After the Braves made Cincinnati’s offense look even worse than advertised during their 2-0 Wild Card Series victory, Atlanta’s next challenge in this postseason run figures to be tougher over the span of a best-of-five series. In fact, the Braves won’t be going into this series facing an entirely brand new foe for the 2020 season. For the first time since 1999, the Braves will be facing a divisional opponent in the postseason and it’s (still, amazingly) the Miami Marlins.
The Braves should already have a pretty good idea of what the Marlins can do against them. In the 10 games that the two teams played against each other this season, the Marlins scored at least four runs in seven of those games. Granted, the Braves responded by having games where they scored 29, 11, and 9 runs, respectively, against the Marlins so I think that’s a pretty good sign as to who the better team at the plate is in this series. Still, it’s unlikely that the Braves are going to have another series where they just completely mystify their opponents at the plate. Additionally, Miami will be significantly better on the basepaths than the Reds were — remember when the Reds ran themselves out of a couple of runs during the Wild Card series? The Marlins would probably be better at turning those into runs, so that’s something that the Braves will need to be on their toes for in this upcoming series.
As a team, the Marlins haven’t been really an incredibly dangerous unit at the plate. They finished the regular season with a team wRC+ of just 95 and they had a OPS+ of 92 — both of those stats are slightly below the league average of 100 and not much better than Cincinnati’s team wRC+ of 91 and OPS+ of 87. Miami’s wOBA as a team is actually even worse, as their .308 team wOBA was good enough for 10th in the National League. They’re not a dangerous threat to hit for power, as their Isolated Power number of .141 clearly reflects that. They do most of their damage against lefties, as they finished the regular season with a 111 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. On the contrary, they struggled with right-handers, as their 89 wRC+ reflects that as well. So as a team, the Marlins lineup isn’t particularly frightening — while we know first-hand that they can put it together to do some damage at times, this isn’t a lineup that’s going to bludgeon their opponents on a consistent basis. They prefer to do it with a barrage of small paper cuts, though.
The first name that usually comes up when you think of the Marlins lineup is Starling Marte. Unfortunately for Miami, there’s a pretty good chance that we aren’t going to see Marte at the plate. He’s currently dealing with a fractured hand, but apparently he’s not going to get surgery on it while the Marlins are still alive in the postseason. So, he’ll very likely be relegated to defensive and baserunning duties during this series and I’d be shocked if he hit. Marte had himself a decent season for his standards at the plate up until the injury (109 wRC+, 107 OPS+, .333 wOBA, 6 HR), so his unfortunate injury could end up hurting this Marlins lineup when it comes to the action this week.
Even though Marte is likely not going to factor into this team’s action at the plate, there are still some guys in this lineup who can pick up the slack. Although Miami doesn’t really have anybody who is an especially dangerous power threat, it’d be wise to look out for guys like Brian Anderson and Garrett Cooper. Anderson in particular is the only Marlins player who finished the season with over 10 homers (for comparisons’ sake, the Braves had five players go deep at least 10 times this season) and his .210 ISO this season suggests that he should be taken seriously as a power threat in this lineup.
The same goes for Garrett Cooper, who hit a dinger during the Wild Card series in Chicago and sports a team-high Isolated Power number of .217 while leading the team in average Exit Velocity at 90.1 mph. Additionally, Corey Dickerson and Jesus Aguilar are two hitters who have enough pop in their bats to where they know exactly what to do with any hanging mistakes that come their way. It has to be said again that this isn’t a particularly dangerous team from a power hitting standpoint, but this part of Miami’s lineup does have the potential to go deep and it wouldn’t be shocking if we saw any one of these four guys send one over the fences at Minute Maid Park.
Then there’s Miguel Rojas. Part of the reason why the Marlins are here today is because the 31-year-old Rojas picked a wonderful time to have the best 40-game stretch of his entire career. He’ll be heading into this series off the heels of a season where he outperformed most of his career offensive averages by a significant margin. He’s been among the best in baseball when it comes to strikeout rate for the past couple of years, and now it’s starting to pay off for him as everything else is seemingly coming together for him. The Braves should already be well-aware of what Rojas can do — one of his best games of the season happened at Truist Park. While Marte may be the star of the team, Rojas is the engine that makes the lineup go. If he can get going, the rest of the lineup may follow suit.
The main thing to be concerned with when it comes to the rest of the Marlins is that while they may not be swinging for the fences like the vast majority of baseball teams nowadays, they’re totally content with putting the ball in play on the ground and just making something happen from there. Jon Berti’s walk rate (15.4 percent) is enough to make him one of the most patient hitters in all of baseball and once he gets on, he’ll be a threat to steal with some of the fastest wheels that the NL has to offer. Jonathan Villar is also a threat to do some damage on the basepaths if he gets on and the same goes for Magneuris Sierra, Monte Harrison, Jorge Alfaro, and Lewis Brinson if they get the chance.
Miami has six of the top 100 MLB leaders in sprint speed and were second in the NL in stolen bases with 51. Conversely, they’re rarely going to hit the ball hard and barrel it up. Whenever they do get on base, they’re going to be aggressive and they’ll take every chance that they can get to grab another base. If the Marlins are going to light up the scoreboard on a regular basis against the Braves, it’ll probably be due to the aforementioned players stringing together a bunch of soft hits and nabbing a few bases along the way.
There’s really no standout player in this lineup to be wary of. Instead, the team just manages to come together to form something that is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts. This Marlins team is one of those teams where you’ll see a different guy every day who steps his game up to help push the team to the top. It could be Brian Anderson or Garrett Cooper getting a hold of one and sending it to the moon. It could be Miguel Rojas pulling a three-or-four hit game in quiet fashion. It could be the rest of the lineup just dinking-and-dunking you to death while zooming across the basepaths on their way to the plate.
The Marlins are not dangerous on paper, but they’re dangerous because there’s really no pressure on one player to do it all and they’ve got the “house money” mentality at this point. There’s no reason for the Braves to have trouble containing the Marlins, but don’t be shocked if they still manage to find a way to give the Braves some serious fits in this series.