After losing two great pitching duels in Washington last weekend, the Marlins could not find their stroke in New York, as they were swept by the Mets in three games. The offensive depression carried over to Friday night when Miami lost at home to Arizona 5-0.
It is unclear precisely what the problem is right now, but we can deduce. For one thing, the supposedly shut-down closer of Heath Bell has only converted on one save in his four chances this year, and in the three times he blew saves, the team lost. The starting pitchers have been interesting as well. Josh Johnson has not yet regained his 2009-2011 form, and Mark Buehrle has simply given up too many hits and other various baserunners. Anibal Sanchez has been Miami’s most consistent starter, nothing that I did not expect given his recent track record.
Sanchez debuted in 2006 and pitched a no-hitter just weeks after being called up. He was sidelined for parts of ’08 and ’09, but in 2010, and last season especially, Sanchez blossomed into a shut-down pitcher. Anibal is consistently good against intra-divisional teams (against the Nationals he is 7-0 in 16 career starts). With the injuries and inconsistencies of Johnson and Ricky Nolasco, Sanchez is the team’s most reliable pitcher in my opinion.
It is understandable that Josh Johnson is off to a slow start, since he was inactive for 9 months coming into Spring Training this year. And Mark Buehrle is pitching in the National League for the first time in his career, an adjustment that is not as simple as it may seem. Ozzie Guillen has already faced the biggest scandal of his career, praising Fidel Castro in the largest Cuban-exile community in the country. Carlos Zambrano is aloof from the tranquility of being a team-player, and the lack of offensive support for him shows that. Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes are contributing, but I am afraid that they set themselves apart from the rest of the lineup by putting themselves in too high of esteem. Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton is off to a slow start as well, but he should heat up once the season gets rolling some more.
The team could still be distracted by the hype of new park, but that is still no reason to have a winning percentage below .370. In my opinion, David Samson’s expectations for the Marlins this season were way too high. He said that if the team finished .500 this year it would be a “complete and total failure.” It’s fine to have high expectations, but to put them in such negative connotation is to put unneeded pressure on this team made up of three new stars, and young guys that just want to play baseball.
The wins will come when the players get used to being a team. To have three new studs (Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle) in such integral roles on the team and demand nothing short of perfection is way too much to ask for a club not yet used to their brand-new scheme of things.