|Sportsbook||Win NL East||Win NL Pennant||World Series|
|Over/Under Season Win Total: 64.5 (BetOnline)|
My expectations were so low for the Miami Marlins last season that they actually exceeded them with a 57-105 record. One of my top NL season win total bets was Miami under. That is rare air for me. I generally don’t want to invest in teams that are supposed to be really good or really bad. There tends to be a really small margin for error because we are simply talking about degrees of being good or being bad. More often than not, I gravitate towards numbers in the 70s or low 80s because those are teams that are more high-variance in nature.
There was no variance for the Marlins. They were not going to win many games. They were locked into a really tough division with the Braves, Nationals, and Mets. As it turned out, the Phillies weren’t as good as anticipated with a .500 record, but the Braves won the division, the Nationals won the World Series, and the Mets had the highest win total of any third-place team with 86.
With 76 head-to-head meetings against those four teams, the Marlins were really up against it. Guess what? They are again. The Marlins had a season win total of 63.5 after winning 63 games in 2018. I actually got a little bit of a sweat at one point with that one, but the Marlins cleared their under by seven games, so my heightened blood pressure was all for naught.
That being said, the alternate standings metrics painted a little bit different of a picture, as the Marlins were four games better than their actual record by Pythagorean Win-Loss, five games better by BaseRuns, and about 3.5 games better by 3rd Order Win%. My sweat was justified in that regard. I really expected this team to have the chance at 110 losses. Fortunately, they were made aware of my position and had single-digit wins in July, August, and September. Miami was 25-55 over the final 80 games. That means that they were actually 32-50 over the first 82. In other words, right on pace to land at 63 wins midway through the season.
If you wanted to know what makes me so leery of playing low win totals, that is exactly why. A team that is essentially 18 games under at the midway point of the season doesn’t need a lot to go right in the second half to go over. Fortunately for us, the Marlins managed to be even worse after the All-Star Break than they were before it, but there were a couple of tense moments as the season played out.
Ultimately, the team really wasn’t very good. They were 16-28 in one-run games and got beaten by five or more runs on 36 different occasions. A winning record against the Phillies (shame on you, Philadelphia) wasn’t enough to keep the Marlins from being one of three teams with 50+ losses against division foes. The others were the Orioles and Tigers. The Tigers lost 18 of 19 to the Indians and 14 of 19 to the Twins. The Orioles were stuck with the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox.
The Mets, Braves, and Nationals combined to outscore the Marlins 297-190. Miami was 14-43 in those 57 games. I wouldn’t expect much better this year and we could even add the Phillies, who lost 10 of the 19 head-to-head meetings, but did outscore Miami by 10 runs in those games.
It’ll be another long year with low attendance in Miami. Is it going to be bad enough to get me to jump in on the under again?
|BaseRuns Run Differential||-184 (3.76/4.90)|
|3rd Order Win% Record||60.4-101.6|
|Record in One-Run Games||16-28|
|Additions: Brad Boxberger, Sean Rodriguez, JT Riddle, Matt Joyce, Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Cook, Pat Venditte, Corey Dickerson, Francisco Cervelli, Matt Kemp, Aaron Northcraft, Christian Lopes, Ryan Lavarnway, Josh A. Smith, Yimi Garcia, Gosuke Katoh, Stephen Tarpley, Diowill Burgos, Angeudis Santos, Jose Estrada, Jonathan Villar, Jesus Aguilar|
|Losses: Wei-Yin Chen, Curtis Granderson, Martin Prado, Neil Walker, Cesar Puello, Bryan Holaday, Hector Noesi, Tyler Heineman, Starlin Castro, James Nelson, Austin Dean, Austin Brice, Kyle Keller, Easton Lucas, Jarlin Garcia, Jose Quijada, Brian Moran, Tyler Kinley, Tayron Guerrero, Julian Fernandez, Josh D. Smith|
I love this offseason for the Marlins. Not only are they a better team with a lot of Major League caliber talent, but they are effectively trying to buy prospects. Sign a free agent to contract, trade the free agent in July, acquire prospects to help what is a pretty barren system.
None of these guys are earth-shattering signings. But they are lottery ticket vouchers. Any one of the guys like Matt Joyce, Brandon Kintzler, Corey Dickerson, Francisco Cervelli, Matt Kemp, Jonathan Villar, and Jesus Aguilar that can stay healthy and be somewhat productive will yield a trade opportunity. It is honestly a brilliant plan for a team that is very clearly the last-place team in the division and a team with limited financial resources to play for big names in free agency.
For those considering a season win total bet on the Marlins, be very mindful of the fact that a lot of these players will be traded in July and there are homegrown or previously acquired players that will also be on the move. This team is going to look vastly different in August.
