It’s hard to put into words what the Miami Marlins meant to Miami baseball fans this year. As we say goodbye to the most successful season in 17 years for the Marlins, it is important to note how bright the future looks. In one year, we turned a 57-105 record into an NLDS berth. If you would have asked anyone at the start of the season if the Marlins would have made the playoffs, let alone the second round, the answer would have been no. Statistically, the odds were 9%, one of the lowest in the league. Yet here we are, looking back at what was and looking forward to what could be. The “Bottom-Feeders” exceeded all of our expectations and don’t expect that to stop. Let’s take a look at the 5 keys to a Marlins playoff run in 2021.
It’s no secret: the Marlins lineup wasn’t playoff-caliber. The culture carried them, and without adequate changes, we could find ourselves falling short in a 162 game season. The first addition can be found in a solid day-to-day catcher, especially with the lack of apparent confidence in Jorge Alfaro, the retirement of Francisco Cervelli, and the lack of hitting ability in Chad Wallach. There are plenty of options out there ranging from Alex Avila to JT Realmuto (I know). Isan Diaz being healthy fills the 2nd base hole that we struggled with filling. At this point, it’s not necessarily about filling holes, but rather replacing average bats with above-average ones. With just a .244 team batting average and .319 on-base percentage, the Marlins struggled to get on base, move runners over, and drive runs in. Basically, the 3 parts that make an offense successful. The Marlins need to use their elevated status as a competitive team to sign players capable of executing the small ball type game Don Mattingly has seemingly emphasized.
The Marlins bullpen had a good cast of characters but struggled in some situations. Statistically, James Hoyt, Brandon Kintzler, Brad Boxberger, Yimi Garcia, and Richard Bleier were stellar; however, as they age, it feels more like career years than necessarily a consistent output. The Marlins need to be active in the market and find more pieces that can pitch in the 7th, 8th, and 9th, especially when we find ourselves in back-to-backs. There are plenty of plausible cheap options hitting free agency, and it’s up to the front office to go out and find the pieces.
Maintain culture within a changing Marlins team
This take relies on the previous two. If the Marlins do go out and make the changes necessary to compete, it will be hard to maintain the same attitude that this team had. Realistically, this team won because of their underdog mentality, and the addition of new guys could shift things up. It is necessary that the Marlins keep the “bottom-feeder” mentality if they are to see success next season. It will be harder to keep momentum with more games (162 to be exact) and if this is not maintained, there will be struggles. Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter expect this consistency, but it is easier said than done.
The Fish were expected to experiment this year. With the most roster moves in the league, they had to try new things. This cannot be a reality next season. The guys who play have to be the guys who play, barring injury. It is necessary that we field the same guys consistently every game and develop a routine. The sporadic changes in the field were prompted by an other-worldly situation, but if this attitude remains next year, there will be room for droughts from the lineup and pitching staff. Hopefully, Mattingly is able to fit together the puzzle pieces once and for all and give us a consistent 9 guys on the field.
Veteran led youth
We made the playoffs. Whoop Dee Doo. Come March next year, that will not matter. We will be thrown back into the firing squad that is the NL East and forced to prove ourselves again. The veterans have done this, but with countless rookies spreading out our roster, they could be lost in the moment. They accomplished something no other Marlins team has in 17 years. But, just like Marlins teams of the past, could begin a long streak of similar narratives. The veterans such as Jesus Aguilar, Corey Dickerson, and Matt Joyce need to step up and show the younger guys how to play season to season. Show them how quickly people forget what you did, and instead focus on what you are doing now.
Closing thoughts on the Marlins
It was quite the year. I am blessed to have the opportunity to write and report on my favorite team and watch them in the playoffs. I think I speak for all Marlins fans when I say that I hope this is not it. We want more, and if everything goes as planned, we might just get it.