How do the 2009 Florida Marlins stack up to other teams that had magical seasons? Are the Comeback Kids for real? Here's my take, feel free to pick a team whose memory is rekindled by watching the contemporary Marlins and post your own analysis.
I personally followed Orioles "magic" through the 1983 season. It was my baptism by fire into baseball as I worked during my college years at Alaska Stands in Ocean City, Maryland. The guys who worked there did two things: surf and baseball. It was a tough life, but somebody had to do it.
I did not pay much attention to statistics back then (and still don't pay as much attention as I should), but I do recall that the Os led the league in home runs in 1983. For a time, it seemed that not even that grand accomplishment would carry them into the post-season.
But, the Orioles simply would not go quietly into that good night. They would come back even when their starting pitching wasn't on point. They would come back from impossible deficits. They would come back even when the bats had fallen silent earlier in the game. The public relations people called it "Oriole magic" and even commissioned a song to go along with it.
Even though we are only 12 games into this young 2009 season, the Marlins remind me of the 1983 Orioles because they never say die. Both teams came back from deficits by finding a way to win, typically through the long ball, but also with smart base stealing and timely hitting with runners in scoring position. And, gosh darn it, these Marlins are at least as fun to watch as were the Os.
So I spent some time comparing and contrasting numbers from Baseball Reference, the indispensible source of data about everything baseball. I present numbers for the offense in this installment. Assuming there is interest I will examine the pitching numbers in part 2.
(I spent some time making the following table look pretty, but sbnation stripped out all my work. Well, here it is anyway.)
First of all, look down there at the strikeout total. HOLY CRAP! In fewer relative plate appearances the Marlins are looking mighty impatient at the plate, to say the least.
More walks are nice, twice the number of triples is a treat, and a lot more home runs help win ballagames. I'm putting a mental asterisk next to that modern HR total as today's boys of Summer might still enjoy a little help from their friends. Also, let's not forget that they faced the hapless Washington Nationals in half of these first 12 games.
I like the improved ratio of runs scored to runs allowed over the Orioles, that is exactly how ballgames are won.
The stolen base/caught stealing ratio works out to a healthy %82 and with guys like Hanley and Bonifacio making smart choices about when to steal, their speed makes it no contest.
I don't expect Boney to stick around all season as he has already reverted to his personal mean, and it's pretty mean, folks. The knock on him by the Nationals was that he can't hit and can't field; if he can't get on base, his speed is worthless. Let's hope they can at least teach him selectivity and patience at the plate so that he can continue to disturb opposing pitchers. I'm not sure how many runs they will watch him allow at the hot corner before they sit him for a more competent third bagger, though.
The rest of the stats don't jump out at me with any force, especially since the Marlins' projected counting totals are based on an unsustainable run. Still, it is the manner in which the Marlins win games that is infectious and has grabbed the attention of national sports commentators. This, after many had written off the team during Spring Training.
Even when the inevitable losing streak sets in, I think these 2009 Marlins are going to be a fun team to watch. When that happens, take heart Marlins fans, they will find a way to come back. I have seen it before, and I'm confident that we will see it again.