After earning a series split with the Washington Nationals, the Braves head down to sunny Miami to take on the Marlins in a three game series. In lieu of a more normal series preview, I exchanged questions and answers with Fish Stripes blogger Michael Jong. My questions for Michael are below, and you can find his questions for me over on Fish Stripes.
1. The Marlins were everyone's trendy pick to make the postseason. What's gone wrong so far? Is the postseason still in play for Miami?
"The problem this season is a simple matter of under performing projections. For whatever reason, the majority of the Marlins' lineup is drastically under performing their expectations, and many of these problems come completely out of the blue. One would expect the possibility of someone like Hanley Ramirez, who is coming off of a bad season but one that could have been permanently damaging due to injury concerns and a two-year decline, to under perform a projection based on three seasons of work. But to see Gaby Sanchez fall off the map, Logan Morrison struggle to find an identity at the plate, and Jose Reyes hit worse than he did in 2009 has been unfathomable. All of this occurring at the same time, in the same season, has sunk the Marlins' offense and crippled their chances at the postseason."
2. If the Marlins were to become sellers, who would be on the way out? (Who would you like to see on the way out? Anyone?)
"If the Marlins do become sellers (and the possibility grows with each loss), the Fish would probably send Anibal Sanchez away first and foremost. He is a free agent at the end of this season and may not be re-signed, so the Marlins may forfeit the draft pick compensation and simply move on with a mid-level prospect who is almost major league ready.
Rumors have also swirled about Omar Infante, Josh Johnson, and Hanley Ramirez, but those players seem more unlikely to be moved because they are much more likely to help the team in 2013 when the Fish attempt another playoff run."
The rest of the Q&A after the jump
3. What's the deal with Hanley Ramirez? Will we ever see the player who posted .300/.400/.500 lines again? And what's this about punching a fan?
"Hanley Ramirez will never hit .300/.400/.500 again, this much has more or less been eliminated given his last two seasons of work. Before the second half, however, I did predict that Ramirez would hit .280/.360/.460 in the second half, and that seems far more reasonable. His power has returned, as he is hitting fewer ground balls than he did the last two years. He continues to hit the same number of home runs per fly ball as well. The issue, it seems, is on balls in play, as he cannot climb out of a .275 batting average on balls in play despite years of hitting around .340 in his career. At this stage, expecting him to even hit his career .330 mark on balls in play seems wrong, so the Marlins are hoping he turned into a "good" hitter from a great hitter instead of just an "average" one.
As for the fan, he punched it in frustration during a game, likely due to his own struggles at the plate. It then got cut and required stitches. Now, because Ramirez failed to take the proper medication to prevent an infection, the wound got infected and he is expected to miss more time as a result. When it rains, it pours."
4. On a team where people have focused extensively on the disappointments, who has been the most pleasant surprise for the Marlins this year?
"It is so difficult to point out a pleasant surprise because the Marlins, as of right now, have been so disappointing. It would be nice to say that, for example, Giancarlo Stanton's emergence has been a surprise, but most systems expected him to hit about as well as he was before he went on the DL with a knee injury. Omar Infante has been better than he was last season, but he was hitting at about this level a few years ago and he has been trending down since his hot April; since his .323/.344/.726 start, he has hit a very predictable .273/.305/.376. Even the pitching staff, which started off so well and included a surprise appearance by a good Carlos Zambrano, has been derailed in the past few months. In short, nothing has been surprising in a good way for the Marlins this season."
5. After being one of the most frugal teams is baseball the last decade, the Marlins spent like crazy this offseason. Do you think that will continue in the future? Is winning now a key to keeping the cash flowing?
"Winning is absolutely important in keeping fans coming through the turnstiles and the cash flowing into the Marlins' coffers. But because the Marlins are so bereft of talent in the minors after years of quickly promoting potential major league talent, the team has no way of filling holes via trading future pieces for the present. As a result, a second set of signings may be critical to put the team back in contention in 2013. The free agent class this season has some decent fits for the Marlins, so the team could try to pull, for example, an outfielder and a starting pitcher to fill holes on the current squad and see if 2013 holds better luck for the team. If it does, the fans will come back to the stadium after an inevitable drop in attendance (though nothing like the wasteland of orange seats the team had in the old stadium)."