After exiting April 16-13, the Marlins nosedived in the first week of May, losing each of their first 5 games, being outscored 34-12 in the process. But the Fish would rebound to win 13 of their last 22 May contests, exiting the month 29-27 and tied with the Mets for 2nd place in the NL East.
How did we get here?
As the title suggests, here’s what went well for Miami this past month.
Beauty Behind the Madness
A quick glance at Braxton Garrett‘s pitching line for May—5.46 ERA (19 ER in 31.1 IP), 4.91 FIP, and a .813 opponent OPS—would suggest he was just plain bad. However, a vast majority of that damage can be attributed to his start against Atlanta on May 3.
In what would be generous to simply refer to as a “disastrous” outing, Garrett set career worsts in hits (14), runs (11), and home runs allowed (4), seeing his season ERA balloon from 2.45 to 5.81. That minus-8 game score of his currently sits 2nd-worst among all MLB starts this season behind only Luis Cessa‘s 11-run blow-up against Philadelphia on 4/16.
In a game where success is largely predicated on dealing with adversity, Garrett rebounded in a big way, pitching to a 2.67 ERA (3.25 FIP) over his final five outings of the month, bringing his season ERA back down to a more respectable 4.22. The former first-round pick added a cutter to his repertoire in his first post-Atlanta-debacle outing in Arizona. He paired that with a much-improved changeup in his May 30 start against San Diego, where he allowed just 2 hits over 5 1/3 innings.
The next objective for Garrett: solving his 6th-inning/third-time-through-the-order woes to cement his status as a legitimate mid-rotation MLB starter.
While the antecedents of a Jorge Soler bounce-back came in the form of an encouraging April (5 HR, .772 OPS), his production increased exponentially the following month, hitting .271/.355/626/.982, clubbing 12 home runs and amassing 67 total bases in the process. At one point, Soler homered in 6 consecutive starts in the outfield.
Soler’s 12 big flies made him the first Marlin since Giancarlo Stanton in August 2017 to hit at least 10 home runs in a single calendar month.
It wasn’t just the sheer prolificacy of Soler’s home runs, but when most of them happened. He enters June hitting .378/.452/.838 in late & close situations, per Baseball-Reference. His 1.245 OPS in high-leverage situations was more than .400 points higher than what it was in low-leverage events (.833). This may best be illuminated by the walk-off blast he hit off against Washington on May 16.
The Life of Bryan
For the Monty Python fans that picked up on the reference, consider yourselves people of culture. For those here surmising that this was made in jest to Bryan De La Cruz, you too deserve a tip of the cap.
De La Cruz, like Soler, is a streaky player. Case in point, after OPS’ing .862 through his first 19 games of the April, the Marlins left fielder endured a 15-game stretch from April 23-May 10 where he hit .167/.182/.167, seeing his OPS dip to .636. Miami would go 6-9 over that span.
Just when the 26-year-old appeared to be a candidate for a possible demotion to AAA, the better side of his streakiness reared its head. De La Cruz slashed .368/.449/.662/1.111, hitting 5 home runs and totaling 25 hits in 18 games from May 12-31. Among hitters with at least 75 plate appearances in that span, his 202 wRC+ was tied with Texas’ Josh Jung for fourth in all of baseball, per FanGraphs.
Maybe most encouraging aspect of De La Cruz’s hot stretch came in the form of increased plate discipline—he drew 10 walks in 78 plate appearances (12.8 BB%), more than double the 6.1% mark he posted in the 207 career games prior. If this is a sign of things to come, De La Cruz could find himself flirting with a potential All-Star bid come the break.
As DLC went, so did Miami. The team had a 10-8 record in that stretch to close out the month after starting May at 0-5.
A Noble Scott-sman
Tanner Scott pitched to 14 innings of a 1.93 ERA and even better 1.43 FIP during the season’s second month. Facing 56 hitters, the hard-throwing left-hander struck out 25 of them (44.6 K%). Among the 153 relievers to throw at least 10 innings in May, only Scott’s teammate, fellow lefty Steven Okert (44.7) and Baltimore’s Félix Bautista (53.7) struck out a higher percentage of hitters. By fWAR, Scott (0.6) was in a four-way tie for second-most valuable reliever in the Majors, trailing yet another Baltimore reliever, Yennier Cano (0.8).
Now, after 26 innings of a 3.46 ERA, 3.17 FIP, and 12.8 K/9, Scott is looking more like the reliever that Miami envisioned when Kim Ng acquired him ahead of the 2022 season.
Even “Better” Steven(s)
When he joined the Marlins on a minor league deal before 2021, Steven Okert had shown himself to be merely an average-or-so MLB reliever, posting an adjusted 98 ERA+ in 48 1/3 career innings with San Francisco.
The way that Okert has taken his career to new heights in parts of three seasons with Miami has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Among the relievers to throw at least 100 innings since 2021, only four—David Robertson, Edwin Díaz, Devin Williams and Okert—have posted an ERA+ above 150 while simultaneously posting a <6 H/9 and >11 K/9.
Like his aforementioned counterpart Scott, hitters stood next to no chance against Okert, hitting just .095 and striking out 44.7% of the time in 13 innings. The left-hander struck out at least 1 hitter in 8 consecutive appearances to conclude the month, a streak active at the time of this writing.
During the absence of A.J. Puk, Okert has again been a legitimate difference-maker in Miami’s bullpen.