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2014 Preview: Miami Marlins

Mar 4, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

giancarlo stanton getty Getty Images

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Miami Marlins.

The Big Question: Can the Marlins lose fewer than 100 games?

The Marlins lost exactly 100 games last season, the result of their latest gigantic fire sale. The Fish opened up the 2012 season with a $101.6 million payroll, but ended up trading away Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Hanley Ramirez, Edward Mujica, Gaby Sanchez, Heath Bell, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, and Yunel Escobar by the end of the calendar year.

With most of their talent gone, the Marlins had to fill out their roster with young, inexperienced players and cheap, discarded veterans. On the one hand, this allowed us to watch Jose Fernandez flourish. On the other hand, Jeff Mathis racked up the most playing time behind the dish. The team was not fun to watch, nor even to watch your team play against.

Giancarlo Stanton was the one bright spot on offense. He was the only Marlins hitter (min. 275 plate appearances) to post an adjusted OPS over 95; he finished at 131. The slugger blasted 24 home runs in just over 500 trips to the plate, many of them tape-measure shots. Stanton landed on the disabled list for the second season in a row with a strained right hamstring. He hasn’t exactly been Franklin Gutierrez with his injury problems, but he is starting to get the reputation of someone who struggles to play a full season.

The other bright spot in Miami was Jose Fernandez. The 20-year-old Cuban dominated Major League hitters from the start, allowing two or fewer runs in 11 of his first 15 starts. Ultimately, he finished with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 172 2/3 innings. The Baseball Writers Association of America rewarded him with the National League Rookie of the Year award, and the right-hander also finished third in Cy Young balloting. Going into 2014, he is the undisputed ace of the Marlins’ staff and will unsurprisingly get the Opening Day nod.

The Marlins haven’t done much to improve the roster, staying pretty quiet during the off-season. Their big splash was the signing of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year, $21 million deal. The Fish did add Garrett Jones to replace Logan Morrison at first base, Rafael Furcal to play at second base, Casey McGehee to man the hot corner, and Carlos Marmol to contribute out of the bullpen, but they can all be classified as garbage heap signings.

What else is going on? 

  • Last season, closer Steve Cishek impressed by saving 34 games and posting a 2.33 ERA in 69 2/3 innings. It marks his third consecutive season with a sub-2.70 ERA. Unfortunately, Cishek is eligible for arbitration in each of the next two years, so he will get a raise on his $3.8 million salary for 2014. This means that the Marlins are very likely to trade him, if not by the July 31 trade deadline, then at some point during the off-season.
  • The starting rotation beyond Fernandez has a chance to be productive. ZiPS is projecting a 3.94 ERA for Henderson Alvarez, 4.09 for Nate Eovaldi, and 4.35 for Jacob Turner. PECOTA isn’t too far off at 4.10, 4.41, and 4.07, respectively. No, they don’t knock your socks off, but if the trio can beat the projections even by a little bit, the Marlins won’t  be the 100-game losers of yesteryear.
  • Christian Yelich impressed in 62 games after being called up in late July, posting a .766 OPS in 273 PA. He also stole ten bases in as many attempts. He was Baseball America’s #15 prospect entering the season and he will be the club’s starting left fielder.
  • The Marlins will try to sign Stanton to a contract extension throughout the season. Stanton was displeased with the team’s fire sale in 2012, but said recently he’d consider signing long-term if they showed him a commitment to winning. He said, “[Security] happens over a season or over two seasons. You show me that, and we can get something going.” [Via MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro] 

Prediction: The Marlins have some players to keep your eye on, but unfortunately, the majority of their roster is dreck and it will cost them plenty of games. Reaching the 70-win threshold will be a battle. Fifth place, NL East.

  1. kiwicricket - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    The actual Marlins will be utter poop and Loria will make large sacks of money regardless.

    It’s a lose-lose situation.

  2. spudchukar - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    Not only are the Marlins not going to lose 100 they will finish ahead of both the Pheelies and Mutts.

    • southpaw2k - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      So wait…you’re saying the Marlins will lose 100+ games, but still finish 3rd in the NL East? Are you expecting the Braves and Nationals to win 120+games apiece this season?

      • shorttracknews - Mar 4, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        Helps if you actually read what he said. “Not” going to lose 100…

      • southpaw2k - Mar 4, 2014 at 4:22 PM

        What an amazing difference a single word makes in a sentence. I hereby award myself the Derp of the Day.

  3. proudlycanadian - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    I will take the over.

    • dirtyharry1971 - Mar 4, 2014 at 6:35 PM

      They will be better then the jays that’s for sure

      • Old Gator - Mar 4, 2014 at 10:09 PM

        Our resident artificial stupidity seems to be stuck in a loop. But then, he always seems to be stuck in a loop. The same one.

