September 6, 2006


Marlins Succeed Because They Are Willing To Fail (TIM MARCHMAN, September 6, 2006, NY Sun)

On a structural level, there have been three keys to the team's success. First is having Cabrera and Willis; there are a lot of teams with some decent young talent, but without anchors for the lineup and rotation, it can be pretty hard to do anything with that talent. Second is that, with the exception of veteran starter Brian Moehler and his 6.18 ERA, the team hasn't given substantial playing time to anyone who's really awful, which is the most common mistake teams make. Third is that they've had star level performances from several players that no one, absolutely no one, could have expected to play this well.

Take the Marlins' middle infield of Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla. Uggla, whose batting line is .291 BA/.353 OBA/.499 SLG, has hit better than any second baseman in the league save Philadelphia's Chase Utley, and Ramirez (.287/.350/.461) is behind only Jose Reyes among shortstops. [...]

Just as they're getting wild overperformance on the hitting side, so are they on the pitching side. Past Willis, the team's best pitchers have been Josh Johnson, who's second in the league in ERA, Scott Olsen, and Anibal Sanchez. All were in Double-A last year, and all are 22. Fine prospects though they were, there is again no blueprint for having three 22-year-old pitchers come up from Double-A and immediately succeed in the starting rotation. Shrewd scouting and coaching can definitely minimize risk, but even the most talented pitching prospects are almost completely unpredictable, and usually take time to adjust to the majors. The Marlins' corps hasn't, so the Marlins have a chance to win yet another ring out of nowhere.

It would be foolish, though, to dismiss the Marlins' success as the mere product of luck — it's not. They're lucky that so many rookies have exceeded expectations, but it wasn't luck that they had those rookies to begin with, nor that they were willing to entrust them with jobs. It's easy to overstate how good an idea it is to blow up a mediocre team and start over with kids; often it just doesn't work. But it's just as easy to overstate how good an idea it is not to do so. A horrible team like the Kansas City Royals, or a merely uninspiring one like the Seattle Mariners, can always come up with an excuse to play a boring old veteran rather than someone like Dan Uggla — and they can always go yet another year risking little and gaining nothing.The sheer willingness to risk catastrophic failure in the name of a good 2008 team was the right move for the Marlins to make, and if their numbers all come up this year and they win again, they'll deserve it.

The eminently likeable Willis has, in reality, been nearly their worst starter and has been terribly overworked the past few years. They should have traded him for a centerfielder at midseason.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 6, 2006 9:11 AM

Unfortunately, the owner of the Marlins is, at times, an idiot.

Posted by: pchuck at September 6, 2006 9:40 AM

Actually, I'm thinking Twins/Padres World Series. There's a possibility by the end of this week, both teams will be leading their divisions.

Posted by: Brad S at September 6, 2006 10:18 AM

Not sure who will represent the AL as the Yankees, Twins, As, and Tigers all have flaws and can certainly lose a series.

That said, given the interleague play this year, the AL champ will probably have no problem with the NL champ.

Posted by: AWW at September 6, 2006 10:20 AM

The Mets are pretty good.

"Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez"? What idiots traded them to the Marlins?

Posted by: Bob at September 6, 2006 1:17 PM

The Mets have no one you'd feel comfortable having start a meaningful game.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2006 1:22 PM

Considering Lurie's recent actions, it will be interesting to see how the 2007 Marlins do under a new manager, since Girardi figures to either be axed or pull a Johnny Keane at the end of this season because he knows the boss really wants to get rid of him despite his success.

Posted by: John at September 6, 2006 1:24 PM

John: People are talking up a storm saying that if Girardi is fired or leaves then the Cubs will have a chance to get him (assuming Dusty Baker gets fired, which is probably a good assumption). I like Dusty Baker but it just ain't working for the Cubs.

Posted by: pchuck at September 6, 2006 3:00 PM

Blast, Bob beat me to it.

The Marlins are my NL team this season. With a bunch of Sawx farmhands who make Theo Epstein look like a bigger idiot with every game they play, and with Yankee great Joe G (and Peoria Il native -- he dated one of my wife's aunts in H.S.) at the helm, what's not to like.

If Joe goes to the Cubs tho it's only to give him some more training before he takes over as Yankee manager once Torre calls it quits.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 6, 2006 9:41 PM

If they had Beckett instead of Willis anchoring the staff you'd have to like their chances to win it all.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2006 9:45 PM

And a no-hitter tonight by one of the rookies.

Posted by: John Thacker at September 6, 2006 10:30 PM

Well, I suppose there's a chance that Josh could still cut it in a weak NL East -- tho I doubt it, he's that bad.

Oh, and it goes from bad to worse for the Sawx front office, as Anibal pitches a no-no.

Three cheers for the Sawx youth movement -- as it exists in San Diego, Miami, and Cleveland.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 6, 2006 10:47 PM

PS -- Phil Hughes struck out 13 Portland Sawx in 6 innings of work in a Trenton victory in the EL playoffs (among them the vastly overhyped and overrated Sawx wunderkind Mr. Ellsbury.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 6, 2006 10:53 PM

No-hitter against an NL team in September--pretty meaningless. If the Sox played in the NL they'd be 135-5.

Posted by: oj at September 7, 2006 7:11 AM