The Marlins are a weird franchise.
To be perfectly honest, they kind of remind me of the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League...before they got good. Their owners are all about a profit and appear to care less about the team. The have quite a few no-name players (especially in the bullpen). They play in front of tiny crowds. And at times, you feel like they don't really care about or value winning. Fredi Gonzalez led his team to 87 wins in 2009 and they fired him after two months. Why? Well, we still aren't sure. I'm not complaining though.
The Fish come into Friday's series with a record of 37-41 and are 5-5 in their last 10 games. Interim manager Edwin Rodriguez is 3-5 so far in his brief stint with the team, but they did beat the Mets twice in Puerto Rico. One thing to keep an eye on (especially on Friday) is how much energy the Marlins show. While the Braves were relaxing in Atlanta, the Fish were flying in from a foreign territory with poor weather. Hopefully it gives the Braves an advantage.
Florida has received good work from their starting pitchers. Josh Johnson has been arguably the best pitcher in the NL in 2010, and he's joined by Ricky Nolasco, who's a solid #2 starter. Anibal Sanchez is slotted as the #3 starter and the rotation is rounded out by Nate Robertson and Chris Volstad. They're 5th in the NL in ERA (3.81) and tied for 2nd in FIP (3.80), so they've done a good job keeping the Marlins in the game. They're 8th in strikeouts per/9 innings and usually have great control, as they only walk 2.8 hitters per/9. The Braves will need to continue their patience at the plate if they hope to draw some walks. I have confidence in our boys though.
Their bullpen is a completely different story though. Leo Nunez is a wild, yet effective closer and he's joined by Clay Hensley, Renyel Pinto and Brian Sanches who have all been pretty solid so far. Tim Wood, Burke Badenhop and Chris Leroux have all been awful though, and they've blown quite a few games for the Fish. They're 14th in bullpen ERA and 7th in FIP, so that's pretty ugly. Why have they been so poor in 2010? For one, they walk a ton of hitters. I mean, a TON of hitters. They're 15th in the NL in walks and walk nearly 5 hitters per every 9 innings. They also don't strike out too many hitters as they're 8th in the league (The Braves are first, BTW. They strike out nearly 10 hitters per 9 innings. Awesome.) They have been a little un-lucky this year, as the BABIP so far is .326. Take that as it is, the Marlins bullpen isn't very good.
A look at their offense, pitching match-ups and more after the jump.
The Marlins are an above-average club offensively. Hanley Ramirez is one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball and is their best hitter. Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla continue to be two of the most underrated players in baseball and both hare having solid seasons. Outfielders Cody Ross and Chris Coghlan have both been good for the Fish this season, but super rookie Mike Stanton has struggled in his first few weeks in the majors. Catcher Ronny Paulino is hitting above .300, but doesn't have much power.
As a team, they're 4th in the NL in runs scored, 3rd in team batting average (.265) and 6th in team OBP (.332). The Fish are 7th in HRs and do a great job on the basepaths as they're 49-for-62 in stolen base attempts. They don't really walk much (11th in walks, 8.3%) and strike out a ton (15th in strikeouts, 23.1%), so the Braves pitchers should be able to retire quite a few hitters via the strikeout. All-in-all, a solid group, but they certainly have their weaknesses.
Friday, 7:35EST - Kris Medlen (5-1, 3.15 ERA 3.65 FIP) vs. Josh Johnson (8-3, 1.83 ERA 2.47 FIP)
Kris Medlen, now the official #5 starter for the Braves now what Kenshin Kawakami has moved to the bullpen, has been awesome for the Braves this year. Medlen shut down a potent Tigers lineup in his last start and allowed only 1 run in 6.2 innings.
Josh Johnson doesn't really get talked about as much as he deserves and it's pretty ridiculous how good he's been. I mean, he's probably been the best pitcher in the NL not named Ubaldo or Roy. He's been striking out more than a hitter per inning and doesn't walk many either. He has 4 pitches that he can throw in any count and usually has command of all four from his first pitch to his last pitch. The 6'6'', 240lb righty took a tough 2-1 loss against the Padres in his last start.
Satuday, 4:10EST - Tommy Hanson (7-5, 4.50 ERA 3.45 FIP) vs. Anibal Sanchez (7-4, 3.18 ERA 3.52 FIP)
This is a big start for Tommy. He's probably having the worst stretch of his professional career and has been pounded in his last two starts. He'll be pitching with an extra day of rest, so let's see if he's able to get back on track against the Marlins. As mentioned above, the Marlins strike out a ton, so it'll be interesting to see if Tommy can do with that.
Sanchez has been solid for the Marlins and has been their 2nd best pitcher in 2010. He strikes out nearly 8 per/9 innings and features a hard fastball, filthy slurve and solid changeup. He was in line to beat San Diego in his last start, but the bullpen blew it for him in the 8th.
Sunday, 5:05EST - Tim Hudson (8-3, 2.37 ERA 4.37 FIP) vs. Ricky Nolasco (7-6, 4.84 ERA 4.69 FIP)
Tim Hudson is the man. And I don't wanna hear about how lucky he's been this year. Despite receiving no credit on any of the national news networks, Huddy out-pitched Stephen Strasburg in his last start and threw 7 scoreless innings on Monday night.
Ricky Nolasco was picked by many in the offseason as a darkhorse Cy Young contender and has struggled a bit this season. He has electric stuff, but struggles to command his pitches at times. The Braves will need to show patience and get his pitch count up early in the game. Nolasco was impressive in his last start against New York, when he struck out 9 in 7 innings of 3-run baseball.
Questions of the Series:
1. Will the Braves' dominance at home continue against a struggling Marlins club? They've only lost one series this season at The Ted and they should continue this trend.
2. Will it take long for the Braves to get into the Marlins awful bullpen? In a perfect world, the Braves will be able to run their pitch count up in the early innings.
3. Will Troy Glaus, Eric Hinske and Yunel Escobar break out of their collective slump? Let's hope so.
4. How will the Marlins play after visiting Puerto Rico earlier this week? Hopefully they'll be jet-lagged. Especially Josh Johnson. That would be nice.
*Please note the start times. With the Saturday game being on FOX and Sunday being the 4th of July, the start times are a bit weird.