Archive for Marlins

The Marlins Assembled a Dynamite Bullpen

It’s easy to think of what could have been. Bullpen depth is all the rage these days among contenders, so Jeffrey Loria tried to get in on the action by making an aggressive pursuit of Kenley Jansen. A last-minute change of heart ultimately took Jansen back to Los Angeles, so the Marlins were left without a shutdown closer. And then there was last summer’s misguided trade for Andrew Cashner that robbed the Marlins of — among other players — Carter Capps. Capps is healthy now, still throwing the way he threw, and there’s nobody else quite like him. Jansen and Capps — those are two sexy names. The Marlins have neither.

So I’m not here to say the Marlins have done everything right. I’m not here to say they have baseball’s best bullpen. You don’t draw big bold headlines by signing Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa. Yet, wouldn’t you know it, but the team has sort of succeeded in accomplishing its goal. Although by name value alone the Marlins relievers are something less than a super-group, there’s an awful lot to like here; all that will matter is performance, and this unit ought to perform.

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Turning Christian Yelich Into Joey Votto

I’m sure you’ve noticed that a frequent theme around here has been hitters changing their approaches. An increasingly popular idea has been to generate more lift, either by making mechanical changes, or by at least changing which pitches a hitter looks to swing at. I don’t know if we’re in the early stages of a hitting revolution, but the anecdotal evidence is plentiful. We should assume that the information era, as it were, was always going to come with its consequences.

You know about a lot of the swing-changers to this point. Even some years ago, there were Josh Donaldson and J.D. Martinez. Ryan Zimmerman has been working with Daniel Murphy as part of his own attempt to put more batted balls in the air. Zimmerman is a case of a guy looking to capitalize on encouraging exit velocity. I’ve recently written about how Eric Hosmer could blossom, if only he could get the ball off the ground. It’s fun, especially in early March, to try to figure out which hitters might benefit from finding the air more often. But let’s not beat around the bush. Christian Yelich. Christian Yelich should be the first name on any such list.

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What Teams Are Stuck In Between?

To preview MLB spring training, Tyler Kepner examined the competitive “window” status — that is, the realistic possibility for contention — of all 30 major-league clubs earlier this month for the New York Times. Kepner employed four logical window designations: closed, open, closing and opening.

I think reasonable people can mostly agree that the Cubs’ window of contention is open, and the White Sox’ window is closed. The Royals’ is perhaps closing, and the Braves’ is opening (if not in 2017, then soon). While we will not agree on every status, it’s an interesting exercise.

Windows of contention are an interesting concept, particularly in an era of two Wild Cards in each league. How do teams balance the future and present? How do clubs play a so-so hand knowing the unpredictability of the game? Few teams are able to sustain long windows of contention. The Braves of the 1990s and early 2000s and the Cardinals of the 21st century have done it as well as any team in the in the Wild Card era.

It’s also easier to operate if you suspect your window is either completely open or closed. If you’re the Cubs and Indians last deadline, you’re willing to trade significant young assets for impact relief help. If you suspect your window is closed, like the White Sox, you’re willing to deal assets like Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. There’s a clarity in decision-making, in creating a strategy and plan to implement.

Said Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels to FanGraphs’ David Laurila on charting a course:

“Something our management team has talked about a lot is the mistake we made our first year here, in 2006. We were caught in the middle. We convinced ourselves that if A, B, and C went right, we had a chance to win, and I think you can make the case that, for any team, it’s not a sustainable strategy.”

Being caught in the middle is the most difficult position for a club. Consider, for instance, a team with some relatively young stars at the major-league level. The front office thought this core of players would form the foundation of a contending team, but it’s not surrounded with the requisite depth, prospects or resources to realistically contend and sustain. The White Sox entered the season in that position. In the meantime, they’ve chosen a course. The Angels, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Twins could all face difficult decisions in choosing paths in the not-too-distant future.

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An Exploration of the Longest Home Run of 2016

Eno took some time on Wednesday to talk about last season’s unluckiest changeup. Today, we’re going to talk about a changeup that wasn’t unlucky so much as it was woefully misplaced. It was a first-pitch changeup that was as middle-middle as one can be.

That’s where the title comes in. Let’s roll the film.

You may remember this dinger from a recent article here about Giancarlo Stanton. Statcast says it was the longest blast of the year, at a staggering 504.35 feet. It’s pretty easy to understand how this happened.

