Last Updated: 2019-03-04
Isn’t it always funny when people yell at you about spoiling a movie? If you didn’t know the ending of Titanic already, that’s on you. Couldn’t figure out Armageddon? Not my problem. We’re not going to get an “Einhorn is Finkle” moment from the Miami Marlins in 2019. They’re going to be really bad and get a very low score on the baseball equivalent of Rotten Tomatoes. Sorry. Spoiler alert.
On the bright side, the Marlins didn’t trade away a player of Christian Yelich’s caliber this offseason, but they did trade arguably the best catcher in baseball in JT Realmuto. In every other division except the NL East, there is a path for last year’s fifth-place finisher to move up in the standings. That won’t happen in the NL East. The Marlins will finish dead last and they could very well finish more than 13.5 games behind the fourth-place team.
The Marlins won two straight games after last year’s All-Star Break to improve to 43-57 after 100 games. They went 20-41 the rest of the way. The saddest part about all of it is that the Marlins ranked 10th in average age according to the Batter Age calculation at Baseball-Reference. They were eighth on the pitching side, but this wasn’t some full-fledged youth movement of guys getting their feet wet at the big league level to finish out the season. The only 25 and under regulars were Lewis Brinson and Brian Anderson on the offensive side and Elieser Hernandez and Trevor Richards on the pitching side.
Personally, I felt like the Marlins could have been more aggressive in revamping the roster last year by trading guys like Adam Conley, Drew Steckenrider, and even Realmuto. The trade of Yelich set the stage for what kind of season it was going to be and the shedding of payroll further cemented the fact that the ownership group paid way too much for the franchise. Major League Baseball made a serious mistake in allowing this group to buy the team, but you reap what you sow and now MLB has an absolute bottom feeder with $23 million in guaranteed contracts for 2020 and exactly zero guaranteed dollars on the books for 2021.
Obviously they’ll put players on the field that will cost money, including some of the arbitration-eligible guys, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that we’re looking at a $60 million payroll just before the CBA expires and baseball has a labor stoppage (maybe, probably).
The sad thing is that this rotation doesn’t appear to be all that bad and the bullpen has a few interesting pieces, but it is a team destined to win less than 70 games from the jump. And who knows who else will be traded over the course of the year?
With four division rivals all capable of finishing with winning records, the under is obvious, right? Right?!
Season Win Total Odds
2018 Standings Data
Actual Record: 63-98
Run Differential: -220
Pythagorean W/L: 58-103
BaseRuns Record: 61-100
BaseRuns Run Differential: -179 (3.64/4.76)
3rd Order Win% Record: 63.1-97.9
Record in One-Run Games: 19-21
Additions: Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez, Will Stewart, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Sergio Romo, Austin Brice, Rosell Herrera, Riley Ferrell, Julian Fernandez, Santiago Chavez, Pedro Alvarez, Jon Berti, Deven Marrero, Dixon Machado, Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr., Harold Ramirez, Gabriel Guerrero, Hector Noesi, Nick Anderson, RJ Alvarez, Brian Moran, Tyler Stevens, Jordan Milbrath
Losses: Dillon Peters, Derek Dietrich, JT Realmuto
The long-anticipated trade of JT Realmuto came through and the Marlins did pretty well grabbing a replacement catcher in Jorge Alfaro and a top prospect in Sixto Sanchez. Realmuto’s value to another team was worth more than his value to the Marlins, so grabbing an immediate top prospect that isn’t that far from the big leagues was a nice pull.
The Marlins also did a lot to position themselves for brothers Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa. Though unproven, VV Mesa is already a top-10, borderline top-five, prospect and his brother, who is only 17, has a high ceiling as well.
More teams should do what the Marlins are doing. Getting guys like Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, and Sergio Romo to eventually trade at the deadline allows the Marlins to be more competitive in the future.
Derek Dietrich is an underrated, versatile player and he will be missed. The Marlins will be open for business again as the season wears along, so this transaction list will get much longer. Guys like Granderson, Romo, Walker and Martin Prado are a lock to be traded, if healthy, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see the Marlins try to move some salary if guys like Wei-Yin Chen or Starlin Castro perform well.
BA: .237 (26th)
OBP: .303 (25th)
SLG: .357 (30th)
wOBA: .289 (30th)
wRC+: 83 (29th)
BABIP: .293 (19th)
K%: 22.8% (21st)
BB%: 7.5% (24th)
The Marlins should send a fruit basket to the Giants. San Francisco was the only team worse than Miami in the wRC+ department, though the Marlins set a high bar for futility in the SLG and wOBA categories. In fairness to the Marlins, their home ballpark suppresses offense about as much as any yard in baseball. On the road, the Marlins were 23rd in wOBA at .296 and 23rd in wRC+ at 83.
By no means are those good numbers away from home, but they are obviously superior to the team’s performance in South Florida. Basically, if you’re expecting the Marlins to take a step forward offensively anytime soon, they’re really going to have to overcome the park factor and that will be hard to do.
