This isn’t 2010. This is 2011, a whole new year. And Marlins fans, they get the gist of that. They see this year more clearly than any team out there. They understand their closer Leo Nunez is actually getting the job done.
In the new year, the Marlins bullpen has excelled to perfection, with right-handed closer Leo Nunez with an almost-perfect record of 19 saves in 20 opportunities. The man is proving this year is much different. But how much faith and trust can a Marlins fan put into Leo, who blew 8 saves last year, saving 30 games in 38 opportunities. Although it’s not a large, inconceivable amount of blown saves, Leo was very inefficient last year. He continued to give up runs, and even if that didn’t counter into a loss or blown save for him, it’s still pretty hard to give up hits and runs in the ninth inning. All you have to do is get three simple outs, throw strikes; just don’t leave them out over the plate like Leo did. The Marlins full bullpen blew 25 saves in 2010, saving 39 games in 64 opportunities. So what about this year?
The “revamped” bullpen is a fresh, new start for the Fish, but can they get it done this year? Is it a ‘pen that can get us through October? Honestly, I have mixed feelings. We all see the relief have those amazing games, but then we see them blow a Josh Johnson gem, and they just give up runs and get the ‘L’ on their stats, leaving JJ with a nice big ‘NO DECISION.’ But if the Fish can provide sturdy run support, it’ll keep the pressure off the ‘pen. If we can get to October, the postseason, the playoffs, the real show- can we win it all? That question is something that is incredibly hard to speculate on. Postseason games are the hardest games you’ll play in a season, and if the bullpen manages to do what they did last year, no Marlin is going home with a giant ring with “WORLD CHAMPIONS” written across the front of it in all caps.
And what if the Fish can’t get it done in 2011? Can 2012 be a good year? That depends on how swift the Fish can make a transition into the new stadium they have opening up in Little Havana, southwest of Downtown Miami. We’ve seen teams do great in new stadiums, and some- not so much. The Minnesota Twins opened up their brand-new ballpark last year, Target Field. And they finished in first place in the American League Central division that year. The Mets opened their new park, Citi Field, in 2009 and finished fourth. They finished fourth again the next year, and are currently in fourth again this year. And the year before they opened up Citi Field- they finished in second place. So can a stadium affect how well a team does? Will it affect the Fish’s bullpen, considering they have the keen ability to struggle? Those questions will obviously be answered in 2012, but it makes you want to think even more. How will this year end? Will the ‘pen be good for the rest of the season? How will it be for the 2012 season in the new ballpark? Asking these questions doesn’t mean I have no confidence in the 2012 team- I believe it all depends on who’s playing for you. But one thing concerns me: Leo is Leo, and the bullpen is the bullpen. You will never know what to expect from them. A change in the home turf may be good or bad for the bullpen’s pitching. And that’s up to them to decide.
But until then, let’s just sit, enjoy baseball, continue to get wins, and watch ourselves get to October. After all, this is the final year of the Florida Marlins. Next year will be like a whole new thing. The Miami Marlins, a new ballpark, new logo, new uniforms, new colors- all of which are basically the simple parts of next year. But until then, let’s just kick back, and watch Leo and the Fish continue to get W’s.
Written By Derek Gordon.