Five reasons the Marlins will win the NL Wildcard


Mike Stanton leads the Marlins hit parade. (Doug Benc/Getty Images)

I was a Marlins season-ticket holder from the inaugural opening day until relocating to Seattle in 2009. And during my time in sweltering SoFla, there were only two previous seasons where I was bold enough to predict a Wildcard berth: 1997 and 2003. The first run was easier to predict, because the team was built to win. The entire region was salivating entering the ’97 season, even though the rest of the country was still saying “Florida who?” Predicting the ’03 success was a bit of a stretch, but when evaluating what the starters were capable of delivering, it was hard to exclude the Marlins from the Wildcard conversation.

On the eve of the 2011 season, there are five reasons to throw the Fish into the playoff pool once again.

  1. All the young dudes. And not just young players, but good young players. And there is no reason this kiddie corp can’t have breakout seasons together. Mike Stanton (capable of in 2011: .265 AVE, 35 HR, 100 RBI), Gaby Sanchez (.275, 20, 90), Hanley Ramirez (.310, 25, 90) and Logan Morrison (.280, 15, 75) deliver on the numbers in the parenthesis, the Marlins will hit more homers and drive in more runs than the Phillies and Braves top four hitters delivered in 2010.
  2. Pitching woo. Using the same capability logic above, the Marlins starting five – Josh Johnson (18 win capability), Ricky Nolasco (15), Anibal Sanchez (14), Javier Vazquez (12), Chris Volstad (12) – could deliver 70 wins, which is comparable to the potential of the pre-ordained, all-time greatest Phillies starting staff. But the biggest upgrade for the Marlins is the overhaul of the bullpen, which will surely improve upon its second-to-last in blown saves and third-worst bullpen won-loss in the majors, with the addition of Ryan Webb, Randy Choate, Mike Dunn and Edward Mujica.
  3. Minister of Defense. The Marlins were tied for last with the worst fielding percentage in the NL last season. Solution? Bring back coach Perry Hill, who has been charged with stabilizing the defensive this spring. Gone are Dan Uggla’s hands of stone, and rookie defensive phenom Matt Dominguez has a legitimate chance to earn the starting 3B role if his torrid hitting continues this spring. Any defensive improvement over last season will lead to a handful of wins in 2011.
  4. Moving on up. The front office, much derided by fans over the years, has shown a willingness to make moves if the Marlins are in contention at the trade deadline. Larry Bienfest won’t hesitate to pull the trigger and bring in veteran leadership if the young dudes are flirting with a post-season run.
  5. 10 games better than last year? That’s the biggest question of all. The offensive power is there. The starting pitching is elite. The bullpen is decidedly better on paper. Defensive improvement is all but a given. If so, the Marlins only need to pick up 10 wins over last season’s 80-82 record to have a shot at the playoffs. It’s realistic and doable.

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  1. Bobby, my assumptions — clearly stated in the post — were based on potential. If the Marlins starting 8 stay healthy, they can put up 150 or more homers — last year the entire team had 152. The Braves only had 139 last season, which is why they coveted a bat like Uggla’s. According to most experts, Stanton should anywhere between 35-45 this year, which would mean Uggla’s bat will not be missed. And unless I’m mistaken the only addition to the starters you mentioned is Lee. The Marlins faced all the others last season and still produced.

    Considering the Phils starting rotation was the only team in the NL to get over 70 wins last seasons, the potential projections above would put the Marlins in the same neighborhood. Again potential. And the Marlin’s starters have just as much potential as the Braves.

    Your comments about defense and bullpen are head scratchers. Defense up the middle is critical, and the Marlins improved their defense with the addition of Buck and Infante. Throw Matt Dominguez into the mix, too, and suddenly Hanley has better defensive players on both sides. Uggla was a defensive liability with the second most errors at second in all of baseball. His departure is an improvement, especially if Stanton delivers. As for the bullpen, it was one of the worst in the NL and cost the Marlins victories last season. An improvement here will mean more wins.

    The beauty of all this is no one predicted the Giants would win last year, and they did because they played to their potential, had great defense and the best pitching in the majors. It’s why they play the game! Predictions, mine included, serve no purpose other than providing an opportunity to debate. So for that, I thank you for contributing!

  2. this just doesn’t really add up. & im a marlins fan.
    – infield D has A LOT to do with SS & 1B. hanley just isn’t very good & gaby can’t make above average plays… which lead to more errors for other fielders.

    – the offense is questionable. if stanton can’t hit lots of HRs than the team will look to hanley & buck? for power. not good.

    – who cares if the bullpen is better if the lineup & SPs can’t compete with Phils & Braves.

    – the marlins (or their top 4 hitters) won’t hit more HRs than the Braves or Phils. solely b/c of their rotations (halladay, lee, oswalt, hamels, hudson, hanson, jurrgens) & we just traded uggla to the braves

  3. Justin, I respect your opinion. However, I consider an elite starting staff to be one that delivers wins over the course of a season vs. individual stats. Collectively, the Marlins have a five-man rotation each capable of winning 12 or more games and collectively notching over 70. Only five teams accomplished that last year and only one was from the NL (Phillies, Twins, Yankees, BoSox and Rays)and all but one made the playoffs. As for the quality of the Marlins 2-5 starters, have you seen them pitch before or are you just basing on stats? If stats alone, I’m with you. But when you realize the Marlins led the NL in blown saves (only the Orioles were worse in the majors), and the bullpen as a whole had a 17-25 w-l record, you can’t help but wonder how many wins the pen cost the starters. Marlins have a much better bullpen on paper this season. If that translates into preserving more wins for the starters, the individual stats should improve, including wins. Bullpens help starters look even better, and the Marlins have improved theirs.

  4. Jamie, I think the Marlins front office has proven they will pull the trigger on moves before deadline if it will help the team compete. The big question: What will they give up to get? Most of their top prospects have moved from prospect to player. Experience could be a make or break issue for the Marlins, but pitching will be the key come playoff time, and the staff is a bit more experienced than the starting 8.

  5. I disagree with your statement the the Marlins have elite starting pitching. They have one elite starter and then 4 motr guys at best. That doesn’t say elite starting pitching to me.

  6. For the sake of the Braves as well, I hope 90 wins can take the wildcard. I think many teams have improved overall. Don’t count out the Cubs either. They made some nice additions.

    One thing going against them, as you stated with the less than 3 years of full service, is experience. How will they play if they are in contention down the line? Without really many veterans, do you think they can hold poise and not “choke” as many young teams do down the stretch?

  7. Gaby may be 27, but he’s only in his second full season. Save for Buck (30 years old), the entire Marlins starting lineup is less than 27 years old. On top of that, 5 of the starting 8 (assuming Dominguez makes the team) have less than 3 years of full service. That’s a young team, and competitive to boot! I think 90-94 wins takes the division because the NL East has improved overall and they play each other 18 times. The Phillies may have a better staff, but their offense is notch below without Werth, and potentially Utley to start the season. And if you believe the Nationals have improved, too, there’s going to be more competition in the NL East. The Wildcard race comes down to the Braves, Marlins, Phillies, Reds, Cardinals and Brewers — with two of those teams winning divisions. Reds, Cards and Brewers will be beating each other up, too, so clinching the Wildcard at 90 wins is not a stretch, in my humble opinion.

  8. Hanley and Gabby are both 27. I wouldn’t consider them young. Also, I don’t think 90 Wins will win the Wild Card. You’re going to have to look at 94-97 wins I think.

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