The Miami Marlins did not play well in their recent three-game series against the Atlanta Braves. This is the most obvious thing that has been said since Tommy Hutton implied that it would have been nice if the Marlins scored some runs in the first inning after going down 7-0 in the second game of the season. You already knew all of this.
The Marlins did not look good in an ugly series against the Braves. They sandwiched one of the worst debuts in Marlins' history with two tightly-knit contests defined by a distinct lack of offense. When the Marlins did get baserunners, the club failed to capitalize. Much was said about a number of players regarding their miscues. Once again, Opening Day / Night at Marlins Park ended in disappointment more than anything else.
What does this tell us about the 2015 season for the Marlins? Generally speaking, nothing.
However, if one were to look for interesting observations and encouraging or discouraging signs, perhaps this past series at least merits a few thoughts and reactions on the positive and negative ends. None of these things are necessarily predictive just three games into the season, but they are things to continue keeping an eye on going forward.
The Marlins had one of the best defensive outfields in baseball last year, and yesterday night's 2-0 loss to the Braves displayed that. Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton each made plays in the outfield that caught the eye of fans. Stanton's was the most flashy, a diving
That will be the one that gets on the highlight reels, but each of those three guys made great plays that deserved merit. Yelich showed off fantastic range in snagging a low-flying liner for an out in shallow center field. He later acquitted himself nicely with a throw, as he tossed out Alberto Callaspo on a would-be double down the line in left. Marcell Ozuna got in on the act with a nice snag, and he actually lifted his glove up correctly this time as compared to before.
However, the left side of the infield also looked good. Martin Prado made a fantastic diving stop and play in the second game of the series, and Adeiny Hechavarria made an equally impressive jumping throw to first to nab a runner. The infield is impressing after a poor year from last year's duo of Hechavarria and Casey McGehee. It turns out the Marlins' left side of the infield in 2014 converted outs on balls in play at a rate that was 20th in baseball last year, despite the presence of the supposedly elite Hechavarria and the error-light McGehee. This year's duo of Prado and Hech should be better and already looks the part.
Negative: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Some of what Saltalamacchia did this series is as expected. He struck out five times in seven plate appearances. He failed to throw out two runners on steal attempts. Those are expected of a guy who has a long history of these issues. What he also did was commit the grave sin of doubling exactly into the wrong double play in the first game with the bases loaded and no one out, failing to score a run and tie the ballgame. He also missed a couple of pitch blocks and missed a catchable ball in foul territory, though nothing came of it.
The early struggles for Saltalamacchia have highlighted once again his rough first season with the Fish and his impending replacement with prospect J.T. Realmuto. It is a microcosm of the kind of attention Saltalamacchia will get this year if he struggles on either end of the field, but it is also worth noting that this performance confirms nothing, any more than his first month of last season (.299/.409/.571, .424 wOBA) did last year.
Positive: Henderson Alvarez
I can't get too excited yet about Henderson Alvarez after one performance, but two strikeouts, no walks, and a 64 percent ground ball rate in that first start versus the Braves is exactly what you would expect from the Entertainer. Alvarez is never going to whiff a lot of batters, so he depends on limiting baserunners, and walks are a great way to add more guys on base without giving your defense a chance. The Fish improved that defense in the infield this season, so Alvarez getting a lot of worm-burners should give the Fish a better chance at converting outs. The fact that Alvarez's lone runs came off squeaker singles, bases stolen, and other small-ball feats are at least encouraging.
Alvarez probably got off to the best start of any Marlin on the team. While that does not say much, we can at least be happy about that.
The pitching (Mat Latos aside, and we'll get to him later and exclusively) and defense worked, but Miami's offense looked like damaged goods during the entire series. The Fish could not deliver with runners in scoring position, stranding runners and finding convenient double plays on multiple bases-loaded occasions. Giancarlo Stanton failed to bring it at the plate and made a critical baserunning error with two outs that cost the team a decent chance. Dee Gordon fell over trying to bunt himself on base. Morse could not advance from second base to home on two separate occasions on singles to the outfield. As a group, Miami could not get anything going and scored just three runs in three contests. A combination of poor plate performance and a lack of basics cost the team some runs both at the dish and on the basepaths.
This is depressing given the team's improvements in the offseason. Both Michael Morse and Gordon should be better than the players they replaced. Prado should deliver the same batting line McGehee pulled off last year. However, at least in three games against decent to good pitchers, the Marlins just could not find success. More than anything else, this has to change.