A healthy Josh Johnson will go a long way this season.
America's favorite pastime is almost here. Can you feel it? They can in Miami.
I'm going to give you 10 reasons why you should watch the Florida Marlins this season.
Not only will they give the Phils a run for their money, but they could be a legitimate contender for the World Series title. Here we go!
Who's a Marlins fan? This guy.
In 2010, the Florida Marlins average attendance in 81 home games was only 18,862 per game. Only the Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics averaged less.
But on the road, it's a different story. A lot of fans like watching their team play the Marlins, because they know the Marlins put up a fight. Their average road attendance of 30,684 in 2010 was 13th in the MLB. That's better than potential playoff teams Texas, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Cincinnati and Detroit.
In 2009, the Marlins' regional TV ratings reached a combined 102,000 viewers per game. (Games were broadcast on both FS Florida and SunSports.) That's good enough to be in the top 10 in the MLB.
Sure, you'll find a lot of empty seats in Pro Player/Dolphin/Sun Life Stadium on game day. But this could mean that a lot of Florida's fans live outside of the peninsula. (Like me.)
So hey, they may not have a lot of fans, but the ones they do have sure are awesome.
They say "defense wins championships." And defense in baseball starts with the infield.
Florida was fifth in the MLB in errors with 123. (This is one category where being in the top 10 isn't good.)
The World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants, had only 73.
This is the real reason for trading Dan Uggla. He committed 18 errors at second base while Omar Infante only had seven.
Jorge Cantu was an important piece of the Marlins offense, but had 16 errors at third base in only 81 games before being traded to the Texas Rangers.
The real question: Emilio Bonifacio, Wes Helms or Matt Dominguez at third?
Luckily for the Fish, they have plenty of time to figure out who will man the hot corner. When they do, they'll be solid around the diamond.
On Jun. 23, 2010, Edwin Rodríguez became the interim manager for the Florida Marlins replacing Fredi Gonzalez. He won his first game against the Baltimore Orioles on that same day.
Edwin led his ballclub to a 46-46 record over 92 games; impressive, considering he had to deal with season-ending injuries to his aces Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco, as well as outfielder Chris Coghlan.
Rodriguez was rewarded with an extension through the 2011 season.
It's a smart move by the Marlins ownership because no one believes in this team more than Rodriguez.
“We’re going to be the last team standing, come October. I can feel it,” Rodriguez said to the Marlins before they took the field for their first full-squad workout. "I really believe that." Read more.
Now, if he can get his players to believe it as well, this will be a very dangerous team come October.
John Buck is exactly the type of guy you want behind the plate.
Once a top 25 prospect in all of baseball, he's now a veteran catcher who is known for his defense. He can call a great game and can keep his pitchers focused.
But what's even better is he's dangerous with a bat.
Last year, playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, Buck hit three home runs in one game against the Oakland Athletics.
He was also selected to his first All-Star Game in 2010. Representing the Blue Jays, he went 1-for-2 with a double.
He ended the season hitting career highs in nearly every offensive category: .281, 53 runs, 115 hits, 25 doubles, 20 HR and 66 RBI.
With John Baker, a primed left-handed bat, as his backup, the Florida Marlins are looking like they've solidified the catcher position.
No, they aren't quite the Philadelphia Phillies. But who is?
The Florida Marlins starting five has a ton of talent and ability. And some pretty nasty stuff that will make them one of the better staffs this year.
Here's a quick rundown on why:
A front-runner for the Cy Young award, Johnson is the ace of this staff and when healthy, nearly untouchable. (More about Johnson later in this article.)
Has some of the nastiest stuff in the NL. He has had a hard time being consistent, but when he's on, you cannot beat him. He went 14-9 with 147 Ks in 2010.
He is a veteran pitcher who struggled with the Yankees last year (10-10 with 5.32 ERA). The Marlins are hoping a return to the NL will also return Vazquez to his 2009 form when he pitched for Atlanta. Check out these numbers: 15-10, 2.87 ERA, 238 Ks with only 44 BB in 2009.
Has no-hit stuff. Literally. Since his no-hitter in 2006 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Sanchez has been hampered with injuries. A career 3.74 ERA shows he's very good, and he went 13-12 with 157 Ks in 2010.
The Marlins wild card. He needs to work on his ERA and WHIP, but the 6'8" right-hander still won 12 games last year.
They'll get plenty of run support from a loaded offense...and just in case the injury bug bites:
Called up after injuries to Johnson and Nolasco, Sanabia pitched 72.1 frames with a 3.73 ERA and fewer than two walks per nine innings.
He's a 6'8" lefty who showed flashes of potential in 2009. Plus he's only 24.
Mike Stanton, Chris Coghlan and Logan Morrison. Get used to those names because you're going to be hearing them a lot.
In 100 games with the Marlins last season, Mike Stanton hit .256 with 22 HR, 59 RBI, 45 runs, 93 hits and 21 doubles. The guy can mash. (He's one of the reasons why Dan Uggla was expendable.) He's built like a football player at 6'5" and 235 lbs, and he treats the outfield like it's his gridiron. If he stays healthy, he could hit 30-40 home runs and 100 RBI. Yes, he's that scary.
