The Maniac’s Take on MLB.com’s Ten Questions for 2010
By Michael Jong
Recently, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com covered the ten questions for 2010 that he was assigned to answer for the Florida Marlins. Given the lack of news coming out on the Marlins front and the way baseball is covered on MLB.com (that is, in a non-sabery way), I figured I’d take a look at these questions myself and take a crack at them for the Maniac readership. Of course, my answers will have a more decidedly saber-spin to them, along with my own opinions.
If you want to check out Frisaro’s answers, here they are. I’ll list just the questions, and if there’s something juicy that Frisaro mentions, I might quote that too. Let’s get to the questions.
When the Marlins were mathematically eliminated last year, the front office talked about the downfall stemming from inconsistencies in the rotation, which had a 4.57 ERA, 10th best in the NL. What can be done to make the staff more consistent?
I’d say the rotation might have been a problem, but the offense was no sweet-swinging machine early in the year either. Still, pitching was definitely the biggest issue in 2009, but making the staff more “consistent” is less of a concern than making them “better.”
If the Marlins can get good play from Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco again (Nolasco this time without the weird problems with his 2009 season; more on that later), and one of Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez, Andrew Miller, and the other myriad of starting options can emerge as an average-like starter, the Marlins can probably pick up an extra two or three wins. That’s all we really can expect for now.
Building a bullpen is challenging every season for Florida because the club doesn’t allocate a lot of its financial resources into that area. Entering 2009, the bullpen was considered a weakness. Yet it produced pretty well, finishing with a 3.89 ERA, which was seventh best in the NL. Now that Matt Lindstrom has been traded to Houston, and more moves are expected, will the relievers be able to handle the workload?
Absolutely they should be able to handle the workload. The one thing that’s great about having little wiggle room in payroll is that the team cannot make abject blunders in the free agent market, and as we’ve seen this offseason, the bullpen is where a lot of those blunders are made. I just don’t yet know if relievers are contributing more than saber-types give them credit for, but it’s clear to me that the bullpen’s a crapshoot, regardless of the level of production. For most relievers, we just don’t know what we’re getting, so why bother spending a lot of money on it. The Marlins will do a solid job getting scrapheap guys and filling the remaining holes with options in the organization.
I would like to point out my personal hope that the Marlins don’t allow Renyel Pinto to wear a Marlins jersey any longer. Most of us fans can’t stand that guy, for more than on-field reasons.
If Dan Uggla is traded, the offense will be losing a perennial 30-home run threat and a two-time All-Star second baseman. How will the club replace his power and who will take over at second?
The key here is that the team doesn’t “need” to replace his power. I think there is this idea floating around that teams need certain characteristics on their roster, such as speed or power or on-base skills. The reality is that there is no need for any of those things in particular; that is, there is no specific power/OBP/speed ratio that needs to be met for a team to succeed. Those aspects are all just ways to build up runs, and they are available in different amounts. If Dan Uggla leaves, we don’t have to replace his 30 home runs, we just need to replace his 3 to 3.5 WAR, or the amount of runs that totals, if you like your denominations in runs. How we go about that depends on who is on the roster.
Here’s some of what Frisaro said about the guy we don’t winning the job.
"Because [Chris Coghlan] is a natural infielder, many assume he will be the odds-on favorite to take over at second. Before making that leap, don’t rule out [Emilio Bonifacio]. When the organization acquired the speedster from the Nationals in 2008, it envisioned him as an everyday player. He has game-changing speed, and the club promises to give him every chance to win a starting job.In 2009, Bonifacio was asked to play third base, a position that isn’t natural for him. Second base is his best position, and if Bonifacio shows he can get on base regularly, he may wind up starting at second base."
I think the team should stop promising chances at everyday jobs to 24-year old players who have shown very little hitting ability at the minor league level. Let’s make that an organizational rule. Also, let’s make Chris Coghlan the replacement. Please.
Nick Johnson was a veteran who gave the team professional at-bats after he was acquired from the Nationals for Aaron Thompson. Now that Johnson has signed as a free agent with the Yankees, who will take over at first base?
