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Miami Marlins' Biggest Early Season Surprises and Disappointments

Cheng SioContributor IApril 15, 2014

Miami Marlins' Biggest Early Season Surprises and Disappointments

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    This Miami Marlins dugout is full of surprises ... and disappointments.
    This Miami Marlins dugout is full of surprises ... and disappointments.Alex Brandon

    We're two weeks into the season, so you know what that means.

    There's a big enough sample size that we can judge what thrills and ails your favorite baseball team.

    One week the Miami Marlins act like world-beaters and some think they might just have the goods to unseat the Atlanta Braves as the National League East champs. The next week, the Marlins act like, well, last season's Marlins. You know, the team that lost 100 games.

    Basically, the Marlins were a pleasant surprise one week and a major disappointment the following week.

    While that's a macro view of the Marlins, we must dig deeper to find out why that was the case. The micro view could help explain why the Marlins went from winning five of their first six games to losing eight in a row.

    With that said, here are the Marlins' biggest early season surprises and disappointments.

Surprise: Marlins' Revamped (and Improved) Offense

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    Entering Monday night's game against the Washington Nationals, the Marlins were ranked 11th in runs scored per game at 4.62, which is higher than the league average of 4.22. Moreover, the Marlins offense was ranked seventh in batting average at .264, tied for sixth in on-base percentage at .335, 10th with a .737 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and tied eighth in doubles with 24.

    Basically, it's a huge improvement upon last year's offense.

    To recap, the Marlins had one of the worst offensive teams in recent history as they finished last in baseball in runs scored (513), batting average (.231) and home runs (95). The Marlins also scored two runs or less in nearly half of their contests (46.9 percent), according to Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel. And to top it off, the only team to score as few runs as the Marlins since they came into existence in 1993 was the 2010 Seattle Mariners, who also crossed home plate 513 times, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.

    Some of the newcomers, such as third baseman Casey McGehee (.280/.362/.420, 11 RBI) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.282/.391/.462) have helped boost the offense. But so have incumbents such as Derek Dietrich (.300/.462/.650, two home runs and five RBI), Marcell Ozuna (.280/.321/.440, two homers and four RBI) and Giancarlo Stanton (.305/.349/.576, four homers and 16 RBI).

    While each of those five players has some sort of track record for his stellar ability to handle the lumber, there's one player whose improvement has surprised even the most casual fan...

Surprise: Adeiny Hechavarria

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Please raise your hand if you predicted shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria would have a slash line of .327/.345/.418 through the first 14 games.

    If your hand is up, then there's a tropical island in Antarctica that is for sale.

    In his first two seasons, Hechavarria owns a .232/.269/.311 slash line in 715 plate appearances. Now, nobody expects Hechavarria to turn from Mario Mendoza to Tony Gwynn, but Hechavarria has had a fantastic start.

    The big question is, can Hechavarria sustain the pace? The answer is probably not. But there was a 40-game stretch last season, from June 4 to July 23, where Hechavarria had a .329/.350/.368 slash line that raised his batting average 77 points to a season-high .253.

    But if the Marlins get anywhere like a .248/.313/.369 slash line, which is league average for MLB shortstops as of Monday morning, from Hechavarria, then they will probably be happy campers.

Surprise: Attendance at Marlins Park

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    When the Marlins played the Colorado Rockies on Opening Night, there were 37,116 in attendance at Marlins Park, which was filled to 99.2 percent capacity at the 37,442-seat stadium. Five days later, 35,188 showed up to watch the Marlins beat the San Diego Padres, 5-0.

    Now in the other six home games during the first week of the season, attendance varied from as low as 15,378 to as high as 22,496. But the attendance at Opening Night and the aforementioned Padres game was significant because, two weeks into the season, the Marlins already have more games with more than 30,000 in attendance than they did for all of 2013. 

    And there are still 73 home games left this season.

    The good news does come with an asterisk. In both instances where the Marlins drew more than 30,000 people, starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was on the mound. What bigger draw is there for the Marlins than the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year?

    Now, only if the Marlins can find a way to have Fernandez make every start at home...

Disappointment: Inability to Win a Road Game or Beat Division Foes

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    When the Marlins began the season 5-2, many didn't know how if they were for real or if it was just the result of a fluky first week beating up on the the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres.

    The first litmus test was leaving the friendly confines of Marlins Park for three division games against the Washington Nationals. However, some Marlins didn't view the series against the Nationals as a gauge on the early-season success: “In this clubhouse, we know where we stand,” reliever Mike Dunn told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.

    As we now know, the rest is history. And it was ugly.

