2019 Miami Marlins Historically Bad: Expert Analysis
Two-Six-Five. Those are the three big numbers for every baseball fan with a morbid fascination for history to keep an eye on. The Detroit Tigers have set the all-time record for futility in a 162-game season in 2003 when they won just 43 games. That is a .265 win percentage. And that matters right now because the Miami Marlins, easily the worst team I ever remember seeing, currently have a win percentage of .244. They just passed the quarter mark of their season and are not quite on pace to win 40 games. We are watching history, people. The chance for us to see the worst team in modern history is enough by itself, but we also get to see Derek Jeter fail spectacularly. Nothing better than that. It's almost as if boundless arrogance isn't a good way to approach sports ownership. Or something.
The record is in our sights, but we have to be vigilant. A single winning streak could make this pursuit fruitless. I want it so bad. But how realistic is it? Does this team really have the makings of a historical one? Let's take a look:
Pitching: I feel really bad for Caleb Smith. And I'm also scared of him. Smith, a starter, was picked up from the Yankees in a minor deal before last season. He had appeared in just nine games for them, and he started just 16 last year before requiring surgery. But through eight starts this year he has been very good - and not just good for a Marlins pitcher. He could be dramatically worse than he has been and still be the team's best arm. He has pitched at least five innings each outing. He has never given up more than three runs, and only went that high once. His ERA of 2.25 and WHIP of 0.94 are both more than respectable. Very good, even. And with this mess of a team, he has a 3-1 record, and the team has won four of his eight starts. Remember, the team only has 10 wins in total. If Smith keeps it up, it is a concern. But he isn't likely to - no track record. And there is only so much he can do alone. Guys like Jose Urena and Trevor Richards are doing fairly well in the circumstances, but they are not doing enough to overcome the issues. The good news for us record watchers, though, is that these guys - especially Urena - could have some value one the trade market.
Hitting: The team is hitting .218 as a whole. That's not good. The only guy with a fairly respectable batting average is second baseman Neil Walker, who is hitting .294. But in 109 at-bats. he has only six RBIs, so the numbers are a long way from explosive. And he's 33, so there is little upside. And other old guys aren't carrying their weight, either. Martin Prado's hitting for average okay, but he's not being productive otherwise. Curtis Granderson is embarrassing himself. Starlin Castro is leading the team in at-bats but doing nothing in them. The old guys aren't leading the way. But the youngsters aren't doing much, either. In what is a recurring theme, there isn't a whole lot of reason to expect serious improvement here.
Coaching: Don Mattingly has pride. He's a freaking legend. And he was a decent manager with the Dodgers. Surely it won't take him much longer to realize that he doesn't need this crap. And can you imagine being given the job of convincing someone else to manage this team?
Help coming?: This is the funniest part of this mess. This is a team that has been bad for a long time now. They had their last winning season in 2009 and haven't won 80 games in a year since 2010. That has led to a lot of high draft picks and should have led to a stocked farm system. And they have traded away or otherwise lost a lot of good players in recent years - including, notably, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Trading away big pieces is supposed to stock up the farm system. So, the team should have a totally loaded farm system waiting to lift them up - like the Astros road from the cellar to the World Series - right? Not so much. Keith Law ranked the farm system 28th in the league, and that's consistent with other rankings. Their top-ranked prospect, Cuban free agent Victor Victor Mesa, so good he needs two first names, is stuck in high-A ball and is putting up pretty ordinary numbers - and he's about to turn 23. Teams like Atlanta, San Diego and Toronto have had very highly-rated prospects arrive in the last two seasons who have the chance to change the fates of their franchises. There is no white knight waiting in the wings here. Tweaks aside, what you see is generally what you get.
Schedule: This team has won one series, taking two of three from the Nationals. They split their four-game opener against Colorado, and two different two-game sets against the Indians. And they have lost every other series. And they were swept in four series. They have been a mess. And they can't blame a particularly soft schedule - they have played some tough series, but also had their share of soft ones. There is no relief here, either.
Betting performance: The Marlins are at +100000 to win the World Series - obviously the longest price on the board by a wide margin. For reference, that is eight times the return you would get from betting the Dolphins, the longest shot in the NFL, to win the Super Bowl. Man, it sucks to be a Miami sports fan right now. Needless to say, I hope, despite the massive potential return, it would be a horrible idea to bet on the Marlins here. And betting on them in general has been a horrible experience for anyone that dumb this year. They are the least profitable team in baseball, which is impressive because everyone knew they were going to be horrible and that has been cooked into the lines.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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