Can The Miami Marlins win their division?

Sep 12, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; A general view of the aquarium behind home plate at Marlins Park before a game between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 12, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; A general view of the aquarium behind home plate at Marlins Park before a game between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports /

Without a doubt, the Miami Marlins were one of the worst teams in baseball last year. The only intriguing aspect of the Marlins dubious season was their 100-loss season along with their extensive losing streaks, which condemned this franchise to a doomed existence. However, despite the frustrating failures of last season, the resilient Marlins have finally established a successful albeit finicky flow for winning where they would of handedly lost before. It may not always be an incredible sight to behold, but the Miami Marlins have reworked their roster and bullpen effectively to at least compete in their inconsistent division.

While the Marlins current record of 30-28 may appear to be indicative of a team that is average in every conceivable way, this teams explosive offense is much more potent than their overall record suggests. Thus far, the offensively supercharged Marlins have garnered 259 runs and have put together an exceptional batting average of .260 (both team statistics rank 6th in the MLB).

The Marlins drastic offensive improvements are the result of the leadership and athletic perseverance of right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. While Stanton’s performances last season were unremarkable to say the least, he has bounced back tremendously to become one of the most reliable and versatile hitters in baseball. Between his insatiable hitting power (slugging percentage of .603 and 16 home runs) and patients at the plate (.308 batting average and on base percentage of .406), Stanton is a gifted offensive weapon that can change the course of a game with just one well placed swing.

Although Stanton’s emphatic contributions as a lights out hitter are essential to the Marlins scoring proficiencies, starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez has been just as potent on defense. Last year, Alvarez was an inconsistent pitcher who only garnered 57 strikeouts and threw for an ERA of 3.59. However, Alvarez has long since left that mediocre stint in the past as he as already stuck out 45 batters and has compiled a dominant ERA of 2.62. If Alvarez can continue to produce at his level throughout the rest of the season, he could easily throw for over 100 strikeouts while maintaining an impressively low ERA of 2.62 (both of which would be career highs).

Even though Stanton’s next up mentality has been sensational in the absence of Jose Fernandez, closer Steve Cishek has been the unsung hero for this tenacious Marlins bullpen. While Cishek has always been a productive pitcher throughout his four years in the league, his pitching output this year has been nothing short of stellar. Even when Cishek gives up the occasional loss, he does so by relinquishing a couple of runs only when an opposing teams bullpen is equally matched with Miami’s. If Cishek can continue to shut down opposing offenses with an ERA of 2.66, he’ll be on pace to have one of the best seasons of his career.

Looking at the Marlins roster as a whole, it becomes clear that this teams key to success is youth over experience. Out of the Marlins entire bullpen, there is only one pitcher who is over the age of thirty (Randy Wolf, age 37) while the infield is compromised of athletes who are 32 years of age or younger. Although this may seem like a ill-advised discrepancy given how crucial an experienced veteran can be for a teams later season success, the Marlins have the advantage in having youthful contributors who can lead by example and are not afraid to step up when their number gets called. While this team still has to go through some growing pains before they can take the league by storm, the well-rounded nature of the Marlins roster is certainly a point of optimistic intrigue.

In the end, the Marlins have both the youth and talent to win their division if they can remain disciplined without becoming victims of the moment. Although the lack of veteran leadership may hamper this teams chances of winning the AL East this year, the fact that this franchise has gone from being abysmal to relevant in the course of a year is monumentally impressive. If the Marlins can continue to play baseball with an immense chip on their shoulder as they have so far this season, this team could easily compete for a division title this year and could even win it next year if all of their key players can continue to improve.