Losses are piling up in Miami thanks to an historically bad offense
The Miami Marlins were expected to be bad in 2019, with FanGraphs in the preseason projecting them to lose 97 games while Baseball Prospectus thought 95 losses. However, roughly a quarter through the season, this Marlins team is looking much, much worse.
The Marlins are averaging just 2.56 runs per game, dead last in baseball by nearly a full run behind the next-worst team (Detroit at 3.40 runs per game).
Miami has been held scoreless an MLB-high nine times, and in 59% of their games they have scored no more than two runs. In May the Marlins bats have been even colder, scoring two or fewer runs in 10 of their last 11 games, including eight total runs in a seven-game stretch.
Those 105 runs for Miami is the third-fewest through 41 games in the live ball era (1920-present). The only two teams that scored fewer runs than the Marlins this far into the season were in 1968, a season so devoid of offense that it was dubbed “The Year of the Pitcher” and the pitching mound was lowered the next year to help increase offense.
The Marlins are worst in baseball in hits, doubles, triples (they have zero), home runs, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. Mercifully their .218 batting average ranks 29th out of 30 teams, bailed out by the Blue Jays (.216).
Christian Yelich, one of three All-Star outfielders the Marlins traded away after the 2017 season, won the National League MVP last year and this year picked up right where he left off, hitting .342/.458/.760 with an MLB-best 18 home runs. The Marlins as a team have hit 24 home runs.
Derek Dietrich was a versatile player for the Marlins who was above average offensively and played at least four positions in each of the previous four seasons, was let go by Miami in November, the team avoiding having to pay a raise from his $2.9 million in salary arbitration.
While Miami opened 2019 with a $71.9 million payroll that ranked 29th out of 30 teams, Dietrich found his way to Cincinnati, where he is hitting .242/.352/.615 with 10 home runs. Nobody on the Marlins has more than five home runs.
Both Miami’s OPS+ (66) and wRC+ (64) — which are adjusted for park and league — would be the worst marks ever in the modern era (1901-present). This offense isn’t just bad, it’s stupendously, legendarily and historically awful.
All the losses
That putrid offense has helped the Marlins lose 10 of their last 11 games and 14 of their last 16. That has Miami at the rock bottom of major league standings at 10-31, with four fewer wins than the next-worst squad (Baltimore, 14-29).
The Marlins were terrible in 2018 too, losing 98 games. But they managed to fly under the radar of failure, overshadowed by the Orioles losing 115 games while the Royals (104) and White Sox (100) reaching triple digits as well.
This year though, the Marlins are in a class by themselves.
Miami has been outscored by over two runs per game on average in 2019, by far the worst run differential in the league. Their Pythagorean record, based on their runs scored and runs allowed, is also 10-31. They haven’t been unlucky, the Marlins are just very, very bad.
The Marlins’ .244 winning percentage translates to 40-122 over a full season, which puts them right in line with the 1962 Mets, a first-year expansion team that is the go-to reference for baseball futility. Reaching 31 losses in the first 41 games has happened only eight other times in the last 40 years.
Excluding the 1994 Padres, whose season was cut short by a strike, those other teams with a terrible 41-game star averaged 104 losses for the entire year.
Amazingly the Marlins — with a fan base that has been put through the ringer repeatedly with numerous fire sales and ownership incompetence — have only lost 100 games twice. They dropped 108 games in 1998, their first fire sale immediately after winning the World Series, and then dropped an even hundred in 2013.
Things were bad in Miami last year too, when the Marlins averaged just 10,014 tickets sold and were under 10,000 in 51 of their 81 home games (63%). This year the Marlins attendance has been in four digits 17 times in 23 home dates (74%).
On the season the Marlins in 2019 are averaging just 9,360 fans per game, dead last in the majors and a whopping 36% worse than the next-lowest team (the Rays, at 14,540). No MLB team has averaged fewer than 10,000 in attendance since 2004, when the Expos played out the string in their final season in Montreal.
That Expos team, like these Marlins, was a few years removed from the stench of Jeffrey Loria ownership.
The Marlins’ two-game series against the Rays this week featured two of the worst three attendance marks of the year (6,306 on Tuesday, 5,947 on Wednesday). Since the start of 2018 there have been 11 MLB games with an announced attendance of fewer than 6,000. All have been Marlins home games.
At this time in 2018 — a season of shameful attendance that was a new franchise low — the Marlins were averaging 11,536 tickets sold. This year they are down over 2,000 fans per game, a precipitous drop of 18.9%.
Two years ago the Marlins weren’t necessarily good, but their outfield was the envy of baseball which made the team at least interesting. Then came the new ownership group that seems more interested in burning bridges than building a team. It made the Marlins terrible in 2018, and now they are a train wreck.
But at least the Marlins are watchable in the sense that we can’t turn our eyes away from the carnage, to see just how bad they can be.
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