For many Marlins fans, dwelling in the past is about all you have if you haven’t lost faith in your team entirely. If you’re sick of visiting the past as it offers nothing for the present, fair enough, they haven’t been successful for the past decade. Right now, the organization is under a new ownership and it could take more than a couple years before they can compete again. So while you’re stuck with this new, boring AAA team attempting to act like a legit baseball club, I say we look into the past one more time to break down if the Marlins had the full potential to make the postseason during their last tenure.
Now, when I ask whether the Marlins are able to compete again, most people are wondering why I would even use the word “again” since the team’s last winning season was in 2009. That’s true, but the Marlins came close the past couple years. The only question is how close though? It’s easy to write them off as a failing team, but there were injuries plaguing them that offset their competitiveness. The question is a big IF, as in, IF their lineup was intact and without injury, could they have made it to the postseason? That’s a good question, and there’s enough reason to break it down and analyze what the max potential of the Miami Marlins was. As a precursor, I’ll use Wins Above Replacement (WAR) pretty liberally as an example of where the team might land overall. WAR is hard to calculate but I think it can help portray an idea of what teams will be good and what teams won’t. For the Marlins, this could maximize or even minimize the team’s full potential.
Beginning with that beautiful, beautiful outfield, the Marlins had three legit superstars in Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton. We can pretty much remember all of their upsides as last season was by far and away all three of their bests. Ozuna’s stat line sat at .312/.376/.548. His total WAR was 4.8. Giancarlo Stanton had an incredible season putting up record numbers that we all assumed he could do when healthy. Stanton was good for a total of 6.9 WAR with a slash line of .281/.376/.631. The dude just straight up mashed the ball en route to 59 home runs. In center was Christian Yelich. Now, I don’t want to roll over on Yelich. He may not be as sexy as Ozuna or Stanton, but any team would be better with Yelich on it. He’s got the looks, the glove and a stat line of .282/.369/.439 with a 4.5 WAR. One could argue that his previous season was better than last year and I would argue that it doesn’t matter. He had a similar season all around. So, with a combined 15.8 WAR in the outfield, that is just ridiculous.
Defensively, it’s as solid as you can get. I’d put them behind the Angels with Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and Justin Upton, but on the offensive side of the ball, Marlins edge them out.
Moving on to the infield. Now here is where it gets tricky. At first base is Justin Bour. Bour came from the Cubs organization and I don’t know who their scouts are but they have a fetish for trimmed down Chris Farleys. To this date, Bour hasn’t played a full season. His best was last year when he hit 25 home runs in 429 plate appearances. If he were to go a full 150 games, there’s no doubt he’d be over 30 home runs. He even proved that in the home run derby. If you’re willing to agree with me, then please do because your Marlins’ fans and you probably need this in your life. With that said, I’ll still take his WAR at 2.2, in fairness. Sliding over to second base we have “The Girl Who Loved [Dee] Gordon.” Dee Gordon represents the opposite of what a Cubs scout would draft. He doesn’t mash, he just gets on base and uses his legs hoping for a go-home-free card from either Ozuna, Bour or Stanton. As a leadoff man, he’s the guy you want to be and the guy you love to admire if your name is Billy Hamilton. He’s the living embodiment of Willie Mays Hayes. Let’s put him down for the prescribed 3.3 WAR he’s worth.
As we scoot over, we head into troubled waters. The awful positions of shortstop and third base, which are usually exciting to look at for any team, are not so fun to look at here. Is there literally anyone I can get that’s interesting? Ok, this time we’ll have to go back to the year 2015 when Adeiny Hechavarria made the most of his time at shortstop. He wasn’t the sexiest name but he got the job done. Much like Miguel Rojas who was at the position last year after taking over for Hechavarria, they’re just there. Flip a coin really, I don’t mind.
Let’s throw them down for 2 WAR over the course of a whole season. At third I’ll take Prado. He does what he can and what he can do is get on base like in 2016 when he had a stat line of .305/.359/.417. He might lose in a home run derby to teammate Dee Gordon but at least he’s good for 3 WAR over that season. All said, the infield is looking at 10.5 WAR. Eh, there’s better looking infields but just look at that outfield! That outfield is looking pretty good with only three players accumulating for so much more talent than four guys. But wait! There’s more. Let’s not forget JT Realmuto. He’s not an archetypal catcher. He can steal bases, he can hit home runs (most catchers can), and he can hit for a decent average. If anyone wonders what happened to Jonathan Lucroy, Realmuto bodysnatched him. Realmuto comes in with a 3.6 WAR each of the past two seasons. Much like Yelich, put me down for either year. Now, we’re getting somewhere.