Three variables are at work:

  1. Giancarlo Stanton is more machine than man, a T-800 who warped back in time and stole a baseball bat from an innocent bystander instead of boots and a leather jacket.
  2. Coors Field is the Cape Canaveral of baseball.
  3. Chad Bettis missed his spot with a changeup pretty badly.

I don’t need explain the first point very much. You know all about Giancarlo Stanton and what he’s capable of doing. You’ve seen him lay waste to baseballs. His muscles are made of steel rebar. He’s been doing this for years, and if we’re lucky, he’ll do it for a while longer.

I also don’t need to explain point No. 2 very much. Coors is in Denver, and the 20th row of seats in the upper deck at Coors is exactly a mile above sea level. That means the air is thin, which means the ball flies further. This is good for guys like Stanton and bad for anybody who stands on the pitcher’s mound. Unfortunately, that includes Bettis.

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Last Year’s Unluckiest Changeup

In baseball, luck is a tricky concept. In some cases, it’s used to describe an event that’s within the normal distribution of outcomes but far from the mean. In other cases, what we call luck might actually be the first signs of an outlying skill for which we simply lack a sufficiently large sample to identify.

We’ve developed a new understanding on one kind of luck in recent years — namely, the sort that occurs with a batted ball. With Statcast data, we can look at the shape and size of a ball in play and try to decide what the batter “deserved” from that sort of ball in play. Then we compare it to actual outcomes. The difference between the observed and expected outcome is luck.

What if you want to look at a luck on a specific pitch type, though? How would you do it? You could look at the results on the pitch and basically use the Statcast-type process from the other side of the ball. What sorts of balls in play did that pitch produce, and what sort of results should those balls in play have produced? The problem with that approach is that you’re slicing a pitcher’s repertoire into small samples when you start talking about balls in play off a specific pitch. Even David Price, for example — who led the majors in innings last year — allowed fewer than 300 balls in play on his most frequently thrown pitch, the fastball. Secondary pitches are, almost by definition, thrown much less often. Variance isn’t the exception in such cases, but the rule.

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The Marlins Have (Almost) Never Been Able to Frame

Over the course of their admittedly limited franchise history, the Marlins have had a catcher win a Gold Glove Award three times. The first winner was Charles Johnson in 1995, a season in which, according to Baseball Prospectus, he was one of the less-valuable defensive catchers in the game. Johnson then won again in 1996, and BP ranks his defensive value 96th out of 100 that year. And then Johnson won again in 1997, with BP ranking his defensive value 95th out of 96. That would be worst, were it not for the flabbergastingly-bad Kirt Manwaring.

This isn’t to say anything about the voters themselves. This was back when the Gold Gloves were among the least scientific awards in existence, and Johnson, to his credit, was pretty damn good at blocking and throwing. Those are a catcher’s most conspicuous skills, and Johnson was fantastic at preventing those extra bases. His statistical downfall is that he rates as having been a lousy receiver. If it’s any comfort to him, that’s kind of been an organizational problem.

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Is Jeffrey Loria’s Marlins Sale the Most Profitable Ever?

Five years ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres were sold to new owners, both partially spurred on by messy divorces. Since that time, there’s been just one change in Major League Baseball ownership, when John Staunton took control of the Seattle Mariners last season as Nintendo stepped aside. While we don’t know for sure when the next sale will be, there are rumors that Jeffrey Loria could sell the Miami Marlins for $1.6 billion, a massive increase over the 2002 sale price of $158.5 million and more than double Forbes’ current estimate of value. Loria doesn’t have a great reputation as a baseball owner, and he is absolutely going to cash in, but where would this sale rank in MLB history?

Including a potential Marlins sale, there have been by my count, 33 major transfers in ownership over the last 30 years. In taking a look at previous sales, we can compare them to Loria’s potential sale and determine how he did. In terms of a straight profit with sale price minus purchase price, Loria’s is big, but not bigger than Frank McCourt’s when he sold the Dodgers. The graph below shows the 33 sales.

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Who Could Drop Their Arm Slot for More Success?

Yesterday, we identified Jeremy Jeffress as a pitcher who benefited greatly from dropping his arm slot, adding more sink and fade to his two-seamer. The idea was that his four-seamer was straight and possessed below-average spin, so moving from that pitch to a sinker, while dropping the slot, gave him a better foundational fastball. There’s a roadmap there. Let’s follow it.

