The Miami Marlins were expected to be bad in 2018. There’s no arguing that at 5-13 there are certain challenges that they have to address in the future.
There’s questions in the rotation, the bullpen, and in the lineup. A good team will have answers in each of these three areas. It seems the Miami Marlins only have more questions.
In baseball, three is the magic number. Three strikes make an out, and three outs make an inning. There are other magic numbers. Four is the amount of pitches that makes a walk, and there are a total of four bases in a run. Zero is a fun one. Wins Probability Added lends a value to each plate appearance in each game. There’s a positive value and a negative value. If the Miami Marlins Justin Bour gains .169 WPA with a two-run homer in a plate appearance, then there is a pitcher somewhere who has just hemorrhaged an equal and negative WPA (-.169).
Nine is the number that I’m focusing on in today’s article. Not only are there nine players to a side, but there’s nine innings to a game. With 162 games a season, we can easily divide the 2018 campaign into nine equal “inning” sized compartments. 18 games into the season, and the Miami Marlins sit at 5-13. That’s already eight games behind the surprising first-place New York Mets.
Those of you who have been paying attention to Marlin Maniac for the last month or so (and I know that you’re out there) will notice that I rely heavily on WPA in my game and series recaps. This is with good reason. While not the greatest invention ever for predicting future performance, it’s invaluable at breaking down who were the best and worst “clutch” performers in each contest. It can tell a story outside of strikeouts, home runs, HBP, and other things. A walk can be more valuable than a grand slam in the right situation, and these situations are what makes WPA so valuable.
All Out WAR
There’s another “advanced” statistic that has gained a nifty foothold on “statheads” over the last 15 or so years. The WAR statistic, or Wins Above Replacement. Hypothetically, a team comprised of entirely “replacement level” players would win at a .294 clip, or a 48-114 team. The Miami Marlins are widely considered to perform about 20 games above this level. Again, hypothetically, we should take this to mean that at season’s end, they’ll have a collective 20 WAR. As in all predictive statistics, this is an appropriately approximate estimation. An educated guess, really. Read more about WAR, here at baseball-reference.com.
The First Inning
Only the future holds answers for the next eight “innings.” We can, however, start our look back at the first of these “innings.” When the 2018 season is over, what will we remember of it? Will it all be bad memories?
That’s unlikely. We saw a 17-inning, 2-1 victory over the Cubs on the second day of the season. We saw Miami’s next likely ace materialize right before our eyes in the form of Jarlin Garcia. We saw the triumphant return of J.T. Realmuto, with a home run and four RBI in his first game back from injury. We saw J.B. Shuck, after a year out of the major leagues, collect a career-high four hits in his first game. After a slow start, we saw Bour hit four round-trippers in a week. In addition to all that, we’ve witnessed in-game heroics of several rookies. Dillon Peters, Brian Anderson, Tayron Guerrero, Trevor Richards, and Lewis Brinson have all had great moments already. Surely, they’re not done producing them.
The Marlins don’t have much in the way of WPA heroes aside from Jarlin Garcia. His travails have been mostly in the highest leverage situations, so he leads the National League at 1.297. He also leads the senior circuit with a 2.571 H/9 and with a 1.4 total WAR. He’s second with a 0.86 ERA and with a 431 adjusted ERA+, and ranks in the top 10 in a lot of other categories as well. We won’t soon forget that he pitched 10 no-hit innings to commence his career as a starter. Garcia has only allowed two earned runs on just six hits in 21 innings.
Miguel Rojas is tied for the Miami Marlins team lead with appearances in all 18 games, along with five others. He’s appeared in 17 of those games as a shortstop, and in five at first base. Of course, there’s at least four overlapping games where he played both. He’s second on the team with a .282 batting average and with a .408 slugging percentage. In the second game of the season, he was 0-for-4 with three walks going into the 17th inning when he collected the game-winning RBI for a 2-1 win against the Chicago Cubs (see below). He collected three hits for the Marlins on April 13th, in Miami’s 7-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Coming in as the second ranked WAR hero on the roster, he’s fourth on the team with a 0.193 WPA.
Drew Steckenrider is third on the club with 0.5 WAR, and second with a .460 WPA. For context, that’s just over a third of top WPA man Garcia. He has appeared in half of Miami’s games so far, and has yet to allow a run. He’s given up two walks and four hits in 8 2/3 innings, striking out 11. He’s recorded a positive WAR in eight-of-nine appearances. His best game was in Miami’s 8-6 loss to the New York Mets, when he struck out the side on 11 pitches in the seventh inning on April 10th.
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Starlin Castro ranks 26th on the Marlins with a -.545 WPA for the season, but also racked up 0.3 WAR, tied for fourth on the club. Castro has appeared in every game so far in the season, and has hit safely in 15 of them with five multi-hit affairs. And who could forget his three-run sacrifice fly (see below). Miami’s highest paid active player, Castro is on pace to produce 2.7 WAR over the full season, which would rank as the third best of his career.
Brian Anderson also has a 0.3 WAR to his credit, and a 2.7 WAR season was absolutely qualify as a success. Like Castro and Rojas, he’s played in all of Miami’s games. After starting out hot, slashing .317/.462/.488 over his first 11 games, he has since gone just two-for-24, with two walks and one RBI. On April 2nd, he smacked the first home run of his career, a solo shot off Boston Red Sox starter Brian Johnson.
Thanks for reading about our “first inning.” Keep checking back here for breaking Marlins news. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.