5 Takeaways From the Marlins’ Disastrous Opening Weekend

The Marlins are starting off the 2024 season in the worst possible fashion, as they're coming off of a sweep at the hands of the Pirates.

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 28: Manager Skip Schumaker #45 of the Miami Marlins looks on prior to the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park on Thursday, March 28, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Miami Marlins opened their season in absolutely disastrous fashion this weekend, getting swept at home by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Marlins failed to build on last year’s playoff appearance this offseason, and only killed that momentum even more when the games actually began.

Miami was outscored 31-17 across the four games and blew two leads in the seventh inning or later. They lost both games of the series that went to extra innings and failed to score in extras both times, including a 12-inning affair on Opening Day.

Their starting pitching was a nightmare, the bullpen fell apart and the defense behind them was calamitous. Add it all up, and the Marlins’ start could not have gone much worse. This led to the Marlins’ first 0-4 start since 2001, and just the third in franchise history.

If you’re looking for positives, you’ll have a tough time. If you’re looking for negatives, it’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel. Here are the five things that stood out most from the Marlins’ terrible opening weekend.

Ad – content continues below

A Lack Of Depth

This issue jumped right off the page at you from the very first game the Marlins played. Miami led 5-2 in the seventh inning of that game, but things fell apart as soon as they went to the bench. Not only did the bullpen blow the lead, but the offense floundered.

Avisaíl García, Vidal Bruján and Jonah Bride went a combined 0-for-4 off the bench, and the Marlins’ 7-9 hitters managed just a single hit that day. The biggest issue was that the Marlins found themselves in situations where players with weak track records were being called upon in big spots. This is a spot the Marlins could find themselves in often this year, with the likes of Brujan, Bride, García and Christian Bethancourt receiving big at-bats.

The Marlins have a solid 1-6 in their lineup, but it is at the bottom of the order where things get really ugly. They are simply starting too many players who have not shown the ability to hit at the big league level.

This all starts from the Marlins’ lack of aggression this offseason. Guys like Gordon, Bruján, Bride and Bethancourt were the only players they acquired this offseason. Their one major signing this offseason was Tim Anderson, who has started the season hitting .188 with a .485 OPS.

There were far too many empty at-bats this weekend, and it looks like this problem will not go away. Many fans believe there were far better options on the Marlins roster in spring training, but this is the team they have. There are also inexpensive free-agent options still available–Tommy Pham and Brandon Belt included–but the Marlins have opted against external help to this point.

It seems the Marlins are in an evaluation year, where Peter Bendix will see who he wants to take into the future with him. It may not be a bad idea in the long term, but it could lead to a very ugly product this season.

Ad – content continues below

The Avi García Situation

García signed a four-year deal worth $53 million before the 2022 season and his time in Miami has been nothing short of a failure. In just 98 games in 2022, he posted 63 wRC+, then followed it up with 46 wRC+ in only 37 games in 2023. Meant to bring a power boost to the lineup, he managed just 11 home runs combined in his first two seasons.

The situation–and high price–has led to massive frustration among Marlins fans. It all boiled over on Opening Day when García was booed during pre-game introductions. The boos continued to rain down when he floundered in his first at bat and started the year 1-8.

García spoke about the booing before Sunday’s series finale, telling Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald it is unfair.

“Last year,” said Garcia. “I was hurt. This year, I’m healthy. Every time they put me in the lineup, I want to do my best, of course, but it’s not good for players to hear that the first at-bat of the season. I strike out and they boo? That’s not good. I don’t like that. It’s the first time in my career that happened. Fans are fans. The game looks easy from the stands. I understand it, but it’s not fair.”

García responded on Sunday by hitting a home run and making a sliding catch, but still went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. The fact of the matter is if García wants the booing to stop, he is going to have to start performing. Marlins fans are very frustrated with how things have gone, and they believe other players would be more productive in his place. To me it seems they are booing the situation, and how the front office has handled it, rather than García himself.

I wrote before the season that there was no reason García should be on this roster, and I stand by that. The Marlins would be far better off giving prospects like Griffin Conine or Troy Johnston a chance to establish themselves. Not to mention external options like Pham who they could bring in for cheap as well.

Ad – content continues below

The situation could also be creating rift between the players and fans. A few Marlins were seen in the dugout after García’s home run telling fans to be quiet and shushing the crowd. Is this the kind of distraction Miami needs? In my eyes, the juice is not worth the squeeze.

The Defense Is A Major Problem

The Marlins only made three errors in the series, but that does not tell the entire story. The Marlins gave the Pirates so many chances to score by extending innings with terrible defense. Nothing was more egregious than Bryan De La Cruz misplaying two balls in left field in the second inning Sunday. Not only did it lead to three runs, but it forced Trevor Rogers to throw at least 20 extra pitches.

Rogers looked sharp in his return to the mound Sunday, but bad defense ruined his start. That was also the cause of at least one run in the 10th, when the Pirates scored an insurmountable two runs. Again, these are not necessarily errors that will show up in a box score, but plays that contribute to winning that are not being made.

