Miami Marlins: Five Keys to a Successful 2012
Every season for the past four or five years, Marlins owner Jeffery Loria has said that if his team "does not make the playoffs, they have fallen short of the front office's expectations." While that might have been considered an unrealistic goal given the budget the past few seasons, using that criteria to analyze the team's productivity the past few years means that the Marlins have fallen well short of expectations.
In an attempt to make sure this team at least competes within their division during the upcoming season, the Marlins' front office core has made significant moves that have dramatically improved their roster.
While bringing in names such as Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, the success of the Marlins in 2012 will most likely depend on players that have been on the roster for several years, such as Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson.
An injury-plagued Marlins team struggled in 2011, however the new Miami Marlins might only be five keys away from making the playoffs and becoming a contender once again.
1: Hanley Ramirez
One individual who is the key to the Marlins' success is shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
Plagued by the injury bug in 2011, withdrawing Ramirez's name from the lineup changes the way opposing pitchers can pitch. For instance, with Ramirez healthy and active in the lineup, a pitcher might pitch around him in a two-out, runners in scoring position situation, giving Mike Stanton or another cleanup hitter a better opportunity. Without Ramirez in the lineup, the hitter batting in his spot would likely see more to hit than the hitter proceeding him.
Additionally, Ramirez's defensive abilities make him an above average, attractive player. Though not pleased with the signing of Jose Reyes, even if Ramirez only plays average defense at third base, the Marlins would still have one of the best left sides of the infield in the game.
With Ramirez healthy and in the lineup, this Marlins team instantly becomes better.
2: Control of the Clubhouse
The Marlins have multiple players, who at times, can get easily frustrated and do or say things that they may regret.
Logan Morrison, the Marlins' young and talented left fielder, has a tendency to express his mind on Twitter. Last season, Morrison criticized the front office on the social media site, leading to a temporary demotion. Although Guillen also uses Twitter, he will have to make sure that Morrison keeps everything baseball related on the field.
Secondly, the Marlins made a controversial move by trading for Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano has a tendency to get easily heated and upset, so Guillen, a long time friend of Zambrano, will have to try and keep Zambrano's emotions under control.
By bringing in veterans such as Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle and Greg Dobbs, the Marlins should not have any distractions in the clubhouse.
3: Consistency Within the Rotation
One of the weak spots of the team in 2011, the Marlins' rotation will have to stay productive and consistent in order for them to be successful.
A unit that at one point had arguably the best one-two starters in the league was banged up last year, with no injury hurting more than that of Josh Johnson. When healthy, Johnson is the Marlins' most consistent pitcher, and rarely has a rough outing.
Following Johnson in 2012 will be Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco, two pitchers who when they have their best stuff, are very difficult to hit. Buehrle and Nolasco will look to lower their ERAs (Earned Run Averages) and increase their innings pitched.
Anibal Sanchez and Carols Zambrano are two pitchers that, like Nolasco, can be streaky at times, but when they are on their game they can shut down some of the toughest lineups in the league.
If the Marlins' rotation can stay healthy and go deep into games, they will each have at least 10 to 12 wins come the end of the season.
4: Play Solid Defense
A defensive unit that was much improved last season, a consistent defensive approach will be yet another key to success for the Marlins in 2012.
Having lost infield coach Perry Hill, who helped drastically decrease the number of errors last season, may put the Marlins at a disadvantage. Hill, who will be replaced by Joe Espada, decided to retire at the conclusion of 2011.
Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton and Emilio Bonifacio all play average to above average defense in the outfield, leaving the only question mark to be at third base. Ramirez, if he works hard and efficiently during spring training, can become an above average defender at the hot corner.
With a productive defense behind them, Marlins pitchers can limit the number of pitches they have to throw in an inning, and decrease the number of unearned runs they give up.
5: Attack with the Running Game
It is no secret that the Marlins will have two of the fastest players in the league, Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Reyes, at the top of their lineup when the season starts in a few months. Their success might depend on how they utilize that speed.
In Bonifacio and Reyes, the Marlins have two speedsters who if they are not going to steal a base, will at least make their presence felt. They can distract opposing pitchers, forcing their mind to think about the runner or runners on base, instead of the hitter at the plate.
Assuming both stay healthy, Bonifacio and Reyes should be able to steal about 70-80 bases, combined. That estimate does not include steals by Ramirez or Stanton, who can both take a base if the pitcher is not paying close attention.
Having speed at the top of the lineup will lead to a greater number of RISP (Runners in Scoring Position) situations, giving Ramirez, Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison more RBI (Runs Batted In) chances.
The more runs scored, the more breathing room the pitchers have, which can take pressure off when they feel like they have to make a perfect pitch.