Looking up at the 2012 Mets: The Miami Marlins
In the race to the bottom of the National League East, the New York Mets simply couldn't overtake the Miami Marlins, who this weekend dropped three straight to the Mets at Citi Field.
The Mets entered the weekend series with a 4-24 second-half home record.
The sweep leaves the Mets 3.5 games clear of the Marlins, with 10 games to go. The Marlins face the Mets this coming weekend in Miami, but they're 4-11 against the Mets in 2012. Put a different way, the Mets have 16 percent of their victories against the Marlins, though they've played fewer than 10 percent of their games against them.
If the Mets have followed their recent template of starting strong and collapsing, the Marlins have been consistently bad all year. They've lost at home (35-40), they've lost on the road (31-47). They've lost one-run games (23-25), they've lost blowouts (8-22). They've lost early (8-14 in April), they've lost late (7-14 in September), they've lost in between (losing records in June, July and August, too). They've lost with veterans, and since jettisoning Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez and others at the non-waiver trading deadline, they've lost with rookies.
Other than the strong performances from shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and starting pitcher Mark Buehrle, the Marlins have lacked reliable options anywhere on the roster.
Interestingly, that cuts against the narrative that the Marlins spent poorly this offseason. Sure, the contract for Heath Bell has been a problem, with Bell struggling for much of the season. But even that is overstated; Bell has a 3.12 E.R.A. since the All-Star break, and a 1.00 E.R.A. in September, with one walk and 11 strikeouts in nine innings. There's not much reason to think the Marlins can't get reasonable value out of Bell moving forward, while their other two major contracts last winter went to Reyes and Buehrle, two of their best players in 2012.
No, the Marlins' problem was their returning players, many of whom were traded at the deadline for prospects. How the Marlins fare in 2013 will have a lot to do with the development of acquired pitchers like Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner. Reyes and Stanton are a perfectly good pair of hitters to build around; the Marlins need to make sure their lineup doesn't fail around the pair as it has in 2012.
Still, in a division with the Phillies, whose frontline starting pitching is still elite, the Braves and Nationals both playoff teams, it's a good bet that the Marlins and Mets will be battling for fourth place this time next season, too.