Instead, the Marlins made too many losing plays in the field this weekend and it cost them dearly. This is not something that you can just chalk up to early-season jitters or rust. The Marlins are just a bad defensive team, and likely will be all season.

Outside of their catchers, the Marlins’ best defensive player is Jazz Chisholm Jr., who is famously a natural infielder converted to center. Chisholm was the star of the show on defense this weekend, and continues to show the makings of a great defender in center. However, around him there is not much else to get excited about.

Out of their everyday players, Chisholm is likely the only one that will play good defense. The best it will get at any other position is likely slightly-above average. Defense will continue to be an issue and it will likely cost them games all year.

Ad – content continues below

It all makes you wonder why the Marlins chose to move on from Jon Berti, who was so solid at different positions all over the field. They really could have used him this weekend, both on defense and at the plate. It did not help to watch him make a game-saving play for the Yankees against the Astros.

The Starting Pitching Needs To Get Healthy

The Marlins entered spring training knowing they would be without their ace, Sandy Alcantara, for the entire season. They then proceeded to lose three of their projected starters to injury throughout the spring. Braxton Garrett, Edward Cabrera and Eury Pérez all missed the Opening Day rotation due to injury, and it is already costing them.

Here is the combined line for Miami’s starters on Opening Weekend: 16 IP 19 H 13 R 12 BB 20 K. Jesús Luzardo was the best of the bunch, striking out eight in five innings of two-run ball. He will need to be the anchor of the staff without Sandy–and while he was not his best–did start on a positive note.

On the other side was AJ Puk, last year’s closer for the Marlins who they are trying out as a starter this year. Puk was great this spring, but blew up in his first start. He made it through just two innings, allowing four runs on three hits and six walks. He struck out just one, his command was all over the place, and his velocity nowhere near what we have come to expect from him. There is concerning, and then there was what we saw from Puk.

The Marlins should give him at least another couple starts to figure out 1) because they need the innings and 2) because it could pay major dividends in the long run. If Puk can be as dominant as he has been as a closer in the rotation, it would be a massive boost. However, they can not have too long of a leash. The Marlins are already short on innings and cannot risk taxing the pen too much early.

So taxed is that the Marlins bullpen that they already made a roster move for pitching depth. Miami brought up Vladimir Gutierrez Sunday, who was thrown to the wolves for four innings and gave up the lead. He was rescued by a game-tying Nick Gordon homer, but the Pirates got to Tanner Scott in the 10th and won the game.

Ad – content continues below

The good news is Cabrera and Garrett look like they will be back soon. Cabrera threw a rehab game in Jacksonville Sunday, and Garrett is scheduled to throw one in Jupiter Tuesday. That should bring some stability to the rotation, so long as they perform the way the Marlins know they can. If they falter, things could get really ugly really fast for the Marlins.

Fans Are Running Out Of Patience

This is now year six of the Bruce Sherman era in Miami, and so far it has been more of the same for Marlins fans. Yes, they made the playoffs in a full season for the first time since 2003 last year, but all of that momentum has been quickly erased.

Fans are extremely disappointed that the team is going through such a transition immediately after last year’s success. Not only that, they are weary that another fire sale could soon be approaching.

New president of baseball operations, Peter Bendix, likely has an idea for where he wants to take this team. This is not the roster or farm system that he constructed, and he may be ready to build his own. Fans know this could very well lead to the Marlins selling off many of the pieces they have built this team with and starting fresh again. To be honest, I am not sure how much fan support will survive yet another sell off.

The García situation is just one example of fans being fed up with the organization. They are tired of owners being cheap and not wanting to spend to either cut dead weight or make significant improvements to the roster.

Most importantly, they are tired of losing and accepting mediocrity. They are tired of coming out of the gates against the Pirates and getting swept right out of their own ballpark. Twitter was ablaze all weekend with fans already punting on the 2024 season, and there is a clear feeling that this team is showing no signs of hope.

Ad – content continues below

Who knows, this may all turn around. They may have just had a really bad weekend under the microscope of Opening Weekend. They could start getting good starting pitching, one of those bench guys could emerge, and maybe the defense will improve throughout the year.

The issue is it is now obvious after a weekend that so many things will have to go right for the Marlins to be good this season. Not only will the pitching have to get healthy, the arms will have to perform. Not only will García have to not be a below-replacement level player, he will actually have to produce to a level that can boost the offense. They will need major improvements on defense from several players, the bullpen will have to pitch better and the offense will have to be more consistent.

Not only that, they will need Chisholm to actually play a full season and perform, Jake Burger to continue his torrid start and see Tim Anderson return to old form. Anything else I missed?

I do not want to sound too doom-and-gloom, because this is baseball. It is only four games out of 162. There is plenty of time for all of this to change. However, we can only work with what we are given, and from the small sample size we have so far, it is very hard to get excited about the 2024 Miami Marlins.