Miami Marlins Series Preview: Atlanta Braves

The last time Dan Uggla was in south Florida, he hit a home run off of our sculpture. He and the Atlanta Braves are coming to visit the Miami Marlins. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Miami Marlins are in some real down straits right now, having lost five in a row and coming back home from a dejected 1-6 midwest road trip. Sadly, the woes continue as the team has to face the top Wild Card in the National League, the hated Atlanta Braves. The Braves are coming to town for three games as part of a six-game home stand that will also include the San Diego Padres.

More immediately important to me is the fact that I will be at tonight's game! Hurray for my second live Marlins game of the season! Hurray for the first time my girlfriend will be seeing the park! Boo for the Marlins playing terribly when I get a chance to go to the game!

Tale of the Tape

Marlins Stat (Rank) Braves
.305 (T-22) wOBA .319 (11)
87 (T-26) wRC+ 99 (T-11)
4.17 (T-19) ERA 4.04 (16)
3.77 (7) FIP 4.04 (17)

The Braves have been getting by with offense this season, and that is quite a surprise given their offensive downturn last year. Instead of the staff leading the way, it has been Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla, Brian McCann, and others leading the charge for the offensive-minded Braves. In fact, Atlanta has had such pitching trouble that, despite their tremendous depth in terms of major and "ready" minor league starting pitching talent, the club is said to have traded one of their young starters (Randall Delgado) for Ryan Dempster today.

Stadium: Marlins Park

Area Dimensions (ft)
Left Field 344
Left-Center 386
Center Field 418
Right-Center 392
Right Field 335

Series Preview

To preview the series, I enlisted the assistance of Daniel Simpson of Talking Chop to help answer a few questions, and he was graceful enough to send me some questions as well for me to answer. Let's dive right into some of those questions.

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1) How have you liked Dan Uggla and his performance thus far in his Braves career?

Uggla's performance in Atlanta thus far has been fairly schizophrenic, but on the whole I can't say I've been too upset with his performance so far (though his contract is a bit of another story). Uggla's 2011 was a story of two halves - he was arguably the worst regular in baseball during the beginning of the year, but he finished on an absolute tear, including that ridiculously improbable 33 game hit streak. After starting this year white hot, he's gone ice cold of late, posting a slash line of .130/.287/182. Uggla's batting eye this year has been fantastic, as he's posted a career best walk rate of 15.7% - which leads me to believe he'll be fine. So, while he hasn't lit the world on fire, (and don't get me started on his defense), Uggla's provided solid value for the Braves.

2) Is this the Jason Heyward bounceback season we were looking for after his disappointing 2011? Can we expect more, less, or more or less the same?

This has absolutely been a bounceback season for JHey after his terrible 2011 campaign. Heyward's 3.8 WAR is second-best on the team (to Michael Bourn's 4.5) and is good for 9th best in the National League. While Heyward still hasn't posted the insane batting numbers that some expected from him, his above average play in every facet of the game has really benefited the Braves. Despite a lower batting average, Heyward still leads the team in wRC+, thanks in part to a good on-base tool and plenty of power. His speed has been a pleasant surprise, and his 14 steals are second on the team. His defense not only passes the eye-test, but his 11.1 UZR leads the lead. While I believe he can absolutely continue to get better in the future, he may not be the Hall of Famer that some were predicting when he first came up.

3) Jonny Venters is still striking out a ton of guys and walking about the same amount? Why is he struggling (or is he)?

You know, that's a great question. Venters' calling card has always been his power sinker, which allows him to rack up groundballs and strikeouts. While his GB% is close to his career norms, his HR/FB% has gone through the roof. After a 2.9% HR/FB% in his 2009 rookie season, and a 7.1% mark last year, Venters' rate has ballooned to an ungodly (and surely unsustainable) 42.9%. His BABIP on the year also sits at .404 after being around .260 over the last two years. So it seems safe to say that he's encountered a terrible spate of bad luck, though an injury could also be to blame. Venters was put on the DL recently but returned on Sunday to toss 2 scoreless innings, getting 5 groundouts.

4) What trade deadline deal can pull the Braves ahead of the competition for the Wild Card / NL East?

Well, the Bravos have been connected to every major starting pitcher on the market, and given the ineffectiveness of Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor, and Randall Delgado up to this point, it's easy to see why. The signing of Ben Sheets looks like it could end up being a steal, but the Braves could absolutely use another veteran starter to replace Jurrjens with in the rotation. Zach Greinke, Ryan Dempster (Editor's note: JUST HAPPENED), and Matt Garza are the names that have been tossed around the most, but names like Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, and even your own Anibal Sanchez have been floated by some as well. Any of these options would be preferable to Jurrjens.

5) What will the Braves be doing in October?

This Braves team is so hot and cold, it's really hard to say. My gut says they'll be playing the Pirates in the Wild Card game (that feels surreal to right) but if they missed the playoffs altogether, it wouldn't be stunning to me - especially if they don't move for a starter before the deadline.

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I would like to thank Daniel Simpson for the answers to the questions in the series preview. He also sent me some questions to respond, and here is a preview of what I wrote.

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1. The Marlins were everyone's trendy pick to make the postseason. What's gone wrong so far? Is the postseason still in play for Miami?

"The problem this season is a simple matter of under performing projections. For whatever reason, the majority of the Marlins' lineup is drastically under performing their expectations, and many of these problems come completely out of the blue. One would expect the possibility of someone like Hanley Ramirez, who is coming off of a bad season but one that could have been permanently damaging due to injury concerns and a two-year decline, to under perform a projection based on three seasons of work. But to see Gaby Sanchez fall off the map,Logan Morrison struggle to find an identity at the plate, and Jose Reyes hit worse than he did in 2009 has been unfathomable. All of this occurring at the same time, in the same season, has sunk the Marlins' offense and crippled their chances at the postseason."

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Make sure you visit Talking Chop to see the rest of the interview. Good luck on the series!

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