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Not Breaking Bad: The Marlins’ trip to the desert

The Marlins had their last road trip to Chase Field and Coors Field. Were they knocked? Or were they the ones who knocked?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Miami Marlins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

At the request of my closest friends, I began watching the hit series Breaking Bad on Netflix about two months ago. If you have lived under a rock for the past ten-or-so years, as I apparently have, the show highlights the life of a dying chemistry teacher named Walter White, who calls on a former student named Jesse to begin producing and selling methamphetamine.

Spoiler alert: in same tune as movies like Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street, after enjoying relative, quiet success, Walter’s life turns off the rails, as his meth business becomes increasingly pressurized and illicit. I can’t even be jaded here — the series is as good as advertised. 4.5 out of 5 stars, would recommend.

Throughout the entire show, I never actually knew what the term “breaking bad” meant. So I turned to the trustiest source I know, Urban Dictionary, to ascertain the definition.

Whoops, that’s not the right one. Let me try again.

This definition made me think of another cast of characters who were stirring things up in the West as I was watching the show. Who could I possibly be referring to? Of course I’m talking about the Marlins.

Welcome to the Wild Wild West, aka Chase Field and Coors Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. The only thing higher than these stadiums’ park factors is their altitudes.

Thanks to their thin air and lack of humidity, Chase Field and Coors Field are famous for being two of most hitter-friendly (if not the friendliest) parks in the league; a stark contrast to the homes of their NL West rival San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants, Petco Park and AT&T Park.

Early on, many Marlins fans batted their eyes at the interestingly timed road trip at the end of the year. According to recent memory, the season usually simmers down with two or three series of essentially scrimmage games against NL East rivals. But this season it was different; there was the potential for mystery, but we couldn’t know what would happen until we actually got to the final episode of the season.

About halfway through the year, two plot lines began to thicken.

  1. The Los Angeles Dodgers were running away with the West. On July 20, the Dodgers were up by 10.5 games on the second-place Diamondbacks, with no signs of slowing down. With that said, both the Diamondbacks and Rockies were pacing the NL Wild Card lead. Meanwhile, on August 27, the Marlins had won 13 of 16 to pull themselves within 4.5 games of the second Wild Card spot. If the Marlins could continue their hot streak through September, their fate would essentially be in their hands when they traveled out to Arizona and Colorado.
  2. Some guy named Giancarlo Stanton had been hitting a lot of home runs over the course of 2017. After passing first-half phenomenon Aaron Judge, Stanton put the pedal to the metal, hitting his Marlins record 43rd home run on August 14, and his 50th on August 27. For baseball purists, Roger Maris holds the single-season home run record with 61. With two late-season trips to Chase and Coors, the question at the time wasn’t if Giancarlo would homer on the trip, but how many would he hit?

Unfortunately, the end of the story for the Marlins would prove to be anticlimactic. After their fateful night against the Padres, the Marlins would endure a losing skid of mass proportions, eliminating themselves from playoff contention.

As for Big G, he continued to hit home runs. With time running short, Giancarlo found himself standing at 56 big flies before heading West. Seven home runs to tie and eight to break Maris’ record was no short task, but if there were any place to do it, it was Chase and Coors.

Although the Marlins had been eliminated for about a week, the boys still had the chance to cause a stir out in the mountains! Neither the Diamondbacks nor the Rockies had actually clinched a Wild Card berth by the time the Marlins got to them. With the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers hot on the trail, the Marlins had two choices. Would they succumb to the danger? Or would they be the danger? Would they fall short? Or would they break bad?

Batting Statistics

Split Date Hitting Park Factor Record AB OBP SLG OPS R R/G 2B 2B/G 3B 3B/G HR HR/G
Split Date Hitting Park Factor Record AB OBP SLG OPS R R/G 2B 2B/G 3B 3B/G HR HR/G
Chase Field, Coors Field 9/22-9/27 113, 114 2-4 215 0.357 0.470 0.827 39 6.5 20 3.33 0 0 6 1
Home 4/3-9/27 94 40-37 2554 0.325 0.415 0.740 344 4.47 100 1.3 14 0.18 92 1.19
Away 4/3-9/27 N/A 34-47 2907 0.332 0.440 0.773 406 5.01 163 2.01 15 0.19 98 1.21
Average 4/3-9/27 N/A 74-84 5461 0.329 0.428 0.757 750 4.75 263 1.7 29 0.18 190 1.20
Hitting park factor based on 1-year calculation, from

As far as batting, the Marlins broke bad! All signs seem to indicate that they put the bat on the ball quite well. In terms of offensive runs above average, Marcell Ozuna, Derek Dietrich, and Miguel Rojas led the way with .4,.3, and .3 runs each. Although his numbers suffer from slight inflation because he only played in four of the six games, Dietrich racked up a .575 wOBA and a 265 wRC+ over fourteen at-bats. With hits in more than half of his at-bats, Dietrich ran his batting average for the road trip up to .545 and his OBP to .643.

At the macro level, it’s apparent that the Marlins enjoyed hitting during this trip, as all basic metrics came in above average.

