With the Miami Marlins finally back in the playoff race, we all start to think back to 2003. If you are not familiar with what happened in 2003, it is the year that “In da Club” by 50 Cent topped the billboard charts, and of course the year that the Florida Marlins won the World Series.
It is now 2016 and the Marlins still have not made the playoffs since then, so this may be the year we get to see Miami again play important games in October.
There are actually some similarities between this Marlins team and the champions from 2003, so I took a look at how the two teams compare across the board.
The 2016 Marlins currently hold a 64-59 record through 123 games, which puts them on pace for a record of 84-78. The 2003 team finished the season at 91-71, and was four games better through 123, with a record of 68-55. But, just like the current Marlins, the 2003 had very slim chances at winning the division throughout the entire season, due to the 101-win Atlanta Braves team that took home the NL East title.
Just like the 2003 Marlins, the 2016 team will most likely have to get into the playoffs via the wild card, and the second wild card spot now makes it a little easier.
One reason that both teams got themselves into a hole in the division race is that they both, to varying degrees, got off to slow starts. This year’s team started the season at 5-11, but then went on to win 11 of its next 12 and got back on track. The 2003 Marlins got off to an even slower start, going 19-29 in their first 48 games and only 40-41 in the first half of the season. The team then picked it up in the second half, going 21-8 in its final 29 games en route to a wild card berth.
The two big split records that made the 2003 Marlins so successful were the record against the rest of the NL East and the record in one-run games. The Marlins were 48-28 against the rest of the east and 30-23 in one-run affairs. The 2016 Marlins have had solid success in one-run games, going 17-16 so far this season, but their 22-28 record against the NL East is concerning.
That .632 winning percentage against the east for the 2003 team was very important to its success. Not only did they beat up on the teams at the bottom of the division, but they also had a winning record (10-9) against the first-place Braves. This year’s team has also had success against the first place team (6-7 against the Nationals), but are only 11-14 against the bottom two teams, including a dismal 4-8 record against the now last place Braves. It is critical that the Marlins turn it around this season against worse competition if they want to make the playoffs.
Both the 2003 and 2016 Marlins teams were not necessarily led by offense. Both teams have had an offense that was around the league average. The 2003 team averaged 4.64 runs per game while the current Marlins have averaged 4.27 runs through 123 games. The 2016 team has better batting average and on-base numbers, but the 2003 was better with slugging percentage and home runs. Considering some “other” factors back in 2003, the offense for each team is about equal.
The 2003 team was more about team speed and small-ball. They led the league in stolen bases with 150 (many of those from Juan Pierre, but four others stole 10+ bases) while the 2016 team has only stolen 46 bases through 123 games. The 2003 Marlins were also second in the league in sacrifice bunts with 82, while the 2016 team has only laid down 35.
The 2003 World Series champions were led by their starting rotation. All five of their starters pitched to an ERA below 4.31, with three of those guys having an ERA under 3.60. Along with the bullpen, the team posted a 4.04 ERA, good for 11th in Major League Baseball. The staff allowed only 128 home runs, which was the second best mark in baseball, and struck out seven batters per nine innings, good for fifth. They had the third best FIP in the league, which roughly shows that they would have had the third best staff in baseball given average conditions.
This current Miami team also has strong pitching and has had success in the same areas. Their 3.97 staff ERA is good for ninth in baseball and the 112 home runs they have allowed so far are the fewest in the league. Their 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings also put them at fourth in baseball. The problem with the 2016 staff is the walks. They have allowed 3.7 walks per nine innings, good for second-worst in the league, a problem that the 2003 staff did not have.
The 2016 starting rotation has also had some injury problems, with Wei-Yin Chen and Adam Conley currently on the DL, and the fill in guys, whether from the minors or through trade, have not been great. Here are the stats of those fill-in starters.
|5||SP||Justin Nicolino* (40-man)||24||2||5||5.57||12||12||64.2||83||41||40||8||16||30||2||72||4.66||1.531||11.6||1.1||2.2||4.2||1.88|
The five starters for the 2003 team made most of the starts, but even the guys who filled in were solid and, more importantly, no worse than the original starting pitchers. Here are their stats from 2003.
Although the starting pitching may have been better for the team in 2003, this year’s Marlins team does have the better bullpen. Miami’s 2016 bullpen ERA through 123 games is 3.67, which ranks 11th in baseball. They have also struck out 432 batters (ranks 4th) and allowed an opponent’s batting average of .235 (ranks 7th). The 2003 bullpen, however, pitched to a 4.31 ERA which ranked 18th and opponents hit .265.
With all of the numbers together, the 2016 Marlins are not that far off from the 2003 World Series Champion Florida Marlins. But, this year’s Marlins team is going to have to go on a nice run in September, just like the 2003 team did, if they want to get to the postseason for the first time in 13 years.