Earlier this week, Fish Stripes editor Michael Jong posted an article tempering reactions to the Miami Marlins' success in one-run games. According to the numbers, Jong says, based on noted baseball mathematician Pythagoras' theorem, the Marlins are a 77-win team masquerading as a contender.
"Not so fast," says MLB.com's Richard Justice in an article posted today. Justice writes:
What once seemed so farfetched is now clearly possible. And that's a dangerous thing for every other NL team contending for a postseason berth.
The Marlins believe now. That is, they believe in a way they almost certainly couldn't have before.
This playoff dream, this crazy thing that only they believed, this possibility of going from 100 losses one season to a postseason berth, it's close enough to see and feel and touch and taste.
They've got everything you want a contending team to have. They have a nice blend of experience and youth.
Even if the Marlins simply were throwing all those talented kids on the field and allowing them to grow and learn, to succeed and fail, that would make this season interesting.
In outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna and starting pitchers Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi, they've got four young stars who are all 24 years old or under. Their shortstop, Adeiny Hechavarria, is 25.
They have a tremendous manager, a smart, competitive guy, a guy who has never lost faith that this team could write whatever ending it chooses to write.
We're starting to believe you, Mike Redmond.
And Miami has 24-year-old Giancarlo Stanton, one of the best players on earth. If the season ended today, he'd almost certainly win the NL Most Valuable Player Award. Stanton leads the NL in both home runs (32) and RBIs (88), and he appears to be headed toward a 40-homer, 100-RBI season.
All those young guys provide the Marlins were more than just talent, although their talent is impressive.
The debate over cold statistics and empirical sabermetrics versus eyeball tests and vague amorphous concepts like "momentum" rages on.
In the end, both Jong and Justice are right-- the Miami Marlins, with their microscopic payroll and roster full of inexperienced kids shouldn't be as good as their record indicates. But here we are, in the midst of a Wild Card race.
It should not be forgotten that teams who exceed Pythagorean expectations have gone on to win titles, including the 2003 Marlins. That's also what's keeping Marlins fans tuned in to meaningful games in mid-August, a time when, for the last decade or so, most of south Florida's attention turns to football.