I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the Marlins’ 23-21 record all morning because I feel very strongly that the San Francisco Giants should at least win this series.
The Marlins do not score a lot (155 runs scored - 28th in MLB). They do not prevent runs (207 runs allowed - 18th in MLB). They do not field very well. FanGraphs has them at -4.1 Defensive Runs — worse than the Phillies, who the Giants were able to sweep in part because of that team’s poor defense. Now here come the Marlins with an even worse grouping. Their run differential is -52. They are second in the NL East! They should be closer to 16-28 than 23-21. What gives?
Okay, here’s what I’ve figured out. Let’s start with this whopper of a stat: 14-1. That’s the Marlins’ record in 1-run games. I know, I know. That’s mindboggling. Next, let’s take a look at their Win Probability added — what’s that? It’s a negative value (-1.34)? Last month, I decried FanGraphs stripping hitting context out of situations to generate their “Clutch” stat, but now I need it, because the Marlins fair better by that measure: +1.02. That’s in MLB’s top 10.
Win Probability Added (WPA) captures the change in Win Expectancy from one plate appearance to the next and credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team’s odds of winning. Most sabermetric statistics are context neutral — they do not consider the situation of a particular event or how some plays are more crucial to a win than others. While wOBA rates all home runs as equal, we know intuitively that a home run in the third inning of a blowout is less important to that win than a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a close game. WPA captures this difference.
In the words of David Appelman, this calculation measures, “…how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.” It also compares a player against himself, so a player who hits .300 in high leverage situations when he’s an overall .300 hitter is not considered clutch.
And when I look at their raw numbers by innings, the picture resolves even more:
Innings 1-3: .223/.276/.357 (.632)
Innings 4-6: .253/.311/.396 (.707)
Innings 7-9: .280/.335/.414 (749)
Baseball Reference has measured 301 team plate appearances as “High Leverage,” and shows the Marlins with their best overall line in those situations, too: .271/.315/.431 (.747).
Despite having last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Sandy Alcantara, Jesus Lazardo, and now top prospect Eury Perez in the rotation, the Marlins’ 3.0 fWAR is middle of the pack, technically tied with the Giants. Their bullpen is 19th at +0.7. I looked into the game logs for their starters and it’s not even really a matter of their starters consistently going deep into games — I had a thought that maybe these Marlins were like the 2009 or 2010 Giants, winning solely through dominant pitching.
Well, it’s kinda-sorta the case that it’s the pitching that’s keeping them in games and then they win late but it’s also true that they’re inconsistent. A sort of team still rebuilding. They’re 8-12 in their division, 6-3 against the NL West so far. That’s tough news for the Giants, but the slightly better news is that they’re down Jazz Chisholm, their most exciting position player, who’s out with turf toe... but they have Luis Arraez — dude just hits, and currently leads the team in fWAR.
And there’s just something about the Giants playing the Marlins. It always feels bad. If you don’t know what the Marlins Death Fog is, we just passed the 9-year anniversary of the term’s birth, and you can read all about it here. I’ve updated the list a little but, but in short:
Breaking Buster Posey
Breaking Pablo Sandoval
Being in town when Angel Pagan’s knee re-exploded
Jeffrey Loria’s face
Putting the Giants under .500 for good last season
Jeffrey Loria’s butt sticking out from his shirt collar and being mistaken for a face because his face is like a butt
Setting Matt Cain on his path to retirement in 2015
Breaking Evan Longoria’s hand in 2018
One (1) free Cody Ross
Allowing Brandon Crawford to record the first seven (7)-hit game since 1975 and best ever
Making Hunter Strickland so angry that he broke his hand punching a door
Alex Wood’s last IL stint came because — HE FACED THE MARLINS.
We did get RUF IS ON THE MOVE from the Marlins in San Francisco, too, of course — not quite penance for them, but still fun for us. These always seem to be tough series. There’s always some sort of injury or controversy. That -52 run differential freaks me out! They’ve scored 5+ runs just 14 times, but allowed 5+ runs 20 times!
The Giants really need this series, and with Casey Schmitt and Patrick Bailey joining the core, it’s safe to say they’re putting their best up against a surprising team that they should still somehow manage to beat! Still... we have to assume the Death Fog will be the equalizer.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Miami Marlins
Where: Oracle Park, San Francisco, California
When: Friday (7:15pm PT), Saturday (1:05pm PT), Sunday (1:05pm PT)
National broadcasts: None.
Friday: Anthony DeSclafani vs. Sandy Alcantara
Saturday: Logan Webb vs. Braxton Garrett
Sunday: Alex Wood vs. Jesus Luzardo
Where they stand
Whoops — I’ve forgotten this section the past two previews. Important!
Record: 23-21, 2nd in NL East
Run differential: -52, 15th in NL
Postseason standing: 3rd Wild Card as of 5-19-2023, 4.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 4-game winning streak; 7-3 in their last 10 games
Record: 20-23, 3rd in NL West
Run differential: -20, 10th in the NL
Postseason standing: 2.5 games back of third Wild Card, 7.0 games out of the division
losing winning streak; 5-5 in their last 10 games
Three Marlins to watch
Sandy Alcantara: Last year’s NL Cy Young winner is off to a slow start (4.91 ERA / 3.65 FIP), but he still has quality stuff befitting an ace (8.6 K.9, 98 mph 4-seamer and sinker). He’s had 9 strikeouts in each of his last two starts (@ Wrigley Field, home against the Reds) and the Giants still lead the National League — though no longer all of baseball! Thanks, Mariners (25.5%)!— in strikeout rate (25.4%). Michael Conforto has three home runs off of him in his career, all three 400+ feet and on three different pitches: four-seamer, sinker, and changeup.
Luis Arraez: Last year’s AL Silver Slugger at second base has rolled over his .316 batting average in 2022 to .378 through his first 40 games played in 2023. Wow! He’s also carrying a 14:9 BB:K. The Giants weren’t able to contain him in their series last month — .308/.357/.308, but he wasn’t able to get the big hit for them, either.
Jorge Soler: The team’s worst defender by far (-5.0 Defensive Runs) is still their best slugger and he absolutely demolished the Giants last month: 5-for-8 with a double and a game-winning home run. He’s batting .254/.323/.576 (.899 OPS) in May and has 4 home runs in his last 8 games. In his career, he’s homered off of both Anthony DeSclafani and Logan Webb.
Three Giants to watch
Patrick Bailey: Let’s see what the rookie can do! Switch hitting, good game calling, averageish at holding baserunners — just 5 caught stealing in 22 attempts at Triple-A, 3/8 in Double-A.
Casey Schmitt: Let’s see what the rookie can do! Alcantara will be a tough matchup for him, but I look forward to seeing what he can do against lefties Braxton Garrett and Jesus Luzardo.
Ryan Walker: Let’s see what the rookie can do! The Giants’ bullpen is in desperate need of some quality stuff and it looks like Walker fits the bill. I’m thinking 6th inning situations here or to stabilize a blowout in innings 4-5. Here he is striking out Fernando Tatis Jr. back in April:
Ryan Walker struck out Fernando Tatis Jr. last night pic.twitter.com/WylQPI25zI— Milb Central (@milb_central) April 6, 2023
Friend of the site Roger Munter also reports that his fastball velocity is more 94-95, so a power sinker-slider guy is exactly what the Giants want and exactly what they need.
Giants vs. Marlins - How will it go?
This poll is closed
The Marlins Death Fog will consume us all
Marlins win, 2-1
Giants win, 2-1