Marlins fans trying to stay hopeful amid offseason overhaul
Christian Yelich is having a MVP year for the Milwaukee Brewers. Marcell Ozuna is blistering the ball for the St. Louis Cardinals. And while Giancarlo Stanton may not be having the MVP season he did a year ago with the Marlins, he has remained a power force for the New York Yankees.
It’s too early to assess the trades involving the three former Marlins outfielders. The general rule of thumb is that it usually takes three years to judge a trade, and all three players are in their first seasons with their new teams.
But this much is certain: Yelich, Ozuna and Stanton are paying immediate dividends for their new clubs while the Marlins play a waiting game on the players — prospects primarily — they received in those deals.
Yelich, in particular, is sizzling for a Brewers team that is closing in on a playoff berth. On Monday, Yelich hit for the cycle for the second time this season and is making a strong case for National League MVP. He’s leads the N.L. with a .317 batting average and has hit a career-high 31 homers.
“I honestly don’t even know how to describe it,” Yelich told reporters following Monday’s cycle. “I don’t even know if it’s set in yet. It’s definitely crazy. I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible.”
After a slow start for the Cardinals, Ozuna has come to life in the second half. Since July 27, he’s hitting .327 with 12 home runs and 33 RBI. With 34 home runs, Stanton won’t come close to the 59 he put out last season. But he still ranks 16th in OPS and 14th in slugging percentage in the A.L.
Yelich, Ozuna and Stanton never once played for a winning team in Miami. But if the season ended now, all three would be on playoff teams, and each one has played a major part in their team’s success.
Even with his average barely above .200, the Marlins say they have been encouraged by what they have seen from center fielder Lewis Brinson since returning from a hip injury earlier this month.
But whether they’ve seen enough to project him for a starting role in 2019 remains to be seen.
“I don’t think we have to do that now,” manager Don Mattingly said of that looming decision. “His at bats are way better. If you take the first half of his at bats and second half of his at-bats, strikeout rates went down; contact has been up. You are seeing improvement. You still may see .200 on the board but definitely the at bats have been a progression. [But] there’s definitely a ways to go.”
Though his overall numbers aren’t good (.201, 11 homers, 38 RBI in 100 games), the Marlins find solace in this: After hitting. 151 in his first 191 at-bats this season, Brinson has hit .259 in his last 158 at-bats.
Those 158 at-bats were interrupted by a hip injury that sidelined him from July 4 to Aug. 31.
And there’s this: Brinson struck out on 34 percent of his first 191 at-bats, 28 percent in his past 158 at-bats.
Despite a recent 3 for 31 slump, he’s hitting .271 in 59 at-bats in September, with one homer and eight RBI.
What has made a difference, he said, is “looking on the right side of the field. Not that I wasn’t before, but telling myself to be a complete hitter more and stay on the fastball and little bit more and just trust my swing.”
Brinson said he handled the recent slump “even better” than ones earlier this season.
“As long as you go up there with a plan, you got a chance,” he said.
Brinson insists the fact the Marlins want to see how he plays this month before deciding whether to project him as a 2019 starter has added no pressure.
“I’ve got to prove that I deserve to be here next year and that I deserve to be in center field next year,” he said. “The season hasn’t gone the way I wanted it to.”
And Mattingly said it helps that Brinson “has kept a positive mind-set.
He’s a worker. He wants to be good. And he’s a confident kid. But he’s realistic to the point of knowing he’s got to continue to improve.”
Keep an eye on the head-to-head scoring totals in the Marlins’ upcoming series with the Cincinnati Reds. The two last-place teams are in a close race to see which ends up allowing the most runs in the National League.
Entering play on Wednesday, the Marlins had given up two more runs than the Reds in one fewer game.
The Marlins are threatening to join the 2010 Pirates as the only teams in either league over the past 25 years to give up the most runs while also scoring the fewest.
The Orioles in the A.L. are also poised to earn the dubious distinction.