In a season where nothing remotely makes sense, is it possible for an unlikely team to reign supreme? After all, a lot can happen in a regular 162-game schedule — the truth of each team and their flaws are often exposed even before the All-Star break. However, if a team like the Miami Marlins were to get hot in the upcoming 60-game season, could they find themselves in the postseason?
The Marlins, who are often looked at as a younger team, could benefit from the trials and tribulations of 2020. While there is absolutely no guarantee, could Major League Baseball fans witness the year of the Marlin?
A Look at 60-Game Records
It’s easy to see the Marlins often flounder against their opponents. After ending the 2019 season with a record of 57-105, Don Mattingly’s team finished a whopping 40 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves. With that being said, the Marlins’ chances seem slim to none for some.
Based on last year’s first 60 games, Miami would have finished 23-37.
On the same scale, the first-place Braves would have finished 33-27, tied with the Philadelphia Phillies. To make things a little more interesting, the New York Mets would have finished 28-32 and the World Series-winning Washington Nationals sat at 27-33.
Of course, the Marlins will also have to face off against titanic teams such as the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.
Taking a look at the Yankees’ 60-game record in 2019, the Bombers, who were riddled with injury, were still above the pack at 38-22. The Rays would have finished right behind the Yankees with a record of 37-23.
Out of the mentioned teams, the Marlins would have finished last, which makes the argument that 2020 could be the year of the Marlin a little more complicated. Despite this, the club has made it known they feel good about their odds this season.
Marlins’ chief executive office Derek Jeter is quite confident in his franchise. “You always hear, ‘What comes first?’ Is it culture, or is it winning? I think the culture of having a winning mindset is where it all begins.”
Key Players for Success
With the news of Sandy Alcantara receiving the Opening Day nod against the Philadelphia Phillies, the one-time All-Star is expected to turn a new page. Despite losing 14 out of his 32 games started, Alcantara finished the 2019 season with an ERA of 3.88. He collected only six wins and 151 strikeouts. In a total of 197.1 innings pitched, he had a WHIP of 1.318 and a WAR of 2.8.
Similarly, Caleb Smith will need to bring his best self this season. In his 2019 season, he lost 11 out of 28 games started and earned himself an ERA of 4.52. Smith went on to finish the season with a total of 10 wins and 168 strikeouts. In a total of 153.1 innings pitched, he had a WHIP of 1.226 and a WAR of 1.7.
In addition to the pitching staff, catcher Jorge Alfaro will also need to pump the gas offensively. After being traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Marlins in exchange for JT Realmuto in the winter of 2019, he hit a season-high 18 home runs. Alfaro also recorded the fastest sprint speed of all MLB catchers last season. In 130 games and 465 plate appearances, the 6’3″ catcher earned himself a batting average of .262.
Another key player is Brian Anderson, the team’s third baseman. In his 2019 season, Anderson hit a season-high of 20 home runs in 520 plate appearances. He earned a .261 batting average in 126 games. Anderson found himself with 33 doubles, 120 hits, and an on-base percentage of .342. Despite an injury in the final weeks of the 2019 season, Anderson should be able to easily continue his success on the field offensively and defensively from last season. He was hitting .342 with a .618 slugging percentage before his injury.
It should also be noted that Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera, and Jordan Holloway are all on the 40-man roster, and each throws 100 mph. It’s evident if the young pitching staff can execute properly, the Marlins might have an edge that no one prepared for.
Is It Possible?
With such a short season, anything is possible for the Miami Marlins. The young core will need to make the season special from the first pitch on Opening Day until the last at-bat in September. According to FanGraphs’ strength of schedule calculation, Miami’s opponents are projected to record a .521 win percentage this season.
The calculation projects that the Miami Marlins’ schedule will be one of the hardest of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs.
If the team can stay in the race, they will close out the regular season with seven road games — September 21-24 will be against the Braves in Atlanta, and September 25-27, they will face off against the Yankees in the Bronx.
The Marlins have not had a winning season since 2009. A couple of hot streaks can truly change the course of the season for the young team with bolstering prospects. There is a chip on this team’s shoulder, and the battle cry going into the 60-game season is “why not us?”