This isn’t April. And the Marlins are very happy about that.
After becoming the butt of many jokes in MLB, the Marlins have turned it around. The start was so bad, however, it is a question if anyone else will take notice.
The players on this team certainly have. With a 22-17 record since May 31st, the second best in the NL over that span, the Marlins are playing with a sense of relevancy. ”Feels much better than last year going into the break,” Giancarlo Stanton said. “I don’t know the record difference, but we’re playing well — and we’re never really getting blown out. That’s the thing. It’s not like we play six or seven, and we’re just getting at-bats for ourselves. Every one counts now. They’ve been counting.”
And Stanton’s game is improving. Gone are the days of the early season where he was put on an island and teams would pitch around him to the misery of the Fish. Now he is hitting third with some protection in the lineup (Logan Morrison, Marcell Ozuna) and is starting to figure out how to pace a team and a franchise. Could this upswell of hope and competition be just the elixir the Marlins front office needs to tender him a longer term deal?
And it’s not just a one man team. The “reboot” has been yielding very positive results. Adeiny Hechavarria is hitting .417 in the month of July, and just went through an 11 game hitting streak from July 1st through July 12th where he hit .442 over that span. His average ballooned from .200 to .240 after yesterday’s extra innings loss. With Gold Glove caliber defense, his offense is coming around to make him more of a threat on both sides of the ball. His steady improvement is impressing the coaching staff, too.
Marcell Ozuna was called up to give the Marlins a little punch with Stanton out but has turned an open door into a full time gig. He has emerged as a legit contender for NL Rookie of the Year, along with All Star teammate Jose Fernandez. He is among the league leaders in assists (8) – and could have had number 9 if Jeff Mathis held on to a throw to home plate. He is raking with RISP hitting a hot .352 in the clutch. His bat wiggle reminds some of ex-Marlin great, Gary Sheffield, too.
Derek Dietrich was acquired as an extension of the Blue Jays deal in which the Marlins realized that Yunel Escobar was not going to play 3B for them, so they traded him to get Dietrich who plays 2B. There was some thinking of moving him to 3B, but when Donovan Solano went down with an injury, the much-depleted Marlins made the call. Dietrich, like Ozuna, has never looked back. Dietrich has 9 HRs in his inaugural campaign and shows a very advanced approach at the plate despite only 11 BBs in 202 ABs. His lefty bat seems made for spraying hits at Marlins Park and reminds some of Chase Utley.
There are many good stories for the individuals of this team. Ed Lucas also got a call up and hasn’t looked back, performing as a utility player who can play the entire infield while also sporting a very solid and heady bat in the lineup. The rotation has gotten better with the additions of Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi to go along with Fernandez. This allowed the Marlins to comfortably trade away Ricky Nolasco.
They started the season 14-41 through the first two months but have been 21-17 since. Can they keep that pace up? It would seem yes because right now, the Marlins are just shooting themselves in the foot lately when it comes to losing games. They aren’t getting blown out, just out-experienced; making mistakes on defense and creating new opportunities for opponents to stay alive. If they can shore up those small mistakes, you may see a bigger return in the win column for the now rebuilding Fish.
Check out our post on Yahoo! Sports - where we talk about what the Marlins must do to prove to the fans, and the rest of baseball, what they need to do to restore their credibility.