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The Phantom of the Marlins

After an embarrassing first quarter of the 2019 season, the Marlins exceeded expectations during the second quarter. What does this tell us about the direction of the franchise?

The Miami Marlins are registered as one entity, Miami Marlins LP. Designated as a limited partnership, the Marlins executives board oversees multiple minor league affiliates and one primary club at the highest levels of Major League Baseball (MLB)...Or so we thought.

Inconsistency in terms of individual performance and club results may have been expected from a cocktail of young players and aging veterans, but the Marlins’ first half of the 2019 season was even more extreme than many expected. Once a team destined to break historic records in futility, they eventually flipped a switch and competed on par with the National League’s best.

Let’s take a look at both editions of this club.

Historically Bad (10-31 W-L Start)

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins faithful were excited heading into the 2019 campaign. Fresh off of an uplifting Spring Training, energetic FanFest, and beautiful ballpark upgrades, there was reason to be cautiously optimistic. Even at the conclusion of their opening series, the Marlins stood at 2-2—they split the series against the contending Rockies, displaying admirable fight and grit.

From there, though, the Fish went on to lose 28 of their next 36 games, yielding a 10-31 W-L record through their first 41 games of the season. These were all of the worst nightmares of the Marlins brass coming into fruition:

  • Attendance figures were understandably awful
  • An offense immune to scoring
  • Core pieces like Jorge Alfaro and Brian Anderson scuffling
  • Regular national headlines put out with the intention of reminding everyone to point the finger and laugh at the Marlins

Times were bleak. While the historically bad quarter of the season showed some signs of positive development (e.g. young pitching staff), there is no denying that a team on pace to lose *pulls out calculator* 122 games was not part of the 2019 plan. Lewis Brinson being demoted was not part of the plan. The lowly attendance—in part due to rebuilding and in part due to the fashion in which the season began—was not part of the plan.

Then, something changed.

The Plan (22-19 W-L)

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Just as many were ready to write this off as a failed Marlins season, signs of progress began shining through. The young pitching staff finally got some support, joined by a suddenly capable offense. The likes of 24 year-old Harold Ramirez, slugging Garrett Cooper, and the resurgence of Alfaro and Brian Anderson led to Miami piling up wins.

Winning series against “contenders” such as Cardinals, Padres, Phillies, Mets, Brewers, and splitting against the Indians made it clear that this was an entirely new team. Forget about the “historically bad” narrative. On the contrary, they were giving skeptics reasons to change their tunes on the rebuild and the Marlins’ plan as a whole.

The additions previously stated, as well as timely contributions from JT Riddle, Bryan Holaday, and others, led to an increase in H/9, HR/9, BB/9 and runs. During that 41-game stretch, Miami played at an 87-win pace. These fans haven’t seen that level of performance maintained over a full season since 2009.

Most importantly, just like that ‘09 team, the Marlins were suddenly fun to watch again!

The third quarter of the campaign is off to a frustrating start, but it’s fair to dream big about what’s next. As the rotation returns to full strength and deserving prospects break through to The Show, this core has the potential to accomplish great things together.