The Miami Marlins have gotten absolutely nothing from their offense early on in the 2015 campaign. The team as a whole has struggled; before yesterday's 8-5 loss, the club was batting a pathetic .210/.285/.259 (.248 wOBA) with no homers to their name. The first home run of the season came yesterday at the hands of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but otherwise the team was struggling mightily throughout the two series against the Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays. The Fish scored 10 runs in their lone victory, but managed just eight runs in their five losses. The team has been outscored 35-13 by their two opponents during their games.
Clearly the offense is not the only thing to blame. The Marlins' pitching staff has mostly laid an egg during the early portion of the year as well, hence the 35 runs in six games. However, the offense's performance is particularly glaring given the fact that the Fish supposedly improved the cast during the offseason. So far, who have been the culprits and who can get away with less blame early on?
The Marlins' biggest problems early on have been at the bottom of the lineup, where Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Adeiny Hechavarria have struggled. Prior to yesterday's home run by Salty, the two had combined for two hits and three walks in 34 plate appearances. They also struck out 10 times in those 34 plate appearances, a combined rate of 29.4 percent.
Obviously neither hitter is as bad as this, but it is difficult to see a whole lot of improvement to what one would consider a good batting line. Hechavarria is who he is, a guy with limited plate skills who is in the game more for his flashy (and questionably inconsistent) defensive play rather than his bat. No one is expected to hit like this, but his career .249/.284/.328 (.269 wOBA) line does not portend well.
Saltalamacchia is a different story. The home run was at least something encouraging, showing that Salty still has some home run power to pay off some of his $15 million salary over the next two years. However, last year saw a spike in his strikeout and walk rates, and we already discussed before how that could portend to a slowing of the bat and a decline phase early in his career. Catchers are not the most durable players in the world, especially at the plate, and a guy with already high strikeout rates like Saltalmacchia is never too far from a complete collapse if his bat slows down.
Less concerning among the culprits of poor batting lines is Martin Prado, who picked up a pinch-hit single yesterday on a day off. He should not get too many days off now that Don Kelly is hurt with a likely Tuft's fracture (break in the tip of the finger) on a slightly mishandled ground ball. Like Hechavarria, Prado's strikeouts and walks are not far out of line for him during this first week. Unlike Hechavarria, he has a track record of being a decent hitter, so those numbers could easily improve a great deal shortly.
Blame a Bit Less
No one of the Marlins is hitting well, but the triumvirate of outfielders is least to blame for the team's struggles. It is easy to point to Giancarlo Stanton's strikeouts and be mad that the big $325 million bat is not launching balls out of the park. However, Stanton is also getting on base, having been walked five times thus far. He at least is getting on base for the Fish, and while that may not be the ultimate goal in the early going for the Marlins, it is an accomplishment for a team struggling early. He does need to avoid the ground ball (62.5 percent early on) a little bit more if we expect him to get his power numbers up, but this should not be an issue for a guy with a typically balanced batted ball distribution.
Speaking of getting on base, the team's best offensive performer has at least been doing just that. Christian Yelich was hitting .316/.409/.368 (.353 wOBA) in the early portion of the program, and he had walked and struck out three times each early on. It is obviously early, but Yelich continues to work his patient approach at the plate. Now, if he can maybe hit a ball in the air once in a while (75 percent ground ball rate so far), that power production might actually increase.
Marcell Ozuna has a few singles to his name, so his batting line does not appear to be impressive. However, he also has driven the majority of his balls in play nicely, with some solid line drive swings that just have not found gaps or fallen in for hits. That being said, he also has a few too many popups early on, so not everything has been good contact. It remains to be seen whether his tardiness from yesterday will affect playing time going forward, but Ozuna should get back into the lineup to help the team.
Obviously, the above paragraphs have very little in the way of conclusions, because it is simply too early to say anything definitive about these players. None of them will be hitting like this by the end of the season, and all sorts of odd vagaries can occur in the first week of the season, just like they can in the second, tenth, or 30th weeks of the year. Overanalyzing any batting lines or trends right now would be irresponsible, so we'll leave it as a goal for the Marlins to improve at the plate for now. This kind of performance will get them nowhere, but it almost certainly will not continue.