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Would the Marlins have made the playoffs in a full season? A statistical argument

We watched the Miami Marlins overcome all of the odds and make the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. Along the way, we had two Gold Glove nominees (Brian Anderson and Miguel Rojas) and the *soon to be NL Manager of the Year (Don Mattingly). This run by the Marlins sparked a lot of questions. Can we do it again? Would this have been a reality in a 162 game season? Are we actually this good?

 

At this point, there is no point in meticulously analyzing how the Marlins did what they did; rather, I find it useful to use the information available to us in order to look ahead to what they can do next year. This team had a completely different look from the Marlins teams of previous years. This means that our sample size of stats is extremely small. That’s not good for predicting anything, let alone an entire team’s future. So instead of predicting the unpredictable based on internal Marlins stats, I will compare this Marlins team and their statistical rankings to teams of the past 5 years. In order to grasp how good the Marlins actually were, we can compare them to other teams who were similarly statistically through 60 games. Then, by extrapolating the most relevant data, we can show where the Marlins most likely would have ended up had the season gone 162. We will look at the main statistics that drive team success: wRC+, x-FIP, and team WAA.

 

wRC+ (True batting stat)

 

Weighted runs created plus is a major stat that influences team success. It is a statistic very similar to runs created, although it accounts for ballparks and era. A wRC+ of 100 is league average, whereas 150 is 50% above that average.

 

Through the Marlins 60 games, they had a wRC+ of 95. This was good enough for 18th in all of baseball (and 5th in the NL East). We will use this statistic to compare the offensive output of this Marlins team to other teams that draw parallels.

 

Teams that we will compare this Marlins team wRC+ to:

 

  1. 2019 Nationals

I know. This is quite a bold comparison. But you guessed it, through half of the 2019 season the World Series champs had a wRC+ of 95 (the same as the Marlins, but good enough for 16th place in all of baseball). 

 

It is important to note that the Nationals finished the regular season with a second-half wRC+ of 113 which was good enough for 4th in all of baseball. This turn around is unprecedented and one that may have been the rare outlier. The Nationals fell back to their statistical mean in 2020, however, finishing in the last place in the NL East. An interesting observation can be made here. The Marlins may have slipped from their statistical mean in these 60 games, allowing themselves to propel into the playoffs. It would not be a shocking revelation that they, like the Nats, could fall back into their true average. 

 

Result: 93-69, 2nd in NL East, World Series Champions

  1. 2018 Pirates

This one may make a little more sense. Through the first half of the 2018 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a wRC+ of 95 good enough for 14th in all of baseball. They followed a much more similar path to this Marlins team.

 

The reason that this team provides such a good comparison is because of who was on it. Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, and Francisco Cervelli all were Pirates in 2018. These 3 guys accounted for a bulk of our offense, especially the former two. I’ll take this moment to shoutout and congratulate Francisco Cervelli on an amazing career: Thank you! This Pirates team stayed consistent, posting a 96 wRC+ in the second half. Had we done this as well, especially with the tough NL East, we may have ended in a similar spot.

 

Result: 82-79, 4th in NL East, Missed Playoffs

 

  1. 2017 Diamondbacks

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017 had a wRC+ of 94 through the first half of the season. Their below average wRC+ is comparable to the Marlins, and unlike the 2019 Nats, this team did not propel forward afterward. They finished the season with a 96 wRC+, leaving them in 2nd place in the NL West, which was good enough for a Wild Card Birth. This shows that if the Marlins would have kept this pace going, they could have found themselves in a playoff spot after a 162 game season.

 

Result: 93-69, 2nd in NL West, Lost in NLDS (Hmmm… Sounds familiar)

 

Based off of wRC+, the Marlins were most likely good enough this year to at worst end .500 and whiff the playoffs due to the larger sample size of games that would have allowed teams like the Mets and Phillies (both top 10 in wRC+) to heat up and surpass them. Likewise, you could make the case they could have won the World Series as well, although the mean implies that their offensive output most likely would have led to a similar route to that of the 2018 Diamondbacks and lead to a loss in the NLDS. 

x-FIP (true pitching statistic)

 

So, basically, x-FIP can be applied almost the same way we do ERA. Inherently, it is the same statistic as ERA, but it factors out defensive errors and other aspects that pitchers cannot control. A 5.00 x-FIP is awful and a 2.70 x-FIP is fantastic. Apply the same structure of thought to x-FIP as to ERA. Say a pitcher has a 3.10 ERA and a 2.65 x-FIP. We can conclude he will probably lower his ERA eventually as he works back to his statistical mean.

