2012 in review
Record: 69-93 (68-94 Pythagorean)
609 runs scored (15th in NL)
724 runs allowed (12th in NL)
Big Offseason Moves
See below ...
Well, that didn't go as planned. The Marlins moved into their new stadium, signed a bunch of high-priced free agents and promptly laid a big, fat egg ... winning three fewer games than the year before. What's sort of amazing is how many things actually went right -- Jose Reyes played 160 games, Josh Johnson made 31 starts and Mark Buehrle was Mark Buehrle. But everybody else other than Giancarlo Stanton pretty stunk up South Florida.
So Jeffrey Loria and his minions traded away pretty much anyone making any money, including many of the high-priced veterans they signed last offseason. Gone are Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson, Heath Bell, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck and manager Ozzie Guillen (plus the in-season purge of Anibal Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez and Omar Infante). The top-rated prospects they got in the Reyes/Johnson/Buehrle deal with Toronto were pitcher Justin Nicolino (No. 62 on Keith Law's top 100) and outfielder Jake Marisnick (No. 82).
As for a grade ... I have to give this an F, if only because Loria has managed to find a way to lose hundreds of thousands of fans just like that. Maybe it was the right move from a baseball operations standpoint; time will tell how the big deal with Toronto pans out. But positive public relations is part of a front office's job as well, and considering it's been difficult enough drawing fans in South Florida, good luck with that in the future.
Then again, Loria probably doesn't care. With his team once again at the bottom in payroll, he'll gladly pocket the revenue-sharing checks and enjoy the profits while eating the best Russian caviar as he sits at home and admires his collection of art (certainly not his collection of ballplayers).
Well, Stanton is still around so I can't give the lineup an F. He hit .290 and popped 37 home runs despite missing 38 games. He led the National League with a .608 slugging percentage despite losing a few home runs to the spacious dimensions of the new park (16 home runs in 274 at-bats at home, 21 in 227 on the road).
The rest of the lineup, however, doesn't look pretty. Logan Morrison at least returns to first base, ending the adventure of trying to play left field. However, injuries and maybe too much tweeting have left him short of the potential he showed as a rookie in 2010. Justin Ruggiano had a surprising .313 BA/.374 OBP/.535 SLG line in 91 games, and while it was nice to see the Triple-A vet finally get some big league time, he was over his head. Veteran retreads Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco were brought in to fill out the lineup, and while Pierre played well for Philly, he's unlikely to repeat. Outside of Stanton, the most interesting position players on the Marlins will be minor league outfielders Christian Yelich, Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna.
There are some interesting arms in the rotation, led by Jacob Turner, who came over from the Tigers in the Sanchez trade and pitched well with a 3.38 ERA over seven starts. The Tigers had grown frustrated with mediocre performances in the minors but Turner doesn't turn 22 until May; it's possible the Marlins ended up with a pitcher better than Sanchez -- and a whole lot cheaper.
Henderson Alvarez was part of the Toronto trade and while he has a mid-90s fastball, it doesn't generate many strikeouts (79 in 187 innings) and leads to gopher ball problems (29). There is some potential here, but until his off-speed stuff starts producing some whiffs, Alvarez is bottom-of-the-rotation material.
Again, the most interesting Marlins pitcher may be in the minor leagues: starter Jose Fernandez, the team's No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft out of a Tampa high school. After a dominant season in the minors he shot up to No. 16 on Keith's top 100 list and could be a midseason addition to the Marlins' rotation.
The bullpen had an ERA over 4.00 last year and doesn't figure to be much better. At least Marlins fans won't have to see Bell closing out games again.
Heat Map to Watch
So could Stanton, at the age of 23, hit 50 home runs? His 37 home runs in 123 prorates to 45 over 150 games; with a little improvement, 50 is a strong possibility. To do that, he'll have to improve his approach on outside pitches. While conventional wisdom says that you don't want to see sluggers extend their arms, Stanton hit just .200/.319.350 on outside pitches in 2012, compared to .261/.343/.516 on inside pitches. Only five of his 37 home runs went to right field or right-center.
Hey, on the bright side, at least Stanton is still here. He's worth the price of admission all by himself, just to see if he can hit a bomb over that crazy sculpture in center field.
But it's another rebuilding year in Miami. After drawing 2.2 million fans in 2012, the Marlins will probably fade back to last in the National League in attendance for the seventh time in eight seasons and Stanton will be doing his slugging in front of a lot of empty seats.
Maybe there are baseball fans in Florida. Sadly, as long as Loria owns the Marlins, we'll probably never know.