Miami Marlins: Dark Horse of the NL East

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Apr 16, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins pinch hitter JT Riddle (R) celebrates with teammates after hitting the game winning two run homer during the ninth inning against the New York Mets at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 16, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins pinch hitter JT Riddle (R) celebrates with teammates after hitting the game winning two run homer during the ninth inning against the New York Mets at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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Leading in to the 2017 season, the Miami Marlins were an afterthought. The only recognition the Fish received was regarding the loss of staff ace, Jose Fernandez.

The Miami Marlins were not even considered when it came to off-season talk of potential playoff teams out of the NL East.

For the most part the Fish stayed out of the spotlight entirely after the passing of Jose Fernandez. Sure, there were some questions about organizational moves. However, expectations were and still are limited for this franchise.

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Playing in the same division as the Nationals and Mets makes it tough to get recognition. With the loaded lineups on both ends, no one considered the Fish to stand a chance.

Most media sites and shows depicted a floundering team, struggling to make .500. The Marlins were being viewed as a middling team that may even be passed up by the Phillies in the East.

We have seen a lot of promise from this “middling” team. While the Fish may lack a big name starter, they have made up for this in other ways.

Bullpen

The Marlins came into 2017 without a true to form Ace. Relying heavily on Edinson Volquez to fill the void left by Fernandez, the Fish came in with a new game plan.

Fresh off of a season that saw the Marlins bolster one of the most respectable bullpens in the Majors, the front office wanted to do more to help. Free agent additions Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa were brought in to offer some depth.

Joined along with; Nick Wittgren, A.J. Ramos, Dustin McGowan, David Phelps, Kyle Barraclough, and Jose Urena, the plan was simple. Have our starters go five or six innings allowing minimal runs and hand the ball off to the pen.

That plan, thus far, has worked to a degree. Minus a few hiccups from Phelps and Tazawa, the pen has been great. The Fish currently sit eighth out of all MLB bullpens at 2.73 ERA. That ERA would be much lower if it weren’t for Phelps and Tazawa sporting dismal ERA’s over 5.

Due to the 16-inning game, we have even gotten to see Jarlin Garcia, who has proven that he is a force to be reckoned with. Moving forward, it looks as though the Marlins game plan, it working almost exactly as desired.

Batting

The Marlins are currently on the rise when it comes to batting. The Fish were 4th in batting average last year, yet they were near the bottom in runs scored, as mentioned in a previous article. This has changed dramatically to start the season.

Off of the small sample size that we have from the 2017 season, the Fish sit at 3rd in the MLB in batting average and 8th in runs. Along with that, the Marlins have skyrocketed to a four way tie for 7th in home runs. Thank you Marcell Ozuna.

Due to injuries to Martin Prado and Adeiny Hechavarria, we have also seen excellent numbers from J.T. Riddle and Miguel Rojas. Dee Gordon seems to be back to his 2015 form as well.

Resiliency

Starting the 2017 season has been absolutely nothing short of thrilling for the Fish. There were skeptics, myself included, after the Marlins dropped two of three to the Nationals. However, the Marlins bounced back to take two of three from the Mets. In New York, which is especially impressive.

Then we had our downs again dropping two straight at home. One of which, the intense 16-inning marathon against the Mets.

How did the Fish respond to that? Three straight wins facing off against the fearsome trio of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, and Matt Harvey. If that isn’t impressive, then I don’t know what is.

The Fish can continue flying under everyone else’s radar. But, if they can continue winning the tight games, especially against division rivals, this team may be the dark horse of the National League.

Next: Miami Marlins: How to Remain Relevant in 2017

There is still have a lot of baseball yet to be played, but don’t rule them out, not by any means. This team and city is thirsty for a championship.

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