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The Florida Marlins best April ever?

As it turns out the 2008 version of the Marlins are in a position to garner the most wins in April in franchise history .

The Marlins can make this their most successful April in franchise history with a win tonight or Wednesday against the Dodgers. This already is one of four Marlins teams along with the 1997, 2004 and 2005 squads to win 15 of their first 25.

This is absolutely interesting.  As you know the 1997 Marlins won the World Series, the 2004 version probably would have made the playoffs had Hurricane Francis missed South Florida and the team wasn't forced to play something like 27 games in 25 days.  The 2005 version had the bats but the bullpen sucked, except for Todd Jones.  Also, the team lost both middle infielders and the utility man to injures during September.

All three teams finished their respective years with a winning record.

I'm not saying a winning record, or the playoffs, is going to happen this year, especially with a mostly weak starting rotation for the time being.  But if history is any indicator, it could very well happen.

The good thing about this team is that they really believe they can make the playoffs.

"We're here to play and win every day," shortstop Hanley Ramirez said. "We don't have to show nobody. They're going to find out. I don't care if people are surprised. All I care about is how hard we play every day."

Asked if the Marlins could keep this up, Ramirez added: "Why not? Absolutely."

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"We're winning close games," closer Kevin Gregg said. "Those are the games you need to win if you want to be in the hunt for the long run. ... Everybody [in the bullpen] is taking the ball in a lot of different situations and giving [manager] Fredi [Gonzalez] lots of options. That's what's making us successful."

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"Early on last year we didn't have the bullpen we have now," Gonzalez said. "We didn't know what we had. We picked up [Justin] Miller later and Kevin, we had him early in the games and now he's late in the game. When your bullpen is good, you have a chance to hold on to these types of games."

It is true that the bullpen slots were not the same at the start of last season.  The one, who I have been informed should never be named again, and the other one who will also go unnamed, messed up about every close win chance the Marlins had last year.

This season the two pariahs are thankfully long gone, and the roles in the bullpen which came into focus last season, are set.  And with a little seasoning under his belt, Fredi uses them masterfully, just like the grizzled old veteran coach he is. (scroll down: it will make more sense.)

The hitters are going to hit and they will all season long.  They did in 2006 and even did better in 2007.  There is no reason to think that 2008 should be any different.

The whole key is whether the Marlins can put together a decent starting staff.  As long as Olsen doesn't get hurt, he will be a monster.  Hendrickson, early on, is better than I ever imagined he would be.  Nolasco should eventually regain form and end up being a decent pitcher.  And then there are the other two.

For the Marlins to compete all the way out they must find a decent fourth starter who can at least go 5 to 6 innings while giving up in the neighborhood of no more than 3 or 4 runs.  As for the fifth starter, let's face it, the majority of teams have a crappy fifth starter where a slugfest is required to get the win.  But if he can keep it reasonably close, the bullpen can shutdown the opposing offense giving the boys with the bats time to catch up and pass the other team.

In short, the starting pitching will determine whether the Marlins end up with a winning record or not.  And oh, one aspect to whether the starters are successful or not, will be determined by the defense.  If the defense is sloppy and the starters are having to get 4 to 5 innings then it all falls apart.

There are a lot of ifs and many things could derail the Marlins but at the outset, this year is proving to be more intriguing than I ever thought it could be.