Series Preview: Florida Marlins (43-48) at Iowa Cubs of Chicago (37-55)

After three days of not losing, the Cubs are back in the saddle again to play out the string on the rest of the season.

The Marlins have had a roller coaster of a season so far. As recently as June 1 they had a 31-23 record and were two games out from the division lead. June turned out to be a disaster, as they went 1-19 in their next twenty games. Manager Edwin Rodriguez resigned on June 19, and 5,000 year old manager Jack McKeon took the helm yet again. Since that slide ended, they’ve posted a winning record, and rode a five game winning streak into the break.

Team Overviews

As always, team stats and NL ranks:

Fish Cubs
wOBA .307 (10th) .317 (7th)
UBR -0.7 (10th) -9 (16th)
UZR -6 (9th) -11.1 (12th)
SP FIP 3.93 (9th) 4.09 (11th)
RP FIP 3.74 (7th) 3.96 (13th)

The front end of their rotation (i.e. Josh Johnson) was unsurprisingly stable…until he went down in mid-May with shoulder problems. Anibal Sanchez has continued his run of great pitching from last year, and Matt Cain and Felix Pie has an ERA that hews much closer to his excellent FIP this year.

Offensively, Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison, and baseball murdering machine Mike Stanton have been the main cogs of their offense, while All-Star Omar Infante has been a black hole of suck who is still somehow getting regular starts. Aside from their crazy losing slide this season the biggest story of the season has been the complete disappearance of Hanley Ramirez‘s bat. More than halfway through the season, his wOBA (.319) is more than 50 points off of his projection.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: Anibal Sanchez, RHP (3.58, 3.24, 3.10, 3.39) vs Matt Garza, RHP (4.26, 2.94, 2.86, 3.78), 7:05 PM CT

Sanchez is a member of the Wandy Rodriguez Memorial All Bad First Impressions pitching staff. He’s a great pitcher now, but whenever I think of him I think of the guy who threw a no-hitter in his rookie year (I think) while walking something like 17 batters, following it up with an arm injury or two. Since then his control has improved considerably, and this year has been his best season yet. He’s striking out more than a batter an inning, and is averaging more than six innings per start.

I guess this start means that Garza is the Team Ace now. As well he should be, the way he’s pitched this season. He had a tough time knocking the rust off in his first few starts back from the DL, then threw a complete game agaisnt the White Sox before needing 67 pitches to get through 2+ innings against the Nationals. Go figure.

Friday: Matt Cain and Felix Pie, RHP (3.70, 3.27, 3.42, 3.19) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (5.01, 3.92, 3.43, 3.71), 1:20 PM CT

Nolasco has seen a dip in his strikeouts this season, but he’s also managed to keep the ball in the park. He’s gone deep into many games, including two complete games in his last three starts.

Demp could be a start away from lowering his ERA below 5 for the season, so I guess he’s got that going for him.

Saturday: Chris Volstad?, RHP (5.40, 4.58, 3.67, 4.28) vs Carlos Zambrano, RHP (4.34, 3.87, 4.21, 3.71), 12:05 PM CT

The Marlins haven’t announced their starters for the weekend, but it should be Volstad and Vazquez in some order. Volstad is having a Dempster like season – his strikeout, walk, and GB rates have all improved but the ball is just flying out of the park when it’s hit in the air (16.5% HR/FB). One report I read said that he had a strong finish going into the All-Star break, but what I see in his last three outings are a seven inning, zero strikeout start, a seven run outing against the Phillies, and a solid start against the hapless Astros. Not exactly setting the world on fire.

Z is back from selfishly adopting a Guatemalan orphan. Hopefully Paul Sullivan has his eyes peeled as to whether Z ever dares to have a catch with his son.

Sunday: Javier Vazquez, RHP (5.23, 4.54, 4.53, 3.89) vs Randy Wells, RHP (6.80, 5.25, 4.34, 3.99), 1:20 PM CT

If this matchup does happen, it will be a duel to see which pitcher has been a bigger disappointment this season. At least RAndy Wells‘s numbers can be somewhat explained away by his injury. He’s been back from the DL for over a month but his velocity is still significantly lower than it was in his previous two seasons. Vazquez has also lost a few MPH off his fastball since his excellent 2009 with the Braves, but it looks even worse for him as he’s such an extreme flyball pitcher. He’s giving up a ton of flyballs, and not surprisingly a lot of them are leaving the ballpark.

Prediction

Eh, I guess I’ll go with a series split. The Marlins are really missing their two best players (Johnson, due to injury, and Hanley, due to who knows what).

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