Miami Marlins offense improving, still terrible

Justin Ruggiano is playing a major role in the Marlins' lineup in Giancarlo Stanton's absence. - USA TODAY Sports

In the absence of Giancarlo Stanton, the Miami Marlins' offense has improved, showing that they are regressing to the mean. But no one is mistaking them for a good offense yet.

Giancarlo Stanton was injured last week in the final game of the four-game series versus the Chicago Cubs. Since then, the Miami Marlins have played seven games, and the team surprisingly has won four of those games. A big reason why the Fish have come out on top is because they have been able to score runs for a change. Take a look at the offensive stats since Stanton went on the disabled list.

Games Runs R/G AVG OBP SLG
7 31 4.4 .252 .324 .386

That batting line looks positively average when compared to the MLB line of .251/.319/.403 (.315 wOBA). Given how poorly the Marlins have played all season on the batting side, these last seven games have been a relief for Fish fans. Finally, the team is scoring runs at a major league pace!

What has finally started going right for the Marlins in the last few games? The most obvious improvement for the Fish is in the one area in which the team has struggled all year: power. The Marlins scored 31 runs in part because they hit seven home runs (all seven coming in the series versus the Philadelphia Phillies) and nine doubles in the short time span. In comparison, the Marlins had only hit 12 home runs all season prior to that first game versus the New York Mets, so the Fish are quickening their previously glacial home run pace.

The biggest contributor in the home run department was team leader Justin Ruggiano. Ruggiano hit three of the seven homers, including two in yesterday's blowout of the Philadelphia Phillies. He had been the club's primary power provider for most of the year, so the fact that he led the surge in power for the Fish is not that surprising.

What is different is who else contributed to the surge. Newcomer Marcell Ozuna, who was brought up to replace Giancarlo Stanton, has immediately made an impact with his bat. He is hitting .478/.520/.783 (.553 wOBA) in his first 25 plate appearances, and while all of those numbers are 100 percent certainly going down, he has been contributing to the team's added power. Ozuna has an ISO of .304 to begin the year, thanks to his lone home run and four doubles so far.

Adeiny Hechavarria, who just returned from the disabled list this past Thursday, put up a triple and a grand slam home run in yesterday's win. He also hit another triple earlier in the Phillies series. Chris Valaika and Donovan Solano, two unlikely sources of power, both hit solo home runs as well during the run.

Overall, the Marlins were able to raise their team ISO from .089 to .100 in the span of seven games. This is a major step to this team flaunting a major league offense, and it helps that the club is doing this without its best power hitter in Stanton. If the offense can come together on its own without Stanton in the lineup, they will receive an even bigger boost once he returns to the roster. The development of players like Hechavarria, Ozuna, and Rob Brantly, along with the continued strong play of Ruggiano, are critical for this team to score runs.

But do not mistake the Marlins' improvement as being good enough to pull them from the offensive basement of baseball. The Marlins are still dead last in batting average, second-to-last in on-base percentage, and last in slugging percentage by a wide margin. Even with the recent hot streak, the Marlins are still drowning mostly by their offense's hand. The move to a .100 ISO still leaves the Fish last in that department, though the Los Angeles Dodgers are not far behind at .108. The only positive in all of this is that the Fish are no longer dead last in the home run category, as they have surpassed the Kansas City Royals and are gaining on the Dodgers and Minnesota Twins!

As good as the offense's latest streak has been, there are other clear issues on this roster as well. The Marlins are in the bottom five in terms of walk rate, ahead of only three equally terrible offenses. This indicates that the Marlins are failing to find ways to get on base, let alone score runs. No player other than Stanton has walked in more than 10 percent of their plate appearances; the current non-Stanton leader among qualified Marlins is Greg Dobbs at 9.2 percent. Combine that with the team's almost league-worst BABIP and you can see why runners have not been crossing the plate for the Fish.

This would not be so bad if the Marlins at least hit for power; the three teams below the Marlins in walk rate had ISOs of .145 (Astros), .171 (Cubs), and .152 (White Sox). But the Marlins are neither getting runners on base nor moving them over at an efficient rate, and that leads to having one of the worst offensive months in recent history.

The power may be on its way. Ruggiano should provide consistent pop at the plate, and Ozuna is well-known in the minors for doing the same. When Stanton returns, that trend should only continue. But the Marlins also need to get on base to take advantage of that surge in power, and that is where the team may struggle. None of the club's starters are patient hitters, so their walk rate should continue to be on the low end. The Marlins' saving grace in that department may just be regression on their BABIP, as no team can finish hitting this poorly on balls in play.

For the Marlins' offense, there is nowhere else to go but up, but at least it seems like they are getting a start in that direction.

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