Miami Marlins Searching For Leaders


Team Searching For New Big Fish In Stanton’s Absence 

During the Miami Marlins’ last 10-game stretch of having 2015 ASG starting right fielder Giancarlo Stanton in the line-up, the club put up an anemic record of 2-8 that has most convinced the time has come to put up for the ‘For Sale’ sign in front of the Marlins Park clubhouse. 

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But since then, they are 5-4, and have recently slotted a franchise cornerstone back into the rotation. These next few weeks are precious to the Fightin Fish.  For not only will it determine whether or not Miami should enter the seller’s market at the Trade Deadline, but exactly who should be moved.

Considering that he was on pace for sixty home runs, saying Stanton was key to the offense rings as a bit of an understatement.  He was leading all of baseball in home runs, and as of this morning, still is over one week later.

But despite that, the Miami Marlins still weren’t winning.  The team’s game plan for offensive success to this point was Stanton; if he had an off-day, there really was no Plan B.

In Big G’s absence, the team has hit seven home runs.  Two of those however were rather flukey- a Dee Gordon inside the parker, and the Jose Fernandez “Shot Heard Round Little Havana.”

That production level is just south of middle of the pack. Not good, but not tragic either, as three of the teams that have done worse are leading their division. But when you look at the team statistics, Miami’s collective power numbers for the season speak volumes.

At the time Stanton went down, he obviously led the team in round trippers.  What might not be so obvious however is that he had more home runs than the next six Marlins on the club leaderboard, combined.   

If that sounds crazy, that’s because it is.

In fact, no other team in baseball has anywhere close to that degree of disparity when it comes to the dinger department. Only three other teams can even claim that adding up the tallies of their second and third most productive home run hitters doesn’t surpass their top man: Arizona, Colorado, and Washington. And only Washington-with slugger Bryce Harper pacing the group – goes beyond the stats of the fourth man in that equation, but even the Nats stop at five.

The Marlins need to dip into the total of their eighth overall slugger, and seventh after Stanton, to tip the scales in the favor of the rest of the roster.

Washington is also the only other comparable for having anything close to the power gap between No. 1 and No. 2 in the power department.

That much ballyhooed four game homer streak by Justin Bour was just enough to trim the gap to a respectable seventeen home runs; Harper is one behind, with a sixteen homer lead over his next closest compatriot.

Of course, there’s more to scoring than hitting home runs. Just ask Jack McKeon.

At the end of the day, no matter how you do it, it’s about knocking in runs. At the time of injury, he was also leading the team and the league in RBIs. While the league finally pushed Stanton into third place (yesterday), his own team has a little bit more work to do to slide him out of his perch atop the team RBI column.

Want to guess how many teams in baseball can’t add up their second and third most productive RBI contributors and overtake the leader?

That would be…well, one.  The 2015 Miami Marlins are the only team in the game that can make so dubious a claim.

When you subtract a player of this magnitude, someone has to step up and try to bridge the gap.

The Marlins, and their fan base, have a lot of recent experience with this phenomenon, as that bell was rung twice during the 2014 campaign: when staff ace Jose Fernandez went down in May, and of course when Stanton was shut down last September following that still horrific blast to the face.

Henderson Alvarez and Tom Koehler answered that call by turning in the best seasons of their careers, with Alvarez actually making it to the All-Star Game.

Stanton went on a prolific tear up until his injury, and the team stayed in contention until the loss of their other superstar finally proved too much to overcome. But even at that point, some slack was picked up. That September saw Marcell Ozuna go .316 at the plate with a slugging mark of .570, easily his best month of the season.

2015 though has seen one of those key players spend nearly the entire season on the DL, and another was just demoted to Triple A. While Alvarez can’t really be faulted for injury woes, Ozuna clearly has some issues to work out. Only Koehler has remained consistently solid.

So where does the 2015 leadership come from?

Not just in the clubhouse or the practice field- certainly Ichiro Suzuki and Dan Haren bring a measure of “been there, done that” experience that wasn’t really there in 2014.

But who is going to lead by example, by raising their game and making the most of the opportunity to be the guy?  That’s what Miami has to find out fast. 

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Is it Christian Yelich, who has lit up the stat sheet, hitting over .500 in Stanton’s absence?  Will it be Justin Bour, who has broken out of his funk and regained his power stroke?  In many respects, Bour has become Stanton, as he’s responsible for nearly 1/3 of the RBIs and 3/4 of the HRs Miami has hit since Stanton’s injury.

Could Jose Fernandez’s infectious enthusiasm be enough?  He did essentially will Miami to victory in his long-awaited return last Thursday. Maybe it’s All-Star starter Dee Gordon, or his snubbed double play counterpart Adeiny Hechavarria. Right now, there’s ample evidence for all of these candidates.

But in a couple of weeks, we will almost certainly have narrowed that list considerably. And once Miami’s front office does identify who those guys are, they need to move them as far as possible from the stack of trading chips come deadline time.

Next: What can the Marlins do at the Deadline?

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