Despite flurry of home runs, Miami Marlins have struggled

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Marlins have no shortage of home runs this season. Despite several players on pace to break the team record for home runs in the season, the team has struggled to win games.

The problem has been in the timing. The Miami Marlins will explode for 10 runs one night, and manage only one run the next. It’s this kind of hot and cold performance that has led to one of the curiosities of the season for the Miami Marlins.

Currently, the team has three players on pace to break Gary Sheffield‘s single season Marlins home run record. Sheffield set the record in 1996 with 42 home runs, and no Marlin has managed to match that total.

That includes several players who went on to surpass that number elsewhere. Derek Lee hit 46 with the Cubs. Miguel Cabrera hit 44 in consecutive years for the Tigers. Even Sheffield surprised the number later in his career, hitting 43 with the Dodgers.

But as a member of the Miami Marlins, nobody has ever been able to hit more than 42 in a single season. This year, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Bour, and Marcell Ozuna are all on pace to surpass that total. Despite their powerful starts, though, the team sits at 22-31.

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As it stands, Stanton is the only member of that trio who has come close to the number in the past. In injury shortened seasons, Stanton has hit 37 in 2012, 37 in 2014, and 34 in 2011. Injuries have surely kept the reigning home run derby champ from surpassing the total in those years.

On pace for history

Only time will tell if he is able to stay healthy for an entire season. If he does, he’s on pace to put on an impressive display. Possibly worthy of winning an MVP award. He would bop 45 round-trippers, and over 120 RBI’s. All while hitting for the highest batting average in his career.

Since moving into the second spot in the batting order, Stanton has produced at an incredible rate. He is hitting for power, while working the count and swinging for contact. Pairing him with the speedy Dee Gordon at the top of the lineup has produced wins for the Marlins.

Justin Bour is the breakout star of this group. This year has been heads and tails the most productive of his career. Only in his fourth year in the Major Leagues, Bour is off to the best start of his career. Already having slugged 16 home runs, his batting average sits at a robust .292. Bour has already matched his home run total from all of last year.

He too would land somewhere in the mid-40’s in home runs, breaking Sheffield’s team mark.

Marcell Ozuna has reemerged as a consistent power threat for the Marlins. After showing flashes of what he is capable of, this year he has put it all together. He’d hit 44 if he were able to keep his torrid pace. The team might be dangling him as trade bait, and if they were, this would be the season to pull the trigger. His value has never been higher.

Not equating wins

Despite all of this production, the team hasn’t been able to turn the long-ball into wins. The reason is two-fold: Inconsistent hitting, and poor pitching. For much of the month of May, the team was unable to put together a complete win. When one part of the formula found success, the other faltered.

Even amongst the hitters themselves, they appeared to be taking turns with their production. All three were unable to hit well at the same time. The production from one would be scorching, while the other two would taper off and seemingly wait for their turn.

Three players, in the midst of career years, on a team that has wildly underperformed. It’s difficult to recall another point in time where this happened.

As the month of May drew to a close, the Marlins finally started to put things together. June figures to be a “make it or break it” month for the Fish. They’ll need to keep these three hot, as well as get solid pitching from their stable.

All three of these players don’t need to break Sheffield’s record, and they probably won’t. Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna are likelier to tail off in terms of their power numbers. Stanton is yet to prove that he can play a full season.

But if they can each play at an All-Star level the way they have, that might be enough for the Marlins to overcome their slow start. Stanton is the likeliest to keep pace and surpass Sheffield playing 155 games.

Next: Don Mattingly sticks to offseason blueprint

It will be an empty victory if three players manage to surpass Gary Sheffield’s mark and the team fails to secure a playoff bid. That will be an indication of poor pitching, more than anything else.