Frisaro says that Spring Training competition will decide who gets the job. I’m not sure why there is this idea that starting jobs can be determined through about 100 or less PA during the month of March when the majority of major league regulars are not going full tilt and are just getting their season started. That being said, based on the early projections, I hope Gaby Sanchez gets his shot. If the team doesn’t want to find a cheap third base option, I’ll endure another season of watching Jorge Cantu move like a statue at the corner and one-hop throws to first.
Much has been made about Josh Johnson and whether he will sign a long-term contract. Will this be J.J.’s final Spring Training with the Marlins?
In early December, I talked a bit with Johnson’s agent Matt Sosnick about JJ’s contract situation. He says he’s doing the best he can for his client, and that Johnson does want to stay here. But we’ll see how it turns out. More on the Sosnick talk, particularly about the rumored vesting option the Marlins offered, later this week. I say we trade him if a deal can’t be made; Johnson’s value has never been higher and the Marlins are fringe contenders next year anyway.
What went wrong with Volstad last year, and in 2010, can the right-hander regain the form of his rookie season?
The biggest thing that went wrong with Volstad last year was horrible luck. Even if he missed on his location, it isn’t as if every one of his 29 homers were down the middle of the plate and at 88 MPH. Call it regression after his rookie season, when he allowed three homers, an equally lucky feat. He should regress, but Frisaro is right that in that Volstad needs to get back to doing what he can to keep the ball on the ground. If you throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground, you can be a decent pitcher in this here baseball league without having dominant stuff. Volstad’s stuff isn’t sick, he just needs to get back to putting it on the ground. Oh, and if he’s going to throw that decent curveball, he may want to actually place it in the zone.
It’s the same story every year. The Marlins will once again have a payroll that ranks at or near the bottom of the Major Leagues. Projections are it will be in the $38 million range. With limited resources, how can they dethrone the Phillies in the NL East?
The Marlins can dethrone the Philadelphia Phillies if the Phils have a meltdown and the Marlins once again overachieve by a decent total. Remember, last year’s team was a bit better than .500 (call it a context-/leverage-neutral 82-80), yet the team won 87 games. We’d have to come close to that total again, beat it by about two wins, and hope the Phillies didn’t improve drastically even though they’ll have a season’s worth of Roy Halladay tacking on an extra six wins that they did not have at the beginning of last season. So yeah, it’ll be tough. Beating them head to head will help, but let’s be realistic. The Marlins have a very slim chance at the NL East crown.
Going into his third season with Florida, will this be the year that Cameron Maybin blossoms into the talent so many have expected?
He’s looked better and better, but the Marlins have to give him time on the field. Last year they yanked him when he was as bad as Emilio Bonifacio because the team had outfield choices. This year the club is not so fortunate. Maybin will be better. In fact, I think he can be an average player this season if he’s close to average at the plate. .275/.335/.425 seems totally plausible, and that’s in Florida. CHONE has him at a park-neutral .280/.366/.437. He’s already the team’s best center fielder most likely, and that total package would be easily worth 2.5 WAR. And of course, that’s not his ceiling. But let’s temper our expectations.
After Lindstrom went down with an elbow injury last year, Nunez stepped in as closer. The right-hander collected 26 saves, but at times, he was shaky. Is Nunez up to the task of being a dependable closer?
The short answer is probably no. Before this season, Leo Nunez was shaky. Why should we have expected anything different? Before this season, Nunez had allowed 21 home runs in 156 innings, a rate of around 1.2 per nine innings. As a reliever, especially one that doesn’t strike out 28-30% of batters faced, that’s too high a rate. Expecting him to be our closer is a silly proposition. But of course, he has a live fastball, and all closers have to have that. Plus, something about his “closer mentality” I’m sure. Here’s hoping the team has a few more options available.
In 2009, Ramirez was the Marlins’ first batting champ in club history. He also finished second to Albert Pujols in the MVP voting. What more can we expect from the 26-year-old sensation?
Everything but the kitchen sink. Ramirez is about as a complete a player as you can find in baseball. He’s a world-beater at the plate, basically capable of doing everything in that department. He’s an excellent baserunner. He seems to have improved drastically at shortstop, and as a result is a plus defender for the team. Essentially, the sky is the limit for Hanley Ramirez, and there’s no telling what he has in store for us Marlins fans in 2010. We’re in for a treat though, that’s for sure.