I promise I’m not trying to upset Dan Greenlee or the Marlins with this headline. That’s just my takeaway from Greenlee’s interview with Craig Mish and Jeremy Taché on Thursday’s Swings and Mishes podcast.
“Last but not least, this is a very competitive team,” says Greenlee.
That is irrefutable. The Marlins scored more runs than they allowed Rarely lose games by a large margin. The prolific analyst-turned-front-office manager insists to Swings and Mishes that their 20-28 record (0.417 win percentage) belies how many talents are on the list. Greenlee says filming their season is just as important to him and his colleagues as it is to the fans. But he makes no convincing argument that they will be able to overcome their sizeable standings deficit to legitimately contend for a post-season berth.
Greenlee was pressured over the two most frustrating aspects of the Marlins 2022, beginning with the offense’s inability to capitalize with runners on base. He cites weighted runs made plus (wRC+) – a stat we use here every day (often multiple times a day) for Fish Stripes – to confirm that the Marlins lineup is doing the important things well. On Thursday, they ranked ninth among MLB teams with 107 wRC+ (100 represented league average). That’s positive.
“The hard part is becoming a good offensive player,” Greenlee says, “and these guys who have proven their ability to get to the base and hit for power will ultimately be able to show up on these.” [clutch] moments and are average or above average compared to the rest of the league, just like all other moments.”
However, there are other ingredients that contribute to how many runs a team actually scores. The Marlins rank 25th in the majors for making “productive outs,” according to the baseball reference. They are similarly tied for 25th place in the extra bases taken. Additionally, two valuable, versatile and experienced members of the Marlins roster – Brian Anderson (128 wRC+) and Joey Wendle (119 wRC+) – both ended up on the injury list this week. Will this offense maintain its April/May pace with most Anderson/Wendle reps going to Willians Astudillo and Luke Williams?
The other “frustrating aspect” is the tighter carousel. The Marlins’ pitching team has consistently faltered in the ninth inning this season, whether it was Anthony Bender or Cole Sulser or anyone else getting those high-leverage chances. Shocking! Not really.
As far as I could tell, the vast majority of fans correctly recognized that this area needed an upgrade over the winter – personally I was in favor of signing or trading Kenley Jansen to get Josh Hader from the Brewers (if available). When Dylan Floro suffered a setback in spring training, at least the Marlins fared some through the acquisition of Sulser and Tanner Scott from the Orioles. Greenlee admits that “commercial concepts” have been presented to the Fish in the past using traditional shut-off closers, but the prices asked were unreasonable, he says.
More from Greenlee:
“They have clubs if they don’t necessarily have Josh Hader in the house they try to get as many complete and competent bullpen parts as possible and hope everyone can be trusted to probably keep us in games and some players become effective backend options. Two months so far this group has been really good at keeping us in games when we’re behind and less effective at protecting small leads. We believe there is enough talent to change the latter part of this area. The last few years have shown that we have been able to identify these types and these types have been successful. Just two months into this season we just didn’t have the same luck in that inning.”
Greenlee defends the Marlins’ decision to keep Elieser Hernandez in the starting rotation, claiming that “home run rate is one of a pitcher’s most volatile traits.” Hernandez allowed 14 long balls in ’43 2⁄3 innings pitched. “You want to think that’s going to normalize,” says Greenlee.
Why Greenlee thinks this is unclear. Just put the stats aside for a moment watch the games and you see that Hernandez lacks the quality of material and variety of pitch types to overcome his imprecise command. Most home runs against him sail comfortably over the fence. Pech does not explain his struggles satisfactorily.
In all five of his MLB seasons (2018-2022), Hernandez has posted an HR/9 rating of at least 1.5. I found out via Stathead that the only other MLB pitchers with the same unfortunate award are Heath Hembree, Yoan López and Emilio Pagán. These are pure relief guys who have pitched fewer innings than Hernandez.
At the end of the interview, Greenlee pointed to the slow-starting 2021 Braves, who aggressively added experienced talent and won the World Series despite low playoff ratings at the close of trade. He stopped just before right to compare them to the Marlins, but… whoops. You can’t meet the fans’ expectations like that. For what it’s worth, the Marlins’ current playoff odds are 7.8%, according to FanGraphs.
Anyway, listen for yourself.