    The Marlins got swept by the Nationals. Their best chance at a win came in the middle game, but Carlos Marmol gave up a go-ahead grand slam to Jayson Werth in the bottom of the eighth inning in a 10-7 loss. That loss was sandwiched by the Marlins getting dominated by starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg

    Then, it was off to division rival Philadelphia, where the Marlins also got swept in a three-game series. Fernandez got smacked around in the series opener, and the Marlins lost the next two in dramatic fashion. Dan Jennings served up a walk-off homer to Jimmy Rollins on Saturday, and Dunn followed suit by yielding a two-out homer to Chase Utley in the bottom of the eighth in a 4-3 loss Sunday.

    Winless is six road games. Winless in six division games. The latter is now pushed to seventh after the Marlins lost 9-2 to the Nationals at home Monday.

    Yikes!

     

    3. The fan experience on Opening Night

    Miami sports fans have a notoriously putrid reputation. They are known to be blatantly late-arriving, show their support by having local teams play in half-empty stadiums and arenas if they aren't winning, and leave games early regardless of the outcome. 

    In fact, here are three different videos of Miami Heat fans trying to re-enter American Airlines Arena after they had left Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals because some thought the San Antonio Spurs had won even though the game was still in doubt with less than a minute to play. 

    Opening Night was, unsurprisingly, no different.

    According to Marlins team president David Samson, there were only 12,000 people inside Marlins Park when Dan Marino threw out the ceremonial pitch on Opening Night and another 6,000 when Fernandez threw the first pitch of the game.

    Since everyone else decided to show up fashionably late at the same time, many fans bombarded the radio airwaves the next day to complain they waited in line for three to four innings for cold food and that concessions ran out of ice. It also didn't help there was a Heat game that same night as well. Samson told Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald: 

    One of the things we talk to our fans about is don’t just take 836 [the Dolphin Expressway] to 12th Avenue. We tell people there are so many different ways to get to this ballpark. But everyone was taking the same way. So there was so much more load into the area from two choke points. 

    I got a complaint from a guy who said he left his house at 6:30. I said, ‘Sir, I’m so sorry, but I’ve got to tell you it’s Opening Day. You know there’s going to be a crowd—it’s going to be big. He said, ‘Well, I just figured I was going to be able to do it.’

    Yeah, leaving the house 35 minutes prior to first pitch to a condensed, high-traffic area was a brilliant idea. 

    NOT!!!

    Stay classy, Miami sports fans.

Disappointment: Leaky Defense

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    Tom Mihalek

    The Marlins defense has been as bad as the offense has been good, which is not good news. 

    Thus far, the Marlins have committed 13 errors, which is tied for third most in baseball behind the Phillies and the Texas Rangers

    And it isn't like it's one individual who has had an issue. Instead, the issue has spread like the plague, as nine different Marlins have committed at least one error this season. The main culprits are Dietrich (three), starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez (two) and first baseman Garrett Jones (two).

Disappointment: The Fan Experience on Opening Night

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    Wilfredo Lee

    Miami sports fans have a notoriously putrid reputation. They are known to be blatantly late-arriving, show their support by having local teams play in half-empty stadiums and arenas if they aren't winning, and leave games early regardless of the outcome. 

    In fact, here are three different videos of Miami Heat fans trying to re-enter American Airlines Arena after they had left Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals because some thought the San Antonio Spurs had won even though the game was still in doubt with less than a minute to play. 

    Opening Night was, unsurprisingly, no different.

    According to Marlins team president David Samson, there were only 12,000 people inside Marlins Park when Dan Marino threw out the ceremonial pitch on Opening Night and another 6,000 when Fernandez threw the first pitch of the game.

    Since everyone else decided to show up fashionably late at the same time, many fans bombarded the radio airwaves the next day to complain they waited in line for three to four innings for cold food and that concessions ran out of ice. It also didn't help there was a Heat game that same night as well. Samson told Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald: 

    One of the things we talk to our fans about is don’t just take 836 [the Dolphin Expressway] to 12th Avenue. We tell people there are so many different ways to get to this ballpark. But everyone was taking the same way. So there was so much more load into the area from two choke points. 

    I got a complaint from a guy who said he left his house at 6:30. I said, ‘Sir, I’m so sorry, but I’ve got to tell you it’s Opening Day. You know there’s going to be a crowd—it’s going to be big. He said, ‘Well, I just figured I was going to be able to do it.’

    Yeah, leaving the house 35 minutes prior to first pitch to a condensed, high-traffic area was a brilliant idea. 

    NOT!!!

    Stay classy, Miami sports fans.

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