Next we have pitchers. This may get heavy but if we are to do this right, I’m going to start with an ace and work my way backward. For an ace, I’ll choose Jose Fernandez. It’s tough when any team loses someone as loved as Fernandez. In order to do this right, I say we add him to the team. The Marlins wouldn’t even have been a thought if they didn’t have a staple like Fernandez. With a team like this behind him, he would literally never lose either. I feel like I don’t have to say anymore about him, let his numbers tell you the truth—in 2016, he had a 12.5 K/9 with a 2.89 ERA in under 200 innings. He’s good for 6.2 WAR. After Fernandez, however, the pitching get atrocious. I can throw names around like Volquez, Urena, Straily and Koehler. If I put them all together into the starting rotation, we get something like 4 WAR? Maybe? Can we agree on that? Judges say no but we’ll have to move on, sorry, I don’t have the time. Overall we’re looking at a pitching staff of 10.6 WAR with Straily leading the pack after Fernandez.
As we move on to the bullpen, there is a whole lot of talent here. Names like Barraclough should be a testament to their greatness. Truth be told, the Marlins bullpen last year was better than most bullpens. The Marlins starting pitching tied for last with the Reds in terms of quality starts with 54. Thankfully, the Marlins actually had a decent bullpen unlike the Reds so you never heard of the team losing leads left and right. The bullpen was flat out taxed though and the numbers they put up can be reflective of that, however, there were some great strides. Take my friend Kyle Barraclough. In 2016, he had a 14 K/9, then in 2017 he had 10.39 K/9. Of course I’ll take 2016 but he had a 2.86 ERA whereas in 2017 he had a 3.00 ERA. That’s still good for a 2.1 WAR even though he probably needs to stop giving out so many free passes and keep those walks under control. Our next guy is Drew Steckenrider aka, copycat Barraclough. His numbers last year are familiar to Barraclough’s right down to his problem with walks. Aside from that, he’s a beast as well and as a late innings guy, he’s worth some WAR for holding down some leads. Finally, filling the closer’s spot is Brad Ziegler. I’ll take his 2016 where he was a dominant closer with a 2.25 ERA between the Marlins and the Arizona Diamondbacks. So let’s end there.
We could look at every single aspect of the Marlins’ bullpen but those players are the only ones that matter. The rest could add up to a single WAR due to never having a prominent role like those three. So the bullpen collective stands around 4.46 WAR. Not too shabby. That seems a little high but give or take, I’m pretty big on a couple of those names and you should be too. They’re going to be one of the best aspects about that team until they’re traded by the All-Star Break.
So, how does all of this add up then? As a total, the team lands around 44.96 WAR, which, I should repeat is a rough estimate. Don’t take it for exact value as we all know WAR is not easy to calculate and is very subjective. If we slot the Marlins in among 2017 baseball teams, that’s between the Nationals and the Cubs. They could have competed with the Nationals for the division and come close, or they could have been a strong wild card by pushing out Colorado. Comparably, next to Colorado, these Marlins look like they have better skill sets so I could see that happening. It would be hard to see them against that Nationals’ lineup though with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy and a surprisingly good Ryan Zimmerman. Now, if we were to get crazy and compare them to 2018 baseball clubs, even though most of these players would be contributing to other teams as well, they would be wedged between the Red Sox and the Nationals. Does that seem right? Above them is the Red Sox. On the pitching side there’s Sale and Price; and on the batting side, there’s Betts and Martinez. I could see the 2018 Red Sox being the Marlins’ largest upside. That is if literally everything was working in their favor. Unfortunately, it didn’t and they’re left with the worst team in baseball now. There’s no sugarcoating it. They suck. I’ll leave you with this article to dream about, Marlins fans. I wish you the best and have fun. Your team may suck but there was always a chance even if it didn’t pan out the way you wanted it to.
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