Miami Marlins Series Preview: @ New York Mets

Man, not this guy again. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-US PRESSWIRE

The Miami Marlins are coming off of a rough four-game series set versus the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, but their work on this road trip is not done yet. The team now has to face the third-best team in the NL East this season in the New York Mets, as the battle for third place in the division reignites after a dormant period; these two clubs have not faced each other since May.

Tale of the Tape

Marlins Stat (Rank) Mets
.304 (23) wOBA .316 (T-16)
86 (T-27) wRC+ 99 (T-10)
4.19 (21) ERA 4.16 (20)
3.87 (T-12) FIP 3.83 (T-9)

The New York Mets have been better than the Miami Marlins both at the plate and on the pitching side. How many non-Mets fans would have said that at the start of the season? Still, the Fish have looked barely passable on offense despite the fact that a number of their players are either hurt or on other teams; that has to be an impressive feat given the Marlins' lack of Giancarlo Stanton for the last month.

The pitching staffs on either side have done decently, but neither club is trending well. Aside from Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey, the two starters for the Wednesday afternoon finale, both pitching staffs have regressed a little from their early season highs, with the Marlins dropping a little more significantly. Still, both teams boast solid staffs that are pitching better than their ERA suggests.

Stadium: Citi Field

Area Dimensions (ft)
Left Field 335
Left-Center 358
Center Field 408
Right-Center 375
Right Field 330

Five-Year Run PF*: 0.97
Five-Year Home Run PF*: 0.93

*Denotes five-year regressed park factors as calculated by Patriot here

The Mets have moved in their fences since last season, so Citi Field is not the cavernous park it once supposedly was. Still, we should expect a lot of balls bouncing off of walls rather than going over them. Marlins fans would hope that the Mets certainly do not light up their apple monstrosity in center field too often in this series.

Series Preview

In order to preview this series, I talked with Steven Schreiber of Amazin' Avenue to ask him five questions about what he thought of the Mets' 2012 season thus far. He also sent me five questions to discuss as well. Here are his responses to my questions.

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1) In the last three years, David Wright struck out in more than 20 percent of his PA. This season, he is back down to pre-2008 levels. Have you noticed anything different about his approach?

There's definitely been a big difference this year compared to the previous three years with David Wright and a lot of that can be tracked back to the hard work he put in both last season while he was injured with a broken back and in the offseason. While he was rehabbing his back last year in Port St. Lucie, the story goes that he was able to look at his swing more objectively as an outside observer and apparently, he was able to see some of the flaws that he'd developed. Then last offseason, he put in a lot of work to fix his swing and worked with one of his old hitting coaches from Virginia, where he grew up. The result has been that David is back to the level he set from 2005-08. He's not whiffing at those low and away sliders as much and he's been much tougher to punch out.

2) Describe to me the joy of watching R.A. Dickey pitch?

Watching Robert Allen Dickey throw his knuckleball every fifth day is incredible. It's like watching an artist at work on the mound, except instead of a canvas and a palette, he has a baseball and a strike zone. At Amazin' Avenue, we've essentially turned R.A. Dickey into a deity, what with the Dickeyface Contest from 2010 and our regular praising of him and all of the things he does and says ("Dickey Be Praised" and "R.A.men" are used quite often) but it's totally out of love and admiration because he's such an interesting guy: he has no UCL in his elbow, he toiled in the minors for years before making it, he was an English major in college and loves to read, he likes Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Just some of the interesting things that make him really easy to root for. Honestly, if you haven't picked up his book, I highly suggest checking it out. His story is so inspiring. And of course, let's not forget to mention that he's an outstanding pitcher. Plus, he throws a knuckleball. How cool is that?

3) What were your thoughts on the Jason Bay / Heath Bell / John Buck rumored trade from last week?