 

This is where things start to look bad. The Marlins had a whoppingly high 4.90 x-FIP. This was bad enough for 26th in the entire league this season. In order to maintain consistency, we will compare the Marlins x-FIP to the same teams we did before, to see if they differed in any way.

 

  1. 2019 Washington Nationals

 

This is most likely the reason that the Marlins would not have experienced a similar run to that of the Washington Nationals. The Nats had an x-FIP of 4.29, good enough for 6th in the league their first half of play. Surprisingly, it rose during their stupendous 2nd half run to 4.38 and 11th in the league. It looks like their hitting turnaround carried them in the 2nd half. The Marlins don’t have that luxury. Also, to be completely frank, the difference between the Nationals and Marlins x-FIP is staggering. Because of this, we could probably eliminate a World Series run.

 

  1. 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates

 

The Pirates had an even better x-FIP than the Nats, putting up a 4.14 in the first half of the season in 2018 that was good enough for 16th in the league. They were 13th in the league to finish it off, showing that they were in fact the middle of the road team. This Pirates team was good, but just not good enough due to an extremely tough division in 2018. This sounds quite familiar and is the most accurate comparison to this Marlins team through 60 games when it comes to pitching ability.

 

  1. 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks

 

In the first half of their NLDS run, the Diamondbacks were 3rd in the league in x-FIP at 3.81. In the 2nd half, they were just as good, finishing 5th with an x-FIP of 3.94. The Marlins are nowhere near this reality, and because of that, their similarities on the offensive end are completely overshadowed. Because of the Marlins division being extremely strong, and through 60 we got lucky they played well below their statistical average, we can assume that this Marlins team’s pitching would have struggled later on, as they regressed to their statistical average.

 

Team WAA (WAR but team-based)

 

By looking at pitching and hitting statistics individually, it shows that our hitting was just good enough for a Wild Card/NLDS appearance and our pitching was good enough to get dead last in the division. Between those two statistics alone, it is clear through 162 that we would not have been a playoff team. Let’s take a look at one final cumulative stat (WAA – wins above average) in order to solidify these observations.

 

The Marlins were 20th in WAA at -1.5. This means that on average they., as a team, would have produced 1.5 less wins than the league average. Doesn’t look too optimal if you ask me.

 

Let’s make our final comparisons:

  1. 2019 Washington Nationals

 

The Nationals WAA was 14.8, good enough for 5th place. We would not have gone on their type of run in a 162 game season.

 

  1. 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates

 

The Pirates had a WAA of -.9. This was good enough for 18th place in the league, and we can draw similarities to this Marlins team just as the two previous stats have.

 

  1. 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks

 

The D-Backs topped all 4 of these teams with a WAA of 15.7 in 2017, good enough for 6th in the league. The Marlins would most likely not have been able to maintain a level of play anywhere near this.

 

In Conclusion

 

The Miami Marlins played above their statistical average in 2020. Yes, it was an amazing ride, but sadly it may not be sustainable. Their true means lie closest to the Pittsburgh Pirates of 2018, a team that went 82-79 and missed the playoffs in a tough division. Making rough estimates, we could have probably expected a 76-86 2020 season had it gone full. I know using these stats may seem irrelevant, but stats like x-FIP are most likely the reason the Miami Marlins will not resign Brandon Kintzler (he had a 2.22 ERA, but an x-FIP in the 5s meaning he is due for regression). Hopefully, this was informative as it provides a baseline for what the Marlins truly were this year. It shows us that there is room for growth. And that’s all we can ask for.

 

5 Keys for the future Marlins

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.

 

Lineup maintenance

 

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.

 

Bullpen additions

 

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.

 

Less experimentation

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.

