Some of my friends scoffed at me a month or so ago when I said I thought the Marlins had a chance to compete for the Wild Card in 2015. I don't blame them. Miami has been an easy target for derision in recent years and rightfully so. Yet here we are, with about 20 games left in the season and after a series win against the Braves, the Marlins find themselves on the peripheral of the Wild Card hunt this year. It's still a bit of a long shot right now, but at 4.5 games back of the 2nd Wild Card (4 games back of the Brewers), they're very much in the conversation. In fact, they're actually half a game closer to the Wild Card than the Brewers are to the first place Cardinals. Isn't that depressing?
Sorry about that. In return, have some uplifting news: After Giancarlo Stanton (160 wRC+) and Christian Yelich (125 wRC+) the Marlins offense is pretty mediocre. Maybe even bad. If the Brewers pitchers can find a way to neutralize Stanton and Yelich they should be in good shape. Obviously that's easier said than done.
Their September bullpen is 11 deep. It's a bullpen that has found a lot of success year round. They have five or six really solid relievers including Sam Dyson, Bryan Morris, A.J. Ramos, Chris Hatcher, Mike Dunn, and closer Steve Chisek. It's probably a very bad thing if the Marlins take a lead into the late innings.
Monday, September 8th - 7:10 pm CT: Yovani Gallardo vs Brad Penny
No, seriously. Brad Penny is starting for the Marlins on Monday. Yeah. That Brad Penny. No, I don't know how he is still pitching in the majors. He has an 11.4 K% and a 12.7 BB%. That is the first time I've ever seen a pitcher with a NEGATIVE K%-BB%. It's truly impressive. He also boasts a .319 BAA and a 1.93 WHIP. So his 6.61 ERA should come as no surprise. He has only pitched 16.2 innings this year, but he hasn't been good since 2007.
Tuesday, September 9th - 7:10 pm CT: Matt Garza vs Tom Koehler
Tom Koehler is a great example of why you don't give up on prospects easily. He had a solid minor league track record until he first reached AAA in 2011. He was pretty bad that year accumulating a 4.97 ERA with his poorest K/9, BB/9, and HR/9. Then he followed up with a similarly poor AAA/MLB season in 2012. He spent most of last year at the MLB level and was pretty mediocre mostly due to a poor K% and BAA. Then this year happened.
Don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting he's having a great year or that he's a superb pitcher. He's having just an all right season. His K% is a little below average and his BB% is littler higher than average. But his BAA is better than average and, certainly in part due to park factors, is keeping the ball in the park. All that has resulted in a 3.74 ERA. Not great, but not bad by any means. This is why you don't give up on prospects.
Wednesday, September 10th - 7:10 pm CT: Wily Peralta vs Jarred Cosart
I think Jarred Cosart is a strange bird. He has a really poor 14.8 K% (lg avg is 20.3%) and a mediocre 8.9 BB% (lg avg is 7.7%). His .250 BAA is basically league average (.248) and his 1.34 WHIP is a little worse (lg avg 1.28). He's also mostly just a fastball/curve ball pitcher. Though, PITCHf/x does divide his fastball into a 4-seam, cutter, and sinker. He does throw a change-up though rarely (4%). Despite his mediocre peripherals and seemingly lacking repertoire he has a reasonable 3.78 ERA, 3.73 FIP, and 4.13 xFIP.
He does induce a good deal of ground balls (54%) and he limits home runs at an insanely low rate (0.45 HR/9). That HR/9 is superb even at Marlins Park. I worry about a solid ground ball guy vs the Brewers.
Thursday, September 11th - 7:10 pm CT: Mike Fiers vs Nathan Eovaldi
FIP loves Nathan Eovaldi. It says he's almost a full point better than his ERA. I don't really understand why though. His 17.2 K% is 3 percentage points below average and he has a terrible horrible .271 BAA. To be fair, he has a really excellent 4.8 BB% and a very solid 0.61 HR/9. I still think his 4.19 ERA is more indicative of his performance this year than a 3.27 FIP because I just cannot ignore that opponent batting average.
League average ERA for starting pitchers in the National League is 3.77. So when I say the Marlins are throwing 3 league average pitchers at the Brewers I mean pretty much exactly that. Well, that would be 3 league average pitchers and Brad Penny. Which is kind of hilarious. Of course I'm writing this Sunday evening so they'll probably pull him back as karmic retribution. Assuming they don't, I feel pretty good about this four game series. I kind of said the same thing about the Cardinals series and that didn't go so well and the Marlins are coming off a series victory against the Braves (who the Brewers are now tied with, half a game back of the 2nd Wild Card) so it would be folly to dismiss them.
Still, I like the Brewers overall offense more, and I have more confidence in the starters they're sending out. I mean, it almost feels like Mike Fiers is an automatic win right now. It kind of feels the same way with Brad Penny starting the first game for the Marlins. So right there that's a series split at worst! All kidding aside I think we're going to see some fun Brewers baseball in this series.
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for tonight's MLB games. It's $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Jump in now. Here's the FanDuel link!
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs