Record: 62-100, 5th place in the National League East
The Miami Marlins’ youth movement had been expected to make 2013 a challenging season.
It did. It also contributed to the Fish producing three seasons in one.
* 14-41 in April and May — The team was consumed with injuries, several to significant players such as Giancarlo Stanton, first baseman Logan Morrison, second baseman Donovan Solano and catcher Jeff Mathis.
* 29-24 in June and July — The return of players from the disabled list, combined with an infusion of several youngsters, helped the team show promise.
* 19-35 in August and September — Some young players struggled while playing the most number of games in their brief careers and while facing opponents making adjustments the second time around.
To sum up the 2013 Marlins: Good pitching, offensively challenged.
Acquiring a couple of quality hitters, at the expense of some young players, could be one way new president of baseball operations Mike Hill and general manager Dan Jennings try to bolster a lineup that had major league lows in average (.231), home runs and runs in ’13.
Pitching, however, often brought smiles during an overall tough season. Jose Fernandez was an All-Star in ’13 and, assuming he stays healthy, appears destined for greatness. Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez all showed they can pitch and win at this level — with offensive support.
Let’s take a closer look at the 2013 Marlins:
MVP: A no brainer — RHP Jose Fernandez. He’s the favorite to be named NL Rookie of the Year.
MVP runner-up: RF Giancarlo Stanton. Limited to 116 games due to injury and with little lineup protection, Stanton hit 24 homers with 62 RBI. He heads into his first arbitration winter.
Most shocking moment I: Fernandez’s last home start on Sept. 11, when he homered in his final at-bat, shared some words with Atlanta catcher Brian McCann and prompted the benches and bullpens to clear.
Most shocking moment II: Tino Martinez resigning as Marlins batting coach on July 28.
Most surprising performance: Ed Lucas. After spending nine years in the minor leagues, Lucas joined the Marlins and made himself a valuable member. He hit .256, played every infield position and was not afraid to give himself up at the plate. He epitomized the saying, “He plays the game the right way.”
Game of the Year: Sure, it’s fresh on the mind, but Henderson Alvarez’s no-hitter in the season’s final game. I mean, a walk-off no-no? Not likely to see that again.
The good — Rookie Christian Yelich arrived in June and showed he belonged. He hit .288 with four homers and 16 RBI. Stanton remained a home run threat — even at homer unfriendly Marlins Park — every time he batted.
Unfortunately for him, opposing teams often pitched around the slugger. Rookie Marcell Ozuna (.265-3-32) had some good moments before being sent down in July.
The bad — Where to start? Besides the aforementioned basic stats, the Marlins were last in the majors with a .293 in on-base percentage and .335 slugging percentage. It had been hoped Morrison would return from offseason knee surgery to add some pop and protect Stanton, but he batted .242 with six homers and 36 RBI in 85 games.
Gold Glove Awards might be in shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria’s future, but the shortstop hit .227. Justin Ruggiano, a pleasant surprise in ’12, hit .222 that included a 0-for-42 streak. Rob Brantly started the season expected to share catching duties with Jeff Mathis (who missed the first month with broken clavicle). But Brantly hit just .211 and was sent down to work on his offense and defense.
The good — Check that. “The great” was Fernandez, who went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA before being shut down due to a self-imposed innings limit. The Cuban kid is special in a many ways. Baseball fans who failed to see him pitch in person missed out, especially during the season’s second half. Turner (3-8, 3.74) was a different pitcher after beginning the season in the minors. He, Eovaldi (4-6, 3.39) and Alvarez (5-6, 3.59) should return tp the rotation, unless they are used to acquire some offense. A.J, Ramos (3-4, 3.15), Ryan Webb (2-6, 2.91), Chad Qualls (5-2, 2.61), Mike Dunn (3-4, 2.66) and closer Steve Cishek (4-6, 2.33, 34 saves) helped make the bullpen a team strength. The staff ERA was 3.71, seventh in the NL.
The bad — Starter Tim Koehler (5-10, 4.41) was inconsistent and needs to cut down his walks (54 in 143 inn. with 92 Ks). Wade LeBlanc was a disappointment, going 1-5, with a 5.28 ERA before being designated for assignment in June. The staff overall walked 526, second in the NL only to the Chicago Cubs. The Marlins were 12th in strikeouts (1,177).
Fernandez, Yelich and Hechavarria appear here to stay. Fernandez is expected to be named NL ROY. Outfielder Jake Marisnick was promoted with his buddy Yelich, but batted just .183 with one HR and 5 RBI. Still, Marisnick likely will be given a chance to earn a spot in spring training. Then again, if Ozuna is in Miami’s long-tern plans and Stanton remains in the outfield, someone might be dealt.
Generally a young team doesn’t have a lot of free agents, and the Marlins are no different. The main free agents are Qualls, outfielder Juan Pierre and infield Placido Polanco. Qualls said he would like to return and the team apparently would like him back, but money could get in the way. Pierre, as classy as they come, might be headed for retirement. The injury-plagued Polanco could follow Pierre, but if he continues to play, it figures it be elsewhere.
Thanks goodness for Jose Fernandez. He made a 100-loss season tolerable for all Marlins watchers — players, management, fans, media. Obviously, it will take more than an ace to turnaround the team. Youngters such as Yelich and minor league left-handed pitchers Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino offer optimism, but Hill and Jennings have many holes to fill.