Look, as Miami Marlins fans, we need to be honest with each other. Things just are not going well this season. Aside from what seemed like a dream-like month of May, this entire season has been a disaster. It has not all been the fault of any one party; it is not just the front office's fault, nor is it any individual player like Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, or Logan Morrison. No, this team's struggles were a collective effort in futility.
But as Marlins fans, what choice do we have but to watch? No matter the struggles, we want to support our team.
So watching Marlins games in general has gotten to be a painful process because of the team's current state of ineptitude. Still, with the season already lost earlier this month after the trade deadline, I still maintained that there were quite a few reasons to still watch the Miami Marlins. And those reasons, for the most part, remain true.
So what is this? The Revised 2012 Miami Marlins Viewing Guide is a more detailed guide to enjoying the 2012 Marlins season that has been lost for about a month and a half or longer now. This will give you, the reader, much needed insight on how to enjoy Marlins games, from picking the right ones to watch to finding the nuances that will help keep up the entertainment of this otherwise sad team. It is my goal that anyone can use this guide to find the joy in the Miami Marlins, or at least numb the pain of the awful year that the team is having.
Choosing Your Game
Don't choose a game. Don't watch. Hug your children, for life is too precious and short for the 2012 Miami Marlins.
No, just kidding.
But you should make an informed decision about what games you choose to sit and watch, whether it is live at the beautiful Marlins Park or in the comfort of your own home. For me, I've had a lot of time and job involving watching Marlins games, so I have watched as many Marins games as possible. But if you only have time for a game or two during the week, you should seriously consider what games you watch. So here is how you should choose which games to watch for the Fish.
Step 1: Check the lineup. Is Stanton in the lineup?
If NO, seriously consider turning off your TV, because what's the point of watching the Fish without their main daily attraction? This does not mean do not watch the game, but it is an important consideration.
If YES, then you simply cannot afford to miss this game. Move on to Step 2.
Step 2a: Check the pitching matchup. Is it an interesting one?
In order to answer this question, you need to consider what constitutes an "interesting" matchup. Assume both teams had average or so offenses. Would the Marlins have a reasonable chance of winning? Say, 40 to 45 percent? If so, this is within the limits of "acceptable for viewership."
Generally speaking, that limits the pitchers that you can select to watch in a Marlins game. Josh Johnson can match up with the best of them, so all Johnson starts are generally worth watching. Mark Buehrle has had some surprising fluctuations over the course of the season, but given that he generally has been his usual above average self, you can consider watching any and all Buehrle starts. Those two pitchers constitute guys whose matchups are generally within the range of watchability.
The other starters however? They are questionable at best, and may require corollaries to Step 2a. It should be known that this step generally excludes Ricky Nolasco starts against all but the worst of players.
If YES, then proceed to pre-game preparations.
If NO, then proceed to Step 2b.
Step 2b: Check the starter again. Is he a "prospect?"
And of course, I'm not talking about a prospect like, say, Brad Hand or Elih Villanueva are prospects. This primarily boils down to "is the starter Jacob Turner or Nathan Eovaldi?" Given Eovaldi's last few starts, it may even be acceptable to miss a start or two from him. But if Jacob Turner, one of the important pieces of the future for the team, is on the hill, you cannot afford to miss it, especially after what he did last week.
If YES, proceed to pre-game preparations.
If NO, seriously consider turning off the TV. Seriously, it could get ugly by the third inning, then you will wish you watched a movie instead.
OK, you have decided that this game is worth watching! Let's get the preparations ready.
Step 1: Get your Ichthyomancy picks in.
What is a Marlins game without Ichthyomancy, the premier Marlins prediction contest? The second half championship is still in play this season with more than a month left, so do not give up! Put in picks everyday and you can definitely be the next Ichthyomancy champion!
Step 2: Get your drink ready.
Keep it age-appropriate, of course, but you need to get something you can enjoy for an extended period of time if the game happens to not deliver on the "enjoyment" aspect. That tends to happen often with the Marlins, so be prepared.
Step 3: Join the Fish Stripes game thread.
This is the best season to enjoy a Marlins game among friends, and what better place to do that than to do it with your friendly locals on Fish Stripes! Hey, in a season of misery, you know that misery loves company, and if you are not at Marlins Park with others, you might as well be hanging out with the knowledgeable fellow readers of Fish Stripes! This is the best way to enjoy the game when you are not in town or hanging out at a local watch party.
So now you have settled into your seat at Marlins Park or your seat at the couch in front of your TV or computer, and you are ready to watch a Marlins game. But what do you watch for once you have decided, drink in hand, to partake in the Marlins? Take a gander through the lineup and pitching staff and let us figure out some things to look out for in each hitter and pitcher.
Giancarlo Stanton: The case of Stanton is the easiest one. When he steps up to the plate, pay close attention to each and every pitch. Every Stanton PA is a must-watch event. Every time he takes a mighty cut at a pitch and swings and misses, note the feeling of impending excitement as the very next swing could end up ten rows from the deepest part of the bleachers. If he knocks one out, just watch in amazement and see how far it travels. Take a guess at what the ball's true distance is, and check it later on ESPN Home Run Tracker. Stanton may be the most eminently watchable plate appearance in baseball right now because of his monstrous power.
