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The Zero Factor

     Jose Reyes repeated the number -- 15 -- and shook his head in disbelief. The Marlins were shut out Friday night for the 15th time this season and that, ladies and gentleman, is a club record. The inaugural 1993 Marlins team was blanked 14 times, as was the fuzzy-cheeked '06 team that was stockpiled with low-paid rookies. Those teams were supposed to stink.

      But this, the $100 million Marlins -- the richest Marlins team ever assembled -- sunk to a new franchise depth with Friday's 3-0 whitewash. And there's STILL A MONTH TO GO.

      "It is hard to believe because the team we put out there was supposed to score runs every single day," Reyes said. "Nobody's perfect, but 15 times is a lot."

      Yes it is. Only the Oakland A's have been blanked as many times as the Marlins have this season. But the trend is pointing in the wrong direction for the Marlins, who were shut out five times in August.

      Like Reyes, manager Ozzie Guillen said he, too, is surprised, "Especially with the ballclub we started the season with. Right now we've got a lot of kids in the lineup. Try this. Try that. But that's the reason we're in last place, the biggest reason we're in last place. We haven't hit with men on base."

      But, when you get right down to it, the Marlins haven't hit period, no matter the situation. Their .244 team average ranks 13th in the National League, ahead of only the Padres, Cubs and Astros. Their .246 average when no one is on base also ranks among the bottom half of NL teams. They're 10th in home runs and 14th in runs.

      Keeping in mind that the upcoming free agent market is noticeably thin and the Marlins probably weren't going to splurge even if it wasn't, how do they fix the problem? Perhaps the better question is, in the short term, can the problem even be fixed?

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