      • vivabear - Mar 4, 2014 at 10:54 PM

        Let me get this straight, Old Felcher, you’re pointing out someone repeatedly posting the same things? If there was ever someone guilty of regurgitating the same bull$hit over and over again…that would be you.

      • Old Gator - Mar 4, 2014 at 11:51 PM

        Sewerbear! Hey, I really missed you. Nearly a week of spending my time with nothing but intelligent, tasteful, educated people – it wears on you, you know? It’s so refreshing to be confronted by a little genuine, right out of the gutter vulgar stupidity for a change. They finally gave you a night orf from handing bags of greasy burgers through the drive-up window, eh?

      • vivabear - Mar 5, 2014 at 2:45 AM

        Again you make no sense, Old Felcher. And you still prove yourself to be arrogant and prejudiced. You say you’ve been dealing with intelligent people, yet you call harry dim witted all the time, and you address him in this very thread – so you’re £ucking braindead

      • Old Gator - Mar 5, 2014 at 9:41 AM

        I call our virtual village idiot dimwitted because he is dimwitted, just as I call you a moronic, vulgar lowlife because you are a moronic vulgar lowlife. I simply strive for accuracy, and unfortunately for you two decerebrated Bernoulli twins, quantum uncertainty doesn’t operate in the macrocosm.

      • happytwinsfan - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:12 AM

        Bill, Craig, or whoever decides what constitutes an unacceptable post on this site, does using an earnest goes to camp level obscenity like “old felcher” cross the line, or is there no line?

      • Old Gator - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:27 AM

        Well, I suspect that since Craig probably doesn’t spend all his free time watching amateur pornography on the internet the way Sewerbear apparently does, he may not be aware of what it means. But you’re quite right – it’s disgusting, and wholly typical of who we’re dealing with.

      • vivabear - Mar 5, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        You missed the central point, Old Felcher. You claim to have not dealt with idiots for a week until my first post in this thread. Yet in the very same thread, you respond to harry. You just type irrelevant nonsense and hope to look intelligent. Then u act like it’s somehow wrong for me to know the definition of felcher – while you yourself seem to know. Once again you prove yourself a hypocrite.

      • Old Gator - Mar 5, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        I must admit – albeit ruefully – that I only looked it up because you used it. To the extent that it is possible to learn anything from an ignorant lowlife, I have learned something. That it’s as useless as you are in general goes without saying. But I got it from Google whereas you clearly assimilated it from the primary source, since your entire demeanor is consistent with the kind of lowlife who would be watching sewer level porn.

        But go right on ahead disgusting other correspondents here and confirming my opinion of you for them.

      • vivabear - Mar 5, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        Congrats Old Felcher, you can shown a little self awareness.

      • Old Gator - Mar 5, 2014 at 12:24 PM

        You’re hardly in any position to evaluate self-awareness, gutter trash. You’ve been making a histrionic, marble-mouthed slug of yourself nonstop for weeks, blissfully unconscious about how you come across as mindless, ignorant back alley garbage. But like I said, keep it up. If convincing everyone that you’re worthless and stupid is what you’re after, it may be the only thing you’ve ever achieved for yourself.

  4. rjostewart - Mar 4, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    Anyone know how to pronounce “Yelich?”

    • Old Gator - Mar 4, 2014 at 10:10 PM

      It’s pronounced like “Mxyzptlk.”

    • greatmiamisportsmind - Mar 5, 2014 at 12:13 AM

      Yell-Itch

  5. ksmmike - Mar 4, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    The Marlins are much improved despite the owner. Remember last year their starting pitchers were mostly injured to start the season. Stanton was dinged up to start the season as was LoMo. This year they are mostly healthy with a lot of depth in the minors. They are stronger at catcher, outfield, the SS has a year under is belt and better at 3rd with a better bench and bullpen. How does that not equate to more wins? You should have done your homework better. They will win at least 78 games if not more. They have a better every day lineup than the Mets and you never know what you will get from the Phillies with all the guys being older and been hurt. Look for the Phillies to finally give it up and restock by the break. The Mets will miss Harvey big time.
    Nats 92 wins
    Braves 89
    Phillies 79
    Marlins 78
    Mets 76
    book it..

