The Marlins are 27 games into the 2014 season, and while that is certainly a small sample size, the results so far have been better than expected by many across baseball. Miami finishes the month of April by winning 2 games against the N.L. East leading Atlanta Braves. This has extended their record to 13-14. For some perspective on this record, it took the Marlins until May 20th to win their 13th game of the season. During the extra 20 days last year, Miami pushed their loss column to 32. It was a historically bad April for them, but this year has placed them directly in the middle of the pack.
Even though the Marlins currently sit in last place in the East, they are only 4.5 games out of first place. They trail the Philadelphia Phillies by a half a game for fourth place. Another one of the interesting notes of this young season is how good the National League East has been. Miami is the only team under .500. The Phillies are 13-13 while the Washington Nationals and New York Mets are both 4 games above .500. Meanwhile the injury depleted Braves have the third best record in baseball at 17-9. To put this into perspective, the National League Central, the recipients of both Wild Card teams last year, would see the the Marlins in third place of that division, This would place them ahead of the Reds, Pirates, and Cubs, two of the teams that made the playoffs in 2013.
The Marlins have had substantial home and away splits in April. Miami seems to really enjoy playing in the friendly confines of Marlins Park as they have posted an 11-4 record in south Florida. Their struggles on the road have been very real though, to a tune of 2-10. Their pitching has been pretty solid in starts both home and away, but the hitting seems to really be the difference. On the recent 6 game road trip the Marlins averaged less than 3 runs a game. Of course they were only able to win 2 of the 6 games, but even that was an improvement over early season sweeps at the hands of the Nationals and Phillies on the road.
The Marlins pitching came into their season as their strength and has not disappointed. They currently rank 10th in MLB in ERA with a 3.38. That number improves when it is just the starting rotation at a 3.22 ERA. They are 10th in AVG. allowed and 9th in WHIP, showing that they haven’t been particularly lucky or unlucky with their ERA. There is little reason to think that this rotation can’t continue this moving forward.
If you are looking for a surprise on this young season for the Fish, look no further then their hitting. Miami is currently 2nd in the N.L. in batting average at .266. That is an impressive number considering the team hit .231 in 2013. A 35 point increase in batting average is pretty impressive. Last year the Marlins were dead last in the long ball by a bunch. Many people tried to blame the spacious Marlins Park as the reason. More likely it was due to an unhealthy Giancarlo Stanton and an incredibly weak lineup. this year they currently sit 13th in baseball in home runs with 25 already. 4 different players have 4 or more home runs, and 5 players are on pace for more than 20 home runs this season. Last year only 2 players even made it to double digit home runs, and one of those was traded to the Chicago Cubs in the offseason (Justin Ruggiano).
If you examine the moves that the front office made prior to the 2013 season, it is obvious that those failed miserably. I am not going to point fingers at former GM Larry Beinfest, because frankly I don’t know how much control he had with Jeffrey Loria breathing down his neck. Even so, it has to be noted that Jeff Mathis as an everyday catcher and Placido Polanco as an everyday third baseman was a horrible decision in hindsight. Even employing Logan Morrison to man first base has to be looked at as a mistake. But for all the mistakes that were made during that offseason, it appears as though the front office has hit a home run prior to 2014 (sorry, I had to).
They replaced Logan Morrison with Garrett Jones, largely due to LoMo’s inability to stay on the field. Even though it is early, Morrison has played in only 8 games this season sporting an anemic .150 AVG and 0 home runs. Meanwhile Jones has 4 home runs and 13 RBI’s, but maybe even more impressively is hitting .250, but hasn’t been used as a platoon player. Miami continues to send him out against both lefties and righties. Casey McGehee was brought in to man the hot-corner and provide some protection in the lineup for Giancarlo Stanton. All he has done is posted a .368 OBP to go along with 16 RBI’s. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has really gotten into a groove as of late, hitting 5 jacks to go along with a .299 batting average, well higher than predicted.
All of these newcomers have contributed greatly to the Marlins success. As they begin May in the middle of a 9 game home-stand, it is very conceivable that they could be a few games above .500 by the end of it. The real test will be the 2nd and 3rd week’s of May. That is when they will take their first road trip out west to play the Padres, Dodgers, and Giants for 11 straight games. That is when we will get to truly see exactly what the Fish are made of, and how far they have come.