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Top 13 Prospects: Miami Marlins

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Miami Marlins farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DETKC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)
NL East (ATLMIA, NYMPHI)

Marlins Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Braxton Garrett 19 R LHP 2019 55
2 Brian Anderson 23 AA 3B 2017 45
3 Tyler Kolek 21 A RHP 2020 45
4 Thomas Jones 19 R OF 2021 45
5 Edward Cabrera 18 R RHP 2021 45
6 Dillon Peters 24 AA LHP 2018 40
7 Jarlin Garcia 24 AA LHP 2017 40
8 Isael Soto 20 A RF 2019 40
9 J.T. Riddle 25 AAA SS 2017 40
10 Cody Poteet 22 A RHP 2019 40
11 Stone Garrett 21 A OF 2019 40
12 Yefri Perez 25 MLB UTIL 2017 40
13 Drew Steckenrider 26 AAA RHP 2017 40

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Florence HS (AL)
Age 19 Height 6’3 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/50 55/60 40/55 45/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Didn’t pitch during season after signing.

Scouting Report
I had some issues with the effort in Garrett’s delivery during his summer showcase appearances and didn’t think he got out over his front side consistently. By his senior spring, those issues had evaporated and Garrett became one of the better prep arms available in the 2016 draft. He’s an excellent barometer for what a top-15 prep lefty looks like: 90-93 with a plus-flashing curveball and an arm action/athleticism that allows for projection on the command and changeup, both of which Garrett has already shown in spurts.

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Major League Baseball and Workers’ Comp

Largely overlooked amidst the hoopla surrounding last weekend’s Super Bowl, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the National Football League Players Association, weighed in on an obscure bill currently working its way through the Illinois state legislature. If enacted into law, the proposed legislation — presently dubbed Illinois Senate Bill 12 — would amend the state’s workers’ compensation laws to decrease the benefits provided to professional athletes who sustain career-ending injuries on the playing field.

This possibility led Smith to threaten that, if Senate Bill 12 were to be signed into law, the NFLPA would officially encourage players to steer clear of signing with the Chicago Bears. As Smith stated over the weekend, “If you’re a free-agent player and you have an opportunity to go play somewhere else… isn’t a smarter financial decision to go to a team where a bill like this hasn’t passed?”

The fact that the NFLPA would take such a public stance against the proposed Illinois legislation raises the question of what potential impact Senate Bill 12 would have on Major League Baseball players, and, more generally, how workers’ compensation laws affect MLB in the first place.

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Is Giancarlo Stanton Going to Hit 500 Homers?

First, some data.

Home Runs Through Age-26 Season
Player Games Played Home Runs
Alex Rodriguez 1114 298
Jimmie Foxx 1109 266
Eddie Mathews 1029 253
Albert Pujols 933 250
Mickey Mantle 1102 249
Mel Ott 1288 242
Frank Robinson 1050 241
Ken Griffey Jr. 1057 238
Orlando Cepeda 1062 222
Andruw Jones 1137 221
Hank Aaron 1039 219
Juan Gonzalez 817 214
Johnny Bench 1094 212
Miguel Cabrera 1040 209
Jose Canseco 853 209
Giancarlo Stanton 827 208

This is quite an illustrious list! We have quite a few Hall of Famers, we have a few slam-dunk future members of that group, and we have Jose Canseco. There’s also one Giancarlo Stanton there, and that’s who we’ll be discussing herein.

Stanton is something of a mythic figure in today’s game. Seen only in bursts, and sequestered away with an under-followed franchise at an ill-attended park, Stanton often only reveals himself to the average fan in highlight reels and on magazine covers. Stanton is the strongest man in the league, a demigod among mere mortal dinger-hitters. He makes the cavernous stadium in Miami look tiny. He breaks scoreboards.

Imagine what we’d see from Stanton if he stayed healthy.

Stanton just completed his age-26 season. He’s played in just 827 games so far. As you can see above, that’s the second-lowest figure of the group, 10 games more than Juan Gonzalez. His seasons have a habit of being derailed by injury: only once has he reached the 150-game mark. Even still, he’s never hit fewer than 20 homers — not even when he played just 74 games in 2015. That was the year Stanton hit 27 bombs, played his final game in June, and still finished 10th in the National League in home runs.

