As the Miami Marlins head over to face the Philadelphia Phillies in the first of a three-game series to kick off the second half of the season, it makes sense for Fish Stripes to come up with some thoughts on what will happen as this season goes forward. Miami's campaign overall has been left in shambles, but there are still enough interesting things with upside to keep watching in 2015. But how will those things end this year? What will happen to all of these players on whom the Marlins will depend in 2016? What about the trade deadline?
Fish Stripes is here with some (questionable) answers. Here are five bold predictions for the second half.
1. Giancarlo Stanton will break Gary Sheffield's franchise single-season home run mark.
The mark Sheffield set in 1996 has stood for a very long time. It lasted through two World Series teams and the rest of the so-called Steroid Era and has extended itself into a time when home runs are a scarcity. In 1996, there were 17 players who hit 40 or more home runs, with two players reaching 50. Since 2010, there have been only 13 player-seasons with 40 or more homers. Reaching this plateau is more rare than ever before.
No one knows that more than Stanton, who has been foiled three times after coming close. Aside from his injury-marred 2013 season, Stanton has reached dangerously-close home run levels in each of his full seasons. In 2011, he was not ready to reach that mark. In 2012, he finally broke through and showed elite skills and came close. In 2014, he was well on his way to that mark before being hit in the face by a fastball.
The race always ends at 37 home runs for Stanton, but this year appeared to be different. He already had 27 homers before All-Star voting was announced, but a hamate bone fracture has sidelined him through early August. With the Marlins out of contention, they could opt for more recovering time for Stanton. But if he receives one and a half months of play, there is a very good chance the best power hitter in baseball will hit 13 home runs and break Sheffield's longstanding record. It would be one bright spot in a tough year.
2. Dee Gordon will (just barely) finish with a .300 batting average.
With the way Gordon is trending, this may very well be in doubt. Gordon had such a hot start that it has been tough to notice the decline, but for a guy who had a .400 or greater average through mid-May, the fall has been stark. Since May 16, Gordon has hit a paltry .277/.293/.336 with 45 strikeouts and just four walks in 226 plate appearances. With no power, Gordon needs his BABIP or walk rate to excel in order to be a good hitter, and even a .345 mark on balls in play apparently would not cut it with a 20 percent strikeout rate on board.
Gordon has swung more often this season after realizing that patience does not work for him, but after a solid start contact-wise, his contact rates have dropped back down to career levels. His start was so fiery that it is hard to erase the memory of it, but by the end of the season, fans may realize just how close they were to getting four mediocre or worse offensive months from their new favorite player.
3. Christian Yelich will be a league-average player.
Yelich could not have started the season worse off than his .220/.284/.293 batting line through May. He could not have played any worse than he did, and there is reasonable suspicion that a back injury really wrecked that situation. However, Miami stuck with him, albeit in different parts of the lineup, and the results began to perk up. In June, he hit .287/.362/.415, which was right in line with his career stats. He has started July with more walks than strikeouts and a fantastic .351/.478/.486 batting line. In the last two months, Yelich has accumulated 1.1 wins after having been far below replacement level beforehand. The bat has seemingly made a comeback.
To get to league average, Yelich has to be worth around 1.2 wins for the rest of the season. If he can recover his Gold Glove from last year and still hit as well as he has been for two months, that should not be a challenge at all. Those who kept faith in Yelich are likely to be rewarded, even if they will not see the big leap in production some expected in his 2015 effort.
4. Dan Haren and Mat Latos will finish the year in a Marlins uniform.
Call it a hunch, but I have a feeling the Marlins are going to fail at finding suitors for their rental starters. The club is playing better now and they are 10 games back (and behind seven teams) in the Wild Card race. Somehow, the club might climb itself back to, say, seven games behind by August due to sheer luck alone. By then, the front office might delude itself into thinking it is worth keeping the entire crew around for a hapless August run despite the futility of trying to make it from that far out. That might mean that Latos and Haren, who will probably not return to Miami in 2016, will remain for the year.
This would be an abject mistake, but the Marlins' front office would not be new to that sort of rash decision-making.
5. Jose Fernandez will be worth three wins by the end of the year.
In two starts, Jose Fernandez has dominated and been worth half a win according to FanGraphs. He is projected to throw 83 more innings and post a 2.86 ERA and 2.84 FIP, which would be good for 1.8 more wins. That would give him 2.3 wins for the season, which is a fantastic rate on just shy of 100 innings pitched. That would easily be the best starting pitcher mark on the team.
And yet I am going for even more. I think Fernandez will steamroll past the National League en route to a three-win season by year's end. It would be a fantastic way to finish up an ugly 2015, with at least a franchise record broken and franchise phenom putting up sub-2.00 ERAs and lighting the world on fire, even when the rest of the team has doused it in water. #JoseDay is a guaranteed watch every time.