One to Go: Marlins Seek First Cycle

Who will be the first Marlin to hit for the cycle?

It took 53 seasons, but with Joe Musgrove’s 112-pitch effort two weeks ago, the San Diego Padres franchise and their fans were finally able to celebrate a feat every other team has already enjoyed: a no-hitter. A few seasons ago, a Padres player completed another rare single-game achievement: hitting for the cycle.

In their 29 seasons of existence, the Marlins have sent 638 players to plate and mound across 4,380 games. Six lucky pitchers have tossed no-hitters. Fans have endured four fire sales. In three trips to the playoffs, the franchise has twice earned the title of World Series Champions. What has no Marlins player ever done? Hit for a cycle.

The Fighting Fish have taken the belittling words of one particular broadcaster to heart, turning his remarks into their rallying cry. They have electrifying young talent and the mindset that “Quitting is not an option,” at least according to catcher Jorge Alfaro after he finally broke through a dismal slump with a walk-off hit last week.

While a player hitting for the cycle is not the be-all and end-all, the Marlins are no longer the laughing stock of the league. But Padres fans are no longer on the outside, looking in at no-hitter celebrations. When will Marlins fans be able to say the same for a cycle?

 

Going Around the Diamond…

 

The 2021 season brought the West Coast good fortune, so maybe the East Coast isn’t far behind. I’ve selected four current Marlins who could be the one to hit for the cycle.

 

Single – Brian Anderson

Career totals (5 seasons): 230 1B, 84 2B, 7 3B, 43 HR

 

Anderson has largely flown under the radar, but he has consistently put up numbers above league average through his first full three seasons. He’s off to a slow start in 2021, partially due to some bad luck. His expected batting average and expected slugging percentage, based more on the quality of his contact and less on the opposing defense, are much higher than the results he’s actually had. Through his first 15 games, Anderson has a .183 BA and a .283 SLG. Looking at his expected numbers via Statcast, he’s done better than his numbers imply: .224 xBA and .435 xSLG. It’s still below average, but a little bit unlucky too.

Baseball Savant has a cool visual tool that allows you to choose a batter and view other similar players based on their hitting profile based on the type of contact they make and frequency of walks and strikeouts. Two of the top five most-related players to Anderson are Shohei Ohtani and Matt Kemp. This is not to say that Anderson is as good as Ohtani is now or as good as Kemp was — he isn’t — but he makes similar contact and also strikes out often. My ultimate point in mentioning Ohtani and Kemp? They both have hit for the cycle.

 

Double – Starling Marte

Career totals (10 seasons): 761 1B, 208 2B, 44 3B, 116 HR

 

Marte has only been a Marlin for less than a year, but he’s the most established player of the four on this list. During his final two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates (2018-2019), 117 of Marte’s 314 hits were for extra bases. He also recorded 86 multi-hit games during that span.

Although Marte is a few years older than he was during his best years in Pittsburgh, some of his underlying numbers so far this season are just as good or better. He’s hitting the ball harder with a slightly higher launch angle, resulting in more higher quality batted balls. His plate discipline has also improved with regards to taking pitches that are not in the strike zone. This has led to a jump in his walk rate which sat at 5% in his career coming into 2021 but is up at 11.6% through 15 games in 2021. While an increased walk rate is a good thing for Marte and the Marlins, it would decrease the likelihood of achieving a cycle.

When looking at Baseball-Reference’s similarity scores by age, Shin-Soo Choo and Marte had very similar age-31 seasons. They both had down years compared to their overall career, Choo in 2014 and Marte in the shortened 2020 season. Choo would end up bouncing back and hitting for the cycle the following season. As for Marte, he is off to an extremely hot start. He was, however, just placed on the 10-day IL with a non-displaced fracture in his rib. Besides my wishes to see a Marlins cycle, the far more important thing is Marte’s health. We wish him well and can’t wait to see him rejoin the team.

 

Triple – Adam Duvall

Career totals (8 seasons): 235 1B, 107 2B, 11 3B, 117 HR

 

Duvall went 4-for-5 with a single, double, and two home runs in a game last week, making it the 184th time a Marlins hitter ended the game a triple shy of the cycle. This happens frequently as triples are the hardest hit to record, so it wasn’t that big of a deal when it happened. But then four days later, Duvall tripled in his first at-bat of the game.

Looking back at Duvall’s career numbers, he hit six triples in 2016 when playing for the Cincinnati Reds. His sprint speed that year was 28.4 ft/s. For reference, 27.0 ft/s is considered the major league average and 30.0 ft/s is considered elite. Even though Duvall is now in his age-33 season, his 28.5 ft/s sprint speed is in the top 7% of the league and best for his age group, according to Baseball Savant. He is also currently playing in a much friendlier hitter’s park now than in 2016. The Marlins’ LoanDepot Park is the 11th-friendliest and the Reds’ Great American Ball Park is the 24th-friendliest triples park (of 30) for right-handed hitters.

Duvall has already done it over a few days, will Duvall be the first Marlin to do it in a single game?

 

Home Run – Jazz Chisholm Jr.

Career totals (2 seasons): 11 1B, 4 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR

 

Chisholm Jr. is absolutely electric. The crowd in Miami, albeit sparse, erupts when he dives for a ball or takes a big hack. It’s fun to watch players who look like they’re having fun. Chisholm Jr. is one of those guys.

If you take a look at the second baseman, don’t let his 5’11”, 184-lb. frame fool you. He hits for power and his 28.6 Barrel% is the best in the league. 7 of his 13 hits thus far have been for extra bases, and he isn’t just lucky. Looking at Statcast’s expected slugging percentage and expected weighted on-base average numbers, Chisholm Jr. sits amongst the game’s best in the 95th percentile. xSLG and xwOBA reveal a batter’s skill better than their regular counterparts because they remove the uncontrollable (defense) and focus on the controllable (exit velocity, launch angle, and sprint speed). Chisholm Jr. holds a .720 xSLG and .466 xwOBA, so even though his actual production is a bit lower, the quality of the contact he’s making signifies that he’s on the right track.

Chisholm Jr. plays hard and his sprint speed of 28.6 ft/s is above average, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him log a hustle double on a lazy outfielder or think three out of the box on a groundball in the rightfield corner.

At the beginning of 2020, he and other Marlins prospects participated in a “home run derby in paradise.” Batters hit off platforms on the beaches in the Bahamas and launch balls into the ocean. The video below is Chisholm Jr. launching 10 long balls in the derby’s first round.

If I were in the ballpark for the first Marlins cycle, I’d want it to be him.

(Photos by Mark LoMoglio, Gregory Fisher, Rich von Biberstein & Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)

Nicole Cahill

Nicole Cahill is a freelance writer who focuses on mental health and sports. She recently founded a nonprofit that helps youth athletes living with mental health challenges. When she's not fighting stigma or exploring Baseball Savant visuals, you can find Nicole enjoying a cup of coffee and a good book. Portfolio: NicoleCahill.com.

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