Last night's game against the Cardinals, a 6-5 win that sure didn't feel like a game the Fish would have won before the All-Star break, made me feel that the bullpen is wholly different than it was just a week or two ago. And that's a good thing.
All year long, led by Dontrelle Willis, Marlins starters have been excellent. They're down a bit right now - ranking 6th in the NL with a 3.84 ERA - but are still very respectable.
The bullpen, on the other hand, is a completely different story. The Fish rank 8th in the league with a 4.37 ERA when you just look at the relievers.
That's not so bad, you say? Well, you're right. It isn't - at least not until you take Todd Jones and his 47 1/3 innings and 1.33 ERA out of there. Though Jones represents just 15% of the Marlins bullpen innings, taking him out of the equation (and just consdiering the Marlins other relievers) increases the bullpen ERA to a robust 4.93. That's pretty pathetic and would rank 14th in the NL - ahead of only Colorado and Arizona.
And that is why the acquisition of Ron Villone, the emergence of Jason Vargas, and the return of Antonio Alfonseca is so important. The Marlins bullpen has been pathetic this year. The great year that Todd Jones is having masks some of that, but it's hard to escape the truth. Beyond Jones, the pen has been horrific. At least now there are some better options besides Jones.