If last month is any indication, these Miami Marlins just may swim with the potential playoff pack all season long.
When the Marlins entered the month of June, they did so at 29-27, good enough to be tied for 2nd place in the NL East with the New York Mets (and their bloated $361M payroll). Suffice to say this was a miracle given the club’s minus-45 run differential, which was second-worst in the National League to that point.
What happened in June, though, was anything but fluky. The Marlins improved to 48-35 by month’s end while convincingly outscoring their competition (save for a disastrous 16-4 loss to the divisional rival Atlanta Braves that concluded things on a sour note).
How did they get there? Here’s not only what went well, but what went genuinely great for the June 2023 Fish.
.406 for 26
Without reading the ensuing notes, you know exactly who we’re talking about.
After “only” hitting .330 in May on the heels of a .439 April, Luis Arraez resumed his torrid chase towards .400, hitting .406 in 26 June contests. He became the first MLB player since Josh Hamilton in June and July of 2010 to have multiple months of at least .400 in the same season (min. 25 G/Mo).
Even more incredible is how Arraez essentially refused to strike out. Arraez’s second .400-hitting month was also his second month of doing while whiffing less than 10 times, becoming the first player to do so since Dustin Pedroia in August 2016. In 116 June plate appearances, only 7 of them ended in a strikeout (6%).
Like Steely Dan sang in 1972, Arraez went ahead and “did it again.”
The club’s overall 3.43 ERA in June is simply misleading. Ahead of the pitching staff surrendering 16 runs to Atlanta on June 30, Miami had pitched to a 2.93 ERA in the month’s first 25 games.
Their collective 5.8 fWAR also paced all of Major League Baseball, as did their 3.09 FIP and 3.18 xFIP, all of this despite another subpar month from staff ace Sandy Alcantara (4.59 ERA, .273 BAA). As a whole, Miami starters posted the second-best ERA (3.00), trailing only the Phillies (2.73). However, if we refer back to FIP, no teams were better than what their 2.93 mark, a large part of which we can attribute to a minuscule 0.76 HR/9 (2nd). While the bullpen proved more middle-of-the-pack in sheer run prevention term (4.18 ERA, 12th), their 3.37 FIP and 3.23 xFIP—both second-best among all clubs—would suggest that even amid a record-setting month for Miami, bad luck always finds a way to makes it presence felt.
It should also be noted that the Fish did this while averaging 5 2/3 innings from their starters, third-best in all of baseball. Braxton Garrett—who may best embody these strong results—authored a 2.22 ERA in the calendar’s sixth month, one highlighted by a 1.16 ERA and 1.61 FIP over his final four June outings. His average innings pitched per June start, by the way? 5 2/3.
Wendle, Well Done
At the dawn of June, Joey Wendle‘s slash line looked something like this: .170/.254/.283.
When the sun set on the month’s final day, it had undergone a radical facelift: .281/.324/.393. In his 86 plate appearances during the interim, Wendle hit .354/.372/.463.
Now, sure, an .836 OPS does little to jump off the page, but when you consider the Joey Wendle Miami had gotten at the plate before, you begin to understand the importance of his month-long hot streak. In 432 plate appearances across 122 games from 2022 through May 2023, Wendle accrued an 82 wRC+, 235th among the 269 hitters with at least 400 plate appearances in the span. Fast forward to June and Wendle’s wRC+ of 130 put him in the same class as rookie phenom Elly De La Cruz, Royce Lewis, and teammate Jorge Soler.
If Miami were to even get 80-percent of June-like production out of Wendle moving forward, that, complimented with his above-average defense would pay major dividends for the club’s playoff prospects.
Next Man Up
While this section won’t be short of numbers, think of this more as a thought exercise on clubhouse culture and having your teammates backs in the everlasting effort to win at all costs.
A case in point example can be seen in the 9th inning of the Fish’s series finale against the Red Sox. After Jonathan Davis—who pinch ran following a Bryan De La Cruz single—was caught stealing, Jazz Chisholm Jr. (recently returned from an extensive IL stint due to turf toe) took longtime closer Kenley Jansen deep to dead center for a much-needed insurance run in an eventual 2-0 Marlins victory to secure their first-ever series sweep against Boston.
We touched earlier on the club’s strong starting pitching efforts the previous month, but encouraging was that it came on the heels of an injury to Edward Cabrera, who headed to the injured list with a shoulder impingement. In his place, Miami called upon swingman Bryan Hoeing to assume a rotation spot for the time being.
After allowing just 1 run in 6 1/3 innings over 4 relief appearances from June 1-12, Hoeing started and worked 4 scoreless innings against a potent Toronto Blue Jays lineup on June 19. He’d follow that with 5 hitless innings against Pittsburgh in his next outing. And though he’d be the starter of record in the June 30 blow-up in Atlanta (charged with 7 runs in 3 2/3 innings), Hoeing did nothing to quell the excitement that’s surrounded the club for most of 2023.
Eury, Eury, Eury
While his first four big league starts were an encouraging site to see (2.84 ERA, 4.92 FIP), Eury Pérez would raise the bar substantially in the month of June.
Of the 659 pitchers in franchise history to throw at least 25 innings in a single calendar month, no one has had a lower ERA than Pérez’s 0.32. In 28 innings pitched across 5 starts, the 20-year-old allowed all of 1 run. His 1.34 ERA through his first 9 starts is the lowest in club history, and his 8 total runs in that span is the fewest in any pitcher’s first 9 starts with a minimum of 40 innings pitched.
Someday soon, the club intends to remove Pérez from the starting rotation in order to limit the 2023 workload on his still-developing right arm. Even so, his performance in June illuminated one thing: Miami has another ace in the making.
Photo by Danis Sosa/Fish On First