The Miami Marlins are a bad baseball team that didn’t have to be a bad baseball team.
They had the best outfield in baseball with Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton. Dee Gordon was a solid second baseman. That’s the kind of young nucleus that should make them competitive for a long time, and even after being devastated by the sudden loss of Jose Fernandez at the end of the previous season, they were able to finish in second place in the NL East last year, albeit at 77-85. They were an arm or two away from pushing for a playoff spot.
Instead, they did what the Marlins always do and stripped the franchise down to nothing, this time because the new ownership group (including Derek Jeter) wanted to pay down their debt.
The Marlins come into this series with a better record than the Cincinnati Reds at 5-12, thanks to a few surprisingly competitive games against the Cubs and Pirates, but they’re a less talented team overall. Nobody in the lineup has an OPS over .800 and only three players have an above-average early OPS+ -- Miguel Rojas (127), Justin Bour (118), and Brian Anderson (118).
Old friend Lewis Brinson is getting a shot in the majors to start the year, but he’s continued to struggle mightily against major league pitching. He’s off to a .131/.185/.131 start, going 8-for-61 with just 3 walks and 20 strikeouts to start the year. Brinson’s learning curve was always going to be a big one at the major league level, but with nothing left to prove in Triple-A, the Marlins may as well let him take his lumps this year and figure things out.
Thursday - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Dillon Peters vs. Chase Anderson
Friday - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Trevor Richards vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Saturday - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Jose Urena vs. Brent Suter
Sunday - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Caleb Smith vs. Junior Guerra
Peters’ overall numbers look ugly -- 11 earned runs in 14.2 innings over 3 starts so far -- but almost all of that damage was done in one start. After shutting out the Cubs for 6 innings in his first start, Peters was crushed for 9 runs off of 9 hits and 3 walks in 2.2 innings before being pulled from his second start. He bounced back with a quality start, only allowing 2 runs over 6 innings against the Pirates last Friday. He won’t strike many guys out -- he only has 8 punchouts in 14.2 innings this year -- but he’s still capable of getting outs with balls in play.
Richards got off to a bad start to the year with 8 runs allowed off of 14 hits and 4 walks in 8.1 combined innings over his first two starts, but then turned around and shut down the Pirates with 7 scoreless innings off of 2 hits in his last start. In true Marlins fashion, they lost that game 1-0 despite the rare gem of a start. A 25-year-old rookie, Richards did put up a 2.53 ERA in 27 games (25 starts) last season between High-A and Double-A, striking out 158 in 146 innings and carrying a 5.27 K/BB ratio. As impressive as those numbers are, it’s important to remember he was a little old for the levels he played at.
Urena was supposed to be the ace of the staff after putting up a 3.82 ERA last year, but a deeper look into the numbers show he was extremely lucky in 2017 -- his FIP was 5.20 thanks to a less than ideal walk rate, the fact he hit a league-leading 14 batters, and only struck out 113 in 169.2 innings. Those problems have largely continued this year, as he already leads the majors with 4 hit batters this season and has gotten shelled for 13 earned runs off of 23 hits in 21 innings in 2018.
Smith was (very momentarily) a Brewer a couple winters ago, when David Stearns plucked him out of the New York Yankees farm system in the Rule 5 draft. Of course, Stearns immediately traded Smith to the Cubs. He didn’t stick in Chicago, though, and was returned back to the Yankees, who sent him to Miami along with Actual Former Brewers farmhand Garrett Cooper for a guy named Mike King and international bonus slot money. Smith held the Cubs to just 1 run in 5.1 innings with 8 strikeouts in his first start this year, but has struggled mightily after that. That includes his most recent start, when he couldn’t get out of the 3rd inning against the Yankees, giving up 5 runs on 5 hits and 5 walks.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference