Tonight the Miami Marlins bring their flashy colors and hard-hitting young players into Miller Park.
This is a series that both teams desperately need in order to stay alive in their respective divisions. Just like last season, both teams meet up at a time where they are following similar story lines. Unlike 2011, however, both teams are struggling mightily to compete with the res of their division, and their own high expectations.
To help sort things out, Ehsan Kassim of Fansided’s very own Marlin Maniac reached out for a good old fashioned Series Six Pack with us at Reviewing the Brew. Crack it open and read about Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, and a whole host of other fourth-place problems.
We will begin with our questions about the Marlins, as to get better acquainted with our upcoming opponents.
Reviewing the Brew: Miami has had a real rocky start – to say the least – but all of the sudden they’ve won four straight and people are starting to whisper about a run at the division. What’s the turning point been, and is there enough in the tank to get the top of the NL East?
Marlin Maniac: The Marlins got off to a slow start in April, beginning the season 8-14. The team actually recovered quite nicely in the month of May, going a league best, 21-8. Even though the Marlins had a great record in May, the team was still not playing at it’s best. The team was being carried by the hot bats of Giancarlo Stanton and Hanley Ramirez. Once they both cooled down in June, the Marlins took another June nose dive. They finished the month with a league worst record of 8-18. There is no denying the talent on this Marlins team.
As for the the turning point, I would go back to last Saturday, when the Marlins made a big comeback win against the St. Louis Cardinals, entering the 7th inning trailing by one run. The team went on to lose the very next game, but has been playing very well as of late, in sweeping the Phillies.
RtB: What do you think the reason is for Jose Reyes’s struggles so far in 2012? How important is his success for the success of this ballclub?
MM: I would not say that Reyes has struggled this season, in fact, he has been one of our more consistent players since the beginning of May. Reyes currently has a line of .269/.345/.382. The first thing that pops out when you look at his line is the dip in batting average. Then you notice the lack of power. The reason for that is Reyes has been hitting groundballs at a 48% rate this season, as opposed to his career 44%. More groundballs=less gap hits. He has done a better job in the months of May and June improving on that. Reyes had a BABIP of .253 in the month of April. That has now regressed back towards his career average.
Overall, the Marlins need Reyes to set the table, get on base, and cause havoc on the basepaths for the Marlins to be at their best. Reyes has been the player that was advertised to them when he signed as a free agent. He still can improve on his season, but I would not call his first three months as a Marlins as a struggle.
RtB: The Marlins and the Brewers have shared similar storylines this year – both have been teams that were expected to produce a lot of wins this year, and both teams are stuck in the middle of divisions with rather steep hills to climb. What similarities do you see between the two this year, and how will those play out for this series?
MM: Both teams boast above average rotations that have not lived up to that billing this season. The Marlins started the season pitching really well, but that has tapered off as of late. The Brewers have one pitcher pitching to his standards, and everyone else is not where they should be.
Both teams also have strong lineups that have struggled a ton. The Brewers have a perennial MVP candidate in Ryan Braun and the Marlins have the arguably best power hitter in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton.
Neither team has had a great amount success from their bullpen, as both their closers have struggled for their respective teams.
RtB: What pitcher, besides Greinke (’cause that’s a cop-out) worries you the most in this series, and which Marlins hurler should Brewers fan watch out for?
MM: I am going to say Randy Wolf, just because he is a soft tossing left hander, and for some reason, the Marlins always struggle against those pitchers. The Marlins lineup has been so unpredictable this season, one night they’ll rock around Cole Hamels, the next night, Joe Blanton looks like he is Roy Halladay.
As for the pitcher the Brewers need to watch for, I would go with Anibal Sanchez. Even with his struggles in the month of June, he is an all-star caliber pitcher. Josh Johnson would have been a cop-out.
RtB: Giancarlo Stanton rightly earned his first All-Star selection this year, but do you think any Marlins got snubbed?
MM: No other Marlins player deserves to be near the city of Kansas City when the All-star break festivities take place.
RtB: Who takes the series this week, and which Marlins player will perform the best?
MM: I am a homer, but not a big enough homer to pick against Grienke. With him pitching and the Brewers being the home team, I would say that the two teams will split the four game series. The Brewers will win games 1 and 4 and the Marlins the middle two games.
I think Hanley Ramirez will have a huge series. He was hitting the ball really well all series against the Phillies. His reward finally came through last game in the bottom of the eight inning, when he blasted a two-run shot to extend the Marlins lead to three.
Here’s what Eshan sent me regarding the Brewers this week:
MM: With Ryan Braun posting another MVP-type season, is it time to get him another steroid test? I believe that will put all this “he uses” steroids crap talk end.
RtB: I believe you’re right, and I also believe he probably HAS been tested since the season began. Of course, this time, the anonymity process probably worked. I had some significant doubts that he was clean, to be honest, and I have to take the arbitrators at their words, and the fact that countless Major Leaguers have gone to bat – excuse the pun – for Braun and his character. In the end, it doesn’t matter HOW MANY tests the guy takes, he’s always going to have that stigma attached. It’s a shame, because he’s a true talent.
MM: How likely is it that the Brewers trade Zach Grienke? What kind of return are the Brewers going to be looking for? Any way that the Brewers can trade him before the first game of the series?