 

Marlins Drop Game 2

The Atlanta Braves played our own game and beat us. Countless of us have realized that if we are to beat the juggernaut Braves, we would have to keep each game low scoring. Yesterday, in the Braves’ 2-0 win, we did just that. The Braves only put up runs on Dansby Swanson and Travis D’arnaud solo home runs. Pablo Lopez looked great for the Marlins otherwise, but that still wasn’t enough. The bats have chosen a bad time to go dormant, and with their backs against the wall, this cannot continue.

 

Pablo Lopez did his job for the Marlins

 

In his first career playoff start, Pablo Lopez went 5 innings allowing 2 runs versus one of the most potent offenses in the league. We have talked extensively here on the network, whether it be in these articles or the youtube, about how the key to victory against Atlanta lies in holding their hitting back. It is truly a disheartening sight to see for Marlins fans. They did what they were supposed to and still lost. Pablo pitched great but lost his battle with Ian Anderson, who went 5 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball. The issue lied today in the hitting, which starkly contrasts game 1. 

Alfaro for Wallach

 

The most notable change that must be made in Chad Wallach to Jorge Alfaro. Wallach is a measly 1-13 in Postseason play, with 0 RBIs, 0 extra-base hits, and 5 strikeouts. The decision to put Wallach in as the starter lied in his comfortability with the pitchers, but in this series with the Braves, it hasn’t mattered much. 11 runs have been allowed with Wallach behind the plate, and it’s hard to say Alfaro would make it any worse. Alfaro provides a stronger bat in the lineup with more pop. A career .262 hitter, Alfaro gives more depth to a floundering lineup, a depth that could push the Marlins over the top. I’d rather take Alfaro in a game-winning situation at the plate than Wallach. Give the young buck a chance.

 

Looking at today’s Marlins game: Could it be our last?

 

Well, if it is, it has been quite the run. The bottom feeders won’t go out without a fight, but unless the bats get out of their slump fast, we could be saying goodbye to Marlins baseball. We have Sixto Sanchez on the mound versus the Braves Kyle Wright. Backs against the wall. October baseball. There is nothing better.

Marlins Drop NLDS Game 1

This wasn’t the start that we wanted in Houston. The Marlins lose 9-5 versus Atlanta to start the NLDS. The game initially thought to be a pitchers duel between aces Sandy Alcantara and Max Fried, turned into a shootout. With the Braves lineup, that is the type of game they will always win. In the process, the Fish blew an early 4-1 lead. The Braves 6-run 7th inning sealed the deal.

 

The Braves can swing it but are beatable

 

Without a doubt, the Braves have one of the most potent offenses in the league. 3 MVP candidates leadoff their order. Acuna Jr. led off the game with an absolute missile to right-center to put the Braves up 1-0. RBI doubles by Travis D’arnaud and Marcell Ozuna cut the Marlins lead to 4-3 in the 3rd. Finally, in the 7th, D’arnaud’s 3-run homer broke it open, followed by a Dansby Swanson 2-run homer to put it away. The Braves are dependent on the long ball. Keep the ball in the park, and we win. Sandy did just that (for the most part) and saw some success. Today, Pablo Lopez attempts to do the same and lead the Marlins to victory.

 

The Marlins swung it well, struggled to close the door

 

I understand the decision to put Sandy back out on the mound for the 7th. 90 pitches in, he was on a roll. However, it may have been in the Marlins best interest to hand the ball to Boxberger for the 7th, let Yimi get the 8th, and save Kintzler for the 9th. Sandy allowed 2 singles to start the inning and put Yimi Garcia in an extremely tough situation versus the meat of an extremely potent lineup. Mattingly’s decision is definitely questionable, although Sandy most likely had some say in it. Yimi Garcia finally folded and lost us a game. It happens, and he will pick it up going forward. The bats were great early, putting up 4 runs, but they stalled late, as 9 runs from the Braves were too much to overcome.

Looking at today’s game: Marlins vs Braves 

 

Pablo Lopez takes the mound for the Marlins as they try to bounce back versus their division rivals. Ian Anderson takes the ball for Atlanta. The Marlins’ backs are against the wall, but they’ve been here before. Time to defy the odds again.

