In November, the Miami Marlins looked for offense. And from that point on, the team anticipated success, despite admitting that they hadn't made the "sexiest of signings." The Marlins didn't win a series last season until April 29-May 1, when they took two of three from the New York Mets.
The Marlins won their first series of 2014 on Thursday in a comeback win over the Colorado Rockies. While their pitching has not been consistently praised, the Rockies' lineup has been called one of the best in baseball-at least on paper.
It is way too soon to jump to conclusions, and the first four games of the season may not be indicative of much. But the Marlins have started the season 3-1 after winning a combined 14 games in all of April and May last year. And that has to count for something.
Scouts throughout spring training praised Miami's pitching depth, some even so confident that "a few of their minor leaguers are capable of being on and should be on major league rosters." Jose Fernandez and Nathan Eovaldi were solid in their respective debuts, which both resulted in Marlins victories. Henderson Alvarez and Jacob Turner were inconsistent at times, although Miami's offense kept them in every game of the series.
Wednesday night's 6-5 loss was a true display of progress. The Marlins found themselves trailing 6-1 early on after Alvarez only lasted three innings. Last year's Marlins would have lost that game 6-1. The early 2014 Marlins made it 6-5 and saw the Rockies' closer in the ninth inning.
Veteran leadership is what the Marlins sought, and Garrett Jones, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jeff Baker, and Casey McGehee have brought that. Jones batted .273 in the opening series and was successful against lefties. McGehee drove in eight runs, and Saltalamacchia forced Miami's young pitching staff to maintain their composure.
The effect of the added bats was extreme for Giancarlo Stanton, who hit his first home run of the season Wednesday night and drove in seven runs to begin the year. But perhaps the additions had the greatest influence on Miami's youthful core, a Christian Yelich, an Adeiny Hechavarria, and even a Derek Dietrich, who all appeared more confident both fielding their positions and at the plate.
It isn't likely that the offense will score five and six runs on a nightly basis, and the starting pitchers may not always go very deep into games. President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill and General Manager Dan Jennings were confident in the offseason moves. But while Jeffrey Loria still owning the team makes it difficult for fans to get excited, this season should be better than the last.