The Miami Marlins have had a disappointing first half of the season, and it is easy to put blame on the offense during this time period. The team came into the regular season with a trio of outfielders ready to set the world ablaze, but only one seems to have shown up to the party. And while the club experienced a fiery hot start from their second base acquisition, the team has not had any success in all of two positions at the plate. This simply will not get it done for Miami to start the year.
Runs Scored: 330
Weighted Runs Created: 328
Batting Line (non-pitchers): .260/.312/.389
MLB Rank: 24
The Marlins' offense has thoroughly disappointed. The team's best player has excelled in a major way, but the rest of the team has been mediocre at best. The Fish were tied for 25th in the league in walk rate among non-pitchers and have a top-10 high strikeout rate, which is never a good combination. Their .129 ISO is 27th in baseball. The Marlins have essentially displayed no power and no ability to walk while striking out too often. As a team, they sound like one awful hitter.
Best Performer: Giancarlo Stanton
Of course, one hitter has played above and beyond these meager standards. Stanton has been a beast for much of the year despite early concerns that his injury had changed his bat speed. At the start of the season, his strikeout rate had spiked to the highest it has been since his rookie year, and concerns were mounting that Stanton was chasing sliders low and away and not catching up to fastballs on the inside of the plate. Still, he finished the first month of the year with a .284/.376/.593 line, good for a .411 wOBA.
The month of May went rough for Stanton, as he slammed nine home runs but struggled with a .177 BABIP that dropped his batting line well below his usual marks. Stanton was still striking out, and fans were concerned. He answered those concerns by dropping the whiff rate slightly in June while smashing 13 home runs en route to a ridiculous .344/.404/.800 (.502 wOBA) month! That earned him Player of the Month honors for the National League even after he suffered a hamate bone fracture that figures to keep him out of until at least early August.
Stanton has been the sole provider of spectacular offense on this Marlins team, and combined with Dee Gordon, he has been one of the lone bright spots on the roster.
Worst Performer: Michael Morse
Marcell Ozuna was also in the running, as both players had some expectations coming into the season, but the free agent addition of Morse gets the nod here for having the worst batting line among regulars. Morse's expectations were modest entering the season, but he figured to greatly improve the batting line of Marlins first basemen after the bad season of Garrett Jones in 2014. Instead, Morse struggled with his stroke all year long.
The strikeouts are still there. Morse has whiffed on 30.1 percent of his plate appearances, and his walks have not gotten better. He is still swinging at everything, with a 50.4 percent swing rate on the year that is reminiscent of his career 51.9 percent mark. However, instead of driving balls when he makes contact, he is pounding the ball into the ground more than ever, with nearly a 59 percent ground ball rate. That has sapped into his power, which usually thrives despite an above-average grounder rate. Morse has just three homers in 156 plate appearances and owns a .090 ISO which is worse than all but Dee Gordon's power numbers among the team's regulars. Meanwhile, his usually high BABIP is hovering at 2013 levels, making him a useless commodity right now.
Justin Bour has overtaken Morse in terms of performance and should likely get the nod at first base primarily going forward. The Marlins still want to fit Morse into the roster to accommodate his bat while Stanton is out, but if his performance continues to suffer like this, it may not be justified.
Key Second-Half Piece: Christian Yelich
There are so many interesting players to watch in the second half thanks to their strange first halves. Dee Gordon had about six amazing weeks and has since struggled, so will he continue his downward trend like last season or spike back up? Will Marcell Ozuna get another shot at revamping himself at the big league level? Will Stanton come back and beat the 40-homer mark?
The most interesting and key player may be Christian Yelich. Yelich is the team's only other long-term commitment, and the team had to be disappointed when he opened his first season of a seven-year contract with an ugly first two weeks followed by a back injury that landed him on the disabled list. By the time May rolled around, Yelich was swinging more often, less selectively than in the past, and whiffing more while walking less. For a player whose success has been tenuously tied to high walk rates and an above-average BABIP, the increase in strikeouts was foreboding.
The other foreboding trend was the high ground ball rate. Yelich's grounder rate is still at nearly 70 percent on the year, and that has led to fewer hard hit balls than last season. Instead of hitting popups (his infield fly rate is identical to last season), Yelich appears to simply be hitting easily fieldable ground balls right to defenders. For a guy who boasted a 15.8 percent soft-hit ball rate, a jump to 20.6 rate with no addition in power can be disastrous.
However, despite the change in plate discipline, Yelich is slowly returning to his old ways. He had a June that was identical to his previous career numbers, and his July start has been red-hot. He has walked more times than he struck out, improved his plate discipline numbers, and hit .351/.478/.476 (.427 wOBA) to start. He scratched his batting line up to league average at this point, which is an absurd climb given his terrible start. Yelich needs to continue his run of success for the Marlins if the team is to have any bright hopes for an offensive future.