Miami Marlins fans must be scratching their heads in confusion, trying to figure out how it’s possible that their team is excelling in so many important statistical measures, yet somehow they remain below .500 and are currently No. 4 in the NL East. On an individual basis their numbers are stellar, putting them right up there with some of the best teams in baseball, but collectively, the team is finding it difficult to secure victories.
A rough patch against the Washington Nationals and the last place Philadelphia Phillies saw them lose eight straight games, dropping them near the bottom of the division. All is not doom and gloom just yet for the Marlins. Currently, they are only two games below the .500 mark, which should leave them optimistic about their chances of bouncing back. In spite of their losing streak and the sub-par record, the Marlins are ranked third in MLB in hitting, posting a team batting average of .279. They are first in on-base percentage at .348, third in total runs and fifth overall in slugging percentage of .425. At the plate, they are led by outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton. The two of them have been hitting machines in the early going, with Stanton, the 6’6 slugger currently hitting .315, belting six HR’s and driving in 26 runs. “I’m not trying to do too much,” Stanton said, when asked about his early season success. “I’m just relaxed and understanding the situations, and putting the bat on the ball.” To add to Stanton’s success, Ozuna has also had a hot bat through the first 18 games of the season. His .343 batting average is twelfth in the majors, while his OBP of .375 is good enough to put him at the twenty mark.
So, what is the issue? Pitching? Not entirely. The pitching staff is posting a respectable 3.71 ERA, and currently ranks fifth in quality starts. However, the bullpen is the biggest question mark at the moment. They have given up six late inning homeruns, including four game-winning blasts. While starting pitching has been hit and miss, starting right-handed pitcher, Tom Kohler has only given up four earned runs in 19 innings pitched, good enough for a 1.89 ERA. His last outing was a beauty—a dominating performance on Tuesday in which he threw seven scoreless innings and allowed just one run in the victory over the Nationals.
On paper the Miami Marlins are a team that should be well above the .500 mark, but baseball is more than statistics, and the confusion becomes clearer when you start adding up things like late inning home runs and errors. They are currently last in the majors in errors with 16, a statistic that is always bound to come back and bite a team in the end. The good news for the Marlins is that they have one of the hottest sluggers in the league with Stanton, a pitching staff that could use a few tweaks here and there, but overall a solid ball club that can make a run at the NL East.
Commentary by Johnny Caito