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Figuring out what's wrong with the Marlins


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MIAMI - (KRT) - Remember opening day? The Florida Marlins routed the Braves, 9-0, dispatching John Smoltz to the showers in the second inning and unveiling a modified lineup that packed sizzle and oozed optimism.


They banged out 13 hits, four of them from Carlos Delgado, a grand slam from Juan Encarnacion, two RBI hits from Mike Lowell, six shutout innings from Josh Beckett, and three more scoreless innings from three relievers anchored by Guillermo Mota.


It was a one-game microcosm of everything the front office had envisioned in its winter-long roster reconstruction. The simple addition of a bona fide slugger in Delgado and the renovations to the bullpen would make up for all the deficiencies that plagued the 2004 Marlins, who sputtered late and were unable to defend their World Series title from '03.


As it turned out, it was this season's second game - more so than the first - that has proved to be the norm. The Marlins lost, 2-1, to the Braves in 13 innings. Although they collected 10 hits, they scored their only run on a double-play grounder. They hit no home runs, stranded nine baserunners, and didn't produce the timely hits when just one might have changed the outcome.


That second game has repeated itself over and over and now, as the Marlins embark on a critical 10-game road trip to kick off the second half, that initial optimism has given way to increasing doubt.


The Marlins are 44-42, seven games out in the National League East and 4-1/2 games behind the Braves in the wild-card standings. Relatively speaking, the Marlins are in familiar territory. They were 43-43 at the 86-game mark in 2003, and again last season. But this team was expected at least to do better than last year's team that lumbered home 83-79.




What's gone wrong?


_Runs. The Marlins don't generate enough of them. They rank 13th in the NL in runs scored and second-to-last in home runs. And that's with Delgado doing his usual thing. He has 18 homers and has driven in 66 runs. And Miguel Cabrera put up All-Star numbers (17 home runs, 62 RBI) that mirror Delgado's.


But, in terms of run production, they're bearing a disproportionate share of the load. They account for half of the team's 70 home runs, and if the Marlins continue at this pace, they'll wind up with 17 fewer home runs than the '04 team and 26 fewer than the '03 champs.




It's not hard to pinpoint where the shortfall lies.


Lowell, who hit 27 home runs last season and 32 in '03, has just four, with none on the road. His .226 average represents the league's second-lowest for full-time position players, and his swoon has lingered as far back as last July.


Alex Gonzalez, who hit 23 home runs last season, also has lost his pop. He has just four home runs. Paul Lo Duca has contributed only two.


The Marlins have put up some deceiving numbers: a .272 team batting average that ranks them tied for first in the league, a .276 average (fifth in the NL) with runners in scoring position, and a .354 on-base percentage (seventh overall).


_Close games. The Marlins lose far more of them than they win. It's the reason the Washington Nationals, not the Marlins, are where they are in the standings. The Nats rank last in the league in runs scored and home runs. But they are an incredible 24-10 in one-run games. The Marlins are 8-14 in one-run decisions, the worst percentage in the league. And only the Arizona Diamondbacks have lost as many extra-inning games (six) as the Marlins.


_Dolphins Stadium. The Marlins aren't taking care of business on their home field. Although their 19-20 road mark isn't troubling, their 25-22 home mark is abysmal. Among teams with .500 records or better, only the Cleveland Indians have a worse home winning percentage.




_Bullpen. It hasn't been what the front office envisioned it to be. Mota was the closer coming out of spring training, but lost the job to 37-year-old journeyman Todd Jones. Although Jones has done a credible job, the rest of the bullpen could use some help. The bullpen's ERA of 4.57 ranks 12th in the NL. The Marlins are seeking a reliever via a trade.


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forget the bullpen's numbers, all in all they havent been that bad except for a few bad outings for Reidling Rainbow, Nate Bump, and Matt Perisho...guys who need some polishing...the rest of the trouble comes from guys who shouldnt have been in our pen to begin with like Yorman Bazardo, Logan Kensing, Travis Smith, and Jim Crowell...not to mention a few times when even our solid guys got left out to dry...such as Chris Resop's debut in what looked like a Monsoon...those outings hurt our numbers but for various reasons, I dont think you should count those outings towards whether or not our bullpen has been effective...


just a thought...

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