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Miami Twice (x2): Previewing the Diamondbacks-Marlins series

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After the unscheduled day off in Atlanta yesterday [no data as yet scheduled for the re-run], the Diamondbacks heads down the cost to Miami, for a four-game set against the Florida Marlins. The home team are currently sitting at fourth place in the NL East, with a record of 18-20, but have definitely fallen off the wagon this month - they've only won four games out of sixteen in May, and have lost five of the six series played, the only exception being when they took two out of three in Colorado. Neither the offense nor the pitching have been getting it done of late, with the Marlins scoring 3.88 runs per game, and conceding 5.50. That's quite a turnaround from a 14-8 April, when the numbers were 5.09 and 4.77 respectively.

Overall, while both aspects of the Marlins game have been below league-average, the hitting has been the primary reason the team have a losing record: an OPS+ of 80, fourteenth in the National League. Hanley Ramirez at short-stop has been his usual, reliable self, batting .343 with an OPS north of a thousand - he is the OPYDLBY* on the Marlins' roster. At first-base, Jorge Cantu leads the team in home-runs and also has almost 20% of all the team's RBI [33 out of 166], trailing only Pujols + Adrian Gonzales (21%) and Molina (22%) in the league. Late-blooming catcher John Baker, who didn't make his major-league debut until his 28th summer, is also playing well, with a 129 OPS+

Less successful - and this may sound familiar to Arizona fans - are the Marlins outfield. While there's no-one quite down at the depths of suckage we've seen from Chris Young, neither is there anyone at the heights of Upton. Instead, there's three players each below the average for their position, with Cameron Maybin in center likely the worst offender, barely hitting above the Uecker line this year. Former Diamondbacks Emilio Bonifacio has imploded back to what you'd expect after his monstrous first week. Over the past month, his line at third-base is .214/.270/.250, for an OPS of just .520.

Dolphin Land Shark Stadium has not been a happy hunting-ground for the team in the past few years, with a record of 6-16 recently against the Marlins, and it's mostly because the Florida pitching has shut us down. Since 2004, we've scored barely three runs per game playing there (69 runs in 22 games), and over the six contests in 2008, the Diamondbacks crossed home-plate a mere 13 times. Tomorrow's starter for the home team, Josh Johnson, has yet to taste defeat in eight starts, with an ERA of 2.50. Chris Volstad goes on Wednesday and also has good numbers, his ERA being 3.35. However, the rest of the rotation has been very much weaker, combining for a record of 4-13 and an ERA of 7.23.

The bullpen, however, has been good with a collective ERA of 3.76. It's not been closer Matt Lindstrom who's responsible - his ERA is 5.40. No, it's less well-known names like Renyel Pinto and Dan Meyer who have been very reliable so far: they've combined to throw 34.1 innings with a 1.31 ERA. Leo Nunez and veteran Kiko Calero have been almost as solid, each with sub-three ERAs in almost twenty innings of work apiece. All told, I think Arizona would be happy to take two out of these four contests: any split on the road is credible enough. Today and Thursday likely represent out best opportunities.

However, a nice target for the Diamondbacks this series might be to get the team batting-average out of the NL cellar over the next few days. The .272 figure they have posted since the departure of Melvin has narrowed the gap significantly, and they are now only two points below the Padres and three below these same Marlins. If we can climb above that pair [and in OBP too, where the gaps are slightly larger, at four and seven points respectively], then that will be a further indication that the worst could be over. And probably best not to get into whether it's due to BABIP regression or the managerial change...

Please also check out Fish Stripes for the view from the home dugout.

* - One Player You Don't Let Beat You. I know you were wondering...