I have to admit that I'm really excited about the Marlins' post-season prospects after they took two of three games for the Padres. Yes, the Marlins are in 4th place, but they're only one game out of the Wild Card. With forty-two games left in the season, the Marlins find themselves in better position today to make another World Series run than they were at this point in 2003.
But while the series win against the NL West-leading Padres was nice, as have the six wins in the past nine games, are things really all that great in Marlin-land? As excited as I am about the club's prospects, looking at things more objectively, this current "run" feels more like the mirage we thought we saw with the Fish back in April (you remember - lots of great pitching, not much hitting).
(Big caveat: I think there's a thought here, but it's admittedly under-developed. I haven't had the time yet to pull of the stats necessary to really make my point here. Maybe I'll be able to over the weekend.)
How have the Marlins been winning lately? It's the same formula that it's been all year: great pitching overcoming a lack of offense.
Over the past 7-days, Marlins' hitters have put up a paltry line of .228/.306/.342. That totals up to an anemic OPS of .648, or below the mark that Mike Lowell has put up in his slump-filled season. Fortunately for the Fish, that has largely gone un-noticed, as the pitching staff has been better than the hitting has been bad.
During the past 7-days, the Marlins (bullpen included) have posted a team ERA of 1.17 (granted, ERA is not necessarily the best metric, but it drives the point home). Here's how some of the big names are doing: Willis - 0.53, Beckett - 0.56, Burnett - 1.29, Jones - 0.00. If you think that the pitching staff can keep up that level of performance over the next month and a half or two months, you're deluding yourself.
The same trend holds for all of August. The Fish are hitting .241/.307/.350 (.657 OPS), but have managed to more than hold their own courtesy of a team 2.59 ERA (including marks of 0.00 from Todd Jones and 0.60 from Dontrelle Willis).
The pitching has simply been fantastic. The bats, on the other hand, have been pretty pathetic.
For awhile we were given signs of hope that Mike Lowell and Juan Pierre would break out of their season long slumps. But in August, that hasn't happened; Lowell's line is .188/.264/.281 and Pierre's is .192/.280/.274. Without those two bats working, there are (at least) two gaping holes in the Marlins' lineup. Come playoff time, deficincies like that cannot be overcome.
Feel free to get your hopes up (I know I'm getting mine up). But be realistic too. This is a nice run that the Marlins have been on. Realistically, the pitching is going to regress towards the mean somewhat (Todd Jones, unfortunately - like everyone else, is not capable of a 0.00 ERA over the long run). Yes, the lineup will get better. But will it be enough? And what gives us reason to believe that Juan Pierre and Mike Lowell are going to turn into the 2003 versions of themselves?