Have you been following the Marlins this season? It’s OK to say no! Even the most optimistic among us forecasted a losing record for them in 2018, and some fans cannot bear to watch a team that’s doomed for short-term irrelevance.
However, the first three-and-a-half months have been surprisingly entertaining. Freed from any expectations, every win is extra sweet and sustained winning that we’ve witnessed in recent weeks suggests the rebuild is slightly ahead of schedule.
The All-Star break provides a breather for everybody to get on the same page. Regardless of whether you’ve been hooked on every pitch or arrived here only because I laced this article with some tasty SEO tricks, enjoy these 10 stats which have defined the Marlins’ campaign thus far.
FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference are critical to all the analysis we do at Fish Stripes, and that’s especially true in this case. Highly recommend that you use and support those resources.
No. 7 pick
If the season ended right now (which would be weird considering some teams have played as many as 99 games and others as few as 93), the Marlins would select seventh in the 2019 MLB draft. The Royals, Orioles, White Sox, Padres and Mets all have inferior records, while the Tigers own the tiebreaker over the Fish by virtue of their worse 2017 performance.
The only previous time this franchise held the No. 7 pick, the front office used it on left-hander Braxton Garrett.
Two pending free agents
There’s plenty of precedent for this sort of team falling into the abyss after the All-Star break. The veterans largely responsible for their success get dealt to contenders and the replacement-level call-ups struggle to maintain the same standards.
However, the Marlins don’t seem poised for a trade deadline strip-down. Only Brad Ziegler and Cameron Maybin are eligible for free agency next offseason. Almost everybody else will be controllable all the way through 2020.
They are in the enviable position of standing pat unless offered overwhelming prospect packages in return.
When J.T. Realmuto isn’t in the starting lineup, this team has been mostly non-competitive (recent Brewers series aside). That attests to the lack of depth at the catcher’s position as well as Realmuto’s individual brilliance. He finished the first half batting .310/.365/.536 with 145 wRC+ and 3.5 fWAR. No longer our secret superstar.
It’s hard to fathom playing 30-something series and losing at least once in every matchup.
For no particular reason, the Marlins have come closest to sweeping when facing NL West opponents. Their only defeats at the Dodgers and hosting the Rockies were by one run. Also, it took the Giants 16 innings to salvage the final game from their series in Miami.
That total is most among all MLB teams and a dramatic surge from 2017, when the Fish only used seven for the entire season. The franchise record of 29 from the brutal 1998 post-fire sale mess seems out of reach, but expect Zac Gallen, Magneuris Sierra and others to join the party between now and September’s roster expansion.
One of those rookies, Caleb Smith, leads the Marlins in W’s. You will not find anybody less interested in individual pitcher wins than me, but this stat is straight up amusing.
Smith is done for the season following shoulder surgery. Drew Rucinski is next in line with four wins, and he’s on the disabled list, too. No healthy Miami pitcher has more than three!
45.9 percent stolen base success rate
It’s like watching a totally different sport. This combines Marlins baserunners and their opponents. They have turned stolen base attempts into a coin-flip proposition despite a league-wide success rate that annually hovers north of 70 percent.
8.64 earned run average
Pretty horrific, right? That’s merely the differential between Wei-Yin Chen’s home (1.83 ERA) and road (10.47 ERA) performance. Combine them and you get a mediocre pitcher whose locked into a starting rotation spot thanks to his onerous contract.
There’s some bad luck involved (.255 BABIP at home, .368 BABIP on road), but the most glaring issue is Chen’s fluctuating home run rate. He has only allowed two long balls in 39 1⁄3 innings at Marlins Park versus nine in 32 2⁄3 road innings.
82 batting orders
At various times this season, Lewis Brinson and Martín Prado have batted leadoff. Garrett Cooper was used in the cleanup spot, even though he has zero major league homers. Tomás Telis(!) joined the lineup on a couple occasions.
Handed a roster of unproven youngsters and veterans with mixed track records, Don Mattingly still finds himself trying to learn how to utilize what he’s got.
As in, No. 1 in Major League Baseball.
Influenced heavily by his dominance with runners in scoring position, Brian Anderson owns a FanGraphs Clutch score of 1.70. Nobody else is in the same ballpark (Kyle Seager ranks second among qualifiers at 1.28).
BA entered 2018 as a probable major league player, but has since demonstrated the well-rounded skill set to be an above-average regular. And that’s looking like a conservative projection.
Anderson’s NL Rookie of the Year campaign is just one of many storylines that will keep us hooked on the Marlins throughout the second half of the summer.