Miami Marlins: The Trap of a Hot September

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After losing Wednesday’s game in Tampa, the Miami Marlins officially finished September with a 16-10 record. By far their most successful month and the only one in which they posted an above .500 record.

So what went well during this arbitrary end point that didn’t in others?

Well the offense was a bit better. In the 26 games that make up September the Fish produced a wRC+ of 102.  That’s a significant improvement on their full season mark of 87, and their previous monthly high of 88 from way back in April, but still not great. Considering league average wRC+ is always 100, Miami’s offense was only slightly better than mediocre, coming in at 18th in the Majors over the period we’re talking about.

Guy’s like Martin Prado, Justin Bour, and Christian Yelich certainly had big months, just not quite big enough to explain a 16-10 record by themselves.

On the other side of the ball things were arguably worse than normal.

Although team ERA only went up a little,  4.17 from a 4.02 yearly average, the xFIP exploded increasing 50 points to 4.72. We’re talking about results here so the xFIP isn’t necessarily that important, but it does show that there’s been a bit of good luck involved in the run prevention.

Pitchers don’t often outperform their xFIP’s by that much so a few more of those BIP’s fall for hits and the month could have gone an entirely different direction.

Now we get to what I view as the main reason, the schedule. In the month of September the Fish faced six different teams, three of those, the Brewers, Phillies, and Braves, were teams with worse records than themselves.

The three with better records? The Mets, Rays, and Nationals.

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The Rays hardly count, it was the last two days of the month, they are an American League team, and the Fish lost both games anyway.

I won’t get too deep into the Nationals struggles as it’s been covered well covered in other places. Suffice it to say that the Nats are not the dominant team we all expected them to be, especially down the stretch as they posses a .500 September record.

The Mets are the division champs. Their pitching is excellent, and with a 124 wRC+ their offense was the most productive in the majors through September.

Going 4 and 2 against them is legitimately impressive and I won’t nitpick, but it’s the only real team they played and those six games are just 23% of the full monthly schedule.

With the offense only taking a small step forward, and the pitching clearly stepping backward, it seems pretty obvious that the hot September is a reflection of weaker competition. It doesn’t mean anything for the future, at least nothing that contradicts the rest of the season.

Unfortunately management doesn’t seem to view it this way.

As illuminated in a recent Joe Frisario article, the front office seems to think that the strong finish is a result of the team finally coming together under the veteran leadership of Prado and Jeff Mathis.

They feel that the roster was actually solid this year, only derailed by bad luck and a toxic locker room.

We’ve seen this delusion before. Last off-season it caused them to trade away the entire farm system for Mat Latos and Dee Gordon.

What win now mistakes will they make this off-season? The rumors are already circling of a Marcell Ozuna for trade.

This team needs a rebuild in the worst kind of way, all September’s done is obscure that, and Loria’s fallen right into the trap.

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