Hiring MLB’s controversial home run king Barry Bonds as a hitting coach in December 2015 for the following season generated quite a stir across the league, yet, the Marlins could not translate all of his expertise into results. Ten months later, after a 79-82 season mired by offensive inconsistency, Bonds was told to pack his bags.
Whatever the reason for the final decision to end Bonds’ tenure with the Marlins, it is obvious that a lack of improvement will have been a major factor. When taking into consideration the Major League average for runs scored, Miami only improved its offensive output, compared to the league mark, by five runs last season (75 runs below average in 2015, 70 below in 2016).
This was hugely disappointing for a team with legitimate playoff potential at the start of the year, and a roster containing 2015 batting champion Dee Gordon and former MVP runner-up Giancarlo Stanton, who was on pace for 60 home runs in 2015 before going down with a hand injury.
The fate of both of those players in 2016 has been well documented. Gordon started the year slow, hitting .266 over 94 at bats, before being suspended for 80 games for violating the league’s PEDs policy. When he returned, he failed to recapture his form from 2015, and only reached a .305 OBP by the end of the year.
Stanton would endure injury troubles for the third season in a row, but struggled at the plate regardless, posting the lowest OPS, .815, of his career. Emerging star Justin Bour also missed a lot of time through injuries, and the bench players who took his spot in the lineup for 72 games really struggled to make an impact.
In short, everyone on the roster except Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto, Martin Prado, Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Dietrich, and (first-half) Marcell Ozuna had years to forget at the plate. When one realizes that two of those names belong to bench players, it is easy to see why 2016 was a bad year at the office for Marlins batters.
Miami is counting on those players who suffered down years to rebound sharply in 2017, as evident by the fact that every big league signing or acquisition this winter, aside from veteran backup catcher A.J. Ellis, was a pitcher.
While the Marlins have tried their hardest to assemble a competitive pitching staff, the unit will most likely take a step back, overall, from last year, putting even more pressure on the hitters to perform from the get-go.
Miami has thrown many new names into the mix this winter, but none of them will have a significant impact on the offensive output of this club. It is up to the likes of Stanton, Gordon and Bour to regain their form from past seasons, and Yelich, Realmuto and Prado to carry their momentum from 2016 into the new season in order for the Marlins to be competitive.
If not, the Marlins will have only taken a step back since the end of last season, and the new signings, and all the money spent, will have been for nothing.