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Florida Marlins Preview
by Matt Fargo - 02/24/2008
2007 Record 71 Wins 91 Losses - 5th National League East
2007 Money -$1,135 moneyline -2,334 Runline 90-62 Over/Under
The Marlins finished with a worse record for the 5th straight season so they did the typical Marlins solution and got rid of their two top veterans Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Back in 2006, many predicted well over 100 losses but they surprised and finished at 78-84. Then in an injury-plagued 2007, the club finished at 71-91 and changes were imminent. It was a down year for the pocketbook last season as well and an even worse year for runline players as 67 of their losses were by two or more runs.
The loss of Cabrera is a huge blow to the offense that was actually very good last season. The Marlins finished 4th in home runs and 5th in slugging percentage but now it must try and replace 34 home runs and 119 RBIâ€™s. Jose Castillo hopes to win the third base job but will be hard-pressed to come close to those numbers as his career highs were 14 and 65 back in 2006 with the Pirates. Hanley Ramirez, who led the team with a .332 average, was leadoff last season but will be moved to the three spot.
After Ramirez, the middle of the order will be Mike Jacobs, Josh Willingham and Dan Uggla and all three will be expected to replace Cabreraâ€™s production. The gem of the trade with the Tigers was outfielder Cameron Maybin. He is just 20 years old and still wears braces but he is a five-tool player and he will be the leadoff hitter if he can win the job in center. Florida does not want to rush him but the team wants nothing more than for him to win the job.
2008 Starting Pitching
Last year, Marlins pitchers led the National League in walks with 661 and hit batters with 76. Most of that damage came from the rotation as 11 Florida starters combined to go 42-63 with a 5.58 ERA, worst in the majors. Willis is gone and so are his 200+ innings but he did have a very disappointing 2007 with a 5.17 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Injuries also hurt as Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco all were done by May. The top four starters are Scott Olsen, Mark Hendrickson, Andrew Miller and Sergio Mitre.
Olsen is the front-runner to claim the top spot even though he was a disappointing 10-15 last year with a 5.81 ERA, the highest of any pitcher in the National League with at least 162 innings. Hendrickson is back after a stint in Los Angeles and he should be better after offseason laser-eye surgery. Miller came over in the Detroit deal and he has the tools to be big time player while Mitre needs to overcome a dreadful second half. Front-runners for the fifth spot are Nolasco and Rick VandenHurk.
The bullpen was the lone bright spot last year, and it basically remains intact. Despite this, the Marlins brought 38 pitchers into camp so there will be a lot of competition for the few remaining bullpen spots. Florida finished with a 4.05 ERA but did have 24 blown saves, 6th worst in baseball. Kevin Gregg, who had 32 saves and only four blown saves, emerged as the closer by midseason and now that he starts the season with that job, he should settle comfortably into the role and improve.
Also in the bullpen are Justin Miller, Taylor Tankersley and Matt Lindstrom, with Lee Gardner, Logan Kensing and Renyel Pinto figuring prominently to retain the spots they held last season. The remarkable trait of this group is that all of them posted sub-4.00 ERAâ€™s last season so the fact that all are back is a huge asset. Hard-throwing Eulogio De La Cruz also could contend for a relief spot. Floridaâ€™s bullpen tossed 586.2 innings last season, third most in baseball, and they donâ€™t want a repeat of that.
2008 Overall Outlook
When a team that finishes in last place gets rid of its best offensive player and star pitcher, you know things are not going to be good. This is a young team that got even younger so another last place finish is likely going to occur. However, that was said to be the case in 2006 and the Marlins finished well above expectations. This is another team that we will see some excellent value with because of the lack of star power. There will be some big underdog numbers early in the year that we will certainly take advantage of.