The Miami Marlins have not played well in 2013 thus far, but Marlins fans do have some things to look forward to for the rest of this season. There are certain Marlins to watch this year and certain marks to hit before the Fish finish up the 2013 season, and Fish Stripes is here to provide bold predictions on these categories.
1. Giancarlo Stanton will have hit 30 homers by the end of the season.
Mind you, this is not an easy task. We are 93 games in, which means that Stanton has only 69 games left in the season to hit the remaining 20 home runs he needs to get to 30. Last season, Stanton played 43 games in the second half, missing almost all of July and beginning his second half on August 7, but he still managed to hit 18 home runs and finish the year with 37 dingers. He did have two spectacular months to end the year, batting a combined .299/.356/.701 (.432 wOBA) to finish the year, so it was not a typical performance for a great player like Stanton.
But the fact that he has done it before pushes the likelihood that he will do it again a little higher. After struggling in the 2013 season thus far, Marlins fans have to feel as though Stanton is due for a hot month; after all, he had three spectacular months out of the five he played last year. ZiPS projects a .278/.365/.574 season (.397 wOBA) with 15 homers for the rest of the year, but it also expects Stanton to only play 54 games and get up to the plate another 224 times. This year, Stanton missed about a month of playing time, just like last year, so if last season is any indication, he should finish the season with 500 plate appearances. If you prorate the projected homers out to the 276 plate appearances he will need to get 500, you end up getting an expected 18 home runs in the second half.
That puts him at 28 for the season. I have a feeling like just one extra-hot month will send a couple more fly balls out of the park for the Fish.
2. Jose Fernandez finishes with a sub-3.00 ERA and 170 strikeouts.
Essentially, I am predicting that Fernandez keeps his ERA pace that he set for himself in his All-Star first half while amping up the strikeouts a little more for the second half. This is a tall order for a rookie, but it is not completely out of line. Fernandez has 103 strikeouts thus far this season, so he needs 63 more to get to 170. He is expected to get about 10 more starts and 58 innings before being shut down for the season, so he needs to strike out more than nine batters per nine innings to get to that mark.
The projection by Steamer suggests that he will whiff 9.2 batters per nine innings the rest of the way, but they only have him pitching 33 more innings. At 58 innings, that projection comes out to 59 strikeouts. He would need four more than the projection to get to 170 before he runs out of innings, and given his world-beating performance thus far, it again seems quite reachable. The only concern here is whether the Marlins will allow him to pitch ten more starts.
3. Jacob Turner will finish the year striking out seven batters per nine innings.
This is a taller order still for the 22-year-old starting pitcher who has consistently struggled to whiff bats in his career. But his numbers on swings and misses seem so enticing and so conducive to strikeouts that it is difficult to imagine him not getting more of them at the big league level. Turner has had some difficulty staying in the strike zone, but his stuff that has been questioned throughout his career has been present, as evidenced by his 9.6 percent swinging strike rate. If he can get a few more called strikes on his pitches, that type of swinging strike rate should get him closer to a 20 percent strikeout rate than his current 16.4 percent mark.
What is a 20 percent strikeout rate in terms of strikeouts per nine innings? For Turner's season so far, it would be 7.2 strikeouts per nine, and I am predicting he ends the season at around seven per nine. To do this, however, he needs to strike out more than that 20 percent rate. In fact, he needs to record 56 strikeouts in 63 2/3 expected remaining innings, which translates to a rate of 7.9 strikeouts per nine. That is five more strikeouts, or half of one per expected start, more than his expected rate if you think the whiff rate can translate to better strikeout results. This prediction may be the most difficult one yet.
4. The Marlins will finish with 65 wins.
That might sound modest, but in truth, that is actually a fairly hefty winning percentage compared to what the Fish posted in the first half of the year. Only after a winning month of June (what?) did the Fish even get a chance to reach 35 wins in 93 games, giving them a .376 winning percentage. Now I am expecting them to win 30 games in 69 attempts, a winning percentage of .435.
But the Fish now have enough players back and a rotation that should not be terrible for the rest of the season. The club is not expected to make any more trades before the deadline, meaning this group will be intact for the remainder of the season. Provided Stanton and Logan Morrison can stay healthy, the Fish should have a decent amount of punch in their lineup, especially if Stanton gets hot on the way to 30 homers. Even with Fernandez being shut down at the tail end of the year, the Marlins should still get plenty of production from better starters like Turner and Nathan Eovaldi, who are replacing guys like Alex Sanabia and Wade LeBlanc.
To get an idea of what a .435 win percentage team looks like, the Fish can look to their National League counterparts. The San Diego Padres are currently the third-worst team in the National League with a .438 winning percentage. The Fish only have to play as well as the Padres did in the first half to reach 65 wins. It is not a fun prediction because, well, who wants to win 65 games? But for the Marlins, it would an achievement given how poorly they started. It may also lose them the race for the first pick in the draft next year, but hey, never count out the Fish!