 

Marlins vs Braves NLDS Preview

The Marlins square off versus Atlanta in the NLDS. This is the matchup no Marlins fan wanted to see because of the 29-9 loss that the Marlins suffered last month at the hands of the potent Atlanta lineup. We are quick to forget that the season series was only 6-4 in the Braves favor. There is no sense of fear in the clubhouse as they have adapted the “bottom feeders” mentality fully and convincingly. The Braves have a clear tangible edge over the Marlins, but this Marlins team has a chance, and they know it.

 

Here are 5 things that need to happen for this Marlins run to continue into the NLCS:

 

Pitcher’s duels, not home run derbies

 

I think this goes without saying, but we can and will not be able to out-hit the Braves. Atlanta has 3 perennial MVP candidates at the top of their lineup. Yes, 3. Ronald Acuna Jr, Freddie Freeman, and Marcell Ozuna are the most intimidating 1,2,3 punch in the entire league let alone the NL. The Marlins will look to do what they did in Chicago. Rinse and repeat. We will see Sandy, Sixto, Pablo, and probably Trevor Rogers. If the Marlins pitching can perform as they did in Chicago, then the possibilities are endless. Even though Atlanta swept the Reds, their bats aren’t exactly hot. They only put up 2 runs through the first 20 innings of the Wild Card Series before they broke it open late against Raisel Iglesias. The Marlins bullpen was lights out in the Wild Card series, allowing 0 runs in their body of work. If this translates along with stellar outings from the starters, this series can be stolen.

 

Starling Marte plays for Marlins

 

If the Marlins are to win, it will have to be parallel to what they did in Chicago. Great pitching and timely veteran hitting. With Starling Marte in the lineup (our best hitter/veteran) the chances that we pick up one of those important timely hits increase exponentially. Marte has been a great veteran voice even if his statistics don’t show that in a Marlin uniform. Hitting just .245, Marte has struggled to an extent at the plate. He has, however, come through in extremely clutch moments to help propel the marlins to where they are now. Marte on the field means positive things. We can win without him, but at the end of the day, we want our guy out there patrolling center, stealing bases, and clutching up when it matters the most.

 

Small ball

 

Even though the Marlins swept the Cubs, there were a lot of missed opportunities for the Fish. They failed to move runners over after getting them on early, and as a result, relied on the home run ball to bail them out. This cannot be the case in Atlanta. The Marlins were 2nd in the league in stolen bases, and they need to utilize this aspect of their game to its fullest extent if they are to steal 3 against Atlanta. Get runners on, steal bases, move the runner over, get him in. It’s a simple method that the Marlins struggled to apply at certain points this year. They get guys on consistently and steal bases consistently but struggle with the latter steps mentioned. By controlling games with their speed, the Marlins can maintain tempo and put pressure on the Braves to respond.

Sandy needs to be the ace

 

Sandy Alcantara has set the tone recently with his amazing starts to clinch a playoff spot in New York and in game 1 against the Cubs. He allowed only 3 runs in 13+ innings of work against two potent lineups (the Yankees more than the Cubs but still). If he can do this again, he will set the tone for Sixto, Pablo, and even Trevor. Sandy needs to go out and dominate like the ace that he is. Another 7 innings of the 1-run ball would do the trick. It is all about showing the Braves we are no joke. We are not losing 29-9 again. We are not into losing, period. Unlike the Braves, we don’t lose in the playoffs. Sandy can set the tone to keep this fact true.

 

Keep the Marlins mentality

 

Even if the Marlins go down 2-0 to the Braves (or at any point for that matter), they need to play the same way. They are “bottom feeders” and they need to continue to embrace it. It allows them to play with no pressure and just play a kids’ game. It allows the veterans to stay engaged, it shows the young guys the culture they are invested in. This team has beat all the odds to get here, what’s to say they don’t beat them again. They are playing with house money.

 

The Marlins have defied reality to find themselves here with a chance to compete for an NLCS berth, and there is nothing that is stopping them. They have no pressure. They are bottom feeders, and they will continue to play like it.

