The success of the Marlins has been a big surprise to not only Marlins fans, but to the baseball circles in general. With the trades of Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera many, expected the Fish to lose over 100 games in 2008, but the early start has suggested otherwise.
The main thing the Marlins are doing better this year than last is they are playing better defense across the board. The team focused the majority of Spring Training on improving in this facet of the game. The improved defense leads to more effective outings by the pitchers and an overall better effort from the team.
The hitting has been clutch and the team has developed some serious mashers in the lineup. Mike Jacobs has reached the infamous 27-year old mark and he has remained healthy, an issue for him in the past. If he is able to stay off the DL, he should end the season batting around .280 and hit over 30 bombs.
The starting pitching has not been great as they are among the worst in baseball with an ERA over six. Their bullpen, however, continues to be lights out, which has kept them in games and given them the ability to come from behind and win some games late.
The major factor for why they have been playing better is I believe they are playing with a chip on their shoulder; they have a few players who have been in the league long enough and realized they belong and are tired of hearing about how bad they are supposed to be as a team. Motivation and hard work can take you far.
I do not believe the team can keep up this pace unless they get improved pitching from Andrew Miller and Ricky Nolasco. They need to get Sergio Mitre back as he can pitch seven innings and help save the bullpen, because at the current pace the bullpen is going, it will be worn out by June.
The other issue with the team is that I believe the team would be better served batting Hermida second and Uggla sixth, and moving Cantu into the three spot. Uggla has been a guy who strikes out too much, especially for the two spot, and Hermida is a batter who shows a lot more patience at the plate and is a smarter hitter.
Overall I expect the Marlins to finish third or fourth in the division, but will learn a lot about themselves this year, and with a healthy rotation will begin to make some noise again in 2009. They will have a ready Cameron Maybin, a healthy Josh Johnson, a healthy Anibal Sanchez and a experienced Andrew Miller, plus the solid core group of players.