Cy Young worthy). All Jason Vargas has done is notch a 5-1 record 3.16 ERA and showing the poise of a veteran. Moehler and Valdez can give you quality starts whichever you choose and that is more than can be expected from a #5 in any rotation.
How about relief? Antonio Alfonseca, Guillermo Mota, Todd Jones, Ron Villone. That is the makings of a very strong pen. Villone has struggled, yes. He has a 7.45 ERA while in Florida, but carried a 2.45 ERA over from Seattle where he pitched 40.1 innings. If Villone can get back on track, that adds another weapon. Mota has an excellent track record as a set-up man in this league and is now showing signs of getting comfortable in that role again (0.00 ERA with 9K’s in 4.2IP over last 7 days). Alfonseca has started to come around (0.00 ERA over past week) and has been solid all year long (1-1 3.79 ERA) despite still recovering from an injury. And then there is Todd Jones.
Offense? It is counfounding. The Marlins have, statistically, some of the more impressive performances in this league. 4 of the top 5 hitters in the NL with fewest K’s per plate appearances are Marlins (Lo Duca, Pierre, Castillo, Lowell). They have a .272 team batting average, plus one of the top hitters with RISP in Juan Encarnacion. The only thing they seem to lack is power, after Delgado and Cabrera of course. Mike Lowell was expected to provide more than his 6 home runs. Encarnacion has 15, which is solid. But the Marlins seem to be winning despite not hitting home runs – reverting back to that “small ball” style of play that defined them in their ’03 run. Yet, in Houston or in Philadelphia, the offense’s troubles go out the window as any team can produce runs in those parks. And they are both fields of, literally, contention. In NY, Washington and back in Florida, the Marlins ‘small ball’ favors them and complements their pitching.
Which brings us to a final point – of these teams contending for the Wild Card spot, which has the most experience in this position? The Astros or the Marlins? It doesnt matter. Both teams have experience, but it will take more than that to win this. Yet, both these teams can have a slight edge over their competitors because of this experience. And that will be tested as the Marlins will square off against these teams over the coming weeks.
So, why aren’t the Marlins being considered strong favorites? To answer that question may take even longer and demand more research than to answer the current question as to why they are contenders.