On the last day of May, the Miami Marlins completed a three-game sweep at home against the Washington Nationals. The win gave them a 21-8 record in May, and it moved them a half-game back of first place in a tough NL East. Three days later, the Marlins completed a series win against the Phillies to move into a tie for first place. That was on June 3. There are things in your refrigerator that you bought on June 3 that are still perfectly fine to eat. June 3 was, like, right over there.
Since then, the Marlins have gone 6-18, for a cool .250 winning percentage. They've allowed 147 runs in June, and there are still two games left. The best way to describe it is visually, and Baseball Reference has a nifty little chart above each team's schedule. Green bars mean wins. Red bars mean losses. The bigger the bar, the larger the margin of victory or defeat. Let's just check out the Marlins' last month.
Hoooooooo. That's a lot of red. And it could be worse. The Marlins are 35-40, 8½ games out of first, but their run differential suggests that they could have a 30-45 record. Putting on my analyst cap, my research has determined the reason for the Marlins' poor month:
- They have allowed a metric crapton of runs in June.
- They have not scored a lot of runs in June.
I have pie charts if you need them. A sampling of pitching performances in the month:
Not good. I'm not sure if that's .250 awful, especially considering that Josh Johnson has been great, but it's not good. The problem is that the rotation might be the best thing going for the Marlins. Gaby Sanchez has hit .196/.229/.283 this month, and that's awfully close to his line for the full season. Omar Infante was carrying the offense in April, but he hit .237/.253/.344 in June. After winning Player of the Month in May, Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .213/.307/.404 with four homers in June.
And the bullpen. Good gravy. Heath Bell has only allowed runs in one game this month, but unfortunately it was a four-run outing that allowed the Cardinals to come back from a four-run deficit in the ninth and win the game. Ryan Webb has been hit hard, as has Edward Mujica. Chad Gaudin is back in the majors … and he's allowed 16 runs in his last 21 innings. It's not a bullpen; it's a Lars von Trier movie.
If things can go this wrong all at once, they can go right all at once. In theory, at least. There's still another half of baseball left, and only a few teams are really out of it. But a team in the Marlins' position should start to look toward the deadline, thinking about what they could sell off. Seeing what they can cobble together to make the next good Marlins team.
Except there is absolutely no way they can do that. There is absolutely no way the Marlins can trade any recognizable player right now. They spent years preparing for this season, stashing acorns to lure free agents, and making amends with the fans who were turned off by previous fire sales. It might make six different kinds of sense to trade Hanley Ramirez at the deadline now. But there's just no way.
The Marlins are drawing 28,000 per game in their new park -- 18th in baseball. That's a heckuva lot better than the 18,000 they were averaging last year, but there hasn't been the new-ballpark surge that the team was hoping for. If the Marlins were to jettison players and remind fans of the team's post-championship strategies … it's just not going to happen.
So the Marlins will probably wait around, hoping things will get better. And they should. Gaby Sanchez might be broken, but he should be better. The same applies to Heath Bell. The rotation is filled with talented pitchers who just happened to go cold at the same time. It wouldn't surprise anyone if Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez carried things for a while, and Giancarlo Stanton's true ability is probably a hybrid of his May and June, which would still be pretty danged good.
But what a miserable month for a team that was riding so high. In one month, everything the Marlins had built up -- all of the goodwill and excitement and postseason hopes -- went down in flames. And unlike a lot of teams hovering around last place, they can't get fancy around the trade deadline. They have to trust a team that spent most of June frittering that trust away.