  6. Old Gator - Mar 4, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    I doubt if the Feesh’ll lose 100 this season; all of their young peetchers, if healthy, should improve. They’ll have more production, which I admit isn’t saying much, from behind the plate. If either Marisnick or Ozuna pans out this season – and there’s a reasonable chance that one of them will – they’ll certainly have a better outfield, especially if it’s Ozuna who settles in, with that cannon of an arm. As I’ve written before, anyone thinking about trying to stretch a base will have to think twice about running against Ozuna and the Iron Giant. That will be intimidating. I know that “run prevention” didn’t do the Crew of the Minnow much good season ‘fore last, and it won’t do the Feesh that much good either if they don’t get some serious upticks in production from the Iron Giant and some of the hairless wonders they’ve thrown into the breach, but if the Giant finally figures out how to control his strike zone and one of the new kids blossoms a bit they will at least score a bit more than they did the past two lost planet airman seasons.

    The infield, except for Hechavarria at short, looks like the baseball equivalent of what El Topo set loose when he blew out the side of the hill. Even Hechavarria is going to need to learn to draw walks and find other ways to get on base, glove or no.

    I’m not sure whether you can say that the Iron Giant “blasted” 24 home runs with a smile, because if he’d been patient he should have crushed forty or so. Frankly, he remained an undisciplined hitter and got pitched around so often that he became frustrated and started lunging at pitches he couldn’t have influenced if he were psychokinetic. He looked like a snapping turtle at the plate much of the season, and Gator knows snapping turtles. The guys they signed off the landfill might have a bright moment and one can always surprise, but…I doubt if by “showing a commitment to win” to be lulled into signing an extension with this bunch of crooks the Giant meant acquiring dropped clams like Furcal, Bogusevic and McGehee.

    70-75 wins. Fifth place. Fourth only if the Mutts or Feelies completely implode.

    • dirtyharry1971 - Mar 4, 2014 at 6:36 PM

      “yawn” you can go back to bed now.

      • Old Gator - Mar 4, 2014 at 10:05 PM

        Never met a played out line in the first place that you couldn’t beat to death anyway, did you, cretin?

    • buddaley - Mar 5, 2014 at 8:14 AM

      I am not sure the evidence indicates that Stanton lacked patience or that he would have homered more often had he been more disciplined.

      Stanton did have a high walk rate, and he did hit home runs at a lower rate than in previous seasons, but his strikeout rate remained steady. Since his first season, when it was over 30%, it has hovered between 27.5% and 28.5% each year. So while he may have been lunging out of frustration at being pitched around, it did not lead to an increase in Ks. It may have contributed to more weakly hit balls which would account for his lower BA in 2013.

      Despite his low BA, Stanton had the highest OBP of his career. Of course, the Marlins need his power, so his improved plate discipline (or at least higher BB rate) does not compensate for fewer opportunities to hit home runs. But if he can maintain that BB rate while seeing better pitches as the lineup around him improves, it will be a boon to Miami.

      If you think he was undisciplined and also could have hit more home runs had he been more patient, how do you account for his steady K rate and improved BB rate? Only 5 of his walks were labeled intentional (compared to 9 in fewer PAs in 2012), so even if more were semi-intentional, a lack of patience should have led to fewer walks and more Ks. Were he more patient, wouldn’t he have walked even more and hit fewer home runs?

      • Old Gator - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:19 AM

        Good points, all. But I think you answered part of your own question when you pointed out that he probably grounded out more often because of his lunging swings. The trick is to watch him at bat. If I had a beer for every time I thought, “now he’s gonna get a low outside pitch and lunge at it” or “now he’s gonna get a high inside pitch and swing at it” and did, I’d have cirrhosis. The higher BB rate is, I’m quite sure, a consequence of his being pitched around as much as he was last season.

        So, to a great extent, is the improved OBP. Now as you surely realize an improved OBP is of greatest benefit to the team when there’s someone behind you to move you around the bases and drive you in. Bear in mind that because of his repeated knee injuries, he’s not going to steal as many bases even though he’s fast because he probably doesn’t enjoy those wasted months on the DL, so the OBP only gets him so far in the actual context of playing for the Feesh. I mention this to emphasize that it’s not necessarily a good thing merely that he got on base (or to put it another way, merely that he got on base) because he’s standing on first rather than second, third, or jogging home after launching one of his moonshots and doing what he’s supposed to do, which is drive in runs – and given who was behind him in the order, he was more likely than not to die there.

        And again, after watching him all season, the fewer home runs and the poor BA are a consequence of all the bad swings he took, not of the fewer opportunities. I think opposing pitchers were able to read when he was pressing – he didn’t have guys on base all that much in the first place so it didn’t take a lot of savvy to know that when he did, especially in a close game, he could be tempted to swing at a bad pitch out of frustration and anxiousness.

        Bear in mind, too, that his WAR plunged from 5.5 in 2012 to 2.4 last season, and his OPS declined from .969 to .845. Also telling, and apropos of what I just wrote above, his TB went down from 273 to 204 despite a difference of only 25 fewer at-bats.