The Marlins: A Cinderella Story

The Miami Marlins are the greatest story that the national media doesn’t give attention to. For those of us that forgot, the Marlins were 57-105 last season. Now they are in the NLDS after sweeping the Cubs in the Wild Card Series. Yes, this Cubs team isn’t the same team that won in 2016, but they still have the firepower. The “bottom-feeder” Miami Marlins stared Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish in the face and beat them. They stared the Yankees in the face and beat them. They stared COVID-19 in the face and beat it. Now we look ahead to an NLDS matchup versus the Braves. 

 

To see if the Marlins can continue their streak, we have to understand how we got here:

 

Trades

 

The Marlins were beaten up by the media for their trading of Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, and JT Realmuto. Let’s look at where those guys are. Ozuna will play for the Braves versus us in the NLDS, Christian Yelich and his Brewers have been eliminated, Giancarlo Stanton is in the ALDS with the Yankees, and JT Realmuto and the Phillies were eliminated from postseason contention. On paper, those trades felt horrendous, but they have proven to be some of the more fruitful trades in Marlin’s history. You name a guy on this team, and he’s probably from one of those trades. Sandy Alcantara, Sixto Sanchez, Lewis Brinson, and Jorge Alfaro to name a few. What a story. This experience in the playoffs alone will quicken the learning curve for these players, solidifying a winning culture that Ozuna, Yelich, Stanton, and Realmuto never understood.

 

Marlins Pitching

 

The Marlins had multiple experiences of being blown out this year. Past those few and far games (29-9 in Atlanta, 15-0 vs Washington), the Marlins pitching has been stupendous. Sandy, Sixto, and Pablo have all propelled this team forward. We didn’t get to see Pablo start this series (luckily), but Sandy and Sixto balled out. Sandy allowed only 1 run over 6 ⅔ and Sixto threw 5 shutout winnings with the help of some stellar defense. In 2 games versus an accomplished Cubs team, the Fish allowed a combined 1 run. 1 run?! Call me crazy but that’s Championship material right there.

 

Can we do it?

 

The Braves have given us issues. That’s true, but we have beaten them before. If the pitching is as strong as it was this past series, anything is possible. We will most likely see Pablo Lopez in game 1 (ironic considering he started that dreaded 29-9 game). Then, pending rest, we will see Sandy and Sixto. Those 3 guys can steal games. And versus a Braves team that has struggled in the playoffs before, why not us? This team plays without pressure. They are not supposed to be here.

 

But they are. Good luck to Atlanta, but I have a strange feeling the “bottom feeders” in Miami will ball out. 

Marlins vs Cubs Preview

The Marlins at long last find themselves in the playoffs. The Fish are 2/2 in World Series runs in their previous attempts, but this streak should not be of concern. There is a new winning culture here in Miami that will hopefully lead to a level of consistency we have never seen before. This Wednesday, the Marlins kick off a 4-game series versus the Chicago Cubs. We all know what happened the last time these two teams squared up in the postseason in ‘03. This should be fun.

 

Pitching, pitching, and more pitching

 

Well, fun for the pitchers that is. Both the Marlins and Cubs find themselves with solid staff. Looking first at the Marlins, a 1-2-3 punch of Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.00 ERA), Sixto Sanchez (3-2, 3.46 ERA), and Pablo Lopez (6-4, 3.61 ERA) is definitely a scary sight for anyone to see, especially in a 3-game series. These guys are young, electric, and hungry, and on the right day they can shut down any offense thrown their way. The Cubs are no slobs on the mound either, arguably having a more talented staff. Yu Darvish (8-3, 2.01 ERA) made a Cy Young run, Kyle Hendricks (6-5, 2.88 ERA) did Kyle Hendricks’ things. And if those two aren’t enough, the Cubs have Alec Mills (5-5, 4.48 ERA) who threw a no-hitter this year, and postseason hero Jon Lester (3-3, 5.16 ERA) to pitch third. This will be a clash of 6 extremely talented arms, and most likely the winner of that battle will win the series.

 

Marlins Bats: Alive or Dead?

 

The Marlins have struggled all year to find consistency at the plate. The Marlins have the 17th best on-base percentage (.319) in baseball. The question is whether they will be able to score once the runners get on. Being 2nd in stolen bases (51), the Marlins are going to need to utilize their speed on the base paths. Runs will not come easy in Chicago. The marlins find themselves at the bottom of the league in slugging percentage and.OPS, so they have to make each runner count. If they can play small ball and take advantage of small mistakes made by the Cubs, they will have a shot to put up enough runs for Sandy, Sixto, or Pablo to hold on.