That’s the kind of talent and raw power that Stanton possess. It’s the sort of prowess on which you can dream, and has already produced more than 200 home runs and 27 WAR. How many home runs can Stanton tack on? Is he going to reach 500 before his career is over? 600?

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The Marlins and the Future of Starting Rotations

Last week, the Marlins rounded out their starting rotation by acquiring Dan Straily from the Reds. Straily will join Edinson Volquez, Wei-Yin Chen, Tom Koehler, and Adam Conley in likely making up the Marlins five-man rotation to start the year, and let’s be honest, that’s a pretty uninspiring group. Our projections currently rate Miami’s group of starters as the 27th best in baseball, just ahead of the Reds, Twins, and Padres, none of whom are expected to compete in 2017. But what the Marlins lack in quality, they may make up for in quantity, and that could make their pitching experiment worth watching this year.

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Reds Flip Dan Straily, Marlins Buy In

Cincinnati has agreed to trade Dan Straily to Miami for three prospects, according to multiple reports, in a deal that indicates the intentions of both clubs — the Reds’ to continue their rebuild, the Marlins’ to compete in a top-heavy NL East.

Claimed off waivers by the Reds last spring, Straily is precisely the kind of arm a club like Cincinnati should be flipping for profit. After joining the Reds, the 28-year-old right-hander proceeded to go 14-8 with a 3.78 ERA. His FIP (4.88) and xFIP (5.02), however, suggest he outperformed his true skill level. That’s now the concern of the Marlins, though, who inherit Straily and his four remaining years of club control.

Chris Mitchell’s KATOH system isn’t too high on the prospects involved. The Marlins didn’t place a single prospect on Baseball America’s midseason top-100 list in 2016, so it’s not a particularly deep system. But Castillo rated as the Marlins’ No. 2 prospect, according to the Baseball America top-10 list published earlier this offseason.

Castillo’s an interesting arm. Now 24, he’s hit 100 mph in the past and will sit in the upper 90s. He posted a 2.07 ERA and 16-point strikeout- and walk-rate differential (K-BB%) in 117 innings at High-A Jupiter this past season. Eric Longenhagen scouted Castillo when he was traded by the Marlins last deadline for Andrew Cashner. (When part of that deal, Colin Rea, proved to be injured, Castillo was sent back to Miami.) Also headed to the Reds are Austin Brice, ranked ninth in the Miami organization by MLB.com, and Isaiah White, a third-rounder in 2015, ranked 16th on the Marlins’ top-20 list.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Dan Straily Trade

Dan Straily is on his way to becoming a Marlin. According to reports, the Reds have agreed to deal the soft-tossing, veteran righty for a trio of prospects. We’ll have more on the trade in a bit. For the moment, here’s what my KATOH system has to say about the players who are newly employed by the Cincinnati Reds organization. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar a methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

*****

Austin Brice, RHP (Profile)

KATOH: 0.9 WAR
KATOH+: 0.9 WAR

After an underwhelming tenure as a starter in the minors, Brice had success in the bullpen last year. Following a move to the pen in June, he posted a 2.10 ERA and 2.90 FIP between Double-A and Triple-A, earning him a September call-up. Brice’s recent minor-league numbers suggest he’ll have a future in the show, even if it’s a short-lived one. KATOH gives him a 50% chance of pitching in the majors again. But as a soon-to-be 25-year-old relief prospect without much track record, he isn’t likely to make a big impact. KATOH considered Brice to be the 10th-best prospect in the Marlins’ system, which says more about the Marlins’ system than it does about Brice.

To put some faces to Brice’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps for the hard-throwing righty. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis distance between Brice’s performance this year and every Double- and Triple-A season since 1991 in which a pitcher recorded at least 350 batters faced. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp.

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2017 ZiPS Projections – Miami Marlins

After having typically appeared in the very famous pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past few years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Miami Marlins. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cleveland / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York AL / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Tampa Bay / Toronto / Washington.

Batters
In every season from 2011 to 2014, right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (484 PA, 3.8 zWAR) produced the highest WAR total among Miami’s field players. In 2015, he produced the second-highest WAR total on the club — less due to his own shortcomings, however, and more to the .383 BABIP that allowed Dee Gordon (606, 2.1) to record a career-best offensive season. Stanton was almost unassailably the club’s top position player for a period of five years.

