MLB: Miami Marlins at Chicago Cubs

Stat preview: Miami Marlins, June 29-July 1

If you have not gotten to the point of hoping for the Mets to lose in order to get a higher 2019 draft pick, give it a few more weeks. Seriously though, has there been a more miserable stretch of baseball to watch than the last month of the Mets? (The answer is yes; the 1899 Cleveland Spiders won one game in September and had four months worse than the Mets’ June.) After dropping another series, this time to the Pirates, the Mets are just 1.5 games from last place in the NL East and the worst record in the National League. The team right below them, the Marlins, are who the Mets line up against this weekend, as they try to prevent themselves from falling to unthinkable depths. The Marlins have obviously had their fair of struggles too, some of which are highlighted below in one of the more somber editions of the stats preview.

Missing Marlin Mashers: Miami’s offense has been really bad this year. Not shocking, I know. But what is probably frustrating for Marlins fans is they have a good base of offensive talent to build upon, but little else in terms of MLB depth. J.T. Realmuto and Brian Anderson have respectively been the 10th and 20th most valuable offensive players by VORP, and Derek Dietrich, Justin Bour and Starlin Castro are all in the top 100. Yet the Marlins rank third-to-last in the majors in runs and OPS, and last in home runs and slugging. Why? Well three Marlins’ outfielders – Lewis Brinson, Cameron Maybin and J.B. Shuck – have been worth a combined -10.4 VORP. As a result, the team has been playing Anderson and Dietrich in the outfield, although both had spent most of their major league playing time in the dirt before this season. If only the Marlins had three good outfielders, they could shift Anderson and Dietrich back to the infield and have a pretty formidable lineup.

Alcantara’s Outlook: Speaking of what could have been with the Marlins’ outfield, the centerpiece of the Marcell Ozuna trade will make his Marlins’ debut tonight against the Mets. After his breakout 2016 season, in which he struck out nearly 12 batters per nine innings, Sandy Alcantara has been mostly unimpressive from a numbers standpoint. At each of his last two minor league stops (Double-A Springfield and Triple-A New Orleans), Alcantara has struck out just 7.6 and 6.8 batters per nine innings. His walk numbers are not much to get excited about either, as he walked 3.9 per nine in Double-A and 3.6 per nine in Triple-A. At least he has shown improvement there, but the major league average is 3.2, so without above average strikeout totals to combat the below average walk numbers, he will probably struggle. BP’s projections bear those concerns out, as his projected ERA and DRA are both in the 5’s. Here’s to wishing him well in his career, though, just maybe not in his Marlins debut.

‘Clough’s Change: Why is Kyle Barraclough not throwing his changeup more often? In a season where he has been promoted to the Marlins’ closer spot, Barraclough has already increased his changeup usage from 4.3% in 2017 to 12.3%. But the question is why not throw it more? At 59%, his whiff per swing rate is the highest on any changeup thrown by any pitcher this year by eight percentage points. That gap between first and second is the largest among any pitch this year. He has generated ground balls at a 60% rate on the changeup, so even when batters do make contact with the pitch, they are not doing a lot of damage. Unfathomably, though, his usage of the changeup has gone down in each month of the season. The changeup has generated the highest whiff rate of his three pitches, so why not exploit that? If Barraclough makes any appearances in this weekend’s series, look to see how he uses the changeup, especially on a lefty hitter like Nimmo, who has hit just .190 (4 for 21) against right handed changeups this year.

Quick Hits

The Good: Even after missing the early part of the season to injury, J.T. Realmuto has been by far the most valuable catcher in baseball (according to WARP). His 3.24 WARP is well ahead Buster Posey (2.33) and Yasmani Grandal (2.30) in the second and third positions.

The Bad: The Marlins are in the bottom 10 in the league in collective hitting (VORP) and pitching (DRA).

The Ugly: Miguel Rojas has hit into 8.44 more double plays than expected (according to NETDP), third worst in MLB.

Mets Check-In

In the month of June, the Mets have gone a miserable 5-19. If they were to keep that pace up the rest of the season, they would finish with an even 50 wins. That would have seemed nearly impossible after the first two weeks of the season, but as awful as they have played recently, combined with potential trades, even a finish that terrible does not seem out of reach.

Photo credit: Patrick Gorski – USA Today Sports

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