 

Let’s enjoy this

 

We waited 17 years to experience a Miami Marlins playoff game. That’s a lot of time, and we don’t know what will happen next year. Game 1 starts Wednesday at 2 pm on ABC. Tune in, have fun, and watch the Fish “Ride the Wave.”

A Marlins Playoff Berth On Jose Day

I have been a Marlins fan since I was born. At the ripe age of 2 years old, my family took me to the ‘03 parade. I have had season tickets 4 different times, found myself at hundreds of games, and bought way too many MLB.TV packages. In 2013, my passion for the team evolved further through the game of Jose Fernandez. I watched every start, going to see him on my birthday twice. I was hooked to Marlins baseball and their firecracker Cuban righty. I still remember the morning of September 25th, when we all found out the horrific news. As I watched MLB Network, I didn’t comprehend, rather couldn’t believe my eyes. I slowly walked into my parents’ room to tell them the news. Tears. 

 

September 25th marked the loss of a Miami icon. One that would have sparked the young Miami Marlins into the stratosphere. It was a date that Marlins fans would hold close to heart. A hero to countless Cuban immigrants and thousands of young South Florida pitchers (like myself), Jose Fernandez lost his life in a boating accident.

 

Up until yesterday, September 25th served as a reminder of the man we lost. There is and always will be a sense of dread on that day, as we remember the life Jose brought to the world. The stories. The strikeouts. The smile. 

 

Now, September 25th will be a reminder of Jose and the first time in 17 years that the Marlins have made the playoffs. Like it was out of a movie, we clinched this berth on #JoseDay. Call it our “Angels in the Outfield” moment. Jose may be gone, but his legacy will live on forever, especially now.

 

How did this full-circle moment happen?

 

More specifically, how did we even make the playoffs? The Marlins were 57-105 last year, and no that is not a typo. We were that bad. And statistically, we didn’t evolve that much this year. Statistically, we are the worst MLB team to ever make the playoffs. With a run differential per game of -.7 runs, we find ourselves at the bottom of statistics such as .OBP and WHIP, two of the most commonly cited stats that determine team success. Was it luck? Was it Jose pushing for us from above? Maybe, but there are two central determinants in this team’s unlikely success: culture change and shortened season.

 

Culture change

 

Jose Fernandez helped to start evolving Marlin’s culture in his short time with the team. When we lost him, there was a need to start over. Whatever your thoughts are on the trades that followed, the Marlins organization identified what had to be done. Keep the players who brought in to the change and pick up players who did as well. Miguel Rojas was the centerpiece as he has been one of the most vocal advocates for what this team has done. Pieces such as Lewis Brinson, Starling Marte, and Sixto effectively pushed the culture forward as each player bought in. This shift can be seen in Jorge Alfaro’s description of the Miami Marlins as a “family.” They bought in and told themselves they could do it, and here they are.

 

Shortened season

 

This goes hand in hand with culture. When every individual buys into a singular mentality, they find themselves working towards a collective goal. The opportunity to effectively start at Game 102 tied with every team in the league allowed this culture to develop artificially. The hot 7-1 start augmented these internal beliefs across the organization. It pushed them forward, and it told them that this pipe dream was possible. More and more players bought in. And here we are with October baseball in our near future.

 

Final Thoughts on the Marlins Run

 

Jose Fernandez would be smiling looking down at this team. These guys practiced what he preached every time he took the field. Play hard and have fun. Don Mattingly should be the Manager of the Year without question, due to his ability to impart the shift in culture.

 

September 25th will no longer be a day of grief, but rather one that shows us anything is possible. Jose would be proud.

 

Marlins Playoff Odds Decreasing

Honestly, I think we are all getting worried. The Marlins 9-4 loss last night versus the Braves marks their 4th straight loss in must-win games. The Fish fall to 28-28 and the Phillies climb to 28-29. This means that a Marlins loss tonight would even up the Phillies and Marlins, as the Phillies do not play. The Wild Card seems unlikely as well because the Giants and the Reds both sit a game above .500. Let’s first analyze last’s nightmare before we take a look at possible ways the Marlins can still pull this off.

