2011 Marlins Season Preview: Optimism, You’re Doing it Wrong

With pitchers and catchers fast approaching, optimism is in the air. The Fans are projecting big things from big players! Mike Stanton is going to hit 30-plus home runs with a chance at 40 this season! Hanley Ramirez will bounce back and have an MVP season! Chris Coghlan will play a competent center field*!

*Guess which one I don’t think will happen?

That sort of optimism, if one has some reasoning for the claims being made. However, I stumbled upon this little piece by Bleacher Report’s Brendan Walsh, and I just could not believe the claims. Let’s start with the title, and FJM it down to the end, shall we?

MLB Fish Tale: The Florida Marlins Will Win The 2011 NL Wild Card

It isn’t completely out of the question. It’s a tough climb, and a lot of things have to go right for the Marlins, but it isn’t an absurd idea, like perhaps the Pittsburgh Pirates winning the NL Wild Card or the Baltimore Orioles winning the AL Wild Card (wait, really?). As a Marlins fan and (attempted) objective observer, I’ll bite.

[Long intro about how the Philadelphia Phillies are likely the NL East winners]

I sort of skimmed this section, as I think the Phillies are very strong and are likely to win the division. Let’s just say we agree without getting into the “analysis” of the claims.

Minus the Phillies, and probably the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, the NL playoff picture is pretty foggy.

Reigning National League MVP Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds are probably the favorites in the Central, but with St. Louis, Milwaukee and Chicago chasing them, the NL Central crown is up in the air.

What about the wild card?

The National League is notorious for always having a tight race to the finish to determine who wins the wild card spot every year.

Usually it results in a playoff game to determine the winner, a la the 2007 NL Champion Colorado Rockies, who beat San Diego in a winner-take-all game. Colorado rode that momentum into the playoffs and eventually the World Series.

So who will be the Colorado Rockies of 2011?

Who indeed, sir? Let’s run through your candidates!

St. Louis

No—they will be to beaten up by division rivals Chicago, Cincinnati and Milwaukee.

I don’t like the argument, but sure. I guess the same would be said for the other teams.

Colorado

Maybe, but their pitching staff will need to duplicate their surprising 2010 campaign. Ace Ubaldo Jimenez started off on fire, but ended poorly. He will need to be more consistent this season.

And here is where some evidence would have been nice to see. Don’t worry, I’ll provide it for you.

Colorado Rockies, 2009: 4.24 ERA, 3.96 FIP
Colorado Rockies, 2010: 4.14 ERA, 3.83 FIP

It didn’t surprise me that Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge de la Rosa, Jason Hammel, and company were good. You should have seen them in 2009, when they were also in the playoff hunt on the back of an excellent rotation.

Los Angeles

Matt Kemp will need to become a superstar overnight, and I don’t believe all the hype behind their pitching staff.

Jonathan Broxton is the real deal though. If they can manage a lead, Broxton should shut the door.

The Dodgers will be in the hunt, but will lose out late in the season.

I believe it was the great Tom Tango who (many times) said the following (emphasis mine):

Summary opinions without evidence…is bull****

And this is exactly that. The author doesn’t back up his claim as to why he “doesn’t buy the hype behind” the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitching staff. He just claims it to be so.

Atlanta

I like the addition of Dan Uggla at second, but Tommy Hanson is the most inconsistent pitcher I have seen in a long time. When he is on though, he is awesome.

Jason Heyward is going to have a monster second year, and Brian McCann is one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. But an aging and/or unproven starting rotation of Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens and Mike Minor has me thinking the Braves will need to add an arm to really challenge the Phillies and the wild card spot.

Ironic that he has called the Atlanta Braves staff, a good staff that put up a 3.57 ERA and 3.65 FIP last season and would not surprise anyone with a repeat performance, “unproven.” Many of this author’s claims remain “unproven.”

All of this uncertainty leads me to believe that the National League wild card winner will be surprise team who has a young superstar, solid pitching lead by one of the top 10 pitchers in the National League and a young, talented up and coming batting lineup.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the 2011 National League Wild Card winners—The Florida Marlins.

OK, here’s the interesting part, many words into the piece. You’d think at least he would put some evidence into arguing the crux of his article’s point.

Why the Marlins you say? Well, it rests mostly on the shoulders of arguably one of the most talented player in baseball.

With the departures of Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu, this is truly Hanley Ramirez‘s team.

Florida will be depending on him to put up MVP like numbers. This includes new Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez. “I expect a lot from (Ramirez) this year, not only on the field but also off the field.”

Rodriguez is looking for Ramirez to become the leader of this very young Marlins team. He is fully capable of doing so, and if he does what people expect he can do, he will probably contend for the triple crown.

Translation: the Marlins want Ramirez to play as well as he did before, as well as be a leader on the team. Any reason to believe that this will happen? I guess we’re just going to go on faith on this one.

Ramirez does have some help, as this Marlins roster is extremely underrated.

The ace of their pitching staff is fire baller Josh Johnson.

Johnson had a good 2010 going 11-6 adding 186 punch outs in the process. He will be looking to improve on this in 2011.

I don’t think this guy realizes that Johnson was probably the second best pitcher in the National League last year. If he “improved” on his performance any more, it would be great, but it isn’t the most likely of situations. I have a feeling this guy doesn’t follow the team.

