With the All Star Break coming up soon, we are already halfway through the 2009 MLB season. Most divisions are separated by only a few games, and the NL East is no exception. The Phillies lead by a very narrow margin, and have struggled horribly with interleage play. The Mets follow them behind by 2.5 games, and in third, the young guns, the Florida Marlins.
With a 38-39 record, they are only a game below the .500 mark, and seem to play very streaky baseball. They started this season winning 12 games straight, breaking the franchise record. Once they were handed their first loss however, the regular Marlins were back, continuing their free swinging tendencies, winning and losing by the long ball, and a shaky rotation.
For the most part, the Marlins roster has met it's expectation's, striking out a lot, and no one besides Hanley Ramirez batting over 300. He has been on a tear recently, hitting 2 grand slams in 3 days, and hitting anything that comes close to being a strike. Some other players have stepped up when needed, such as Jeremy Hermida and Cody Ross, but for the most part, the team itself struggles maintaining a steady batting average, and always swing for the fence, no matter the situation.
It is understandable for the lineup to always swing hard, as they are all pretty young players going for the big play rather than playing small ball, but the technique hasn't proved all bad. Aside from Hanley being a force at the dish, batting .333 and belting 12 home runs to go along with 51 RBIs, smaller names have big home run numbers, such as Dan Uggla who despite a .225 B.A., has 15 Home runs. And Jorge Cantu has shown that he can be another reliable source at the plate, batting .283 with 9 home runs.
The main struggle for the Marlins this year has been their pitching though, constantly causing them to call up and send down players, one day, a starter will completely shut down a team, then only go 3 innings his next start, giving up 6 quick runs. The biggest problem for the Marlins pitching has got to be the number of walks they surrender, all of their pitchers are strikeout type guys, so walks are inevitable, but I cannot even tell you the number of times I have seen them walk with the bases loaded, then get killed on doubles and singles. Their closer, Matt Lidstrom is the definition of this. Yea, the guy throws 100 mph, but he can't throw strikes. So batters just don't swing.
Maybe after the allstar break, they will let some bullpen standouts get a few starts, or maybe by sending down some starters, they can get on track and start pitching to their full potential, which would lead to many more wins for the Marlins. I feel like they can do this, and hopefully for their sake, it won't take too long. The good news for the Marlins so far however, is the fact that no NL East team has really been great, the Phillies and the Mets can't stay consistant, and the Braves and Nationals don't have the bats to make a run for the top spot.
Having said that, I can see the Marlins taking first place in the NL East, but the bats will need to settle down, and wait for their pitch, rather than chasing everything. The pitching might be a tough one to fix, but each starter has shown that they have the ability to win games, and if they can just learn to stay consistent, they will have the NL East wrapped up.