The 2016 campaign marked a departure for Stanton, however, from the top of the club’s leaderboard. Limited by injury to just 470 plate appearances, Statnton also produced the worst offensive season of his career. He finished sixth on the team in wins. At the same time, Christian Yelich (638 PA, 3.8) recorded his second four-win season over the last three years. Now the two receive the same win projection, is the point of these whole two paragraphs.

One note: Yelich is located at center field on the depth-chart image below, Marcell Ozuna (602, 2.5) in left — because that seems like the club’s probable alignment in 2017. The two are projected at the opposite positions, however. Generally speaking, there’s about a 10-run difference in the positional adjustment between left and center over the course of a full season. That would render Yelich (projected for +6 runs in left) about a -4 defender in center; Ozuna (projected for -3 runs in center), a +7 fielder in left.

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The Other Hit-by-Pitch Savant of 2016

In 2016, Brandon Guyer cemented his role as the king of the hit by pitch. In fact, erstwhile FanGraphs author August Fagerstrom used precisely that title when reviewing Guyer’s exceptional ability to put his person between the baseball and the catcher’s glove. Guyer was hit in nearly nine percent of his plate appearances in 2016 and more than six percent of his plate appearances during his time in the majors. I will save you the trouble of looking it up — both of those rank first in baseball.

Yet in his desire to tell the story of Guyer’s superior ability, August failed to mention (maliciously ignored?!) another player who would be considered a king in his own right if not for the presence of Guyer atop this delightful leaderboard. In other words, if Brandon Guyer didn’t exist we would still have someone about whom an article is worth writing. This is that article.

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Marlins Reward Consistency, Sign Junichi Tazawa

The first few leaderboard sorts don’t produce many revelations about Junichi Tazawa, but if you finagle the filters and the cutoffs, you start to see why he might be attractive to a club. It’s more about consistency and volume than anything, and that’s a rare quality for a reliever — sufficiently rare, it seems, to earn him a two-year deal worth $12 million, the terms he reached late yesterday afternoon with the Miami Marlins.

Since 2012, Tazawa is 96th among 256 qualified relievers in ERA. He’s 38th in FIP. He’s given up a few homers, though, so let’s check strikeouts minus walks — weird, he’s 38th. So he’s okay.

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Edinson Volquez Is So Many Pitchers

The top priority for the Marlins is boosting the pitching staff that suffered a devastating blow upon the death of Jose Fernandez. That can’t be forgotten, but at the same time, it’s as good as unfair to other pitchers to lead with this, because Fernandez could have no suitable replacement. The Marlins were robbed of one of the greatest talents on the planet. The Marlins just signed Edinson Volquez. Volquez has his things he can do, but he’s a far cry from being a franchise cornerstone. The more the Marlins attempt to move on, the more we’re all reminded of what they’re trying to move on from.

The Marlins did need some kind of starter. Edinson Volquez is some kind of starter. They gave him two years and $22 million, even though last year Volquez had an ERA in the mid-5s. A couple years ago the Royals gave Volquez an almost identical contract following an ERA of 3.04. Behold the death of ERA! Anyhow, the analysis here is simple. The last three years, Volquez has averaged about 1.6 WAR. Plugging that into our contract tool and accounting for Volquez’s age yields an estimated two-year contract worth…$22 million. Super. What gets me here isn’t Volquez joining the Marlins. It’s the story of Volquez, and the story of many a live-armed starting pitcher.

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The Beautiful Baseball Game

Monday night, a plurality of eyes were fixed on the fall’s first presidential debate, featuring at least one individual that any given viewer mistrusts. Like many political events, it was a transparent exercise in attempted persuasion, and one would be left questioning either participant’s sincerity. Around the same time in the evening, the Mets and the Marlins were playing out the most important baseball game of the year.

I don’t want to belabor the contrast, but it was a most striking juxtaposition. No matter your leaning, the debate wouldn’t have left you feeling clean. You’d be on edge, hairs raised, to some degree agitated. Watching the Mets and the Marlins, however, could only leave you feeling deeply, truly human. Tears were shed and tears were shared. Watching from home or from a seat in the park, the Marlins won, 7-3. Jose Fernandez got the win, Jose Fernandez knocked all of their hits, and Jose Fernandez scored all of their runs.

