Series Q&A with Marlin Maniac’s Ehsan Kassim


Kansas City (61-54) returns to interleague play after taking three of four from Boston by hosting the Miami Marlins (44-72) for the first time in what seems like forever. This is just the third series (2002, ’06, ’08) between the two teams and first as Miami, the Royals lead the all-time series 5-4 winning the last two series. We decided it was a good time to check in with Marlin Maniac editor Ehsan Kassim to learn more about Miami.

The Miami Marlins and rookie sensation Jose Fernandez come to the K for the first series between the two teams since 2008. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Kings of Kauffman – Miami has played better recently what’s been the key to this?

Marlin Maniac – The key for the Marlins recent strong play has been their pitching and the return to 100% health of key players. On the offensive side of things, Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison made immediate impacts on the lineup and their presence alone makes the Marlins a better team, even with Stanton scuffling like he is right now. The Marlins offense has gone from record breaking bad to very pathetic. As a Marlins fan in 2013, I will gladly accept that.

Jacob Turner started the season in the minors and Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi began the season on the DL. This opened up a spot for rookie phenom Jose Fernandez to make the team. He has been simply amazing. Fernandez owns a 2.83 FIP with 143 strikeouts in 132 2/3 innings. May I remind you he’s a rookie. With his dominance on the mound and the Marlins getting their three aforementioned hurlers back into the rotation, they have been a tough bunch to hit.

The Marlins pitching has been the key to the team’s success as of late, but they could be doing a whole lot better if the offense could ever get going.

KOK – Many in baseball are aware of the preseason trades, how are the talent returned progressing?

MM – I always defended the offseason moves as a sound baseball move, but a terrible PR move by the Fish. It’s always hard to just a trade after just a few months of baseball, but I do believe the Marlins are coming out on top right now. The Marlins received many pieces that could be part of the team’s next world championship foundation in the deal and the Jays are in the basement of the AL East.

The two perceived keys to the deal have done well for the most part in 2013. Jake Marisnick had a strong campaign in Double-A Jacksonville and has been promoted to the big leagues. He has not fared well, but I believe he can make the adjustments he needs to in time. Justin Nicolino started the season in High-A and has since earned a promotion to AA with his strong pitching.

Two other pieces Henderson Alvarez and Adeiny Hechavarria have played to mixed success in the majors, but have definitely made their presence known. Alvarez is now healthy and been a strong presence in the Marlins rotation (coming into his start on Sunday). Hech has not provided much with his bat, but has been a blast to watch on defense.

Thought to be a throw in prospect, Anthony DeScalfani has pitched well in 2013 and has caught the Marlins attention. He was dominant in High-A and has shown flashes of that dominance in AA.

The final player the Marlins got was Jeff Mathis. No comment on that.

KOK – How would you grade the job Mike Redmond is doing in his first season at Marlins manager?

MM – Mike Redmond deserves an A+ for his job. He has made plenty of rookie mistakes and has made me scream at my laptop a few times, but he has to be given a ton of credit for managing a team with the lack of talent the Marlins have. He also has to answer to owner Jeffery Loria (that’s never easy) and had to put up with Tino Martinez and his hitting woes (pun intended).

My belief is managers don’t win games, but they sure as hell can lose them. Red has done a decent job of not losing too many games for the Fish.

KOK – What kind of pitching breakdown can Royals fans expect see at Kauffman Stadium this week?

MM – The Royals will see Tom Koehler on Monday night. Koehler is probably best suited as a relief arm in the long-term, but has done an adequate job as a #4/5 starter for the Marlins. His ERA of 4.40 may seem high, but his 4.00 FIP and 3.96 xFIP point to Koehler being a little better than his ERA. He’s a hard throwing righty that can touch the higher 90’s and has a decent breaking ball. Teams usually get to him around his third time through the lineup and he has a tendency to give up the long ball.

On Tuesday, the Royals and their fans will be lucky enough (or unlucky) to see Jose Fernandez pitch. After you hear about his story about defecting to Cuba, being thrown in jail at the age of 14, and see his love of the game, it’ll be hard to root against him. Fernandez struck out 13 and 14 in back-to-back starts just a few weeks ago, becoming the first pitcher since Randy Johnson and the first rookie since Kerry Wood to do so. Fernandez has a blazing fastball and a curveball (the defector) that make him very tough to hit. If he’s on his A game, Royals fans will be in for a treat on Tuesday.

In the series finale, the Royals will see Jacob Turner, who struggled in his last start against the Braves on Friday, allowing three of the six home runs he’s allowed in 2013. Turner began the season in AAA after an abysmal spring training, but has since fought his way back into the roation and been the Marlins second best pitcher behind Fernandez. Turner is not quite the same pitcher he was when he was headrled as a top pitching prospect in the Tigers organization, but he is still an interesting pitcher.

KOK – Prediction on the series?

MM – I am feeling confident with Jose Fernandez and Jacob Turner pitching in the series, I will say the Marlins take two of three. Also, Giancarlo Stanton will break out of his crazy slump in KC.

Series Pitching Match-Ups:
Friday – Tom Koehler (3-7, 4.40) v. Wade Davis (5-9, 5.42), 7:10 pm
Saturday – Jose Fernandez (8-5, 2.58) v. Bruce Chen (5-0, 1.79), 7:10 pm
Sunday – Jacob Turner (3-4, 2.95) v. Ervin Santana (8-6, 3.25), 1:10 pm

Television Information: FSKC and the Royals Radio Network (610 Sports Radio in KC)
All two of the three games can be seen on Fox Sports Kansas City (no TV on Wednesday so radio only) with Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler on the call. Joel Goldberg and Jeff Montgomery will host Royals Live pre and postgame from Citi Field. Describing the action will be Royals Hall of Famer/2007 Ford C. Frick Award winner Denny Matthews being joined in the booth by Steve Physioc and Steve Stewart on the Royals Radio Network (610 Sports Radio in KC).

Game Notes:
Kansas City