Can the Florida Marlins Win the NL East

marlinsWith seven weeks left in the baseball season, the young Florida Marlins seem to be poised to stay in the hunt down to the wire in the National League East. However, the question is whether the Marlins have the experience needed to catapult pass the Phillies and claim the title.

At the start of the season, it was clear that the Marlins had enough talent to be competitive in the National League East. However, with a roster that included only four players in their 30s (none of whom were regulars) the question was whether the Marlins had the leadership needed to make it through a tough 162 game season.

The recent acquisition of 30-year old first baseman Nick Johnson gives the team another solid offensive player while also providing some veteran clubhouse presence. Johnson has postseason experience having helped the New York Yankees reach the World Series in 2003.

He also is a solid left-handed bat and among the best in the game at getting on base. In his 13 games since joining the Marlins, he is hitting .308 with a home run, 6 RBIs and a .500 on base percentage.

Johnson joins a Marlins team that seems to have withstood their up-and-down early season to now emerge as a playoff contender.

After starting the season 11-1, the Marlins found themselves below .500 by mid-May. The team spent the next two months flirting with .500 before finally breaking the mark for good on July 21.

At that point they trailed the Phillies by 7 games in the NL East, but since them have shaved the advantage in half.

Hanley Ramirez
Image by SD Dirk via Flickr

If there was any doubt about who the offensive leader is for the Marlins, those questions have been erased this season by Hanley Ramirez. The 25-year old shortstop has clearly established himself as one of the best players in the National League and will certainly be on the short list for the National League MVP Award.

Ramirez is hitting .356 with 18 home runs, 82 RBI, 36 doubles and 76 runs scored. He leads the national league in batting average and doubles and ranks among the top 10 in RBI, slugging percentage, runs scored and stolen bases.

Josh Johnson (12-2, 2.85 ERA) has been the leader of the pitching staff, but Chris Volstad, Ricky Nolasco and Andrew Miller have all been solid starters.

The strength of the pitching staff has been in the middle relievers as Kiko Calero, Brian Sanches, Dan Meyer and Renyel Pinto have been lights out. Overall, the bullpen has an ERA of 3.82.

Given the experience the Phillies gained a year ago during their run to the World Series, it would be easy to assume that they will be able to withstand the charging Marlins and repeat as NL East Champions.

So far this season, Philadelphia holds a slight 7-5 advantage in head-to-head match ups, but the Marlins swept three straight in Philadelphia August 7-9 and punctuated the sweep with a 12-3 win in the final game.

The two teams don’t meet again until September 22 for a 3-game series in Miami. They also meet for the final 3 games of the season in Philadelphia.

The Marlins also have 10 games remaining against the Atlanta Braves, who lurk just 2 games behind the Marlins in the standings. Florida is 5-3 against the Braves so far this season.

Florida was in a similar position last season as they trailed the division leading New York Mets by 3 and a half games on August 15th. They went 21-17 over the remainder of the season, but ended up 7 and a half games out of first as the Phillies caught fire and passed the Mets on their way to the championship.

The expectation is that this time around with a year of experience as well as the addition of Johnson and others with a postseason resume, the Marlins will be able to stay in contention and perhaps this season be the team that gets hot down the stretch.

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If you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me an e-mail at peter@baseballreflections.com.

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4 Comments

  1. Peej

    August 20, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    No way – Braves take the East! Marlins are too young… given their history in the playoffs, they’d probably rather be the Wild Card anyway!

  2. Rich Dansereau

    August 21, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    There is still time left this season for anything to happen. I am hoping for the Braves clinch and Phillies choke.
    .-= Rich Dansereau´s last blog ..Why should I join Positive Real Estate Professionals? =-.

    • Peter Schiller

      August 22, 2009 at 12:44 am

      Thanks for the comment Rich.

      Do you think the end of the bullpn can hold things together? All three teams in this ace are having closer woes.

  3. Danny Thornton

    August 24, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I personally am not a big Marlins fan. I think they will fall.
    .-= Danny Thornton´s last blog ..Atlanta Braves take over second place in the NL East =-.

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