You've already seen the questions that the folks from Crawfish Boxes answered for us, but in case you didn't scroll down or click here. Here are the questions that I answered for them (or you can just go read them over there):
1) I can ask this 'coz the Astros haven't lost to the Phillies since the middle of 2003, but why the problems with Philly lately? The Marlins took six of the first 9, but with today's whitewash, Philly has now won 5 of the last 7, and they've dropped double digits on the Fish four times in those seven games. Any deeper meaning there?
This year's "problem" is more a timing issue than anything. For all of the talk about the Marlins great starting pitching, it's really just the Dontrelle Willis Show that they're offering right now. Beckett and Burnett have been (at best) inconsistent and it's been a revolving door for the fourth and fifth spots throughout the second half. Since the Marlins haven't really hit consistently for the entire season, I think that's the difference against the Phillies of late: less dependable starting pitching.
2) OK. Saw that Cabrera and Delgado did the 100 RBI thing the other day. So you know they can be a factor at any time. But other than them, who do you think is most likely to be a factor down the stretch? Is there a secret weapon lurking?
After that, it's pretty much time to cross your fingers and hope. I think most Marlin fans are hoping that Mike Lowell (now relegated to bench duty), Alex Gonzalez (who sometimes seems to play without a glove - despite his Gold Glove-like reputation in the field) and/or Juan Pierre (who, except for short spurts, just hasn't been himself) will turn into the 2003 (or even 2004) version of themselves. None of them is very old and there doesn't seem to be an injury issue - so there isn't an explanation for their downturns that just jumps out at you. If one of those guys steps up and gets hot for the last few weeks, that could provide the Marlins with a huge spark.
3) Forget Dontrelle Willis for a moment, 'cause he's been obviously dynamite, and lately, too. But Jason Vargas has lost two straight, AJ Burnett has lost four straight, and Beckett is only 1 - 2 in his last four. I'll assume you expect Dontrelle to pitch well. But who else do you expect to throw well in this big series?
A.J. Burnett is the one guy who "should" pitch better, but I'm not counting on it. A.J. has talked (publicly) about how he's found it difficult to focus of late. His excuse has been that he's frustrated with the defense being played behind him and wtih coaching decisions (but hey - we all get frustrated with Jack from time-to-time). I can't believe that's happening to a free-agent-to-be.
4) If I understand the subtext of this season, it is that--even with this finishing playoff kick the Marlins have shown--Jack McKeon has become a liability with his decision making and his leadership style. Staying away from the unquestioned fact that a manager should remember his player's name, can you think of any games where a loopy decision by McKeon lost a game for the Fish? Can you think of any where it WON one for you?
Jack would tell you that he isn't to blame for that mistake - as he has claimed publicly that he doesn't call most of the Marlins bunts. My take on the matter is that makes it Jack's fault. If Juan Pierre isn't smart enough to know not to bunt in that situation, Jack needs to make sure to tell him not to. In this case, it cost the Fish a ballgame.
That said, Jack has made a number of moves that may have caused the Fish to win the game. Jack is very unconventional. Without giving a specific example (as I'd hate to give Jack the credit), there have been at least a handful of games where Jack has juggled the lineup when the Fish were in a bit of a funk. Quite often it seems, those lineup changes have worked (for instance, electing to bat Jeff Conine second). Jack usually sticks with those unusual lineups until the Marlins lose (and coming off of Sunday's ugly loss in Philly, we could see something really out there on Monday night).
5) Let's assume that the Marlins pull out the Wild Card. Why would the Marlins go on to represent the NL in the World Series? Why WOULDN'T they?
In addition to the pitching, the Marlins lineup is pretty fierce, at least on paper. Carlos Delgado and Miguel Cabrera have lived up to expectations throughout the year. After that, the names are at least impressive - even if their 2005 stats aren't.
But, the Marlins are probably as likely to be swept in the LDS as they are to win the World Series this year. They have been nothing if inconsistent. When they pitch well, they don't hit well. When they hit well, the pitching doesn't show up. It's been painful. The talent is there on this team. They just haven't hit on all cylinders for any extended period of time.
Thank you to Crawfish Boxes!