The National League East is looking like one of the tougher divisions in baseball. Think about it. The Nationals are just two years removed from winning their first World Series title. The Braves have won the division three straight years and after making the NLCS last year they don’t look to be slowing down. The Phillies are loaded with talent and there’s a 99.9% chance they make the playoffs in 2020 had they not had one of the worst bullpens in the history of baseball. The Marlins secured a Wild Card spot in the shortened season and took the opening series against the Cubs before losing to Atlanta in the NLDS. And on paper the Mets look like a World Series team.
The battle for the NL East in 2021 is going to be a dogfight all season long. So, where does each team rank in the division?
Coming in at number five…*Drumroll please*
The Miami Marlins.
In 2020, fans and players alike knew that there was a possibility a 60-game season would come with uncanny happenings, and the Marlins were one of them. Miami hadn’t had a winning record since 2009 and their last playoff appearance was in 2003, when they won the World Series. In 2019, they only won 57 games, good for last place in the NL East.
Heading into last season the Marlins weren’t exactly expected to compete. They hadn’t made any huge acquisitions in the offseason and on the surface it seemed as if they were almost the same team from the year prior. Except it didn’t seem this way in the first couple of weeks of the season. They won 7 of their first 10 games, and then cooled off a little in their next 10 games after that, where they stood 10-10. At that point most baseball fans thought that the Marlins were going to fold and be the last place team they’d been the two seasons prior. They didn’t do that, but they also didn’t get hot like they did to start the season. Miami played .500 ball for the rest of the season, finishing with a 31-29 record. It landed them second place in the NL East and more importantly a Wild Card berth. The playoffs were expanded to eight teams per league, and they secured the sixth seed in the National League. The Marlins beat the Cubs in two straight games to win their wild card series before losing to the Braves where they were cleanly swept in three contests.
Miami was an example of a team that reaped the benefits of a shortened season. They had a great start to the season and that was enough to secure them a playoff spot. According to FanGraphs, they were 20th in overall pitching ERA (4.86) & 21st in offensive runs scored. If last season was a normal 162 games those rankings most likely wouldn’t have helped the Marlins to hold on to a playoff spot for too much longer, even with the expanded playoff format.
Yes, the Marlins have a really exciting young pitcher in Sixto Sanchez and a few underrated hitters in Brian Anderson and Miguel Rojas. But with the Marlins not making any dramatic moves during the offseason, I don’t see them faring well in 2021.
2021 Prediction: 67-95 (5th place)
Key players to watch: Brian Anderson, Sixto Sanchez & Sandy Alcantara
Featured Image: David Santiago/Miami Herald