Following the events of Sunday morning, there was no question the Marlins had to cancel their game. It was too soon, too unthinkable to play. The emotional blow was crippling. You can’t play a game if you can’t rise to your feet.

Come Monday, there was no question the Marlins had to proceed with their game. The game itself would be of little consequence, the fouls and the flies and the takes-too-long pitching changes. But only a game could be at the heart of the ceremony that baseball so desperately needed.

Grief is seldom coherent, and in the aftermath of the accident, there have been some complicated feelings of something like guilt. As much as fans hurt, fans aren’t Fernandez’s family. Even Fernandez’s own teammates are something short of being his own family. And beyond that, while Jose Fernandez died, two other young men also are dead, two young men unfamiliar to the greater public. Their deaths are no less sad, no less unfortunate. Something felt vaguely inappropriate about grieving but one of three losses.

The baseball world needed Sunday to advance into Monday. It needed for a game to be played, because only the game could give us direction and relieve us of the burden of guilt. Fernandez’s loved ones will pay their respects. The loved ones of the two others will pay their respects. There were three lives, and they were all involved in many circles. The game – that was for Fernandez’s baseball circle. It functioned as a wake, for the baseball community. We’ve all had feelings we needed to let out, and Monday gently guided their release.

From the fan perspective, it feels objectively silly to be so broken up about the loss of a stranger. And in truth, the feelings aren’t entirely about Fernandez himself – we’ve witnessed the sudden loss of a 24-year-old invincible, and that reminds us of the fragility we try in earnest to forget. The teammates and the coaches – they, at least, knew Fernandez, many of them well. The reasons for their heart-hurt are easier to place, but nevertheless, how you feel is how you feel, even if you’re not entirely sure why. The entire baseball community aches. The only way to heal is through baseball.

Yesterday’s was an experience of hurting while watching others hurt. As Fernandez’s peers paid tribute, we paid ours through theirs. We listened to the mournful trumpet, and we listened to the anthem. We remained silent when the ballpark was silent, and we were brought into the two teams embracing. We were brought into the Marlins encircling the mound, inscribing Fernandez’s number and rubbing dirt on their pants. We were brought into even Giancarlo Stanton’s red-eyed pregame speech, and after it was all over, with the Marlins triumphant, we were brought into the team again standing around the mound, bowing their heads and leaving their hats.

In the video, you see one Marlin – Fernandez, No. 16 – saying to the others, “let’s leave our hats.” Only some of the elements from the whole evening were planned. That was a spur-of-the-moment idea, with Fernandez’s teammates searching for every last way to honor his memory. No single tribute ever heals a soul, but for an instant, every tribute feels like it could. The players and coaches seized any opportunity to acknowledge their grief. And so our own was acknowledged, from some distance away, though still very much raw.

The most important baseball game of the year featured the most important home run of the decade. Leading off the bottom of the first, Dee Gordon took a pitch while batting right-handed, mimicking Fernandez’s stance and apparently wearing his helmet. Gordon then returned to his familiar box and, two pitches later, he hit his first home run of the season. Gordon was in tears as he crossed home plate, and he sought out the Marlins’ every embrace.

You’re under no obligation to believe it was fate. You’re under no obligation to believe it was divine. What it was was cathartic, the unplanned and entirely unpredictable tribute that will forever stand as the symbol and memory of the evening. The devastating reality is we don’t yet know the total volume of this collective grief, but Gordon’s home run allowed us to release so much of an unknowable amount. There was sadness after, as there was sadness before, yet sandwiched was one single flicker of elation. It was, one could figure, the first.

Sunday’s accident brought far more than just the baseball community to its knees. We are not alone in being hurt, and it feels at least slightly intrusive to be affected so deeply at all. One could conceivably question whether we even have the right. But Jose Fernandez touched untold millions of people, and Monday night, there was a ceremony allowing for the baseball world in particular to grieve. The ceremony took place around a baseball game, a game that was scheduled to be started by Fernandez himself. He was, with great misfortune, unable to make the start, but in place of one singular Jose Fernandez, there were nine.


FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron on Jose Fernandez

Episode 685
Dave Cameron is the managing editor of FanGraphs. During this edition of FanGraphs Audio, he discusses late Miami right-hander and divine ray of light Jose Fernandez.

This episode of the program either is or isn’t sponsored by SeatGeek, which site removes both the work and also the hassle from the process of shopping for tickets.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 26 min play time.)

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