Marlins All-Star Break Analysis

The Marlins, if nothing else, have been playing consistent baseball this year. They've flirted with first place briefly, but are oft-found in the middle of the wild NL East.
Dontrelle Willis
- D-Train doesn't really need an explanation here, his All-Star starting bid speaks more for his first-half performance than any eloquently pieced-together sentence can. However, I will do it anyway. With a quirky windup that is reminiscent of Fernando Valenzuela, Willis constantly baffles even the best of hitters. His herky-jerky delivery is a distraction from what the batter is really looking for: the point of release. Due to this, batters force themselves into a quandary: swing early as a preemptive against the fastball and risk an overswing on an offspeed pitch; or to decrease their reaction time. He's as close a threat to the pitching triple crown as Randy Johnson chronically used to be. Although he's behind 10 other pitchers for the league lead in strikeouts, and almost a full run behind Roger Clemens for the league lead in ERA, he's probably the best equipped to make a run at the triple crown as anyone in the Major Leagues (sans Roy Halladay). An equally strong second half would pretty much make him a lock for the Cy Young Award, if not the MVP Award as well.
Alex Gonzalez
- Although his statistics aren't mouth-watering, Alex Gonzalez's contribution to the Florida Marlins is not to be overlooked. Gonzalez got a hit in 24 of 27 June games (though only one of those games was a multi-hit affair). When teammate Luis Castillo hit the skids in May, Gonzalez was there to fill in (in the figurative sense), and he did a very good job in his substitution role: he made few errors (.980 fielding percentage) and gave his team many opportunities to win games. He's drawn more walks and struck out less (though he still has a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio), and you really can't fault him for anything this year. He's not a standout player - he never has been - but if you can look at one of the stronger links in the Marlins' chain, Gonzalez is up there.
Todd Jones
- The crux of the Florida Marlins this year has been injuries. More specifically, pitching injuries. Among the hurlers injured is setup-man-turned-closer Guillermo Mota. After Mota landed on the DL, manager Jack McKeon looked at the available pitchers (among those not included due to injury are John Riedling, Tim Spooneybarger, Ismael Valdes, Antonio Alfonseca, and Josh Beckett) and decided to let the former Detroit Tigers closer take over the end-of-game duties. Call it a fluke, but Todd Jones has been a stopgap in the back of the bullpen, and a very good one at that. In Philadelphia, Jones struggled not to give up a run; in Florida, he's done the exact opposite. As half of the Majors struggled with bullpen woes, the Marlins could emphatically remove themselves from that list - Todd Jones has been awesome. He's blown two saves all year in 15 opportunities. In comparison, Boston's Keith Foulke has blown four in just four more opportunities. Jones' ERA hasn't flirted with 2.00 since ERA levels fell to Earth after the month of April (due to the lack of innings). Understandably, Jones wasn't on the All-Star team, behind more notable closers Chad Cordero of Washington, Billy Wagner of Philadelphia, Trevor Hoffman of San Diego, and Brad Lidge of Houston, but if the Marlins had to name one All-Star whose name isn't Dontrelle, that honor would unhesitantly go to Todd Jones, with honorable mention to Carlos Delgado, leading into the next and last thumbs up for the Florida Marlins...
Carlos Delgado
- After a somewhat slow start to the season, hitting .300 with just 2 homeruns and 10 RBI at the end of April, Carlos Delgado kept the Florida Marlins offensively intact as they jockeyed for position in the ever-changing NL East (well, except for the Nationals, who have a clenched fist around first place) in the months of May and June. At the end of May, Delgado had risen his batting average 15 points to .315 since the end of April, quintupled his homerun total to 10, and drove in 2.5 times more runs in May than he had in April. More importantly, he drew more walks and struck out less, and had encores of clutch hits. With Mike Lowell unintentionally doing a very good impression of Jim Thome (swinging at the baseball like a blind kid swings at a pinata; see thumbs down), the Marlins desperately needed a hero that didn't split his fingers around the seams of a baseball. Delgado cooled off just a little bit in June, homering three less times, and driving in three less runs, while striking out (and walking) more. Like Todd Jones, Delgado wasn't exactly snubbed an All-Star cast, behind perennial slugger Albert Pujols, and breakout player of the year Derrek Lee. But, if Bobby Abreu of the Phillies hadn't gone into a hitting frenzy in May, Delgado might have won Player of the Month honors.
Mike Lowell
- If it's true that Mike Lowell isn't a vocal guy in the dugout, letting his bat do the talking for him, he might need to learn sign language if we're not talking figuratively. Lowell has been a letdown in every sense of the word. In a career in which he flirted with a .300 batting average, Lowell is hitting an unimpressive .224 with just 3 homeruns and 32 RBI. The only offensive statistic he's on pace to match is doubles (24 presently, he had 44 in 2004). Other than that, he's setting himself up for the worst season of his career barring a second-half rebirth that only mythical figures lay claim to. Lowell has never been a great fielder, but defense hasn't been his dent in the door, so to speak. I don't think you can blame his poor performance on age, as he's only 31, but it could be a factor. His eyes could be deteriorating, preventing him from picking up pitches and getting his swing started when he needs to. Perhaps his hands aren't as quick as they used to be (a batting stance change would help him), or maybe his legs aren't strong enough to give him the necessary leverage to get around on the baseball like he used to when he slugged 32 homeruns and 105 RBI in 2003, the year the Marlins won the World Series. Whatever it is, Lowell needs to find it and correct it as soon as possible, or the Marlins should consider at least benching him.
Al Leiter
- Al Leiter hasn't had his season winning percentage under .500 since 1994, 11 years ago. But with a 3-6 record and a Goodyear Blimp-high 6.31 ERA, he could very well finish the season on a downward note. Leiter has never been a pitcher who blows you away with high-90's fastballs, he has successfully beaten batters on location, pitch selection, and movement. But this year, he's done none of that. It might be partly to blame on catcher Paul LoDuca, it might not. But Leiter is throwing breaking balls in fastball counts, and vice versa. Instead of painting corners with two-seam fastballs, he's conveniently serving up flat fastballs that frequently find themselves making contact with the sweet spots of many a bat. I think he's trying to do too much on the mound, like he has the weight of the Marlins' playoff hopes on his shoulders alone. He needs to reestablish control of the inside part of the plate, and he needs to, in a nutshell, relax. His problem is mostly mental, and could be fixed by the time the second half of the season rolls around, but don't expect a transmogrification from Leiter.
Juan Pierre
- While among the league leaders in stolen bases, Juan Pierre has been a letdown in the leadoff spot. His batting average is a mere .265, and his on-base percentage isn't any more impressive, at .312. He's still attempting to bunt for hits and using his speed to keep defenses on their toes, but he might have slowed down a bit in the offseason, perhaps due to weight gain. He's beating out less and less bunt hits, hitting into more double plays, walking less, and striking out more. Luis Castillo, who is hitting over .300, may make the team better if he were to be put into the leadoff spot, and Pierre down in the 7 or 8 slot until he can show signs of improvement.

2005 Regular Season

Date Opponent
Wed. 7/6
Milwaukee Brewers @ Florida Marlins
Thurs. 7/7
Milwaukee Brewers @Florida Marlins