An MLB team can get around a moderate offense if it has great pitching. The Miami Marlins are showcasing what happens when you have an elite starting rotation accompanied by an anemic offense: you lose — badly.
Miami has failed to build on its successful 2020 season, which featured beating the Chicago Cubs in the National League Wild Card Round. This season, they’re 47-62, good for last place in the NL East, and were sellers at the MLB trade deadline. The latter included trading away Starling Marte, Adam Duvall, Yimi Garcia, John Curtiss and Corey Dickerson earlier in the year.
This season has been a mess for manager Don Mattingly’s ball club.
Offense and pitching have been polar opposites for the Miami Marlins
The Marlins by no means had a top-tier offensive attack last season, but they were at the very least a respectable bunch with a healthy combination of youth and veterans.
This season, Miami has a young infielder to boast about in Jazz Chisholm. He’s flashing power, speed and a capable glove at both second base and shortstop. Veteran first baseman Jesus Aguilar has been raking with 76 RBIs to his name. That’s about it.
All in all, the Marlins’ batting order entered Thursday no better than 20th in MLB in runs (424), hits (844), home runs (106), batting average (.234) and OPS (.674). Keep in mind, those totals have been mostly powered by players like Marte and Duvall, who were recently traded.
On the other hand, starting pitching has been phenomenal for the Marlins. Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Rogers and Pablo Lopez own individual ERAs no higher than 3.12 and are keeping runners off the basepaths at a high level. Alcantara is an innings-eater with a consistent four-pitch arsenal (sinker, changeup, slider and fastball). Rogers is the likely NL Rookie of the Year. Lopez has been extremely efficient.
Plus, top prospect Sixto Sanchez, who impressed in 2020, is rehabbing from a shoulder injury, while fellow youngsters Daniel Castano and Elieser Hernandez have found success in the past. In the present, 27-year-old right-hander Zach Thompson is finding himself, and Nick Neidert has held his own. It’s difficult to find a starting rotation in better shape over the next three years than the Marlins’ staff.
Yawning NL East makes Miami Marlins’ offensive woes dispiriting
The NL East was supposed to be stellar this season. Instead, it has been dreadful, and the Marlins haven’t done anything to take advantage of it.
The division-leading New York Mets have been respectable, but likely have a losing record in any other division. Despite injuries and/or roster shakeups, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals are playing better than the Marlins. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Phillies have been all over the place. The Marlins have been in the same place virtually all season: the bottom of the NL East.
Were the Marlins the favorites to win the NL East or even the clear-cut second-best team in the division in spring training? Of course not, but they have a model that leads to success and is built for a 162-game season given its reliance on starting pitching. Heck, they’re built to withstand injuries with their plethora of young arms.
The mere fact that the Marlins aren’t contending for the NL East and were sellers at the trade deadline is dispiriting for their sake.
Long-term, their NL East foes aren’t going anywhere. The Mets, Braves and Phillies have cores on the rise and/or in their primes while the Nationals have the young depth to be competitive again in the near future. The 2021 season panned out to be the Marlins’ best chance to break through. They’ve squandered it and now have a number of pressing matters to attend to.
The Miami Marlins are in trouble
Outside of Chisholm, there isn’t a young position player giving the Marlins reason to be optimistic. Isan Diaz, Magneuris Sierra and Lewis Brinson are struggling to get on base. Jorge Alfaro’s time behind the plate with the Marlins could be numbered. Brian Anderson’s MLB career is getting derailed by injuries and offensive inconsistency.
Even if outfield prospect JJ Bleday comes to the big leagues in 2021 and excels, this is a below-average offense, comparatively speaking. Miami added another young pitcher at the trade deadline, as they moved Marte to the Oakland Athletics for left-hander Jesus Luzardo.
The organization is at a crossroads and may be forced to take from some of its pitching depth to add a promising, young bat via trade. That’s not to mention that they already have to get busy on the free agent market when it comes to adding impact bats.
The Miami Marlins are in trouble, and it’s a real shame that they’re in this position. Alcantara, Rogers and Lopez head a dynamic rotation that can only improve with age and the return of Sixto Sanchez. There has been zero actual growth from the Marlins’ offense to the point where it’s rendered their rotation useless. It’s one of the best units in baseball, and it’s being completely wasted.
Teams rarely, if ever make the playoffs with a great offense and moderate rotation. They do, however, make the playoffs with the opposite being the case. The 2021 Milwaukee Brewers embody that notion, whereas the Miami Marlins embody what happens when only one aspect of your ball club improves.