Two simple words, two very important words to keep in mind in this most important of Miami Marlins seasons.
After a terrible first two games by the Marlins to open the season, our fans are likely upset with the prospects of the 2012 season. In all of our minds, the team was going to come out guns blazing, exciting the franchise for the first time in what seemed like ages. The team was supposed to electrify offensively and stifle the other team via their strong pitching staff.
None of that happened. The pitching staff was passable, if not weaker than expected. The offense was anemic, scoring just one run over the first two games of the season. The Fish looked out of sorts and off-balance on offense. The team was unable to get hits on two pitchers who were just a bit better than average in quality. They looked like they could not get a single ball out of the infield.
Despite all the bad play from the start of the season, it is not yet time to panic, Marlins fans. Despite the bleak start, the Marlins have had many games of this nature before, though perhaps not directly next to each other.We've Seen This Before
There were many instances of games when the Marlins have scored one or fewer runs over the past three seasons. In fact, there were 84 such games since 2009. In 2009, in the 17 games with one or fewer runs scored, they batted .151/.216/.195. In 2011, the team's worst offensive season in the last three years, the team hit .171/.236/.232. In comparison, the Marlins of 2012 hit just .119/.161/.153 with a current league average batting line of .191/.264/.295. It just goes to show you that in good offensive seasons (the Marlins averaged 4.77 runs per game in 2009) and bad years (the Marlins averaged 3.85 runs per game in 2011), the team can have bad offensive campaigns.
Beyond that, the team can actually have bad offensive outings in consecutive games. Since 2009, the team has had 15 instances in which they recorded back-to-back games with one or fewer runs scored. Eight of those instances occurred last season, but it stands to reason that even back-to-back, this one particular set of games does not say much about the caliber of the team's offense. Three of those instances occurred in 2009, and the Marlins were the fifth best offense in the National League that season. In other words, it is not an odd occurrence to have the Marlins, or any team in a given season, to score one or fewer runs in consecutive games.
All the League is Struggling
It is not only the Marlins who are struggling to find offense. It has only been a couple of games (one for most of the league), but it seems the entire league is failing to provide offense so far this year. The league is hitting just .191/.264/.295, the equivalent of what the Marlins hit in one-run or fewer games in 2009. With offense going down over the last two seasons, it certainly is not surprising that, in a small sample of early season games, we would see everyone hitting poorly, including the Fish.
Of course, with such few samples, these numbers hardly mean anything, but that also swings in all directions; you cannot judge the Marlins and their terrible offense by just two games. The league is not performing well over the course of one or two games for each team, but I am certain they will improve. I am equally certain that some regression will come very quickly for the Marlins in 2012.
The Spotlight on Mediocrity
So if the Marlins have done this sort of thing before, why does this seem unusually relevant? The reason is simple: this occurred within the first two games. Everything that happens in the first few games of a season gets blown out of proportion because of the undue focus. Teams that performed well have "renewed focus" and are happy with their "new additions." Teams that are doing poorly are "failing expectations" and their offseason plans have "failed." In the microcosm of the early season, the Marlins are going to look terrible after these first two games. But they of course are not nearly as bad as they have shown thus far, so there is no reason to think that the Marlins are in trouble.
Remember that this has gone both ways. Remember in 2009, when the team started 11-1 and looked terrifying at the onset of the year? The Marlins were not that good in 2009, and it turns out that they more or less went .500 through the rest of the year, ending the season 87-75. The focus on early season performance, with everyone's eyes on the team, can lead to incorrect conclusions about the team that do not hold by the end of the season.
We simply cannot make judgments on these first two games. We simply cannot assume the team is in trouble when other iterations of this team have done this before. While we can be upset at how they have played so far, we cannot let the microcosm of the start of the season cloud the judgment of the team based on the projections of the offseason.
Marlins fans, we simply cannot panic. Don't panic.