Nobody is scared by the Marlins lineup, but you have a collection of young guys looking to make names for themselves or grizzled veterans trying to get themselves into a pennant race. Never underestimate the potential of motivated players. The Marlins have an entire roster full of them. That’s not to say that other teams don’t have motivated players. It is simply to say that virtually nothing is guaranteed for anybody on this Miami team.
Corey Dickerson and Miguel Rojas are the only players with guaranteed contracts for 2021. That means that everybody else is playing for arbitration, an extension, or a chance to play for another team that is in a more competitive spot. Miami has $500,000 guaranteed for 2022 and that is the buyout for the Rojas club option year. These guys have to earn every cent.
There weren’t a lot of big earners last season. Brian Anderson is easily the best player on this team and he was the only player to accumulate at least 2.0 fWAR in 2019. He slashed .261/.342/.468 with a .342 wOBA and a 114 wRC+. Only Anderson, Garrett Cooper, Jon Berti, and Bryan Holaday posted wRC+ marks above 100. Remember that wRC+ is park-adjusted, so it does factor in just how bad of an offensive venue Marlins Park is. Anderson hit for more power, despite playing 30 fewer games, and managed to carry career highs in wOBA and wRC+ with a mild K% increase and a big BABIP drop.
Cooper carried a .357 BABIP to be an above average bat. He hit 15 homers in 421 PA, so he did contribute in some ways, but with a 26.1% K%, his .357 BABIP did a lot of heavy lifting, particularly with a below average walk rate. Berti stole 17 bases and also carried a high BABIP at .360 to be above league average. Holaday only had 129 plate appearances.
In other words, this offense was as bad as it seems. The Marlins had one of the league’s lowest walk rates, hit the fewest home runs in baseball, and only the Tigers scored fewer runs.
The lineup has some more potential this season at least. Jonathan Villar has some pop and some speed and will likely be able to carry a high BABIP at the top of the order. Villar’s walk rate actually isn’t that bad for his career and he should provide a nice spark for a team that will likely be a lot more aggressive this season. Villar had a .274/.339/.453 slash with a .335 wOBA, a 107 wRC+, and 24 homers to go with 40 steals. He’s also slated to play center field with very little experience there, so we’ll see how that goes. Sometimes learning a new position negatively impacts a player’s offense.
Corey Dickerson slashed .304/.341/.565 with a .367 wOBA and a 127 wRC+, but he was again limited by injuries. Dickerson had over 500 PA in three straight years before falling back to 279 last season. He battled a lot of injuries early in his career. Dickerson is predominantly a platoon player against righties, but teams see a righty about 70% of the time on average. He’ll provide some value to this lineup and if he can prove he is healthy, he’ll get the biggest non-Anderson return of any player on the roster with that extra year of control if he is traded.
Jesus Aguilar is one season removed from posting a .374 wOBA, a 134 wRC+, and 35 homers for the Brewers. Last season didn’t go all that well for him, as his contact quality tumbled and he really fell off in the power department, but he draws walks, which will help the Marlins lineup tremendously.
Jorge Alfaro hits for power, but nothing else. That makes Francisco Cervelli a pretty good complement, since he carries a high OBP, but hits for no power. Garrett Cooper is a nice bench bat on the short side of the platoon against lefties and Jon Berti had that nice season last year.
Ultimately, though, this is a lineup with a really low ceiling. These are guys that made their way to the Marlins because they are all flawed. Some hit for power and do nothing else. Others don’t hit for power and rely on high averages on balls in play. Some, like Miguel Rojas, are good enough defensively to play every day.
As the veterans are traded, guys like Monte Harrison, Jesus Sanchez, and maybe even Jazz Chisholm will get a chance.
The fences are coming in at Marlins Park. The center field fence is five feet closer and so is the fence in right center. The playing surface will also change to synthetic grass. I guess we’ll see what that means for ground balls in due time.
This is the part about the Marlins that greatly intrigues me and was almost the reason why last year’s under bet didn’t come through. There are some building blocks here. Of course, the Marlins also traded away some of the most interesting guys like Zac Gallen and Trevor Richards, but there are still a lot of fun arms to handicap here.
Sandy Alcantara led the team in fWAR, which is probably surprising with his 3.88 ERA, 4.55 FIP, and 5.17 xFIP. Alcantara did work 197.1 innings and fWAR is a counting stat to a degree, so the fact that he made four more starts and worked 44 more innings than anybody else helped. I’ve talked a lot about Alcantara over the years. He’s got good contact metrics, but they haven’t produced results. He actually rates in the 81st percentile in exit velocity against and the 68th percentile in Hard Hit%.