 

Last 4 games we took an L, but tonight we bounce back… hopefully

 

The Marlins went into last night with Sixto on the mound. Most of us expected a low scoring pitching battle between Cy Young candidate Max Fried and our gunslinging young ace. Instead, Sixto allowed 4 runs over 3 innings, and Max Fried left the game after just 1 inning (injury) allowing 2 runs. The Marlins just can’t outhit this Braves lineup, so if the pitching falters, we lose, as seen in all 3 of these games. Josh A. Smith got the loss, allowing 5 runs in his 1 inning of work, allowing the Braves to turn a 4-4 tie into a 9-4 lead. Sadly, this showing from the Marlins in this game and others recently have highlighted a central issue within the team: their youth. It was hidden at the younger points of the season behind our new veterans, but as the season is coming to a close, it is evident that this team just may not be ready. We can’t expect all of our young guys to play like Tyler Herro. And that’s okay.

 

Playoff Possibilities

 

At this point, the only thing the Marlins should be worried about is getting 2nd in the NL East. The Wild Card seems like a pipe dream the way we are playing when put in contrast to the way the Reds and Giants are playing. Let’s instead take a look at what has to happen to get 2nd in the East. 

 

The Phillies are 28-29. The Marlins are 28-28. The tiebreaker would be the season head-to-head, in which the Marlins are up 7-3. We just have to tie the Phillies. The Phillies have 3 games versus the Tampa Bay Rays. If they go 3-0, we must go 3-1. If they go 2-1, we must go 2-2. If they go, 1-2, we must go 1-3. If they get swept, we can lose all 4. The Marlins clubhouse wants to control their own destiny though, and that can be done by winning 3 or more games in their final 4. The magic number is still 3, and we all know it.

 

Marlins vs Braves Finale

 

The Marlins look to salvage one win versus the Braves tonight as Pablo Lopez takes on Ian Anderson at 7:10 pm. This is shaping to be a fun last weekend of baseball. It all comes down to this.

Marlins Magic Number at 3

No, the Marlins did not win. No, they did not even come close. Another blowout win for the Braves puts the Marlins run differential at -37. Granted that differential is being dragged down by the 4 games in which the Marlins have been obliterated. Luckily, and most importantly, the Marlins’ magic number drops to 3, with 5 games remaining. The Phillies lost both games of their doubleheader versus the Nationals. 

Mattingly isn’t worried

 

“Once you get in with this format that we have — you know if you get in and you have pitching, you have a chance,” said Mattingly after last night’s tough loss. Even though there have been a few outlier games, Pitching has been the most consistent aspect of this team. Tomorrow, the Marlins’ present and future ace Sixto Sanchez takes the mound. Mattingly seems at ease because if the Marlins do make the postseason, Sixto, Sandy, and Pablo are a very dangerous 1-2-3 punch. Urena faltered last night, allowing 4 earned over 6 innings of work, but he is a perfect 4th in the rotation: a veteran with good stuff. It will be interesting to see who gets the 5th spot. Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers serve as the most likely choices, but both have had their recent struggles. If this team can push itself into the postseason, a hot pitching streak could push them further.

5 games left

 

5 games determine if the Marlins break the 17-year long streak without a playoff appearance. I have not consciously experienced a Marlins’ playoff game because I was about 2 years old during the ‘03 run. After years of season tickets, thousands of games on TV, and hundreds of thousands of MLB.TV updates, I am ready. The Marlins are ready. It is time for them to buckle down and win 3 of these games and prove that this team is capable of the improbable. Miami is ready to see their baseball team actually compete. Sixto leads the charge tonight.

Marlins vs Braves, Phillies vs Nationals

 

Yes, we have Sixto on the mound; but the Braves have their Cy Young candidate Max Fried. Game 3 will be no easier than games 1 and 2. The Fish are going to have to wake up their slumbering bats and put together good at-bats to get there. The Phillies play the Nationals again. Every Phillies’ loss is a Marlins’ win, so pay attention to both games. Marlins play the Braves at 7:10 PM and the Phillies take on the Nationals at 6:05 PM.