Conventional wisdom said the Miami Marlins would fall to pieces when Jose Fernandez was lost for the season and part of 2015 due to elbow surgery.
That’s the beauty of baseball. All conventional thinking goes right out the window.
A funny thing happened on the way to the National League East cellar. The Marlins wouldn’t go away quietly. They entered Monday only three games out of first place behind the Atlanta Braves.
How is this possible? You don’t lose a pitcher like Fernandez and expect to stay in the hunt. The reality is the Marlins are more than just Fernandez, and while this loss hurts the team there may be some reason for hope in the south Florida area.
Let’s start with the pitching. Nathan Eovaldi, Monday’s pitcher of record, struck out five in just over six innings of work against the Washington Nationals. Eovaldi entered Monday with a 3.41 earned run average, one of three starters with an ERA between 3.00 and 3.50. The other two, Henderson Alvarez and Tom Koehler, are at or just below .500 in terms of record.
Top prospect Andrew Heaney may soon get a call-up to the big leagues, and if he is as good as his minor league record advertises that will only bolster the rotation.
The closer, Steve Cishek, has held his own with 10 saves, a 1.83 ERA and four victories. Relief pitching is not an issue with this club.
Hitting is where the Marlins have proven resilient. Everyone knows about Giancarlo Stanton because he has been the subject of trade talks, which is not surprising given the struggles of this club.
No one thought Casey McGehee would have a bounce-back season at third base, as that .281 average surprised everybody. Garrett Jones, a journeyman with the Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates, seems to have found his calling with the Marlins at the age of 32.
The younger players, shortstop Adeiny Hechevarria and outfielder Christian Yelich, have been strong out of the gate this year. Add that up and the end result is a lineup that has a few holes but covers them up with decent hitting and strong pitching.
The Marlins may still fade down the stretch. The NL East is a close race from top to bottom, and the Braves haven’t run away with the division yet.
The Marlins aren’t going away, however. That has much of baseball surprised. I won’t be an apologist for owner Jeffrey Loria because he has pulled a snow job on the fans more than once, but maybe this team is truly better than bottom-feeder status.
If only the rest of MLB would notice.