To get a glimpse into how bad the National League East was behind the Washington Nationals, we pay a visit to the Miami Marlins. The 77-win Marlins finished a distant second in the division at 20.0 games out of first place.
The Marlins have hit the reset button this offseason and shipped outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Marcel Ozuna to the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals, respectively, as well as second baseman (now outfielder) Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners. Outfielder Christian Yelich has become the centerpiece to the future.
There was no lack of offense in Miami, as the Marlins hit .267, behind only the Colorardo Rockies, and scored 4.8 runs per game. However, most of the offensive output came from the three players now removed. Stanton belted 59 of the team’s 194 homers, Gordon stole 60 of 91 bases and Stanton and Ozuna combined to drive in 256 of 743 runs. All of that production is now gone.
Miami was one of the best defensive teams in Major League Baseball with a league-low 73 errors, good enough for a .988 fielding percentage. Stanton, Ozuna and Yelich combined for the best wins above average for any outfield trio in MLB at 9.9.
The Achilles heel for the Marlins was pitching. The Miami staff combined for a 4.82 ERA, 13th in the NL. Starter Jose Urena pitched to a 14-7 record and 3.82 ERA, but no other starting pitcher managed an ERA under 4.00. The struggles on the mound didn’t come from allowing too many home runs or even a massive amount of hits. Instead, it was an inability to throw strikes. It makes it easy for hitters to be patient when they’re facing the team with the lowest strikeout to walk ratio in the NL at 1.92. Allowing walks extends innings and allows more at bats. Marlins pitchers faced the second most batters in MLB.
It’s clear where the Marlins need to improve, but with the moves they’ve made this season, it’s tough to know where the offensive output will come. Yelich is a legitimate 20 homer, 20 stolen base threat, but he also had the protection of Stanton, Ozuna and Gordon in the lineup. Without the offensive firepower and threat on the base paths, it’s tough to know if Yelich will be able to duplicate production. Miami might want to look into getting another bat or two in the order in addition to catcher J.T. Realmuto.
With three huge trades complete, the Marlins have brought in a load of prospects, the majority being pitchers. With the long run in mind, the Marlins are building a farm system. The haul could continue to build as Realmuto has voice his displeasure with the offseason moves and requested a trade. As I’ve said before, it’s nice to have a good pitching staff, but you can’t win if you can’t score. And in baseball, there’s no way to convert defensive stops into runs. While I commend Miami for a rebuild, I question the lopsided approach.
Photo by Brigham Berthold