Jose Reyes: The thing to enjoy about Reyes's PA is his approach at the plate. He is not overly passive in taking pitches as he was earlier in the year, nor is he a hacker with his bat. Watch for when he takes a pitch and bends to watch the ball go into the glove. And when he makes contact or gets on base, watch Reyes run, because few players hustle and gun it on the bases like he does. And on the defensive side, while Reyes has perhaps declined, watch for the plays he makes and count how many Hanley Ramirez would have botched at the position.
Justin Ruggiano: We know Ruggiano cannot keep his pace up, and a big part of that is his strikeout rate. One of the interesting things to see is just how hard Ruggiano swings at just about every pitch. Watch Ruggiano's mighty whacks and compare them to how over-the-top Dan Uggla's swings once were.
Carlos Lee: The best part about watching Lee, aka El Caballo, has nothing to do with his advanced plate approach and contact skills. It is about listening to Marlins broadcasters Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton effusively praise him about his "RBI skills." Oh, and anytime Lee gets on base or hits a gapper, time to keep a close eye on him, because no one runs worse perhaps in all of baseball than the ironically name El Caballo.
Greg Dobbs: Get the calculators out and measure just how professional and interesting every out Dobbs makes is. I mean, I'm not even sure my graphing calculator can really figure out just how professional the #MostInterestingManInBaseball is.
Rob Brantly: Watch to see if Brantly has any pitch recognition skills at this stage, or if he would be better served spending next year in Triple-A before arriving in the majors. He has struck out a lot this season.
John Buck: Watch to see if Buck has any skills at this stage, because his situation has been getting more and more difficult to watch.
Donovan Solano: Watch Solano's play at second base, which has legitimately been strong during the last few weeks. Don't watch his approach at the plate, which will certainly amount to the 2009 version of Emilio Bonifacio but with less speed.
Bryan Petersen: Watch to see if Petey can hit sharp grounders more directly at fielders than he is right now. His power is absent, but he also has been very unlucky.
Gorkys Hernandez: I would mention that you should watch Hernandez and his speed run the bases, but he is rarely on base. Instead, watch and see if you can figure out which pitchers in the league are likely better hitters than him.
Josh Johnson: Every time Johnson fires a fastball, watch the radar gun to see if his velocity is recovering. Every time he launches a breaking pitch, watch how fooled hitters are. Johnson's slider has always been a devastating pitch, and his changeup has always been good against lefties, but the developmenty of his curveball being placed perfectly in the zone and freezing hitters has been fun.
Mark Buehrle: When Buehrle is on the mound, watch for the fear in runners' eyes when he is eying them with the best pickoff move in baseball. Watch in awe as Buehrle somehow throws mid-80's heat high in the zone past hitters. And perhaps most importantly, sit back and appreciate how short the game should be with Buehrle working his extremely fast pace on the mound.
Jacob Turner: With Turner, we are still lacking information, so watching his starts carefully from all angles should be critical. Of particular interest is his fastball and its velocity and his curveball's placement and swing-and-miss capacity. Keep track of his whiffs and strikeouts, as they have been a major concern this season as well.
Nathan Eovaldi: With Eovaldi, the important thing to watch is whether his stuff is really present outside of the velocity on his fastball. We have yet to see him break out the slider effectively versus righties, and his arsenal versus lefties still leaves much to be desired. Watch for his secondary offerings and his ability to locate them, and see if they have any swing-and-miss properties as well.
Ricky Nolasco: The only thing left to see about Nolasco is if there is anything left in his arsenal from the enigma Ricky of 2009. At least that guy had hope for a better future.
Heath Bell: Bell's performance as of late has at least been passable, so the best thing to watch for is to see if he can locate the curveball and avoid having balls hit directly into gaps like the Mayhem we have seen all season.
Mike Dunn: Watch to see if Dunn can take the mantle of Mayhem from Bell by year's end. It's a fight to the finish for the crown, folks!
Steve Cishek: Enjoy watching Cishek's kooky delivery, then ponder whether a pitcher with a siderarm or extreme delivery like his can get opposing hitters out. If there is one barrier to Cishek playing the traditional closer role.
Ozzie Guillen: Guillen's demeanor has been strangely calm for much of the year; he has been ejected only once all season. Rest assured, stay at the ready, because with the season going south as it is, Guillen is sure to lose his cool at some point.
So you looked out for all of these things and got through a Marlins game. What should you do now?
Step 1: Go look for highlights of Stanton's home run.
If you're not doing this on a nightly basis already, then you're not doing Marlins fandom right in 2012. Watching Stanton's majestic shots is one of the only true joys left in this season.
Step 2: Go to ESPN Home Run Tracker and see how long that home run went.
They have been mentioning Stanton's escapades and the measurements provided on ESPN Home Run Tracker on the broadcasts, and at this point, if you are not interested in finding out just how far these bombs are going, you aren't doing Marlins fandom right in 2012. Take it in and be amazed.
Step 3: Get another drink (provided you are home).
Do as Ozzie Guillen mentioned in the beginning of the season and drink your age-appropriate beverage of choice after the game. If we won, it is a drink of celebration! If it is a loss, it is a mournful drink of sorrow, but hey, it's your favorite age-appropriate drink, so down the hatchet and enjoy!
Step 4: Check in at Fish Stripes and read our Fish Cap.
In case you missed parts of the game or just want more insight or analysis, check out the Fish Cap for more details. If anything, you can find out whether you are going to get any Ichthyomancy points!
There you have it, your complete guide to enjoying the rest of the 2012 Miami Marlins season. May you keep an eye on all of these things, keep an eye and hold onto your sanity, and enjoy some Marlins baseball with Fish Stripes the rest of the way!