To his detriment, he doesn’t miss a lot of bats. He also has a slightly elevated walk rate. He’s dependent on defense and that could be a problem for the Marlins this season with some of the fly-by-night acquisitions. Alcantara did hold the opposition to a .296 wOBA in the second half with improved strikeout and walk rates last season. There is a buy sign here.
Caleb Smith does, however, miss a lot of bats. Health is always a question for the southpaw, who doesn’t have the cleanest mechanics and 32% slider usage rate. He generates a ton of swings and misses, but command is an issue, as evidenced by his 33 HR allowed in 153.1 innings of work. He had a 4.52 ERA with a 5.11 FIP and a 5.05 xFIP.
Similarly, Jordan Yamamoto has some of those xFIP concerns as a fly ball guy with some command considerations and a high walk rate. He had a 4.46 ERA with a 4.51 FIP and a 4.89 xFIP. Yamamoto only allowed four earned runs over his first five starts covering 29 innings. Perhaps everything caught up with him after some time to sit and think during the All-Star Break. He had a 6.34 ERA with a 5.51 FIP and a 4.95 xFIP in his last 49.2 innings and that includes a final start with six shutout, one-hit innings and 10 K against the Mets.
Pablo Lopez is the guy that a lot of people in the advanced metrics community like. He throws a power sinker with decent secondaries and average swinging strike rates that haven’t translated to strikeouts. When you look at the raw movement numbers, you see names like Stephen Strasburg, Aaron Nola, and Lance Lynn as comps for velo and movement. You just don’t really see that in the numbers, though Lopez cut his walk rate down last season and made some strikeout strides. The command isn’t there, but if it ever clicks, he may be a guy with a higher ceiling than originally thought.
The Marlins bullpen actually isn’t that bad, but I’m not a big Brandon Kintzler guy. Pitch-to-contact relievers scare me more than anything. Jose Urena should be better if moved to a bullpen role, though it does seem he will start again. Flamethrower Ryne Stanek is really interesting and I’ll always have a soft spot for Adam Conley, though his 2019 was horrible. He went from a respectable 4.09/3.60/3.84 slash in 2018 to last season’s 6.53/5.19/5.41 disaster.
All in all, the Marlins have guys that are interesting to follow to see if they take a leap, and that includes prospects like Sixto Sanchez, Nick Niedert, and Edward Cabrera, but they are probably more interesting for a nerd like me than anything else. Their stats are unlikely to translate to good performances and wins.
Positives & Negatives
The Marlins are the worst team by far in the probably the most balanced division in baseball. Miami has 76 head-to-head meetings with Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington and I cannot imagine that those meetings go well. Last season the Marlins won 24 of those games. I actually set a win total line of 23.5 in my preview last year for those 76 head-to-head meetings and they went over thanks to 10 wins over the Phillies. I’d peg them around the same this season, even with the infusion of MLB talent.
While I mentioned the motivational angles for this team earlier in the write-up, this is also going to create something of an uncomfortable scenario. Guys aren’t going to be here for the long haul and everybody knows it. Once the Trade Deadline does come around, this is a team that will be playing on pins and needles wondering who will go where. The veterans that signed here have to understand the business and know that this is a very real possibility, but these guys are still human, with families to uproot or families to be away from because they are all on one-year deals. It comes with the territory and it is part of the business, but it is still a lot to take in while focusing on a really hard job.
Pick: Under 64.5
You know how the XFL has “Team 9”? A bunch of practice squad dudes just trying to stay in game shape? That’s how I feel about the Marlins lineup. The only guy that is a long-term solution is Brian Anderson. The other guys are part-timers or platoon players. They’re all pretty good at what they do and maybe that eventually creates a good offense, but these are all guys just waiting to leave and go somewhere else. Even Jonathan Villar is a question mark. His 2019 was great, but his 2018 and 2017 were not.
The pitching staff has all the intrigue here and that could be enough to keep Miami competitive. There are things to like about Smith, Alcantara, Urena, Lopez, and Yamamoto. The bullpen might even be decent with a lot of young guys that throw hard or have good stuff.
Unfortunately, you still have to score runs and I don’t think the Marlins will do enough of that. I will not be betting on the Marlins under this season. This is a pick for the guide and one that I do like more than some others, but not enough to put actual dollars on. There is a chance that this cobbled together, patchwork offense is good enough to be competitive early in the season until anybody putting up numbers gets traded. Last year’s team was on pace to fall around here and this year’s team is better.
So, it’s the under in a tough decision with the Marlins likely ticketed for 100 losses and a second half of random, no-name dudes getting the plate appearances. It just won’t be a ticket I’m sweating this season.