The Marlins appear to be content with the moves they have made this offseason, after the James Shields sweepstakes were wrapped up yesterday. With the additions of Mat Latos, Mike Morse, Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and Martin Prado, the Marlins have their sights set on the postseason in 2015. The most likely, but not entirely likely road for the Fish to secure a playoff birth will be through the Wild Card. The competition will be tough, and plenty; the Cubs, Padres, Pirates, Mets, and Giants all figure to be in the mix for the two Wild Card spots.
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Fan Graphs projects a .500 finish for the Marlins this season, certainly not enough to make the playoffs. On paper, the team is good, but far from great. Question marks surround the roster, especially newcomers Mat Latos and Dee Gordon. Bob Nightengale of USA Today had high praise for the Marlins offseason maneuvers:
"OK, I’ll go ahead and say it. I’m picking the Marlins to be in the World Series. They’ll probably have to get into the playoffs as a wild-card team with the powerful Washington Nationals, but they grabbed an ace in Mat Latos, a durable starter in Dan Haren, and rebuilt their infield with Martin Prado, Dee Gordon and Michael Morse. Don’t forget, they’ll have ace Jose Fernandez back sometime this summer, too.Congrats on your winter, gentlemen. See y’all in October."
His prediction is a bold one, much a result of pure gut feeling and an optimistic viewpoint about the up and coming Fish. However, I wholeheartedly agree.
Analytics are valuable, I will never discount the importance of using advanced statistics to evaluate individual players and make predictions about future performance. When it comes to overall team play however, predictions become tricky. How many people predicted Casey McGehee to hit .320 in the first half last season? Or that the Marlins would win 77 games despite losing Jose Fernandez during the first week of May?
It sounds corny, but you can’t predict magic, you can’t measure chemistry…or luck.
The Marlins were very fortunate in games decided by one run last year. It’s tough to say whether teams that win a lot of one run games are lucky, or whether they have some kind of mental fortitude that allows them to keep fighting and win close games. Either way, the Marlins’ ability to repeat that close game fortune will be crucial in determining how far they’re able to go this season.
It’s simple: the Marlins will be a few games above .500 this year when Jose Fernandez comes back sometime between June 15 and July 15, and he will be the key to propelling his team past the rest of the pack of Wild Card hopefuls. Mat Latos will return to his pre-2014 form, and Dee Gordon will thrive in the gaps-galore Marlins Park. Mike Morse will finally stay healthy at the less demanding first base, and Martin Prado will be every bit as consistent as expected. Giancarlo Stanton is going to finally play an entire season, and hit 45 home runs along the way.
Dan Haren will pitch, and he will be totally “meh,” and that’s just fine. The pitching staff is deep enough, but the success of Jarred Cosart across a full season will be equally as important to this team as anybody else.
But of course, none of that will mean anything if Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna don’t build on the success they found in 2014. Yelich will continue to produce in every facet of the game, and Ozuna will be even better than in his breakout campaign last season.
The Royals showed that winning at the right time is crucial, and the Marlins look to be playing their best baseball late in the season. The Fish are going to ride a heat wave from late August all the way through September, clinching the first Wild Card spot, and we all know what happens when the Marlins make the playoffs.