The blog has been up and running for approximately 20 minutes since I posted the Q & A with Phillies blogger Tom Goyne, and here we are with a new team in town. The Brewers start a three-game set tonight with the Marlins, owners of the best record in the NL East.
Craig runs the SBNation blog FishStripes , and was kind enough to take some time to answer my questions. Here's what he had to say.
Three weeks into the season, we're in a bizarro world where the Marlins are in first place. How has this happened? Is there any chance Florida can hang in the race?
First off, it is not bizarro -- it's the way it should be. Now to answer your question honestly, the Marlins have basically slugged their way into first with the help of a stellar bullpen. The Fish are second in the NL in home runs (33), second in slugging percentage (.474), tied for third in triples (6), tied for fourth in doubles (48) and tied for sixth in batting average (.266).
Along with a bullpen that has picked up where it left off last year and is second in the NL in bullpen ERA (2.92).
Yes, there is a chance they can hang in the race. There is reason to believe the offensive can continue slugging at this rate since the young Marlins set the team records for HR, RBI, TB, XBH, SLG in 2006 and preceded to break the team records in those categories in 2007. The real question of whether they can hang in the race comes down to: can the starting pitching improve? As the Marlins stand right now they only have two starters who can put up quality starts. The other three may go five innings if everything is perfect. If the Marlins can continue to put runs on the board long enough for some of the starters on the DL to return or if the present bottom three starters can actually learn to pitch at the major league level, then it is possible. Likely? Who knows, but I wouldn't bet the rent on it.
Andrew Miller, the prize of the offseason deal with the Tigers, has a 7.94 ERA in five starts. Is he hopelessly overmatched, or do you think he'll turn in a respectable season this year?
Andrew Miller has electric stuff but he has problems with the mastery of his pitches. His has no consistent control over any pitch he throws and his velocity is all over the place. One fast ball may be clocked at 97 mph and the very next one could come in at 93 mph. So far his starts have consisted of finding the one pitch he can get over the plate with any regularity and just throw that one over and over again.
Miller really should have started the season in the minors but with the attrition to starting staff -- it's on-the-job training in the majors. I guess whether he can salvage a decent season or not depends on how fast of a learner he is.
The Brewers and Marlins both have ex-Atlantans as skippers, but it doesn't seem like Fredi Gonzalez gets much national press. What can you tell us about his managing style? Do you like him so far?
I like Fredi and I think he will turn into a fine manager. Last season he sat back and observed what was going on with the players and this year he instituted some changes in club policy. Starting with the Marlins clubhouse--it's more professional this season and no longer resembles a middle school play ground. Fredi has a great instinct on how use to the bullpen (which, sadly, pitches a lot of innings) to get the most out of them with the less wear to their bodies.
One policy he tried to adopt in spring training was to get the hitters to quit swinging for the fences and make more contact, cutting down on strikeouts and increasing the number of base runners in the process. That one hasn't taken hold.
As a Brewers fan, I liked Wes Helms, at least until he took the field. How do you feel about getting him back for a second tour of duty?
I was very surprised when the Marlins "traded" for Wes Helms this year. I wasn't really sure what he would add to the team and I'm still a little unclear why the Fish need him. But this part I do know, Helms does provide a veteran presence on the team and that is something the Marlins can always use. And if all he does is that and gets a pinch-hit and spells the corner infielders once in awhile then I guess he has done his job. I still unsure of the reason the team needs his services.
Who do you think Larry Beinfest is going to trade for a small army of prospects this offseason?
Oh, you just had to ask that -- you couldn't let us enjoy being in first for a little while. The word around the campfire is that some trade or trades will happen before the deadline or in the offseason.
Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Josh Willingham, Mike Jacobs, Jeremy Hermida and Scott Olsen will become arbitration eligible for the first time at the end of the season and the word is that there is no way the Marlins are going to arbitration with all of them. Who goes and who remains will depend on the expected arbitration price and their value as a trading piece. Ramirez will obviously be the most expensive and would bring in the most top prospects in a trade but the Marlins may try to keep him. I have my doubts. If the Marlins keep Hanley that doesn't leave much money to pay for the others.
In short, I don't know who it will be, but chances are it will be someone(s). A new stadium for the Marlins is still three years away and the front office said that they weren't going to increase the payroll until it was in place. And when the Marlins front office says they aren't going to spend money, I believe them.