The Mets' blogosphere and the readers of AA were pretty split on the whole idea, actually. I was kind of surprised how split it was. Personally, I was not in favor of the deal at all. As bad as Jason Bay has been (and he's been shockingly bad this year), taking on Bell and Buck just seems like it'd be making the problem worse. Bell will be 35 in September and at that age, it just doesn't seem likely to me that he has a great shot to rebound. And while Buck is probably a bit better than he's been this year, the whole package doesn't seem worthwhile enough to me to take on the extra money Bell and Buck are owed just to get rid of Bay. If they're that desperate to lose Bay, they may as well just release him, pay the guaranteed $19 million left on his deal in 2013 and be done with it. In a way, Bell for Bay straight up may be a bit better but I still wouldn't feel too excited about it.

4) What has the key been to the New York Mets' surprising success thus far this season?

David Wright getting back to where he was in 2007 and R.A. Dickey improving from solid rotation piece to front of the rotation starter have been huge keys to this season. The starting pitching, in particular, was a gigantic part of the team's success in the first half. Aside from Dickey, Johan Santana pitched like the Santana from the Twins through April and May, Jon Niese took a big step forward in getting his ERA to match his peripherals, Dillon Gee took huge strides forward with his command and strikeout rates and Chris Young somehow ended up becoming a steady replacement for the injured Mike Pelfrey. Also, the steady play of the Mets' shortstops -- whether that's Ruben Tejada or Ronny Cedeno, Justin Turner & Omar Quintanilla while Tejada was injured -- has been a great part of the success for this team.

5) What is your early evaluation of the plan Sandy Alderson and company have for the New York Mets going forward?

I think Sandy & Co. have done a fine job with the limited resources they've been given. Things were messy when Sandy took over for Omar Minaya and I think the outlook for the future on the baseball side is a lot rosier than it was two years ago when he took over. Of course, the Wilpons' financial woes haven't helped things but the farm system is deeper than it's been in years, they've done a nice job slowing down promotions within the system and they have a lot of financial flexibility after 2013 once Johan Santana and Jason Bay's contracts come off the books. Aside from the Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler trade, they really haven't made any gigantic splashes or wholesale changes at the big league level but they've gotten some nice value from inexpensive players (Chris Capuano, Chris Young, Scott Hairston, Tim Byrdak, Mike Baxter among others) and when they've made mistakes, they haven't been long term budget killers like the previous regime seemed to specialize in. All in all, they've played things very safe for the most part and that's not a bad strategy. It's just that eventually they'll need to take some more risks to try to take the team to the next level. The development of Matt Harvey and Wheeler is vital to the ultimate plan but I think what they do this offseason will be telling. With the right acquisitions and upgrades, this team could contend for a wild card slot next year but they'll need to find a way to add some talent in the outfield, the bullpen and behind the plate. We'll have to see whether they have the money and enough prospect talent to entice other teams in trades.

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I'd like to thank Steve Schreiber once again for answering my questions and for throwing some of his own questions over to me. Here's a sample of what you can expect from the responses I had for him.

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1) The Mets and Marlins haven't faced off since May and since then, the Marlins' roster has undergone a radical makeover. From a baseball perspective, how do you feel about the moves they've made over the last month?

The moves, from a basebal perspective, were more than reasonable. The Marlins traded a starting pitcher in Anibal Sanchez whom they were not likely to re-sign. They traded Hanley Ramirez,w ho had fallen so far from grace that the team felt more comfortable using the money remaining in his contract in free agency rather than in paying Ramirez for another two years. The only major trade asset the Marlins gave up was Omar Infante, who was signed to a cheap deal and is an above-average player. Still, in return for a guy they were not going to have next season, an above-average second baseman, and a player whom the team felt was overpaid at this point, the Marlins received two pitchers who could be major-league contributors starting in 2013.

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You can check out the rest of the answers over at the Amazin' Avenue blog, be sure to check back later for the link to their series preview and my answers. Thanks again to Steve and the rest of Amazin' Avenue, and good luck this series!

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