Miami Marlins: 5 Players Who Must Rebound Before It's Too Late
Before the 2012 season began, the new-look Miami Marlins were not expected to be three games under .500 heading into the All-Star break.
But the Midsummer Classic has arrived and that is exactly where they sit.
The Marlins have been a new hybrid of hot and cold, much like Foreigner with their song selections in the 1980s.
The only bright spot on the team so far has been Giancarlo Stanton, and now he'll be out of the lineup for four-to-six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
Heath Bell has been a shell of himself, blowing six saves so far, and Hanley Ramirez is getting stitches because his immaturity has continued to roll over into this season.
A turbulent year like this should have been seen coming the second Ozzie Guillen was tabbed as the manager.
Guillen, who has been more famous for his mouth than his ability to manage a ball club, made critical remarks about his admiration for Fidel Castro once the season started, and it's been downhill for Miami ever since.
The Marlins had a great month of May after a dismal April, but then the calendar turned to June and the problems continued to pile up.
Now the Marlins are nine games back of the first-place Washington Nationals and unless they can play together as a team and push all the petty nonsense aside, they could very well find themselves in the cellar of the NL East by the time the season is over.
Here are five players who need to come up big if Miami has any chance of surviving the rest of the season.
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Twenty-eight-year-old Josh Johnson, the right-hander who has the size and the strength to play tight end in the NFL, is normally the anchor for Miami's rotation.
This season, however, he's only 5-5 with a 4.06 ERA.
Johnson wasn't able to collect his first win until the middle of May and has yet to find the form that made him the most feared pitcher for the Marlins over the last five seasons.
Although he has the talent to become one of the most dominant pitchers in the big leagues, his inability to stay healthy has hindered him from developing any long-term consistency.
Granted, he hasn't received much help from his teammates offensively, but Johnson has already given up more than five runs in four starts this season.
His strikeout total hasn't exactly blown anybody away either as he heads into the All-Star break 31st in the NL in strikeouts.
Miami's pitching rotation begins with Johnson. The better he is, the better the team will be.
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Last year's NL batting champ Jose Reyes hasn't been worth anything close to his six-year/$106 million deal the Marlins gave him in December.
Reyes finished last season batting .337 but is only at .264 with 77 games left in this season.
His on-base percentage, slugging percentage and stolen bases are down, while the only number that has increased is the amount of times he's struck out.
With all the hype centered around Reyes before the season started, he needs to give the Marlins something to actually cheer about.
A .264 batting average is inexcusable, especially for a guy making $21 million a year.
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After an ugly departure with the Cubs, Zambrano was expected to revive his career with Ozzie Guillen watching over him. So far, that has been a failure.
He has had some bright spots this season including his three starts in early May where he only gave up one earned run in 23 innings.
He's also been terrible at times, like the two times he gave up seven earned runs without surpassing the fifth inning.
The Marlins, despite all of their problems, have had a lack of consistent pitching this season. Zambrano is one of the reasons why.
He hasn't won a decision in over a month, and the time is now for Big Z to find the form that made him so dangerous in the Windy City.
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What good can be said about a player whose numbers have dipped drastically over the last three seasons and has the attitude of a 12-year-old?
Not much really.
After Hanley Ramirez finished the month of May like a man possessed, he came back to reality at an alarmingly fast rate and has continued his downward spiral into July.
He has three hits in eight games this month, good enough for an .091 batting average. His lack of productivity, along with the Marlins' squandered opportunities has taken its toll on Ramirez and apparently punching a cooling fan in the dugout and receiving three stitches in his hand will do the trick.
Not impressed? Neither was Ozzie Guillen.
Ramirez has given us nothing to root for over the last month-and-a-half and his childish antics are becoming more intolerable the longer they continue.
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Any minute now Heath Bell will regain his form and finally get a save for the Marlins.
Any minute now.
Oh look at that he just blew another one.
Before Bell joined the Marlins, he had only blown 14 saves over the last three seasons as a member of the San Diego Padres. He's already blown six this season.
Though Bell isn't entirely to blame for Miami's struggles this season, it's hard to at not point a finger in his direction. After all, those six saves he blew are games in the standings the Marlins failed to capitalize on.
Miami isn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard as they rank near the bottom of MLB in nearly every offensive category. With that being said, Bell isn't exactly giving his teammates the "I got your back" treatment as he's proved he's unable to hold a lead every time he takes the mound.
Until Bell can turn it around, or the Marlins are able to find another stable closer, then 2012 will mark the ninth consecutive year they fail to make the postseason.