After 54 games the Florida Marlins are one third of the way through the 2011 season, and it has been a very successful third of the season thus far.  The Marlins are 34-23 and are second place in the NL East two games behind the Philadelphia Phillies and if the end of the season was today the Marlins will be going to the playoffs as the NL Wildcard team.  While the Marlins are far from being a fluke, they still only rank in the middle of the NL in most batting and pitching statistics.  Maybe more impressive than the fact that the Marlins are off to this great start with only 27 quality starts (13th in th NL), or that until recently they have had a revolving door at third base, is that the Marlins have over come a horrendous year by Hanley Ramierez (hitting only .210 with four home runs and 17 RBI).

The Marlins starting roatation has been 1-3 is one of the tops in the major leagues.  Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez have all had All-Star level starts to 2011.  When Ricky Nolasco, with four wins, 3.82 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 59 strikeouts, is the worst of the three, that is a very impressive trio, and would be very formidable if the Marlins were able to get into the playoffs.  Unfortunately for the Marlins the bottom part of the rotation has not been as great.  Their has been signs that Javier Vazquez and Chris Volstad are beginning to turn things around with three quality starts between them in their last five combined starts (they only have six total quality starts in 2011).  Volstad had had a string of four solid starts in a row lowering his ERA from 6.00 to 5.40 going into the May 30th game against Arizona, when he let up five runs and eight hits in 3.1 innings.  And Javier Vazquez has also seen his ERA lowered from 7.55 to 6.02 in his last three starts.

Great pitching has always been the key to the Marlins success through out the years, but this offseason the Marlins made a choice to go in a different direction than they had been going.  The past few years the Marlins have succeeded with the long ball, but this off season they decided to go in the direction of defense and more small ball.  The Marlins had expected players like Hanley Ramierez, Chris Coghlan, and Omar Infante to bat close to, if not above, .300 but thus far they are batting .210, .237, .245 respectively.  Unfortunately these low batting averages are also causing fewer runs than the Marlins should be scoring when you look at what the heart of the order is hitting, and the Marlins are leaving over seven men a game on base.  Also the Marlins improved defense is ranked 10th in the NL this year after being ranked 12th in 2010 and 14th in 2009. 

Luckily for the Marlins Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison are having All-Star caliber years (Sanchez- .316 with 9HR, 35RBI, 29R   Morrison- .317 with 7HR, 19RBI, 18R) and Mike Stanton is among the NL leaders in home runs with 12.  The Marlins have also had a nice surprise from Emilio Bonifacio and Greg Dobbs.  The Marlins have had to deal with a number of injuries this year and Emilio has been able to fill in and produce at just about any position the Marlins have asked him to play.  Also the Marlins biggest whole this year has been at third base after Matt Dominguez didn't make it out of spring training and Donnie Murphy failed to perform and got hurt, luckily Greg Dobbs recently has taken over the reigns at third and is hitting .344 with many clutch hits and RBI.

The final aspect of the Marlins season, the bullpen, has been up and down this year.   For the most part the Marlins bullpen has been very good, but it seems as though the Marlins will have a few a games ever once and a while where they will struggles.  In the past few days the Marlins have seen Clay Hensley pick up two losses and Leo Nunez get his first blown save.  At the same time however Leo Nunez could be an All-Star since he already has 19 saves and was 18 for 18 in save opportunities at one point.  Edward Mujica is also tied with Anibal Sanchez for the team lead in wins with five, while Mike Dunn also has another four wins out of the bull pen for the Marlins.

The Marlins are now heading into a stretch were it is possible that they may not face a bellow .500 team until they play the Houston Astros in Miami on July 7th.  The one team that could be bellow .500 is the Seattle Mariners who are floating around the .500 mark.  They key to the Marlins success over that time will be the health of pitcher Josh Johnson who has yet to pitch off of a mound since going on the 15-day DL, and Hanley Ramirez who could be placed on the DL Friday because of a sore back.  Of course it may also help the Marlins if they could find a way to not play any more day games.  The Marlins are 6-9 in day games and 25-14 in night games.

The Marlins have the potential to be a dangerous team come September, but all that will be determined by how this team performs over the next third of the season.