I'm sure it's a relief to all and sundry to hear that Zavada's Moustache will be back for the Padres preview at the end of the week, so you won't have to handle any more Replacement Level Previews from me. But, to finish things off with something a little different, I traded questions with our sibling Marlins site, Fish Stripes, and their manager, Michael Jong. Once you've digested his response to my questions, you can head over there and see my responses to his questions.
The Marlins started off well enough, being tied for the NL East lead on June 3. But they've gone 24-44 since. What happened?
Despite the hot month of May, all of the Marlins' bats with the exception of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Reyes cooled off by the start of June, and the team went back to doing the same thing it did in April: underachieving expectations. Five out of eight starting position players hit well below their expectations, and the total they ended up costing the Marlins was upwards of 50 runs by June's end.
Because the Marlins failed to remain competitive in July, they made a number of trades and moved two starting position players. Then a series of injuries further befell the team, lending credence to the idea that "when it rains, it pours." In short, underachieving expectations, injuries, and trades have really wrecked the Marlins' 2012 season.
Giancarlo Stanton is probably the runaway, obvious choice for team MVP thus far, with his fondness for tape-measure home-runs. Who would you point to as having a good season for Florida, that might have flown under the radar?
Justin Ruggiano has had an excellent 2012 thus far in just 203 PA. He has hit a spectacular .330/.388/.599 (.412 wOBA) this season, and while that is clearly is not likely to last for long, the Marlins are hoping that sort of showing proves that he can be at least an average player next sson. The surprising success of Ruggiano has been one of the few bright spots of the 2012 season for the Fish.
The home-run...thing at Marlins Park has come in for some fire from opposing fans. How do Miami fans feel about it, and what do you think of the new park and its features generally?
Marlins fans have gotten used to the home run sculpture, or as we like to call at Fish Stripes, the Monstrosity. Like all home run celebrations, they are gaudy and garish, though the Marlins' tends to be on the more extreme side of that. More importantly, it is unique to the Fish, and it is hard for fans to take something that is associated with success and home runs and turn it into a negative, no matter how over-the-top it is.
As for the rest of the stadium, it is a delight to watch a game in. The futuristic, sleek outside appearance makes it significantly different from the retro brick looks of stadiums of the 2000's. The inside color scheme, features, and home run structure all appear very much from Miami. The Taste of Miami section with local food vendors from the city is a great addition and an excellent place to grab unique food you won't find at other parks. All of it is worth the trip.
How do you feel Ozzie Guillen has done in his first year as manager?
I have no strong opinions of Guillen as a manager this season. The Fish have failed miserably so far this year, and they indeed have underachieved, but how much of that is on Guillen's inability to rally the troops and get morale up is beyond me. As far as game management is concerned, he has not been impressive, with a number of questionable decisions including his moves with Heath Bell. Still, is that any worse than the average manager? Probably not.
The Marlins obviously aren't competing this year. Do they have a long-term plan to turn it around, and how confident are you in management's ability to pull it off?
Presumably, the long-term plan is to re-appropriate the money they saved in the next few seasons in the trades they made in 2012 to "reset" the team around Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton. There are a number of moves the team can make to improve the 2013 team into the fringe contention status, and the 2014 squad and beyond will have reinforcements on the way in the form of top prospects Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez.
As for whether this franchise's front office can handle making the right moves for this plan, that is perhaps more in question. The Marlins' front office is one of the least statistically-inclined groups in the business, and it could be time to shake up that staff and introduce a new way of thinking to supplement the scouting side of things. Still, the front office made the right moves this offseason (minus the Heath Bell signing), so they are not all that far off.