The Miami Marlins had a nice month of April recently, culminating in sweeping the Atlanta Braves in a three-game set at the tail end and pulling themselves up to .500 by May 1. The Fish have been a surprisingly watchable product after entering the season with low expectations for a second straight year. Nowhere else is this more evident than in the early television ratings numbers that were sent out in a recent press release to members of the Marlins media. Courtesy of Eric Esteban of the Marlins' PR and social media department:
· Through the month of April, Marlins viewership on FOX Sports Florida is up 42% year over year through the same number of games.
o The +42% ranks amongst the top teams in biggest average viewership gain for all regional sports networks in Major League Baseball.
· Most watched Marlins month on FOX Sports Florida since July 2012.
This is some interesting information for a team that was no expected to bring many views. The Marlins drew a nice Opening Day crowd and had a fantastic, raucous evening in a 10-1 win over the Colorado Rockies, and since then the club has continued to perform decently. They have two must-watch players in Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton, and those two have gotten off to spectacular starts so far this year. It seems that those two factors have combined to bring home some increased viewership for TV announcers Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton. A 42 percent spike in viewership is a huge boon, especially with a team with little hype heading into the year.
But part of that spike has to include the fact that Miami had no hype going into 2013. Last year, fans were likely still bitter from the fire sale trade in November and the subsequent filling of the mediocre roster. It is possible Marlins fans were turned off so much by last year's actions that they tuned out on television, and the huge bounceback this season has less to do with this team's competency and more to do with simple regression following a catastrophic confluence of events.
The fact that this month was so highly rated does bode well against that argument. The fact that it was the highest rated month since July 2012 is also interesting, however. You could understand no one watching the television during last year's debacle, but if you think back to July 2012, you will realize that that month was awful too. It was the deciding month that sent the franchise spiraling during the lost 2012 season; the Fish went 10-16, were outscored by 30 runs, and lost enough games to convince the franchise to trade away talent before the deadline. The Marlins famously jettisoned Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, and Hanley Ramirez in unexpected trades that heralded the coming 2013 apocalypse.
Marlins fans may finally be recovering from the disastrous last year and a half, and many thanks go to phenom Jose Fernandez for piquing interest once again.
· Four of the five most watched games this season have been Jose Fernandez starts.
o When Jose pitches, ratings have seen a 19 % spike over the April average.
Fernandez is putting eyes on the tube, as his starts have become must-watch television for national viewers as well as the local riff-raff. Fernandez has struck out a whopping 36.2 percent of batters faced (55 in 39 2/3 innings) and walked just eight guys all season, en route to a 1.59 ERA and 1.61 FIP. Those dominant performances, combined with his absolute boyish charm, have made him a great viewership attraction on each and every Jose Fernandez Day.
The Marlins already notched their highest-rated game in recent history this past month.
· The second game of the season, Tuesday, April 1 vs. Colorado, notched a 2.51 HH rating average making it the most watched Marlins game on FOX Sports Florida since July 22, 2012.
The July 22, 2012 contest was notable only for being Anibal Sanchez's last start as a Marlin, as he was traded the very next day in the deal that acquired Jacob Turner among other players from the Detroit Tigers. It was not a particularly notable game, but this game on April 1 was not particularly notable either, and yet it yielded good numbers for Miami.
A lot of these things will settle down once the Fish move on in the long and winding baseball regular season. It is difficult to stay this excited about the Marlins for all that long, but the Fish are better in 2014 and should earn better results on the tube and (hopefully) at Marlins Park.