The Miami Marlins are coming off a successful first game last evening against the Chicago Cubs, picking up a 5-2 victory. The return of Ozzie Guillen to the dugout came out successful in the end, and despite the concerns of the Marlins faithful in the game thread, Heath Bell was able to come up with his first clean save of the season. The series continues in tonight's tilt between two of the better pitchers on both sides.
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Tonight's pitching matchup between the Marlins' Mark Buehrle and the Cubs' Matt Garza is the best pitching duel of the series. Garza had a monster season last year that was disguised behind a good-not-great ERA. His strikeouts spiked considerably last year compared to his career marks, and there is reason to believe that his gameplan has changed for the better and that he has evolved as a pitcher. The Marlins were trying to acquire him this past offseason, but the Cubs were asking for too much for trade, and by the end of the season, it may be possible that all of baseball may see why.
The Marlins will counter with Buehrle, who has been said to have pitched really well despite suffering two losses thus far. He has pitched decently despite the 4.61 FIP, as he has gotten a little unlucky on his home runs so far, but his xFIP (which is FIP based on the league average home run per fly ball rate and a pitcher's fly ball rate used for that pitcher's home run input) of 4.19 looks very similar to his career 4.22 mark. Of course, Buehrle has made a habit of outperforming his FIP over his career, so this season may not be much different. The rest of his game has been pretty Buehrle-like, so there are no concerns as of now.
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The Marlins debuted yet another lineup in response to small sample vacillations in player performance last night; this time, Ozzie Guillen demoted Giancarlo Stanton to the sixth slot in favor of Logan Morrison in the cleanup spot. Again, Guillen and his staff have shown a tendency to be too fluid with their lineup in response to one or two week's worth of data, showing a clear lack of grasp of projecting players into the future. While in their heart of hearts, I am sure they believe Giancarlo Stanton is a better hitter going forward than Omar Infante, they also feel that right now Infante is better because he is "hot." Of course, there is no way to say that Infante will stay hot for tonight or any other day, and if we have to guess who will be better the next day, our best bet is the guy who is a better career hitter and a better hitter over the last two or three seasons. But Guillen and company are still managing in a narrow-sighted fashion, favoring small sample sizes over real projection.
I have been there before and I have felt that way in the past about our own team, so I feel Al's pain. Still, I will not lie and say that I do not want to see the same thing happen between the Cubs and Marlins tonight as it did last night.
Bold Prediction: Cubs def. Marlins 3-2