There’s a reason the Marlins are off to their most pitiful start in franchise history.
Actually, there’s more than one. A lot more.
Outside of losing, they haven’t been good at anything.
Hitting, pitching, fielding — pick whatever category you want — the awful numbers stack up to a 5-16 record that matches the worst start ever by a Marlins team.
As their cross-country road journey brought them to the West Coast to face the Dodgers, there are few signs to make anyone think their fortunes will improve anytime soon.
The numbers aren’t there to support optimism. Not this season.
There are 15 teams in the National League. Here’s how the Marlins rank in the key statistical categories:
This is not at all like last season, when the Marlins ranked fifth in runs scored and led the majors in fielding percentage, when it was easy to figure out that pitching — and pitching alone — was their downfall.
There is no single culprit now. It’s everything.
It’s why manager Don Mattingly said Monday that these Marlins have to celebrate the small things and not the immediate big picture. He mentioned the occasional “bright spots,” such as Caleb Smith’s start Sunday in Milwaukee, Jarlin Garcia’s starts, Lewis Brinson’s power breakout there, and glimpses of promise from Trevor Richards and Dillon Peters.
“We just haven’t been consistent with it,” he said. “We’re going to celebrate when guys are getting better. We have to be willing to say, ‘This is progress, when we’re running the bases properly or doing the small things.’ We have to celebrate that within our club.”
THIS AND THAT
One day after committing a glaring base running blunder in which he lost track of the outs, Justin Bour found himself on the bench as the Marlins opened a three-game series against the Dodgers.
Mattingly said it wasn’t punishment.
“That’s not the reason he’s not playing today,” Mattingly said.
But he called the mistake “disappointing.”
“I think J.B. has to be a leader on our club, and a guy that has to be focused, and be better than that,” Mattingly said.
Bour went 2 for 3 and drove in both Marlins runs in the loss.
Still, Mattingly said of Bour’s day off: “It’s more to give him a day [off] and just get him back on track.”
Dan Straily what will likely be his final rehab start on Tuesday for Double A Jacksonville and could join the Marlins’ rotation during the upcoming homestand.
Third baseman Martin Prado could also be back in a Marlins uniform in the coming week. Shortstop JT Riddle and right-handerElieser Hernandez will begin their minor-league rehab assignments on Tuesday for Single A Jupiter.
Wei-Yin Chen pitched in another rehab outing on Sunday.
According to a Marlins spokesman, Chen will make his next start over the coming weekend, the “level to be determined.”
TURNING THE CORNER?
Caleb Smith threw six innings and struck out a career-high 10 on Sunday and issued no walks in his best start yet since joining the Marlins.
“Tempo is everything for me,” Smith said. “Once I got into a rhythm. That's what gets me going. I didn't walk anybody. That was the thing I was really working towards today. The results showed. If you don't walk anybody, your success is much better. It felt really good. That's the way I pitched in the past, try to eliminate walks. I felt like myself out there today. The previous four starts, I didn't really feel like myself out there.”
Smith worked at a quick pace and threw 77 pitches with 55 for strikes, only allowing two batters to reached base out of the 20 he faced when Lorenzo Cain singled and Christian Yelich followed with a two-run home run in the fourth inning.
Smith has been tracked as having one of the best spin rates in baseball on his four-seam fastball, which makes that pitch more likely to prompt swings and misses from hitters. Smith’s average of 2,408.94 revolutions per minute per Statcast is above the league average of 2,261. Smith got 12 swings and misses in Sunday’s start with seven on the 25 sliders he threw and five on fastballs.
“Everything was working,” said J.T. Realmuto. “He was very effective in the strike zone. He got ahead of guys early, was really able to get through the lineup the first time through, primarily with his fastball, which was huge for him. The second time through, he was able to mix a little more, and he was able throw his slider quite a bit and throw it in the zone when he wanted to and throw it out of the zone when he wanted to.”