        For what it’s worth, during one of the last broadcasts of the season Tommy Hutton – to whom I would naturally defer in matters of analysis – said that the Iron Giant would have to “re-define himself” as a hitter and make up his mind about his strike zone if he wanted to avoid another subpar year like the one just concluding.

        One thing about we absolutely do agree, though: with a better lineup around him, he’ll not only get better pitches to hit but, and this is important too, he can relax a little and become more selective. What I would worry about is how deeply ensconced in his bad habits he might become by the time that improved lineup is a reality.

      • buddaley - Mar 5, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        The data backs you up on much of what you say. From 2012-2013 his batted ball rates (rounded off) show a decline in line drives (.22-.18) and fly balls (.42-.39) and an increase in ground balls (.36-.43) and infield fly balls (.9-.16), all bad trends for a power hitter. There was also a decline in home runs per fly balls which may also result from less solid contact rates.

        It is interesting though that his 2011 batted ball rates were almost identical to those of 2013. In fact, his line drive rate was slightly better in 2013 (.18-.17) while he hit more grounders in 2011 and the same number of fly balls. 2011 did show fewer infield flys and more home runs/fly balls.

        As for WAR, while both BB-Ref and FanGraphs show his offensive WAR as declining in 2013, BB-Ref has the decline much less severe. Both however do show a decline in defensive WAR which is at least part of the overall WAR decline. I think his continued injury problems may have exacerbated his problems, perhaps as much or more than any perceived problem with patience or discipline.

        I don’t doubt your observations. You see him a lot more than I do and Tommy Hutton has far more expertise than I. But observation is remarkably unreliable no matter how skilled the observer. I think observation provides a working hypothesis which is more credible when validated by the statistics.

      • Old Gator - Mar 5, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        Bud – yep, I don’t doubt for a moment that his decline in fielding WAR is attributable to his knee problems. Also, another quick note – if he knows he’s being pitched around, he’s less likely to swing. That too contributes to a dropoff in his strikeout rates. I think this may be a stat heavily influenced by the special situation of batting cleanup in an otherwise impotent batting order – no one on base, he’s probably more likely to leave the bat on his shoulder and let himself be walked.

        Of course this is just speculative. I’m not much of a stat-head, honestly, so I have to wonder if it’s possible to see if his strikeouts bunched up towards the latter half of the season, when his frustrations had mounted and he saw his offensive stats declining to the point that he began chasing stuff he might have let pass earlier on. Or, if it’s possible to find stats that distinguish how he batted with men on base versus bases empty.

        In any case thanks very much for this thoughtful and rigorous exchange. No doubt I’ll be watching him more carefully and with an eye towards comparing what I see to how the numbers fall out this season.

      • buddaley - Mar 5, 2014 at 3:02 PM

        I am very much a novice in using stats but respect those with far more expertise than I have. it’s not that I consider their analyses gospel, just that it adds dimension to any discussion. And very often, I find the conclusions of sabermetricians convincing or at least reasonable. What I particularly like about them is that they are self-critical and abjure dogma or orthodoxy. (Not all, of course, but every group has its simple minded.)

        It is possible to get the sort of information you mention. As a matter of fact, his K rate skyrocketed in the last 2 months. It was very high (29.5%) in April, dropped significantly in a small sample in June, crept up in July and then soared over 30% in August and September. Your speculation might explain it, although at this point that is the most we can say.

        I know it is possible to find practically any sort of granular data of the sort you suggest, but I’m not skilled enough to do it quickly, so I will end it here.

  7. spudchukar - Mar 4, 2014 at 7:01 PM

    Kudos to the Commander Cody reference. Just happen to be listening to “The Trinity Session” when I click on Gator’s prognostication. Co-incidence or a Golden Scarab, I know not.

    • Old Gator - Mar 4, 2014 at 10:07 PM

      The original Trinity Session or the Trinity Revisited version with Natalie Merchant, Ryan Adams and Vic Chesnutt? The latter is worth buying for Adams’ rendition of “200 More Miles” alone – and it comes with a DVD of the entire session. Brilliant.

      • spudchukar - Mar 5, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        Thanks for the info. It was the original one that I was referring to, but I will certainly look for the “revisited” one.

  8. cackalackyank - Mar 4, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    Be of good cheer Feeesh Faithful…there’s always Houston.

    • Old Gator - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      Yes, but because the Feesh are owned by Scrooge McLoria and the Houston ownership ackcherley wants to win, while the Feesh will likely remain in the general vicinity of where they are now, there won’t always be Houston.

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