90 games into the season, the Florida Marlins remain in the hunt for the NL East crown, and they have done so largely on their ability to knock the crap out of the baseball. They’re currently in fourth in slugging percentage among all 30 teams with a .443 and are actually tops in home runs with a total of 128, which is all the more impressive once you account for the fact that Dolphin Stadium is quite the pitcher’s park. Their middle infielders, Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla, are probably the most offensively potent 2B-SS combo in the game so far this year (apologies to Philly). First baseman Mike Jacobs has a Dave Kingman-esque .249/.288/.513 line (I think I mean that as a compliment) third baseman Jorge Cantu has come back from the dead to hit 16 HRs to go along with 51 RBIs, and with Josh Willingham missing 2 whole months of action, center fielder Cody Ross has performed admirably to help fill in that gap in production.
And I’m still predicting that before the season is done, the Florida Marlins will find themselves in fourth place in the National League East. I can feel the hate coming from Miami already (do we have Marlins fans as readers?). Allow me to explain.
The Marlins have scored an average of 4.9 runs per game, which is quite good. But it simply isn’t good enough to mask the 5.2 runs they’ve been allowing. If you allow more runs than you score, you lose. That’s just how baseball works. Moreover, the NL East has been downright terrible in games decided by a run. Collectively, they are 55-81 in these situations. In fact, Florida is the only team above .500 in one-run games. So I expect Philadelphia, Atlanta, and New York to rectify this before the season’s done (although Atlanta’s been beating the odds on this one for quite some time now) which is bad news for Florida. The Phillies and Braves have been underplaying their Pythagorean scores while Florida is overplaying theirs.
In addition, I simply don’t think that Dan Uggla in particular will be able to continue hitting for so much power. In 2006 and 2007, Uggla slugged .480 and .479 respectively. This season, he’s at .620, which is an incredible leap, made all the more peculiar by the fact that his line drive rate has been decreasing over this time and he’s not hitting more fly balls either. How you could possibly increase your slugging percentage so dramatically while essentially hitting more ground balls is simply beyond me. His BABiP is an unsustainable .341, and the fact that 23.2% of the flyballs he’s hit has cleared the outfield wall is also too high to be believable for a guy like Uggla, who should be around 13%. To a lesser extent, the same could be said of Mike Jacobs as well. Could it be that these guys are just improving as they enter their primes? Absolutely and I’m not ruling that out by any means. But doubting such severe increases in production like Uggla’s has served me well in the past. He’s good. Just not this good.
However, this is still a team that has Hanley Ramirez, who I think will be the consensus “Best Player in Baseball” within 2-3 years. You can’t ask for a better building block than this guy. And I’m also a fan of Andrew Miller, who might never be an ace, but should be one of the catalysts if/when the Marlins become championship contenders once again. But it’s not going to be this year.
So I hope that the Marlins realize this and not become buyers in July. In fact, by selling some of their pieces (like the resurgent Jorge Cantu at peak value), they’d probably be better off. With Ramirez, Uggla, Willingham, Miller, and the returning Josh Johnson, the Marlins still have some great talent. But I don’t think they’re ready to stay with the Phillies, Braves and Mets just yet.