Views From the Cheap Seats – May 25th, 2017

Hello, greetings and salutations sports fans! Welcome to the first edition of one (un)fortunate baseball fan’s passion as we closely follow the lovable Miami Marlins on their already grueling, but very much in progress, baseball season. Together we will examine each week’s slate of games reviewing the many ups and downs that lift as well as drag our beloved baseball squad. In other words my two cents on a weekly basis. Here’s hoping in some weeks, these two cents are worth 37 dollars in change (Cue Dos Equis). Some of you may remember me from my guest writing on topics such as Colin Kaepernick’s views on civil rights, the tragedy of Jose Fernandez’s death and the Miami Dolphin’s playoff aspirations last season. For those who don’t, I’ll be brief: My name is Gabriel Garcia and I am the son of Cuban immigrants who sought to escape a communist regime. I grew up in Miami and with it developed a love for baseball, as I grew older this love evolved to encompass sports in general, with soccer (Still calling it that) being the latest addition. Frankly, there are few sports I don’t like but I no less appreciate the athletes and fans that make sports what they are today.

Onward! We will now examine the four game series with the Dodgers and to a lesser extent the two game stint against Oakland. The first two games started abysmal enough as we found ourselves outscored 14-4. Edinson Volquez took to the mound seeking his first win of the season only to get dinged early by Yasiel Puig giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead, it didn’t get any better as Volquez finished the night allowing 5 runs in 6 innings of work. The offense, for its part, did open the top of the second inning with extra-base hits by Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Bour and J.T. Realmuto, but only had one run to show for it, as Stanton was caught stealing trying to get from second to third base just prior to Bour’s homer. Another opportunity did emerge in the sixth with Chris Hatcher coming out of the Dodgers bullpen. The situation was one out, with runners on the corners, as the team was threatening to claw back into the game, but like so many times before, the offensive push by the Marlins fizzled out with both Realmuto and pinch-hitter Derek Dietrich striking out. The Marlins fell 7-2. It worth noting both Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna went hitless.

The next day’s final score certainly gave notions of déjà vu only this time we increased our hit total by two and our runs came in the last inning. The dodgers got on the board early and often, already up by 5 runs after just four innings. The Marlins meanwhile hit into 4 double plays, ending potential runs in the second and eighth inning in particular. Manager Don Mattingly also got tossed for the fourth time this season following a benches clearing scuffle.

Honestly I was expecting more of the same by the third game of the series, though I was pleasantly surprised to see an explosion of offense to the tune of 9 runs on 10 hits by the fourth inning. Up to this point Dan Straily had kept opposing hitters off balance, our explosive output enormously helped his cause. Ideally this is the kind of production we as fans look for, or something vaguely close to it on a more consistent basis. Seeing this sort of performance more frequently would have us out of the league cellar and dare I say challenge our NL East rivals, but of course usually the follow up game illuminates a lack of run production. In the end we held on to win 10-6, ending a 5 game skid. Given dogs were in attendance at Dodger Stadium as a part of free dog night, I guess every dog has his day. Marlins included. Straily lost his no hit bid to a homerun by Enrique Hernandez and while this lone hit did not hurt him, it’s the sixth homerun Dan surrenders this year in 9 starts.

He eventually departs the following inning, due to getting into a bases loaded jam, giving the bullpen a comfortable 10-2 lead to work with. In what more or less symbolizes this year’s bullpen, the VERY FIRST PITCH by Brad Ziegler goes behind the batter and into the backstop, making it 10-3 on a wild throw. In the end we secured a victory, but this game, like the recent series against both the Cardinals and the Astros shows our flaws are not just an inconsistent offense, but an enormously struggling bullpen. Curiously, at this time the bullpen was ranked 9th in the league with a 4.13 ERA, I can’t tell. I really can’t tell (They’re ranked 21st with an ERA of 4.33 by the time of this post).

In the series finale the Marlins were hitless by the fifth. Luckily, Dietrich doubled to break the no hitter and was followed by an A.J. Ellis single, bringing Derek home to make it 3-1. Vance Worley made his Marlins debut pitching a lackluster 4 innings, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs. There was no shortage of opportunities, as the sixth saw Gordon on third and Yelich on second with Stanton batting. A home run was not needed here. While we pay a ton of money for Staton’s power, small ball can be just as effective in this situation. Anything to keep the inning going. Nothing came of this golden opportunity, and despite Justin Bour’s homerun late in the game, it was too little too late, as we fell to 6-3.

The Dodger’s series is a microcosm of our season, as evidenced once more by the games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Despite re-tweaking the lineup we still see the lack of consistent run production, we exploded with 11 runs only to score just one the following day. The sole run barely counts because it was done on a wild pitch. And Wednesday’s game was particularly painful due to four measly hits and A’s starting pitcher Sonny Gray just owning us with 11 strikeouts. Ouch! He matched our runs from the day before! Edinson Volquez had zero run support and remains winless at 0-7. The lone bright spot was the big league debut of Drew Steckenrider, who worked a scoreless eighth with his family on hand. A warm welcome to the Majors Drew. Since 11 seemed pretty common these past couple days here is another, very painful, stat: We were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday. It isn’t like this is an isolated incident or its part of a team’s temporary slide given the rather long 162 game season. It’s a long running theme with the team despite the lineup being stacked with talent. Yes, I said that.

While we can’t deny the freakish slew of injuries that have plagued the Marlins lately: Adeiny Hechavarria, Tom Koehler, Junichi Tazawa, Wei-Yin Chen, Martin Prado and now Christian Yelich, though he might avoid the DL, and even Derek Dietrich nursing his own ailment, the team has struggled offensively even when health was not an issue. But as I said, this problem is not from a lack of talent. We got a speedster in Dee Gordon, we’ve got a pretty scary 3,4,5 slate of hitters in the form of Bour, Stanton and Ozuna. That’s some serious fire power. You also have Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto just to name a few. I mean, come on, this line up is very talented. We’ve seen it, however, the true crux of the problem is consistency. They just don’t have it. Not yet anyways. With that said, the offense doesn’t worry me nearly as much as our pitching.

In the wake of the loss of Jose Fernandez, the organization scrambled to shore up its pitching staff. They knew they could never replace their star pitcher. With limited resources the Marlins tried their best to improve their pitching adding Dan Straily, Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke while fortifying their bullpen with as much depth as possible with the addition of Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa. The result has been very disappointing with struggling starters and a shaky bullpen. As recently as Tuesday, A.J. Ramos gave up 3 runs in the Ninth, keeping the game interesting, but frustratingly close.

Like I said, the offense feels like the least of our worries, and while I will keep the faith, if Mattingly doesn’t solve this issue soon the only thing worth keeping an eye on, even before the All-Star Break, will be when the heck Jeffrey Loria sells the team. Heck, some fans are probably doing that already.

Some revamps and experimentation to the lineup card could fix our offensive woes, but it won’t mean anything if the leaky bullpen can’t protect a lead, and honestly, there seems to be few options on that front. Down in the minors we’ve picked our cupboard clean. Though, given the circumstances, we should not be above giving the new bloods a shot. We already own nearly the worst record in the league, and with rumors of another fire sale before this is all over, might as well try anything, almost. We can only hope and pray. Every week I’ll look up stats. Some will relate to the season overall and others during that specific weekly time frame; and once in a blue moon stats having nothing to do with the team.  Until next week, go Marlins.

Stat of the Week: Team RISP 16 for 62

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