Miami Marlins: Offense, not Steve Cishek, not Manager Holding Marlins Back

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The Miami Marlins got off to a 3-11 start and now own a 16-24 record, 40 games into the season. As is the norm when a team is losing, blame and pointing of fingers to find the issue usually manifests itself.

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This is no different for the Marlins. The team cut catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on April 27th, just 9 games into his season. He was the first scapegoat. The second was almost made around the same time, in manager Mike Redmond, after the Fish were swept by the New York Mets.

Instead, Redmond found his own scapegoat, saving his ass a little, pinning a lot of the Marlins issues on closer Steve Cishek. Cishek, who has struggled this season, owns a 8.22 ERA and 4.90 FIP in 15 innings of work this season. While those are certainly not closer material numbers, 15 innings is not a huge sample size for a guy that’s been among the top closers in the league the past couple of seasons.

The Marlins bullpen has often been under fire for not pitching well this season, but they own a 3.04 FIP, the 4th best mark in baseball. They have been unlucky with their BABIP (.330) and their left on base percentage (68.2%).

Finally, when the Miami Marlins couldn’t right the ship after 38 games, the team decided to scapegoat manager Mike Redmond and bring in a “new voice” in former GM Dan Jennings. Whether Jennings is the answer at manager is still up in the air.

The team has gone 0-2 since Jennings took over, which proves the manager was never the issue. Cishek, while he’s been horrendous this season, is not the main issue with the Marlins this season, either. Neither was Jarrod Saltalmacchia, although he was a contributor to the team’s biggest flaw.

Their offense.

Coming into play today, the Miami Marlins do not rank well at all in any category at the plate (all numbers taken from Fangraphs.com):

  • 4th fewest home runs (26)
  • 10th lowest walk rate (6.9%)
  • 7th highest strikeout rate (21.4%)
  • 3rd lowest ISO (.111)
  • 8th worst wRC+ (86) and OPS (.684)
  • 15th best in base running (0.1)

So tally that up: the Marlins don’t hit for power, don’t walk, strike out too much, and don’t add much value on the basepaths. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Offensively, the Marlins are only above league average or near it at 4 of the 8 offensive positions. Dee Gordon leads the charge with 151 wRC+, Giancarlo Stanton is at 128, Marcell Ozuna is at a 103, and Adeiny Hechavarria is improving with a 99 wRC+.

Ozuna is right along where the projection systems peg him and Stanton is underperforming his talent level by a little. ZiPS projects a 98 wRC+ for Dee the rest of the season, which is acceptable from a second baseman, but well below what he’s doing now. And Adeiny Hechavarria is projected for a 78 wRC+ the rest of the season, which is still a step above his career offensive ineptitude.

So while these 4 are doing well as of now, two of them are projected to hit a brick wall, in hard fashion, very soon.

Giancarlo has 12 home runs on the season, and the majority of them are coming in Marlins’ losses. That’s not a good sign for the team.

On the flip side, the Marlins have 5 players underperforming at their other 4 positions. The bad news for the Marlins, three of those four positions are normally known for this offense.

The Marlins have a 37 wRC+ behind the plate as a team, with rookie catcher J.T. Realmuto clocking in at a 56 wRC+. While Realmuto has been an upgrade behind the plate defensively, he’s still not developed offensively at this point. This is why I preferred the team keeping Salty a bit longer and not putting all their eggs into Realmuto’s basket.

ZiPS projects Realmuto to hit to a tune of a 74 wRC+ the rest of the season, so he will improve, but not enough to make a huge difference in the Marlins lineup.

Jeff Mathis (who is out with an injury right now) and Jhonatan Solano are the only catchers in the Marlins organization the team can call on behind Realmuto. Neither are threats offensively and the Marlins would have been better off with Saltalmacchia on the team right now, as I’ve expressed before.

Michael Morse was supposed to be the answer for the Marlins at first base after a failed 2014 season from Garrett Jones. Unfortunately, Morse has not been much of an answer at all. He owns a 53 wRC+ and has struck out in 28% of his plate appearances. That’s not good from an offensive dependent position. 

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  • First base might be the simplest solution for the Marlins if Morse cannot get going, as they can platoon Jeff Baker and Justin Bour at the position and get plenty of offense that way. Problem is, Morse is signed for two seasons, so the Marlins are not going to give up on him too early, especially since they already ate so much money with Salty and Redmond being thrown out of Miami.

    Morse is projected a 96 wRC+ the rest of the season. However, with him looking a step slow at the plate on fastballs and sliders, I am not inclined to believe he will be able to get to that level of offense again.

    Martin Prado has been a disappointment for the team, posting a 78 wRC+ early on and striking out at a career high pace of nearly 15% and walking at a career low rate of 4.2%.

    ZiPS projects a 94 wRC+ the rest of the way for Prado, still well below his career mark of 107. That’s even more unimpressive as a third baseman. I still do believe in Prado’s chances of bouncing back and the Marlins have no real alternatives behind him.

    Behind Prado, the Marlins only have Donovan Solano, Reid Brignac, and Don Kelly as second base options. The team has passed over Derek Dietrich too many times for me to believe he’s in the future cards. The team needs Prado to step up or they’ll be in trouble.

    Finally, Ichiro Suzuki and Christian Yelich have combine for a 68 wRC+ in left field, another position normally known for its offense. Yelich comes in with a 44 wRC+ and back problems seem to be his biggest flaw this season. He’s struck out in over 28% of his plate appearances. He’s tied with Morse with the worst fWAR on the team, coming in at -0.6.

    ZiPS projects a 107 wRC+ the rest of the way for Yeli and I’m inclined to believe that. Yelich has done nothing but hit in his short professional career. Yelich has been notorious for being a high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) guy with a career .354 mark. He’s at .255 this season and as that number rises, so will the rest of his stats.

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    Ichiro has already racked up 112 plate appearances for the Marlins this season, filling in for Yelich when he was on the DL. While Suzuki has a nice .284 batting average, his .049 ISO shows there’s very little pop left in his bat. He’s posted a 87 wRC+ for the season, which is impressive as a 41-year old.

    ZiPS projects him to stay near that mark (82) the rest of the season. He’s an acceptable bench player for the Fish, but should not be starting too many games.

    The Miami Marlins offense has been unimpressive and the biggest culprit in the team’s slow start. While there is reason to believe Stanton, Ozuna, and Yelich should improve or hold steady, you also have to expect regression from Gordon and Hechavarria.

    You also don’t know what to expect from Prado, Morse, and Realmuto the rest of the season, with Prado being by far the best bet to rebound.

    The front office can point and blame Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Redmond, and Steve Cishek all they want, but that doesn’t fix the current issue in Miami. The bullpen and the starting pitching have gotten their job done for the most part, its time for the offense to start showing up.

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