St. Louis Cardinals against the National League: Miami Marlins
The Marlins won just 71 games last year, yet they have two of the most exciting young talents in the game and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Will they contend in 2016? The St. Louis Cardinals will face the Fish seven times this year, all in the month of July.
2015 Record: 71-91
Notable Departures: 3B Casey McGehee (currently still a Free Agent)
Notable Newcomers: SP Wei-Yin Chen, RP Edwin Jackson, IF Chris Johnson
Against St. Louis in 2016: 3 games July 15-17 @STL, 4 games July 28-31 @ MIA
The biggest storyline in 2016 for the Miami Marlins is probably going to be Ichiro Suzuki‘s pursuit of his 3,000th career Major League hit. Ichiro stands just 65 hits shy of 3,000 for his MLB career, and though the 42 year-old may be slowing down in the hits department, he is still a virtual lock to reach 3,000 in 2016.
Ichiro recorded just 91 hits in 2015, easily his lowest total of his career. That would obviously still take care of 3,000. In fact, checking into that stat gave me the opportunity to truly appreciate how great of a career Ichiro has had.
From 2001 through 2010, Ichiro recorded no fewer than 206 hit in a given season. He peaked in 2004, when he recorded a mind-boggling 262 hits, breaking the 84-year-old single-season hit record of 257, previously held by George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns.
When you consider the fact that Ichiro recorded an additional 1,278 hits during his career in Japan, you start to realize that we have had the privilege of watching one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game.
How cool would it be if we were lucky enough to witness him hit number 3,000 during one of our July match-ups?
Adding to the intrigue of the 2016 Marlins is the fact that they have one of the game’s phenomenal young pitching talents in Jose Fernandez, and the game’s most fearsome power threat in Giancarlo Stanton.
Fernandez is going to have to prove that he can stay healthy for an entire season. At just 23 years old, the Cuban hurler has missed upwards of 35 starts in his three-year career. In fact, Fernandez has failed to log more than 65 innings pitched in each of the past two seasons.
There is little doubt in the ability of Fernandez to pitch when healthy, and to dominate while he is at it. Fernandez sports a career 22-9 record with a 2.40 ERA and 336 strikeouts in 289 innings pitched. The fact remains, though, that the 2012 Rookie of the Year underwent Tommy John surgery in the 2014 off season at just 22 years of age.
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On the other side of the diamond, the Marlins have a power threat that may be unmatched in Major League Baseball. 26-year-old Giancarlo Stanton is in the prime of his career. His 181 home runs through six seasons project out to 543 home runs over an 18-year career. He’s yet to hit 40 in a single season, but that seems like much more of a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.”
It is pretty simple as far as what you should expect out of a Stanton at-bat. He’s either going to hit an absolute rocket somewhere, he’s going to draw a walk, or he’s going to strikeout. He does all three at a very high clip.
In an injury-shortened 2015 season, Stanton struck out 95 times in 74 games. He drew 34 walks, and he hit 27 home runs. His average Exit Velocity of 99.1 mph was a full 4.0 mph faster than the second-highest finisher, Miguel Cabrera. Of the ten highest Exit Velocities recorded in 2015, Stanton had eight of them.
So, then, the Marlins obviously have some star power. But how do they fill in with the other 22 guys on their roster. The answer — with much less certainty.
The Marlins actually checked in at 8th in the Majors with a respectable .260 team Batting Average in 2015. Their team ERA of 4.02 wasn’t horrible either. The problem… they scored just 613 runs, good for second-to-last in baseball.
Upon first glance at the Marlins’ numbers, it is hard to figure that they struggled to score as much as they did. After all, they had six guys record a .280 or better batting average (with at least 140 at-bats) while Dee Gordon (.333) led the National League in hitting.
The fact of the matter is, Miami was in the bottom-five of baseball in home runs (120), RBI (575) and OPS (.694). And we thought that we had power problems…
Having Stanton for an entire season will help the Marlins substantially in each of the categories listed above. If power threats Marcell Ozuna and Justin Bour can start driving baseballs when the likes of Gordon and Martin Prado are on base in front of them, Miami could turn into a dangerous ball club.
Hypothetically, what happens with Ichiro if the fish were to come out hot, and he cannot produce? Say, if they were within a few games or leading the NL East and Ichiro’s performance was noticeably hurting the ball club? Do they stick with him and let him get to 3,000? There is potential for all sorts of fascinating storylines in Miami in 2016.
When it comes down to it, I still don’t see the Marlins as a playoff caliber team. Granted, wacky things can and have been happening in this two Wild Card team era. I’m not sure I can fully speak to what full seasons of Stanton and Fernandez would mean in Miami, considering we haven’t seen that in some time now. I’m just not sure they have enough outside of those two.
Predicting what might happen between the Cardinals and Marlins in 2016 is somewhat difficult, considering how many different scenarios each team could be facing come July. Both teams could look drastically different from the three-game set in St. Louis compared to the four games in Miami right before the trade deadline.
Next: St. Louis Cardinals against the National League: Atlanta Braves
Based off of the scheduling alone, I am looking for the Cardinals to win two out of three at Busch and split the four down in Miami for a 4-3 season win. If Miami tanks, we could sweep them down there just as easily as they could sweep us with the right pitching match ups, and a division race to inject a little enthusiasm in the greater Miami area.