After being a historically bad team on offense in 2013, the Miami Marlins appear to have made a remarkable improvement so far in 2014. Consider that the 2013 Marlins scored only 513 runs, which was 89 runs worse than the second to last Chicago Cubs scored. They were the only team to hit less than 100 home runs, the only National League team to post a sub.300 On Base Percentage (OBP), one of only two National League teams to finish with a sub .300 weighted On Base Average (wOBA). Well, you get the picture; the 2013 Marlins couldn’t hit a lick.
Turn the page to 2014 and, through 16 games at least, the Miami Marlins are not only much better offensively, they are one of the best hitting clubs in the National League. The Marlins currently rank 3rd in runs scored with 76 behind only the Colorado Rockies and the Washington Nationals. Their .336 OBP and .329 wOBA both also rank third in the NL. They are fifth in slugging percentage with a .408 mark despite having played most of their games so far in spacious Marlins Park.
The turnaround has come as a result of contributions from both holdovers and new additions to the ball club. Giancarlo Stanton has gotten off to probably the best start of his career with 5 home runs and a .404 wOBA. New comers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Casey McGehee have contributed with .382 and .372 OBPs, respectively. Plus an unexpected boost has come from second baseman Derek Dietrich whose .460 wOBA currently ranks 4th best in the National League among hitters with at least 30 plate appearances.
The question, of course, is whether they will be able to keep this up for the entire season or is this just a fluky hot start. Unfortunately, there are indicators that there may be a good amount of luck involved in the hot start. A quick look at the teams Batting Average On Balls In Play (BABIP) shows that the Marlins lead the NL with a .340 mark. When you consider that the 2013 NL leader in this stat were the always offensively charged Colorado Rockies with a .317 mark, it seems unlikely that the Marlins will be able to keep up that pace for the entire season. Mark Simon from ESPN also provides this chart on hard hit balls, further indicating that the Marlins have been quite lucky:
Graphing batting average vs hard-hit ball rate …you want to be in the upper right corner pic.twitter.com/eoGBMq0QCK
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) April 18, 2014
On an individual basis, both Saltalamacchia and McGehee are way exceeding their career averages with BABIPs of .400 and .383, respectively. Youngsters Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna currently have over .400 BABIPs and even light hitting Adeiny Hechavarria is carrying a .345 mark. In other words, look for all of these guys to cool down as the season play out.
However, even with some regression from the torrid pace the team is currently on, all signs already point to a much better offensive team than in 2013. Even if this club could stay in the middle of the pack of the NL in offense, it would be an outstanding improvement from the misery they experienced just a season ago.
Do you think this Marlins team will be able remain a top 5 offense all season? Or will they fade back to the bottom of the pack once some of the hitters cool off?