Generally speaking, the 2022 Marlins season is playing out exactly as I envisioned. A franchise that endured 95-plus losses in each of the previous three full-length campaigns has taken a step forward, though a sizable gap still exists between the Fish and legitimate contenders. With 81 games down and 81 games to go, Miami has a 7.1% chance of making the postseason according to FanGraphs and a 10.9% chance according to Baseball Prospectus.
However, when following a team at a granular level, there are always surprises. That’s what holds our attention regardless of the overall quality of play. The Marlins and their individual players can reach certain benchmarks this season that haven’t been reached in recent memory.
At the midpoint of 2022, here are five fascinating Marlins stats that could potentially stay on their current pace through season’s end.
Sandy Alcantara on pace for 246 2⁄3 innings pitched
As Jeff Passan of ESPN recently detailed, “the decline of the starting pitcher” has been a gradual process without an agreed-upon inflection point. Coincidence or not, the leash on starters began shortening dramatically after a Baseball Prospectus research article by Mitchel Lichtman was published during the 2013-14 MLB offseason.
Since then, only David Price (248.1 IP in 2014) has totaled more innings in a season than Alcantara is on pace for. Nobody since Price in 2016 has even reached 230. The Marlins single-season franchise record is 237 1⁄3, set by Kevin Brown in 1997.
Alcantara’s combination of efficiency, stamina and consistency is unrivaled by his peers. Mike Petriello of MLB.com dove into the remarkable workload gap between him and other active pitchers. Lefties and righties are equally helpless against him. The implementation of the universal designated hitter came at the perfect time—Don Mattingly can ride Alcantara as long as he’s effective, regardless of how little run support he receives from the Marlins offense.
What keeps me motivated to continue covering an often-mediocre franchise like the Marlins? Another half-decade of amazing Sandy Alcantara stats.
Jon Berti on pace for 50 stolen bases in 102 games
A utility player who had a significant bout with COVID earlier in the season leads the major leagues in stolen bases. There were understandably doubts about how much production the Marlins could expect from Berti after a concussion wiped out the second half of his 2021 campaign. Turns out that he’s the same as he used to be, except with 2.5 times more aggressiveness on the basepaths. Berti attempted steals in 14% of his opportunities from 2019-2021, according to Baseball-Reference, compared to 35% in 2022.
As impactful as the 32-year-old has been, I would pump the brakes on him sticking as an everyday player throughout the second half of the season. He’s had durability issues dating back to his minor league career (last time he played more than 105 regular season games in a year was 2014). And his bat is quietly cooling down, having gone 1-for-his-last-28 entering Friday.
Berti could provide rarely seen stolen base volume for a part-timer. The last MLB player to swipe 50 bags while playing fewer games than he’s on pace for was rookie Tim Raines in 1981.
Marlins pitchers on pace for 1,380 strikeouts
This stat isn’t as “amazing” as I had anticipated when brainstorming this article earlier in the week. I was counting on just one more punchout on Thursday, which would’ve put the Marlins on pace to establish a new single-season franchise record. Alas, Daniel Castano and the club’s low-leverage relievers laid an egg (3 K in 39 PA vs. Mets).
In 2021, Miami’s arms combined for 1,381 strikeouts, bullying opposing pitchers for 128 of those. Another consequence of the DH was supposed to be more balls in play. It speaks highly of the nasty stuff on the Marlins staff that they’ve been able to offset that, even while Trevor Rogers has regressed and their most highly touted pitching prospects have barely been called upon.
I project more than 690 K’s the rest of the way...as long as the Marlins don’t lean too heavily into being sellers at the trade deadline.
Jesús Sánchez on pace to play 136 games as center fielder
The Marlins sought out to acquire an established center fielder last offseason and failed. There’s no sugarcoating that. They misread the market regarding who was realistically attainable and at what price, and they’ve been stuck relying on sub-optimal internal options instead.
Finding regular playing time for Sánchez was the appropriate plan for this season, but in center field?! Overall, his fielding has been about average according to both outs above average and defensive runs saved, but his occasional mistakes are egregious. It’s fair to wonder if the stresses of the position change have negatively impacted him at the plate (dipping from 116 wRC+ last season to 93 wRC+ this season).
Listed at 222 pounds, Sánchez could become one of the heaviest major leaguers on record to play exclusively in CF over the course of a qualified season.
On pace for 29.4 years old batters’ average age
Not necessarily “surprising” considering the Marlins’ offseason moves. They committed substantial money and prospects to acquire 30-somethings Avisaíl García, Jorge Soler, Jacob Stallings and Joey Wendle. Of course they were going to be treated as high-priority players.
The disappointing part has been how the Marlins have adjusted their roster in response to position player injuries and slumps, usually selecting veteran retreads over prospects with more upside. Willians Astudillo and Erik González—both 30-year-olds—have played 17 and 16 games, respectively. Meanwhile, Lewin Díaz (three games) and Jerar Encarnación (two games) didn’t get to settle in and Charles Leblanc still hasn’t tasted The Show.
This stat from Baseball-Reference is weighted based on at-bats plus games played, so redistributing playing time among active Marlins would also have an impact. Why has it taken Mattingly so long to recognize that Nick Fortes deserves more catching reps than Stallings? How come García has been penciled in as the everyday right fielder throughout his nightmarish first half?
The oldest Marlins team in terms of batters’ average age—the only one older than the current team—was 2005 (29.7 years), featuring Luis Castillo, Carlos Delgado, Mike Lowell and Jeff Conine among others. That roster was blown up the following year, and led by a bunch of youngsters, they scored far more runs in 2006. I am not advocating for another fire sale, but putting full trust in “proven vets” has clearly had its drawbacks.