Marlins Making Massive Profits for Backers
by Trevor Whenham - 05/14/2008
Here are two things that I never thought I would be writing this season - The Florida Marlins have the second best record in the league, and they have been the most profitable team in the league for bettors. On the profit front it isn't even close - they have made three units more than any other team on flat bets (the fact that the Rays are second is another thing that makes no sense at all). This was not a team that people were excited about in any way. They lost 91 games last year, and that was with Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in the lineup. This year they had a lineup to start the season that made less money than A-Rod, and the entire roster combined hadn't accomplished what the Yankee third baseman has in his career. Pitching was a huge question mark as well. In short, it seemed like this was a team that would be overachieving if they only lost 91. Now it would take an epic meltdown to match last year's total - they could go 49-74 (.398) from here forward and still do better than last year.
So, how is this happening? Well, a lot of luck, mostly. Beyond that, though, there are at least six factors that are contributing significantly to the success the team is enjoying:
Schedule - Not to start on a down note, but you have to recognize that the team has been helped significantly by their schedule so far. They have, for example, racked up eight wins so far against the Nationals. Add in two more against San Diego, and four against Pittsburgh, and more than half of their wins have come against teams that are below .500. Ouch. On the other hand, they have played nine games against teams that are in the top three in their divisions. They have won just two of those. In other words, this is not a team that has been tested.
Power - This isn't a team that struggles with the deep ball. They have a classic power profile - first in the league in both home runs and strikeouts. Their current power advantage is quite pronounced - they have three more round-trippers than the Phillies, and a dozen more than any other team in the majors. Dan Uggla has been at the forefront of the power parade so far, with Mike Jacobs and the newly-rich Hanley Ramirez close behind. When you look at the results of this team it is far from rare to see them emerge victorious from a slugfest.
Starting pitching - The starting staff was greeted with little enthusiasm coming into the season, but they have more than held their own so far. With Willis gone to Detroit it was left to Scott Olsen to step up and lead the staff. The 24-year-old really has. He's sitting at 4-1, and the team has won seven of his eight starts. His ERA is solid at 2.63, and three of his starts have been shutouts. He could strike out more batters and walk fewer, but there generally isn't a lot to complain about. He's not alone in pitching beyond expectations. I saw Mark Hendrickson as one of the worst opening day starters by any team in recent history, yet he is at 5-2. That's not bad for a guy who had 10 wins over the last two seasons combined. No one can doubt Andrew Miller's talent, but there were real concerns about whether he was ready yet. His ERA of 6.41 is not much to look at, but he has won three of his last four starts and is looking much better lately.
Bullpen - There aren't a lot of household names in the Florida bullpen, but when you put it all together it's working remarkably well, and it's helping to fill in the gaps with the starting staff in depth and experience. The bullpen has the fourth-best ERA in the league at 3.17, and they have the second-most strikeouts, too. They have contributed eight wins and have only blown three saves. It's comforting for a team when it knows it can hand the ball off without feeling like they need a miracle.
Lack of ego - It's hard to have an out-of-control ego when your entire team is making just $22 million. Fredi Gonzalez is as anonymous as a major league manager can possibly be, and he leads a team of relative no-names who are playing hard and looking after each other. The road is going to get tougher, but a team that works together as a team stands a better chance of holding it together when things get tough. It will be interesting to watch to see f the Hanley Ramirez contract changes the dynamic at all. The Marlins made a great move by locking up one of the true young talents in the league for the long term, but his contract is far beyond everyone else on the team, so it could create tension.
The culture of the team - The management of the Marlins has historically been terrible, yet they have repeatedly performed miracles. The team has been gutted repeatedly, yet they have found ways to rise from the ashes and go all the way. There is little remaining from the last championship team, but there is still the mythology of those rises surrounding the franchise. That's a rallying point that a team without Florida's success doesn't enjoy.