Yesterday, I wrote two articles discussing two sides of the argument regarding the Miami Marlins and their amazing first week of the 2014 season. On one hand, the team's dominance was so powerful that there had to be truth in ti. On the other hand, the Marlins' expectations coming into the season could not be overcome by just one week's performance against mediocre teams.
The point of the exercise is to display that, in fact, there are multiple sides of the tale, and as Marlins fans, you could fall on an entire spectrum ranging from the most pessimistic to the most optimistic and have arguments on your side. The truth, insofar as we can determine it, is probably somewhere buried in between the 2014 Marlins being "real" or not. So what is real about the team and what should we wait for further confirmation? What should you be excited for in 2014 and what should you brace for regression on?
Real: Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez
The two stars are clearly the most honest parts of the Marlins' first week. Neither is as good as this, but both were expected to be good going into the year and have so far proven to be the case. Stanton has his power back so far, and Fernandez is ready to assume full ace duties after two stellar starts. Yes, the Marlins faced inferior competition in those seven games, but the early returns from those players are unlikely to be significantly altered by better players because their known skill level beforehand was already top-notch. We can expect star players to still be playing at All-Star levels whether they are facing the Colorado Rockies or the Washington Nationals.
Not Real: Casey McGehee and Tom Koehler
I named those two only for symmetry with the first section, but you can lump Adeiny Hechavarria on there as well. The entire offense has been carried by BABIP-driven performances, so you should expect Miami to hit a good deal worse going forward simply because their players simply cannot maintain this torrid hitting pace. The offense, which was known to be bad beforehand, should still be bad even after one week at the top of the scoring charts. None of the problems with the team's players (Marcell Ozuna's and Hechavarria's discipline, Christian Yelich's power) have resolved in one week, and the majority of those players are still ongoing projects. Do not expect another 40 runs this week.
Real: The starting pitching
What the Marlins' starting pitching did last week was in fact for the most part real. With the exception of Koehler, no person was abnormally lucky, and the bad luck and play of Jacob Turner and Henderson Alvarez should trend upwards like the play of Fernandez and Nathan Eovaldi should drop towards the average. The first week of starting pitching more or less was as we expected, and that is a good thing for Miami, because the Marlins' advertised strength was in starting pitching.
Not Real: The bullpen
Before Sunday, the bullpen had allowed one run the entire week. You don't need to be smart to know that won't last, especially with known potential train wrecks like Carlos Marmol and Mike Dunn regularly pitching the eighth inning. The Marlins have stability in roles and can ask A.J. Ramos to clean up a lot of problems in the seventh inning, but this team's pen is closer to average than elite. Steve Cishek is great, and the unit is fine, but it is not legendary, and we knew that going into the season.
Not Real: The run differential
The Marlins are not a true-talent .786 winning percentage team. Sorry to break the bad news.
Real: The run differential effect of changing the perception of the Marlins
The team may not be that good, but the massive run differential has to get you considering the Marlins as a better-than-expected team. It was such a strong result that you cannot fully chalk it up to luck. Miami should not be projected to lose as many games as it was slated to at the start of the season, and that effect goes beyond the fact that seven games are already in the books. Miami looked like a better team that preseason projections were expecting, and one oversized week of performance should change expectations. It should be noted that such a week would change expectations if it happened in the first week or in the middle of July as well, so just because the Marlins started fast does not mean there is any extra meaning to it.
The reality is that the Marlins had a great week, and the fans should have enjoyed it. Don't start punching playoff tickets yet, but also do not wallow in despair that the rest of the season will be even more unbearable after witnessing this false hope. The team is not a juggernaut or a cellar-dweller. It's better than it was a week ago, but not so much better that you have to rewrite everything from the preseason. Much of what we said before the year started is still right. But that first week meant something, and it's worth watching the second week and the rest of the year to find out what it meant.