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The Miami Marlins are not having the season they hoped for. In their first year at a new home with new branding and a newly fortified roster, the Marlins start the second half at 41-44. They are 9 games behind NL East-leading Washington, and 4.5 games out of a Wild Card spot.
If that sounds bad, consider how much worse it could be. The Marlins were outscored by 56 runs over the first half. Advanced statistics suggest that a team with that large a run deficit is expected to have a 37-48 record.
Miami is not in a terrible position, really, but one that is far from ideal. Even the grass in the Marlins Park outfield isn't looking so good.
"I think the grass sort of reflects our season," Marlins president David Samson told MLB.com on Thursday. "It's brown right now, but getting greener," he added optimistically.
The reasons for the Marlins struggles are many, but chief among them have been an anemic offense and disastrous bullpen. Miami is one of five National League teams to score less than four runs a game (3.93).
Making matters worse, the Marlins will be without All-Star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton until August at the earliest. Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes, who were supposed to be Stanton's table-setters, are batting a pedestrian .248 and .264, respectively. The only hitters who have exceeded expectations are Stanton, Omar Infante, and minor league call-up Justin Ruggiano, who has hit .390 in just over a month of action.
Miami's 4.65 bullpen ERA is third worst in baseball. Closer Heath Bell has blown 6 save opportunities, his teammates have added 7 more. The Marlins have had such trouble that manager Ozzie Guillen has opted to go the dreaded "closer-by-committee" route.
"The first half was miserable," Guillen said to the Miami Herald on Thursday. He stopped short of calling the team a bad team that had been overestimated, instead saying the Marlins are "a good team playing bad."
Miami has a chance to make a statement on Friday when it opens up a four-game series against the division-leading Nationals at home. The Marlins have a chance to make up some ground in a hurry, but it will take a sustained improvement to get Miami into the playoffs. Luckily for the Marlins, two and a half months is more than enough time to climb the mountain in front of them.