Miami Marlins

When it comes to scoring runs, the Miami Marlins will have to get ‘creative’ this year.

Jeter: “When you compete, you’re competing to win”

"When you compete, you're competing to win", said Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter during a press conference at Marlins Park the day before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training
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"When you compete, you're competing to win", said Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter during a press conference at Marlins Park the day before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training

The Marlins scored the fewest runs in the majors last season.

There is little to suggest matters will improve any in 2019. There is every reason to believe that, once again, runs will be in such short supply that a two-run inning might seem like a scoring outburst.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly knows it. The sabermetric community knows it. Anyone who can read the numbers on the back of a baseball card knows it.

It is why it doesn’t take any arm-pulling for Mattingly to acknowledge that pitching “is going to be our strength” even though the Marlins don’t exactly have a Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom heading their rotation or a shut-down closer such as Kenley Jansen or Craig Kimbrel lurking in the bullpen to close out the ninth.

“I think the trend of the game has been to not give up outs, (and wait) for the big innings,” Mattingly said. “That might work for some clubs. I’m not sure it will work for us.”

When Marlins hitters join the spring training stage for the first time on Monday after five days’ worth of arm-strengthening bullpen throwing sessions by the team’s pitchers, there will be no sudden renaissance of power.

The Marlins don’t have a single player who hit as many as 15 home runs last season.

J.T. Realmuto, who led them with 21 blasts in 2018, was traded to the Phillies. In fact, the top three sluggers from last year’s team, one that finished dead last in home runs in the majors, are gone, with both Justin Bour and Derek Dietrich also out of the picture.

“There’s not going to be that 40 home run guy,” Mattingly said.

There may not even be a player on the Marlins to hit half that many.

When Baseball Prospectus released its annual preseason PECOTA projections, the prognosis for the Marlins offensively was dim. PECOTA, which is the acronym for Player Emperical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, projects the Marlins to rank 29th in batting average, 29th in on-base percentage, and last in slugging percentage.

According to PECOTA, the Marlins are expected to score the fewest runs in the majors. No other team is as remotely anemic, with the Marlins projected to score 616 runs and the Tigers ranked ahead of them with 649.

It’s why Mattingly said the Marlins will have to be “creative.”

“We have to find a way to score runs,” Mattingly said. “So we’ll have to be a little more creative, a little more traditional.”

Asked if that meant bunting and employing the hit-and-run, Mattingly replied: “As much as we can. We’ve got to build that mindset, that any chance we get to get a guy in scoring position, we’ve got to try to move a guy over to third early if we get a leadoff double or something.”

But here’s the thing: the Marlins lack not just in raw power. They also lack in speed. They didn’t have a single player steal as many as 10 bases last season. They also didn’t have a player hit as high as .280, never mind .300.

The three projected starters added during the offseason -- Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Jorge Alfaro -- hit .242, .219 and .262, respectively. None of them hit as many as 14 home runs.

Mattingly said the future looks promising as the Marlins continue to emphasize speed and athleticism -- as opposed to pure power -- in the stockpiling of prospects.

But those players are in the minors, at least a couple of years from the majors. For now, though, the picture appears bleak for the Marlins when it comes to scoring runs.

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Clark Spencer is one of the nation’s most experienced baseball writers and has covered the Miami Marlins since 1999. He is past-president of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Along with baseball, Spencer has also covered the Summer and Winter Olympics, NBA Finals, NCAA Final Four, College Football Playoffs and Triple Crown.


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