RtB: Here’s the thing about Greinke, and it came from an especially prescient point my father made. Greinke, you have to assume, is going to get you 20 wins this season. Any deal that does not guarantee, and I mean guarantee, more production than that should be considered frivolous. The Brewers have a chance at the division still this year – if you can believe that or not – and there’s no reason to throw that, and a top tier pitcher to boot, out the window for prospects. As for your second question, I think we’re both stuck with him this series for better and for worse.
MM: Nyjer Morgan is hated by the Marlins, if not most of baseball. What was his latest goof that has everyone riled up?
RtB: This – a run-in with a fan in foul territory. I think Nyjer is a very unique character, and he’s caught somewhere in the middle between good intentions and good deeds. I never thought he was a bad guy, just over-eager and overly enthusiastic. I can see why he gets under people’s skin, but I think it’s a matter of perspective.
MM: Can you pinpoint the problem for the Brewers this season? They obviously have the talent in Milwaukee, but what is currently missing? Has the loss of Prince Fielder impacted the team?
RtB: The loss of Prince Fielder isn’t as bad as the loss of Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins, if you can believe it. Milwaukee has a real lack of dependable bullpen help this year – with or without Prince, this would have been an issue. Couple that with the fact that Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks are striking out more than nearly everyone in the National League and you have a major problem on your hands. It’s hard to pinpoint where the issues are outside of the bullpen – we can use the injury card as much as we want, but how long can that trolley ride?
MM: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers that the Marlins will be facing this series? Which pitching matchup are you looking forward to?
RtB: The first game is probably going to be my favorite one – Greinke vs. Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano
has been known to deal some damage out to the Crew, fanning nearly 200 Milwaukee batters over his career. But for as much as he can dominate Milwaukee, he has been known to get edged out early if hitters can get after him. It will be interesting to see which Zambrano shows up, because I think we all know which Greinke will be there.
The second game will be interesting to watch I think. Estrada is a guy who can go deep into a game and pitch well throughout, but he hasn’t got a whole lot of run support (SPOILER ALERT: no one on Milwaukee has). In his last start against Cincinnati he struck out a career-high 12 batters, so we’ll see if that momentum can continue – this on is anyone’s ballgame in my opinion.
If the Marlins are sure to pull one out on Milwaukee, your best chance is against Randy Wolf. The man hasn’t had a win since late April. A lot of that was bad luck, as he pitched really well in several series since that time. He’s been having trouble locating his breaking stuff lately, and he’s a real finicky pitcher in terms of selection. Of all the Brewers pitchers, Wolf is probably the easiest to run earlier if you can attack him early. On the flipside, Josh Johnson still scares me despite his record, and he has had some good performances against in the past. This is the game I’m most concerned about.
In the series finale, I think everyone is in for a fun ride. I always like seeing Buehrle pitch, and he’s turned it on of late so he might be more apt to take on a sluggish Brewers line-up. Mike Fiers, however, has been as good a rookie pitcher as I’ve seen in a while. He pitches without fear on the mound, and can go deep into games without losing effectiveness. He doesn’t have lights-out stuff, but he locates well and works great with his catchers. I think even though you are obviously bias, once you see this kid pitch you’ll want to root for him. He’s quickly becoming a fan favorite in Milwaukee and we are lucky to have him, considering our pitching situation this year.
MM: What are your predictions for this series? Who will have a big series for the Brewers?
RtB: I think it’s going to be a split series – but it depends if the run support shows up during the middle two games. This series could just as easily be three games either way, however, I think Milwaukee just needs the series more. Call it homerism, but I think that’s going to factor in. Not to mention the fact that the Brewers have started to turn things around at home now, and Miller Park is a dangerous place to play when the fans get into it.
I think there’s a few Brewers you need to watch out for – John Axford has had another sluggish start, but it was around this time last year that he flipped the switch and really got dominant. In yesterday’s game he was nearly unhittable, and I think I see him extending his good performances into a save or two this series.
Keep an eye on the Brewers right fielder Norichika Aoki as well. He’s hitting .375 in his last seven games, and has been knocking on the door of .300 all season. He’s primarily a slap hitter with great speed (in the last game against Arizona he legged out a grounder to second base). He can get you for power as well, and really makes opportunities for Braun and Ramirez. Also, if Carlos Gomez runs on you – just hold the throw, it’s for you own good.
MM: Bonus: How many home runs will Giancarlo Stanton hit this series? How excited are you to see in him in the home run derby? Will Braun be there?
RtB: I would have loved to see Braun in the derby, but alas, it was not to be. He’s got a natural power
swing that’s very fun to watch. As for your boy, Giancarlo Stanton, it’s not out of the question that we see 40 homers out of him by the end of the year, especially if he keeps on this tear he’s on now. I think he’s liable to sneak at least one out of the park against the Brewers, maybe more depending on which bullpen shows up – the bad one or the horrible one. But either way, he’s been impressive. Five homers in his last 10 games? That’s video game stuff, if you’re playing rookie level or using cheat codes. He’s seeing the ball great now, we can only hope opposing pitchers actually pitch to him from here on out so we can keep watching the show.
It came in a little under the gun, but I’m glad we were able to connect with Marlin Maniac again. Check ‘em out and cheer on the Brewers this week in Miller Park.