Before the 2023 regular season started, just winning around 80 games was considered a success for the Miami Marlins. Now, they are all but guaranteed their first winning season in a 162-game schedule since 2009. But why stop there? The franchise can cap off this historic campaign with a postseason berth.
All of the signs indicated a decline was coming. A -50 run differential, first-year manager, inconsistent ace and injury problems should have already spoiled this joy ride. But Miami will not go gentle into that good night. Following the Chicago Cubs' implosion against the Atlanta Braves Tuesday, as shown here by Fish On First, the club is only a half-game out of the third and final National League Wild Card position.
The fact that the Marlins are right in the thick of the MLB playoffs race with just a handful of games left is truly something to behold. It is a wonderful thing for South Beach and the entire baseball world. Their proactive move-making in the last couple offseasons (Jorge Soler, Luis Arraez) and at the trade deadline (Jake Burger) are paying off in a huge way. Regardless of what happens in the coming days, general manager Kim Ng deserves her flowers and then some for leading this turnaround.
Ng's profile stands to grow substantially more, though, if the team can nudge itself into October. No one will demand any more of Miami than that seismic accomplishment, but remember this organization's past. The Fish tend to make the most out of their rare postseason appearances, winning two World Series championships.
While it may sound crazy, we are going to do our part to map out their most favorable path. To do so, however, we must focus on the biggest obstacles standing in the way of a miraculous run. Let's dive into the Marlins' nightmare 2023 MLB playoffs scenario.
Marlins postseason and seeding outlook
Manager Skip Schumaker and his guys have the edge over both the Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks in terms of strength of schedule. They end the regular season on the road but against unimpressive competition, facing the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates in three games apiece. While neither team can be taken lightly, Miami has a great opportunity to play October baseball.
But the squad is living on the edge, with some of their best players sidelined. Arraez, who is going to become the second player ever to win a batting title in both leagues, is nursing a sprained ankle that could keep him out for the home stretch. Sandy Alcantara's year is over, and Eury Perez might suffer the same fate. The Marlins will have to compensate for these losses with grit, smart situational baseball and a bit of luck.
That formula has defined this group during the season and in the franchise's past, so fans shouldn't pull out their hair. Arizona will be fighting the Houston Astros in a desperate three-game set this weekend, while Chicago attempts to survive the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. If logic holds, Miami can realistically attain the No. 5 seed.
And believe it or not, that might be the safer option.
Phillies are not a good draw, but their might be a worse option
Now, there is nothing safe about the Philadelphia Phillies. They have stars on the mound and in the batter's box, possess critical big-game experience and are led by a likely Hall of Famer in Bryce Harper. The team has been steady nearly the entire second half of the season, securing the top NL Wild Card slot while so many others desperately jockey for playoff position.
The Phillies are undeniably better on paper than the Marlins, but they are not a nightmare in this instance. They are not the most fundamentally sound and have questions surrounding their starting pitching rotation. The Fish know them well and even earned a narrow 7-6 advantage in the head-to-head battle this year. There are the makings of a big upset in this NL East showdown.
A healthy Arraez is obviously a must no matter who the club plays, but his contact prowess is especially a major boost in Citizens Bank Park. Miami has a balanced lineup that can cause trouble for pitchers. Although Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola could certainty halt momentum, Philly might be susceptible to a rally or two.
Again, going on the road and taking two of three from this loaded squad is a grueling mission. Though, matchup trumps talent sometimes, and there is another team who could be specifically problematic for these underdogs.
Brewers can give Marlins trouble
Ah, the so-called team that everyone wants to play. Despite lacking the sizzle of the Phillies, the Brew Crew actually has the exact same record (88-69). They are fresh off a series loss versus Miami, but they have an ideal skill set for the MLB playoffs. One that clashes with Schumaker's ballclub.
The NL Central champions are well-built for the Wild Card round. They possess an intimidating one-two starting pitching combo in Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, are led by a savvy manager in Craig Counsell and tend not to beat themselves. That can be a recipe for disaster when implemented against an inexperienced and injury-ravaged group like the Marlins.
With Alcantara and Perez out of the equation (Perez can be activated off injured list for NLDS), Jesus Luzardo and Braxton Garrett are the top guys in the rotation. And rightly so. Garrett carries a reliable 3.53 ERA, while Luzardo ranks just outside the top 10 in baseball with 198 strikeouts. The young left-handers have carried the starting staff through some tumultuous times, quickly coming into their own before fans' eyes.
But the key word is “quickly.” A pair of 25-year-olds with no postseason experience are going to have their hands full against Milwaukee. Only the Cincinnati Reds leaned on their young players more than the Brewers, but since the front office infused more of a veteran presence into the clubhouse, the team has been rolling. There is a potent balance on this roster.
Christian Yelich is rejuvenated, Mark Canha is surging and William Contreras is one of the most underrated players in the game today. Throw in Burnes, Woodruff and a top-tier defense, and you could see how Miami could struggle to escape Miller Park intact.
No one said it was going to be easy, though. The Miami Marlins have been grinding nonstop and contain a surplus of resilience. More important than any singular opponent is this remarkable journey. We shall see if it fittingly culminates in the 2023 MLB playoffs.