They spent big bucks on free agents. They moved into a state-of-the-art ballpark. They hired a marquee manager. They changed their name, their color scheme and their outfits. They even started letting players wear neck chains and grow beards.
The Marlins underwent the makeover of all Major League makeovers.
But the results on the field haven’t changed. The new-look, gussied-up Marlins have been a mammoth bust so far.
With a record of 41-44, the re-branded Marlins are only percentage points better at the All-Star break than last year’s 43-48 club at the same midseason mile marker. They are arguably the most glaring disappointment in all the majors.
"You can compare the Marlins to the Facebook fiasco," said one major league scout. "High expectations and haven’t delivered."
Instead of contending for the franchise’s first-ever division title, the Marlins are sitting just ahead of last-place Philadelphia in the National League East -- nine games behind the first-place Nationals and five games out in the wild card race.
There is still time for the Marlins to turn it around.
They were, after all, the hottest team in baseball in May, going 21-8. But the odds are stacked against them, especially with their only bonafide All-Star -- Giancarlo Stanton -- out of commission for the next four to six weeks following knee surgery.
If there is little or no improvement in the second half, both on the field and at the turnstiles, the Marlins could be looking at another offseason roster overhaul, one that involves a toned-down look and lower payroll.
MID-SEASON REPORT CARD:
Saving the game
Heath Bell has six “blown saves,” but a handful of his failures don’t qualify under the strict definition of the term. Here’s the complete file of Bell’s breakdowns this season:
• April 8 at Cincinnati: Marlins are leading 5-4 in the 9th, but Bell gives up two runs as the Marlins lose 6-5 to the Reds. Blown Save No. 1.
• April 14 vs. Houston: Marlins are leading 4-1 in the 9th, but Bell gives up four runs in a 5-4 loss. Blown Save No. 2.
• April 26 at New York: Marlins are leading 2-1 in the 9th, but Bell gives up two runs in a 3-2 loss. Blown Save No. 3.
• May 2 at San Francisco: Marlins are leading 2-0 in the 9th, but Bell is lifted for Steve Cishek after the Giants score twice to tie it and send game to extra innings. Marlins won 3-2 in the 10th. Not a blown save since Cishek inherited the save situation from Bell.
• May 4 at San Diego: Marlins are leading 8-7 in the 9th, but Bell gives up the tying run. Marlins eventually win 9-8 in the 12th. Blown Save No. 4.
• May 13 vs. New York Mets -- Marlins are tied 2-2 with Mets in the 9th, but Bell gives up two runs as Mets take the lead. Marlins score six in the bottom of the 9th to pull out victory. Bell, as the pitcher of record, is credited with the win.
• May 25 vs. San Francisco: Marlins take a 7-4 lead into the 9th. But after Giants rally for two runs to trim the lead, Bell is lifted and Steve Cishek is brought in to preserve a 7-6 win.
• May 26 vs. San Francisco: Marlins take a 5-2 lead into the 9th. But Bell is lifted for the second straight night when he gives up a run. Randy Choate brought in to preserve 5-3 win.
• June 25 vs. St. Louis: Marlins lead 6-2 in the 9th. But Bell gives up four runs and Cardinals win 8-7 in the 10th. Not a blown save since Bell did not enter in a save situation.
• July 3 at Milwaukee: After overcoming a 9-2 deficit and taking an 12-11 lead in the 10th, Bell gives up a two-run homer to Aramis Ramirez and Marlins lose 13-12. Blown Save No. 5
• July 8 at St. Louis: Marlins take a 4-2 lead into the 9th. Bell gives up three runs in the 9th as Cardinals rally for a 5-4 victory. Blown Save No. 6.
Math is not right
While the Marlins are just 41-44, they should consider themselves lucky.
According to the “Pythagorean expectation” formula created by Bill James, one that is based simply on runs scored and runs allowed, the Marlins “should” be 37-48 and languishing in last place.
The Marlins have been outscored by 56 runs, the sixth-worst differential in the majors.
Here is a comparison of the actual National League East standings, and how the standings would look if James’ formula is applied:
|New York||46||40||4 1/2|
|New York||45||41||4 1/2|