For the second straight year, the Marlins traded their best player. First it was Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees and now JT Realmuto to the Phillies. Behind Realmuto, Brian Anderson played really well with 3.4 fWAR and Starlin Castro had 2.3 fWAR. Nobody else exceeded 1.0 fWAR among position players and that was journeyman utility guy Miguel Rojas, who was 21 percent below league average offensively. His value was entirely tied to his defensive abilities.
Anderson is a solid player. The power tool hasn’t shown up yet, and it may not, but he makes a lot of quality contact and also works counts. His .400 SLG dragged down his wOBA and wRC+, but a .357 OBP is quite strong. Surprisingly, Anderson’s home/road splits did not indicate that Marlins Park hurt him, so I’m skeptical about a power breakout this year. Castro is just a professional ballplayer. He went from uber-hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium to the graveyard at Marlins Park. Castro’s OBP was much higher at home, but his SLG was 40 points higher on the road.
Peter O’Brien hit 30 HR in just 421 minor league plate appearances and added four more in 74 PA with the Marlins. It was his first MLB action since 2016 with the Diamondbacks. There’s some potential here, but there may not be a position. Lewis Brinson, the primary piece in the Christian Yelich deal with the Brewers, was awful. He posted a .199/.240/.338 slash with a .248 wOBA and a 56 wRC+ in 406 plate appearances. It would be a big help if he found a way to get his minor league success to translate to the big leagues.
The Marlins will at least have some professional, big-league caliber plate appearances from guys like Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, and the aforementioned guys. There really isn’t much beyond that and the park factor will likely cut down the numbers from the guys with track records. Anderson is the only guy projected for more than 1.6 fWAR, so it will be another long season for this offense.
ERA: 4.76 (25th)
FIP: 4.57 (24th)
xFIP: 4.65 (28th)
K%: 20.0% (25th)
BB%: 9.7% (27th)
LOB%: 69.9% (28th)
Finishing in the bottom seven in all of these categories with one the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball was an embarrassment for the Marlins. This was a team that I actually felt had a pretty strong bullpen, though it was clear from the jump that the rotation wasn’t going to be able to hold up its end of the bargain.
How much does Marlins Park matter? The Marlins allowed a 3.56 ERA, a 4.01 FIP, and a 4.47 xFIP at home. They did not pitch well overall, but the power suppression and the ninth-ranked LOB% allowed this Miami staff to actually avoid being in the bottom of all of those above categories. Whether or not that is sustainable for this season or not, with almost a full run’s worth of difference between ERA and xFIP, is something I can’t answer, but I would assume that the Marlins struggle a little bit more.
Not a single Marlins pitcher managed 2.0 fWAR. Jose Urena came the closest with 1.8 and a 3.98 ERA, a 4.17 FIP, and a 4.32 xFIP. Trevor Richards was a breath of fresh air last season with over a strikeout per inning in his 25 starts. Caleb Smith was also electric before injuries cut his rookie season short with a 4.19/3.96/4.42 pitcher slash. I’m not really on board with Urena, Wei-Yin Chen, or Dan Straily, but I can get behind Richards and Smith.
As you can see from the home/road splits, it really is imperative for the guys on this staff to miss bats and Richards and Smith were the only ones that really showcased that type of upside and the only starters that will again this season.
The bullpen is a bit weaker without Kyle Barraclough, who actually had an awful year for the Marlins, but Drew Steckenrider, who was also on the block last season, is the favorite to close, with power arm Tayron Guerrero and savvy vet Sergio Romo in the primary setup roles. Adam Conley is a highly underrated reliever that was great against lefties with a .257 wOBA against and more than passable against righties with a .295 wOBA against.
The Marlins just don’t have much to get excited about here either. Richards and Smith are the two most intriguing arms, but Smith missed a chunk of last season with arm problems. That’s never good and he may even start the year in the bullpen, which is worse.
Positives & Negatives
There are no positives about this team. The other four teams in the NL East are all very good, so the Marlins are really going to struggle in those 76 division games. Add in an NL Central where all five teams are competent and the NL West, which has the best team in the league and a good Rockies bunch…it’s all bad.
The Marlins have $23 million on the books committed for 2020 and exactly zero guaranteed dollars in 2021. This ownership group was in over its head from the start and has been doing everything possible to jettison players making legitimate dollars. Castro has a club option for 2020, but I’d be surprised to see the Marlins pick it up. Chen is the only guaranteed contract. The veteran free agents are on one-year rental deals. This will be an extremely young team in August and September.
Pick: Under 63.5
I’ve talked at length on these virtual pages about not having much interest in betting the ends of the spectrum. Good teams will be good. Bad teams will be bad. The teams in the middle with a larger range of outcomes are where we can make our money.
The Marlins are the exception. With 76 grueling games coming against division foes representing over 47 percent of the schedule, there are serious concerns here. The Marlins were a respectable 38-43 at home last season. The Marlins were 16-21 at home against the NL East last season when the division had one team with a winning record and one at 82-80. With much higher expectations across the board, I’d be surprised if the Marlins do that again.
This is a gamble I’m willing to make on a bad team because the Marlins are in a terrific division and are going to be selling off the majority of their competent hitters as the year goes along. I actually speculated on Twitter what a win total line would be for the 76 NL East games and thought 23.5 might be too high. The Marlins might post an Orioles-esque record this season with 110+ losses.
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