An interesting characteristic common to both Chase and Coors is that despite their hitter-friendliness, they are extremely expansive ballparks.

Courtesy of

As you can see, Chase and Coors exchange deeper parts of the yard in a couple of places with Marlins Park. Most notably, Chase and Coors feature flat centerfield walls, angled perpendicular to the batters box. Instead of rounding centerfield, the outfield juts out to deep pockets in both left-center and right-center field. This creates a haven for doubles and triples. Although the Marlins never registered a triple, they hit an impressive 20 doubles over the six games.

The only category other than triples that the Marlins seemingly underperformed in was the home run category. Giancarlo disappointingly only hit one home run over the six games. He now sits at 58. Whereas the Marlins strike for more than one home run on average, the long ball was effectively limited by the Snakes’ and Rockies’ pitchers.

And with that being said, there should be no mistake — the Marlins didn’t hit well all of the time on the trip. Two days after Patrick Corbin limited the Fish to two runs in the last game of the Arizona series, Tyler Anderson would play a big role in completely blanking the Marlins in a 6-0 loss.

Nevertheless, the Marlins came to the West guns blazin’, scoring 12 and 11 in their first two games, respectively. The Marlins scored 39 runs over six games; that averages out to 6.5 runs per game, and about 1.5 more than they usually score per game on the road.

It makes you wonder, with all of this offense, how did the Marlins manage to go 2-4?

Pitching Statistics

Split Date Pitching Park Factor Record Games ERA 2B 2B/G 3B 3B/G HR HR/G BB BB/G K K/G
Split Date Pitching Park Factor Record Games ERA 2B 2B/G 3B 3B/G HR HR/G BB BB/G K K/G
Chase Field, Coors Field 9/22-9/27 112, 114 2-4 6 7.64 13 2.17 2 0.33 12 2 34 5.67 37 6.17
Home 4/3-9/27 94 40-37 77 4.16 118 1.53 19 0.25 75 0.97 299 3.88 603 7.83
Away 4/3-9/27 N/A 34-47 81 5.52 157 1.94 17 0.21 113 1.4 311 3.84 573 7.07
Average 4/3-9/27 N/A 74-84 158 4.84 275 1.74 36 0.23 188 1.19 610 3.86 1176 7.44
Pitching park factor based off 1-year calculation, by

Playing in a hitter’s ballpark is a double-edged sword. It’s all fun and games until your own pitching staff has to toe the rubber.

While Marlins pitching gave up seven less doubles than opposing pitching, opposing hitting compensated for the difference by hitting twice as many home runs as the Marlins, as well as two triples. Dan Straily and Odrisamer Despaigne turned in the only good starts of the series. Despite having the highest fly ball percentage of the staff, Despaigne was the only starter in the rotation who earned a win.

The starters earned an ERA- and FIP- of 241 and 173 — that is, their ERA and FIP was 141 percent and 73 percent worse than the league average ERA and FIP, after adjusting for park factors. The ERA- and FIP- for the bullpen came in at 128 and 150.

To bookend a forgettable season, Adam Conley bottomed out on the road trip, accruing just three innings pitched over two starts, and allowing 13 earned runs. It’s been tough to see Conley endure his struggles in a year when he really could have earned his salt with the team. It’s really going to sting in like seven years, when he turns into Andrew Miller and becomes one of the best closers in the game.

Despite the fact that the Dillon Peters took it on the chin from the D-Backs, the Marlins came back to beat the Snakes 12-6. Still, Peters allowed five earned runs over four innings. Jose Urena also allowed six runs over his five frames.

Overall, the Marlins’ achilles heel was the walk. Todd Hollandsworth prefaced it often this past week; in a place like Chase or Coors, where anyone can do damage with the bat, the last thing a team trying to win a ballgame can do is put runners on base for charity. The Marlins walked 34 batters over six games — almost more than three batters more than average. No sabermetrics necessary; putting guys on base for free will hurt your team.

At the end of the day, I think the 2017 Marlins are a lot like Walter White. They both had the tools to be really great. The Marlins had one of the best outfields in baseball, and overall an above-average lineup, and Walter White had the perfect cover and skill set to be the greatest meth cook ever.

However, in Breaking Bad, just when you thought Walter could settle in, get comfortable, and just stockpile his drug money, something went wrong. This year, it seems like the Marlins were in the same predicament. Right around August, after the aforementioned sweep of the Padres — when it seemed like the Marlins could ride momentum into the second Wild Card spot — something went wrong, and the Marlins plummeted.

Although the Marlins did not break bad against the Rockies and Diamondbacks, they are not done yet. Just as Walter White did, the Marlins can end their season with a smidgeon of redemption in their season finale against the Atlanta Braves. The Marlins are an unimpressive 5-10 against the Braves in what is presumptively their last year as a rebuilding team. The Braves have also walked off on the Marlins somewhere in the ballpark of five times. There’s no postseason for the Marlins, and there is no postseason to spoil for the Braves. But if the Marlins can finish the season with a sweep or take three of four, they may end 2017 with a smile on their face.

Statistics courtesy of and