The rotation also includes newcomer Javier Vazquez.

Being labeled as “washed up” by many, after a poor season with the Yankees, Vazquez should flourish in Miami as the lights won’t be as bright.

Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad—all terrific arms—round out what is one of the most complete starting rotations around.

Translation: Javier Vazquez can’t pitch in New York because of the pressure, but he’ll be better in 2011. Here’s the rest of the rotation.

What does a “complete” rotation even mean? Is it complete in that there are five guys in it? So far, I think I’ve seen two points of analysis with no evidence whatsoever in this article regarding the Marlins’ chances of winning the Wild Card.

The bullpen is also pretty good.

Leo Nunez and lefty Randy Choate headline it, and while these are not household names, both should be able to hold a lead.

Translation: You may not have head of these two guys (among six other names critical to the pen’s success), but they are OK.

All major league relievers can probably hold leads; the question is how well and how often. In fact, the question really is how many runs the bullpen will give up, rather than how many leads it will relinquish. More empty statements.

The off season addition of John Buck brings a veteran catcher who will help guide the young arms of the Marlins.

Buck had a breakout campaign in 2010 with Toronto, hitting .281 with 20 long balls and 66 RBI.

Hey look, some numbers! Of course, like the stats he posted for Johnson before, they were put up without any playing time context, so it doesn’t help us to understand how efficient Buck or Johnson were in racking up those statistics. Twenty-one starters posted more strikeouts in 2010 than Johnson, but none of them pitched fewer innings than Johnson, with San Diego Padre Mat Latos the closest. Only eight of those 21 starters averaged more strikeouts per nine innings than Johnson.

Similarly, we could use some context and analysis on Buck. Is he likely to repeat those numbers? How important are those numbers to the Marlins in 2011? As you saw from my preview earlier today, Buck is likely to put up numbers significantly worse than those this season. But again, no evidence, not even about Buck’s supposed veteran ability to guide pitching staffs, not even a qualitative piece of evidence like a quote from the team.

Rounding out the Marlins lineup is second year outfielder Mike Stanton who is looking to break out in his first full season in the big leagues.

I too knew that Mike Stanton would be starting for the Marlins this season and that he would be in right field.

Chris Coughlan is also a stud out in left field.

Chris Coghlan is no stud, in left field or anywhere else. He’s a nice player, and someone who will contribute. In the right position, he’d be an average or better player. But not in left field. And certainly not in center field, where the team will be playing him this season. If you’re going to write an article about a team, you might want to research the situation a bit more than looking over the 40-man roster and knowing four or five names.

Omar Infante, Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison are not household names by any stretch of the imagination, but they are all solid bats and great fielders who will solidify the Marlins lineup.

Has this guy said anything in the last few paragraphs other than repeating the starting lineup? One could say these generic comments about any player in baseball who isn’t a “household name.”

At third base is rookie sensation Matt Dominguez. The Marlins first-round pick in 2007 is already considered big league ready defensively.

He does need to work on his offensive game, but a solid showing early in Triple A will have him at the hot corner for the Marlins very early in the season.

Well, at least he was right about something. No evidence, but this seems like the right assessment. Unfortunately, I think it is still too optimistic.

Year in year out, the Marlins trade away all of their young stars and they still find a way to compete in the NL east.

Going into 2011 this remains the same.

This offseason, Dan Uggla was dealt to Atlanta and earlier in 2010 Cody Ross was dealt to San Francisco where he became NLCS MVP.

Nothing bad against Cody Ross, because here at Marlin Maniac, we love him for who he is. But anyone in a seven-game series can ride a hot streak and have an MVP series. Wes Helms hit .435/.480/.522 in his first 25 PA for the Fish in 2010. Doesn’t mean he’s worth $1M to pinch-hit off the bench.

The Marlins competitiveness seems to expire late in the season. Last year they were vying for a wild card berth until their play tailed off in the latter half of the season.

But 2011 is a new year.

This is the year where the Marlins won’t just compete, they will get over the hump and win the 2011 National League wild card.

And who knows? Maybe the Marlins will repeat the 1997 and 2003 seasons and go all the way.

You spent the entire article reciting the team’s starting lineup and a few other names, and you’re ready to consider them contenders? I liked it better when you had opinions that could at least be tested. I find it difficult to argue that the Marlins won’t employ the roster of players you mentioned.

Because, as the Giants proved last year, all you need to do is get into the playoffs.

Then the rest will be history.

Along with my memory of this article, right?

This may have seemed like a harsh critique, but this guy had no reason for his optimism. In fact, the article was so devoid of reasoning that I think he wasn’t just being optimistic about the Marlins’ chances at the Wild Card, but rather was interested in getting visits by arguing an outlandish point. Then he didn’t have any support for his opinion because he did not know the Marlins well enough.

Rest assured, readers of Marlin Maniac. Yours truly knows the team well enough to have informed opinions about it. If I say we have a chance at the Wild Card, then I will at the very least state what I think needs to happen and make my case appropriately. The case will have numbers, and it may even be optimistic and bit homer-ish. But the one thing it will not be is without a foundation of reasoning. Optimism about the Marlins is more than acceptable, but you need to show your work. I plan on doing so over the course of this preview, and I hope you’ll join me in finding out a little more about the 2011 Florida Marlins.

Topics: Miami Marlins

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