The Miami Marlins are one of the most hyped franchises in Major League Baseball this season. Off season acquisition Heath Bell hasn’t looked the same, but the team has shaken off a slow start and now sits at 18-16, good for fourth place in the NL East.
Despite being near the bottom in most of the hitting categories (sound familiar, Pirates fans?) and scoring just 120 runs, the Marlins have received strong starting pitching that has kept them in most games. We had the opportunity to ask Marlins Maniac head honcho Ehsan Kassim a few questions about all the buzz in South Beach.
Did you like the off-season moves that the Marlins made?
I loved the Jose Reyes signing and am still amped about it, even after Reyes’ slow start. Reyes is starting to turn things around and playing better overall right now. He will get back to what he was last season and be a major reason why the Marlins contend for the post-season.
The Mark Buehrle signing was a necessary signing, but I felt like we overpaid a bit for his services. Buehrle has done a fine job and has been a important piece of our rotation. I believe he will be worth the contract he signed.
The Heath Bell signing was dumb from the beginning. I have 100% faith that Steve Cishek is the Marlins answer to their closer issues. He has been phenomenal in his time in the big leagues, with a career 2.67 ERA in 75 big league innings. The Marlins have a very special reliever on their hands.
The Carlos Zambrano trade was one that I was on the border with. I am a huge Chris Volstad fan, but so far, Zambrano has made that trade look one-sided.
Carlos Zambrano—what is happening?
Carlos Zambrano is simply pitching well above his head right now. He is a very capable pitcher still and is only 30-years old. I knew Big Z had this in him, but not to the extent that he has shown so far this season. I expect him to continue to pitch well for the Marlins the rest of the way, but he is due for some regression. Zambrano’s 3.58n FIP is more indicative of the type of pitcher that I expect to see the rest of the season, as opposed to his 1.98 ERA. Still, for a number 4 starter, that is pretty good. The Marlins seemed to have hit the jackpot with the Zambrano-Volstad trade.
What can you say about the Marlins starters in the series?
The Pirates will be facing on paper, what appears to be the Marlins best two starters. Anibal Sanchez will take the mound Monday evening for the Marlins. Sanchez has to be one of the more underrated pitchers in all of baseball. Sanchez the past three seasons, including his six starts this season, has had the 11th best FIP. Sanchez was unwisely named the Marlins fifth starer, when he is clearly the second best pitcher on the Marlins staff.
The Marlins have failed to lock up Sanchez and he is expected to hit free agency this off-season.
The second pitcher the Pirates will face is Josh Johnson. I can’t pin point what has been wrong with Johnson this season. He has been surprisingly horrible. Johnson has had starts this season where he has had dumb luck, and allowed a bunch of bloop singles. He has also had starts this season where the oppsoing hitters have been all over everything he has thrown. In his last start though, Johnson was able to give the Marlins a solid 7-inning start. In that start, Johnson was able to fan six and limit himself to two walks.
Johnson is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in his career against Pittsburgh.
What do you expect to see from the Bucs?
The Pirates are an interesting team. I enjoy watching them play. I expect them to put a hard fought battle against the Marlins. I am a little bummed that we do not get to see former Marlin, A.J. Burnett, this series. He is still one of my favorite pitchers to watch.
If you had to pick out the one weakness with the Marlins heading into this series, what would that be?
As tempted as I am to say the back end of the bullpen, I am going with defense. The Marlins defense is solely responsible for most of the Marlins losses this season. The infield has some good athletes that should be playing above average defense, but that does not always seem to be the case. The Marlins also have a first baseman playing left field and that is never a good thing. The Marlins defense has been a major issue for the Marlins, and with the current personal, I do not see that changing anytime soon.
Is there anything you can share with us about the new Marlins ballpark?
Unfortunately, I have never been there, living in Alabama. I am planning a trip there in July, but the Marlins will be out of town. I can tell you from the pictures I have seen and watching the games, its absolutely beautiful. It also eases the minds of the fans and players, knowing they don’t have to worry about any rain delays. I was not a fan of the home run sculpture, but slowly, that is winning me over. Especially after seeing that spectacular grand slam by Giancarlo Stanton last night.
Heat in five?
That is my current prediction. Even with Chris Bosh likely to miss the entire series, I will stick with that, as Lebron James and Dwyane Wade are still enough, as they showcased Sunday, to lead the Heat over the Pacers.