Miami Marlins Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Welcome back, Hanley. Back so soon? Did you miss us in LA? (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

While the Miami Marlins may have lost the final game of the New York Mets series in ugly fashion, the team has just come off another series win!

I know, not a lot to get excited about these days.

Still, the Marlins' offense perked up somehow the second Giancarlo Stanton was dropped into the lineup batting fifth (fifth? Behind Carlos Lee? This Carlos Lee?). Hey, the Marlins put 13 runs on the board against the New York Mets on Wednesday evening! Things are looking up!

But seriously, the Marlins are heading back home for a short six-game home stand, and the games start tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Facing the Dodgers would not be a big deal, except that it means the return of Hanley Ramirez, this time in Dodger blue, is upon us! Randy Choate's back too, but I feel like he will not garner as much of a response from the Marlins faithful as Ramirez, who was one of the team's best players once upon a time.

Tale of the Tape

Marlins Stat (Rank) Dodgers
.304 (23) wOBA .296 (28)
86 (26) wRC+ 85 (T-27)
4.15 (20) ERA 3.35 (2)
3.88 (T-13) FIP 3.62 (2)

It is hard to imagine a team having a worse offense than the 2012 Miami Marlins, but the Los Angeles Dodgers for a while were that team. Keep in mind, of course, that they were missing their franchise cornerstone Matt Kemp for much of the season due to a bum hamstring. Keep in mind also that the Dodgers of old are just not the same team. This Dodgers squad has added Ramirez and Shane Victorino to the mix as well. Tack that onto one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and you can see why the Dodgers have been at least in the hunt thus far this season.

Stadium: Marlins Park

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

Series Preview

I got the pleasure to discuss this upcoming Marlins/Dodgers series with a little Q&A with Eric Stephen of SB Nation's Dodgers blog True Blue LA (also of SB Nation Los Angeles). He was gracious enough to answer my questions and sent some of his own for me to take on. Let's discuss some Dodgers baseball to preview the series.

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1) How have you been enjoying Hanley Ramirez?

Ramirez had a first homestand to forget, hitting .156 (5-for-32) in nine games, but he already built enough goodwill in his first few days on the road with the Dodgers. Ramirez hit an extra-inning home run in San Francisco to beat the Giants on July 27, so he's done his duty. That said, some more production would be nice. But acquiring the 28-year old was a risk worth taking, especially if he can regain anywhere close to his 2007-2010 form.

2) On the flip side, Nathan Eovaldi has made a few starts for the Marlins with mixed results. From the time you saw him in Los Angeles, what were your thoughts on his performance?

Aesthetically Eovaldi was fun to watch, with a live fastball and a tendency to work very quickly. There was some concern over his relatively low strikeout rate but at 22 there was plenty of time to improve. Developing the offspeed stuff will determine whether Eovaldi remains a starter or ultimately ends up a reliever. Just last month he developed a cutter he learned from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

3) How much better did the Dodgers get after the trade deadline moves to acquire Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino?

The Dodgers are at or near the bottom of the league in production at left field (.257/.325/.342), shortstop (.234/.285/.319), third base (.239/.302/.362), and first base (.247/.293/.346), so simply having non-zeroes at two of those four positions will be a huge boon to the offense. If either or both can return to something close to their All-Star form, even better. But simply average production from them will be a big help.

4) The new ownership group seems to be flexing its financial muscle, as evidenced by the Ramirez trade and the waiver claim on Cliff Lee. How significant is that ability and willingness to pay to the future of this team?

It's a complete 180 from the last few years under Frank McCourt. They have added $14 million in 2012 salaries alone in trades for Ramirez, Victorino, Joe Blanton, Brandon League, and Randy Choate. Since taking over in May, they signed a relatively unheralded Cuban outfielder (Yasiel Puig), they extended Andre Ethier for $85 million, took on two more years of Ramirez, and were willing to take on Cliff Lee's $87.5 million guaranteed. The new ownership group said when they came in that they were willing to spend to win, and I have no reason to doubt them at this point.

5) Look into the crystal ball: what do you see the Dodgers doing in October?

It looks like the National League West is their best avenue to make the playoffs, and they have 50 games left to be at least one game better than San Francisco. I do think they have a good shot to win the division, and if they get in they will ride Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp as long as they can take them.

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I'd like to thank Eric Stephen of True Blue LA again for answering my questions with regards to this series. He had a few questions of his own, and here is a taste of what you can expect from my answers.

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1) How do you think Hanley Ramirez will be greeted upon his return to Miami? How far has his star fallen or how much did his reputation take a hit in the last two seasons?

Hanley Ramirez will likely be met with a mixed reaction, which is fitting given the mixed opinion of him among the Marlins fan base. Even when he was one of the elite players in baseball between 2007 and 2010, Marlins fans viewed him as a talented player who loafed and took his success for granted, and that subsection of fans resented him even as he played well. That group only got louder when he began to struggle, so his return is likely to be met with a good amount of booing along with a smaller, but not insignificant group of cheerers who appreciate Ramirez's legacy in Marlins history.

As for his stock, it has fallen significantly in less than two seasons. Ramirez already had a relative down year in 2010, and his struggles in 2011 and 2012 along with his potentially detrimental defensive play both at shortstop and at third base this year have really dropped his value, to the point that it is conceivable that his next two years will not be worth his contract. That's a far fall from the top-five player in the latter part of the last decade.

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Check out the rest of the interview (link forthcoming) over at True Blue LA. Thanks to Eric and the gang over there, and good luck in the series!

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