The Miami Marlins get a home opener, finally. After a 6-day road trip morphed into a 23-day odyssey, the Marlins are set to defend their home (new) turf for the first time this season. Miami enters the game after a thrilling 14-11 victory over the Blue Jays and own a 1-game over the Braves in the NL East.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Marlins road trip.
Marlins Road Trip Produced Some Wild Numbers
The teams trip went from six days to 23 days. They spent eight of those days in quarantine. They’ve made 58 roster moves, used 45 players total, including 26 pitchers. In 2019, they used 25 pitchers for the whole season. All 162 games.
Of the original 30 players on the Opening Day roster, 18 have landed on the IL and one has since opted out. Two of the recent additions are IL bound as well. The Marlins gave up a franchise record seven home runs in a game, and still won!
Despite the wild trip, Miami managed an 8-4 record, including a 5-game winning streak. They posted a 4-1 record in 1-run games, a vast improvement thus far from 2019, where they went 16-28 in 1-run contests.
Finally, the Marlins odds for making the playoffs have climbed to 25 percent for ESPN and 23.3 percent for FanGraphs. If they make the postseason, it’ll be the first time since 2003. The Marlins have the second-longest current playoff drought in MLB (Seattle, 2001).
Aguilar and Anderson Mashing for the Marlins
The Marlins offense has improved considerably under the watchful eyes of bench coach James Rowson and hitting coach Eric Duncan. The offense scores five runs-per-game this year, versus 3.8 in 2019. And the team is connecting on 1.25 home-runs-per-game, which is a vast improvement upon last season’s 0.90 clip.
Jesus Aguilar and Brian Anderson are leading the way in that department. Both have a team-leading four home runs this season. Aguilar leads the team in batting average (.311) and Anderson leads in OPS (1.007). Anderson also leads in RBI (13), but Aguilar is right behind (12).
Marlins manager Don Mattingly has spaced out the two in the lineup, so as long as the players around them continue to get on, these two can knock them in.
Mags Sierra and Eddy Alvarez Deserve Playing Time
Magneuris Sierra’s performance of late demands attention. Sierra’s game-changing speed affects opponent pitching staffs and the Marlins are 5-0 when he’s in the starting lineup. In seven games this season (five starts), Sierra’s hitting .286 with a .421 on-base percentage. He’s played solid defense in the outfield and stolen one base. While some of the other Marlins outfielders have sputtered early on, Sierra has proven to be a sparkplug.
Eddy Alvarez has also impressed of late. After starting his career 0-for-9, Alvarez has gone 4-for-10 at the plate with a double, three runs scored and two stolen bases. His play defensively at second base has been a marvel. He made game-saving plays (plural) versus the Mets last Friday. Mattingly said recently he likes Alvarez in against RHP.
Both of these young players have earned spots in the lineup for now.
Pitching Has Been…Okay
The Marlins lost three members of their starting rotation and about two-thirds of their bullpen. The front office scrambled to assemble a piecemeal staff and the results thus far have been…okay.
The Marlins are 12th in team ERA (4.22), 12th in batting-average-against (.233) and 17th in WHIP (1.34). This season, the bullpen is 6-for-7 in save situations. Last season, the Marlins featured one of the worst bullpens in MLB. Miami relievers posted the fifth-worst ERA (4.97) and their WHIP (1.45) was seventh worst. Relievers had a save percentage of 55.1 in 2019 and blew 22 save opportunities.
Brandon Kintzler is 3-for-3 in saves thus far with a 1.42 ERA. Stephen Tarpley has impressed as well, posting a 2.84 ERA, two wins and a save. Generally, the bullpen has been good in high leverage spots, despite the home run binge from the Blue Jays and the extra innings loss.
Monte Harrison & Lewis Brinson Struggling
The excitement of Monte Harrison’s call up saw Marlins fans frothing. And though he’s been more than stellar in the outfield, Harrison has not really come through at the plate. In 20 plate appearances, Harrison is 2-for-18 with two walks, two RBI and 11 strikeouts. He’s struck out each of his last six at-bats.
The key for Harrison is putting the bat on the ball. He’s seeing 4.6 pitches-per-plate-appearance and he’s hitting .286 on balls-put-in-play. If he can get on the basepaths, his speed remains an incredible weapon.
Lewis Brinson, meanwhile, has gone hitless in his return to the Marlins. He’s 0-for-12 in 15 plate appearances with three walks but just strikeouts. He’s shown increased discipline at the dish, seeing 4.7 pitches-per-plate-appearance, which is up almost a full point for his career average.
Bottom line for Brinson, though, he needs to produce. Hopefully, he and Harrison will see more opportunities in the coming days and can shake off these slow starts.