Chris Coghlan was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2009, when he hit .321 with nine HR, 47 RBI and 83 runs scored. But his sophomore season was cut short when he injured his knee. The real question for Coghlan this year is how he'll do playing center field. He has shown he can adjust as he was moved from third base to left field his rookie year. He'll hit leadoff and will score close to 100 runs this season.
Logan Morrison was shifted from first base to left field to make room for Gaby Sanchez. In 62 games, Morrison hit .281 with a couple of homers, 20 doubles and seven triples. He also earned an amazing 41 walks. The power isn't there yet, but he has a great eye. And he has one of the prettiest swings you'll see from the left side of the plate.
If you haven't seen the Marlins play, watch them this season. All three of these guys can make/have made outstanding plays and are an exciting part of Florida's future.
The Marlins had 25 blown saves in 2010. That's second most in the entire MLB. (Another category where being on top is NOT good.) Florida used this offseason to address its biggest weakness: the bullpen. Bringing in various pitchers with different qualities will hopefully solidify what was one of the worst bullpens in the MLB.
Nunez's setup man and only real competition, he was 7-for-7 in save chances and tossed 14.1 shutout innings in the season's final month. He had a 2.16 ERA in 2010 with 22 holds.
He is lights out against right-handed hitters (.250 BA/.296 OBP/.297 SLG rates) but gets torched by lefties (.305/.385/.475). Look for Florida to use him accordingly.
Part of the Dan Uggla trade, Dunn is the opposite of Ryan Webb. He has mid-90s heat with a biting slider. He kills left-handed hitters. He had a 1.89 ERA in 2010 for Atlanta.
Another strong left-handed arm for the bullpen, Choate is a veteran pitcher who had 18 holds with Tampa Bay in 2010.
Came over in the Cameron Maybin trade from San Diego. In 2010, no pitcher (among those with 60-plus innings) had better than his 12.00 strikeout:walk ratio. He has pin-point control and will compete to be in the late-inning mix.
Is as streaky a closer as they come. He did have 30 saves in 2010, but he had 38 opportunities. His eight blown saves were second most in the MLB. The Marlins like his stuff, and he did set a career high with 9.83 Ks per nine innings last season. But if he can't get it done, Hensley will.
Check out this potential Opening Day lineup:
1. Chris Coghlan, CF
2. Omar Infante, 2B
3. Hanley Ramirez, SS
4. Mike Stanton, RF
5. Gaby Sanchez, 1B
6. John Buck, C
7. Logan Morrison, LF
8. Wes Helms/Matt Dominguez, 3B
Are you kidding me? All of these guys can HIT! The Fish are going to score a lot of runs and win a lot of games. In 2010, the Marlins were seventh in the NL in runs scored, fourth in doubles, third in triples and seventh in home runs.
And I haven't even talked about Gaby Sanchez yet...
Sanchez was a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year in 2010. He hit .273, with 19 HR and 89 RBI. He's solid at first base and has the ability to drive in runs. Not to mention he hit 37 doubles in 2010. That was good for 11th in the NL.
If this lineup of young, talented players doesn't get you excited about baseball season, then I don't know what will, except for my No. 2 reason why the Florida Marlins will win the World Series in 2011...
Josh Johnson is one of the best pitchers in baseball.
He is a two-time All-Star and has recovered from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.
A leading candidate to win the Cy Young award, Johnson had a career year in 2010. In 28 starts he went 11-6 with a 2.30 ERA, 186 Ks and gave up only seven HRs. Hitting the upper 90s with his fastball allows him to throw his devastating changeup and wicked slider.
In his first 21 starts, JJ only allowed more than three earned runs once, giving up only one earned run eight times and zero earned runs six times. Impressed yet?
Johnson's 2010 season ended earlier than anticipated when he injured his back, but it seems it was more of a precautionary measure than anything serious, as the Marlins were out of the playoff race.
The expectations are high for Johnson in 2011. And they should be.
So goes Hanley...so go the Marlins.
Hanley Ramirez is arguably the best player in baseball. He has power, speed and athleticism. And he's only getting better.
He is a three-time All-Star starter, a two-time Silver Slugger, the NL Rookie of the Year in 2006, the NL batting champion in 2009 and came in second to Albert Pujols for NL MVP in 2009.
Many people are calling 2010 a down year for Ramirez. He hit .300 with 21 HR, 76 RBI, 92 runs, 28 doubles, 64 walks and 32 stolen bases. Some down year, huh?
He's also been working on his throwing mechanics with infield coach Perry Hill.
He's the most capable player in the league, if it weren't for a lack of effort and concentration.
Here's a look at Hanley's potential if he were to put it all together for one season: he could bat .342 with 33 HR, 106 RBI, 212 hits, 48 doubles, 11 triples and 92 walks with 51 stolen bases.
If the Fish are to be successful in 2010, Hanley Ramirez needs to have a good year. But more importantly, he needs to be the leader of this team, on and off the field.
If the Florida Marlins win the NL Wild Card, it will be because Hanley Ramirez is the MVP. And he will lead them to a third World Series championship.