EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part offseason series, looking back at the Miami Marlins’ run to the playoffs as well as looking ahead to their first season under new team president Peter Bendix. TODAY: The highs and lows of 2023.
The Miami Marlins had one of their most exciting years in recent history this past season, achieving heights they hadn’t reached in more than a decade.
They posted 84 wins for the first time since 2009, and they reached the postseason for the first time in a full MLB season since 2003.
Their postseason run ended quickly, of course, losing in the wild-card round, 2-0, to the offensive juggernaut that was the Philadelphia Phillies. Miami’s offense was unable to muster up many runs against a club that not only was the defending National League champion, but also returned this season to NLCS.
Despite the quick postseason exit, as well as the sudden departure of general manager Kim Ng and amateur scouting director DJ Svihlik last month, the team has much to build off. And with new team president Peter Bendix officially in the fold now, after his Monday hire, the Marlins can officially get to the task of their offseason build.
“Peter is an established industry leader with an extensive skill-set and deep experience that will continue the momentum we have made on the Major League level,” Marlins owner Bruce Sherman said Monday, “while also strategically building the foundation for sustained success through player acquisition, development, and scouting at all levels.”
Bendix, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays, will officially be introduced to the Miami media on Nov. 13. But in the interim, let’s take a look back at some of the more interesting storylines from Miami’s turnaround season, and show a bit of what Bendix is inheriting:
DEFYING THE ODDS & ONE-RUN GAMES
Miami defied the odds at nearly every step and turn this season. For starters, prior to the season, Fangraphs had the Marlins at a measly 24% chance of making the playoffs. That’s one aspect in which they overcame expectations.
The Marlins also flipped the script, securing a playoff berth, and did so with a stunning run differential that will be talked about for years.
Miami posted a 33-13 record in one-run games, a historic pace that came close to the league-leading Texas Rangers, who went 36-11. The club also set the record for most come-from-behind victories when trailing by three or more runs at the end of the seventh inning. They authored six wins in that space.
Such tight victories — and some blowouts in between — led to a minus-55 run differential. To put that in perspective, of the 404 teams outscored by at least 55 runs since 1901, the Marlins were the first to clinch a playoff berth, according to Louis Addeo Weiss of the Fish on First website.
It was an historic season to say the least.
SKIP SCHUMAKER’S SUCCESSFUL ROOKIE YEAR
With everything that the Marlins accomplished, the man at the helm is the one who deserves much of the praise. Skip Schumaker, a rookie manager in his first season, did a noteworthy job in changing the direction of the ballclub on the fly.
Taking over a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2009, Schumaker created a “culture,” as players often said, but also related to them as a former player.
“We’re about one thing, winning and trying to get you better everyday,” he said during the season.
Schumaker demonstrated that through the entirety of the season, fighting for his players, be it strike calls or even in lengthy weather delays. In the thick of the postseason hunt, he went so far as to argue with the grounds crew to ensure the Marlins could resume a September game in New York against the Mets.
His intensity, demeanor and decision-making is something the Marlins have not seen in 20 years, and the team has come to appreciate it.
“I love Skip man, he’s my favorite manager I’ve had,” centerfielder Jazz Chisholm said. “He challenges you, he trusts you, and that’s a big thing as a player. You need that validation, so it’s sick.”
After Miami’s elimination, Schumaker said “we lost to a really good team and I don’t think there’s much to hang your head about. The culture changed, there’s a new standard in that clubhouse. Those guys are now understanding what winning looks like. It was a really fun year.”
On Monday night, Schumaker was named a finalist for the NL Manager of the Year award.
THE DOMINANCE OF LUIS ARRAEZ
What a difference a season can make. Fans and pundits alike were taken aback by the trade that sent AL batting champ Luis Arraez from Minnesota to Miami, but as time has worn on, the trade has aged like fine wine for both teams.
The impact Arraez had on the ballclub was unprecedented, leading the Marlins in batting average, WRC+, WAR, OBP, and almost every batting statistic of merit.
He was named an NL All-Star, and then became the second player ever to win the batting title in both leagues, a massive feat.
Arraez also flirted with hitting .400 for almost half the season, before fading after the All-Star break.
But it wasn’t just his offensive production leading the Marlins, it was his leadership as well.
Former teammate and potential future Hall of Famer Nelson Cruz spoke of it in his Twins days, saying Arraez is “a leader in the clubhouse and field. You can see the way he carries himself on and off the field.”
“He was the heartbeat. He started the engine,” the manager said. “That is the one guy that I will say really changed the culture from day one.”
SANDY ALCANTARA’S ROUGH YEAR
Following a season in which he pitched 228 innings and won the NL Cy Young Award, expectations were sky-high for Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara.
He began slow in his Opening Day start, but followed it up with a complete game shutout of the Twins his next time out. Little did the club and fans know that this would be the last real piece of dominance they’d see from the ace.
Alcantara struggled mightily for his standards, ending the year with a 4.14 ERA. He had one last quality start against the Nationals before going on injured list for good with a forearm strain. He missed the postseason, and after Miami’s elimination, it was announced that he would need the dreaded Tommy John surgery to repair an elbow injury.
In a statement posted on Instagram, Alcantara shared his sentiments explaining, “I give this game my all, I give this city my all. I promise I will not take a day off. I will miss pitching.”
The ailment and recovery will force him to miss the entirety of next season.
THE JAKE BURGER REVELATION
One of the biggest revelations this past season was the deadline deal for Jake Burger, an acquisition from the Chicago White Sox.
Burger, widely known for his immense power hitting, also had his fair share of strikeout problems while with the White Sox. In fact, he has a 28.8% strikeout percentage for his career.
But once he arrived in Miami, something clicked. He went from hitting for power, to ultimately becoming a well-rounded hitter who struck out only 21% of the time.
His slash line from his date of arrival to the end of the season sat at .303/.355/.505, and he was a key cog in the late push into the playoffs.
Burger is under team control through 2028, and if this half a season has showed anything, it’s that he can be the cornerstone at third base for the Marlins and be a consistent force in the lineup.
His WRC+ of 120 on the year is the first time since 2020 the Marlins have had a WRC+ of better than 100 at the third base position when Brian Anderson last did it.
A new fan favorite at loanDepot Park, Burger also ended up with him own promotional night, the $5 “Burger Nights” that are sure to return next season.