The Rockies and Marlins are bad, too

Woof, again.

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The White Sox got my full attention on Wednesday because they are simply that bad — like, angling for historically awful if they keep it up for too long, they’re one of four teams ever to lose 22 of their first 25 contests and help does not appear to be in sight for a team we already knew would be terrible — but they’re not the only horrid team in the league this year.

The A’s, of course, but we cover them in this space, admittedly, more than ever I’d like. The Astros are playing poorly, too, but at least that seems to be mostly more of an accident — they could have sprung for Blake Snell and done so early enough in the offseason that he wasn’t a complete mess at the start of the year like is going on with the Giants, and so on, but not going for Snell isn’t why Framber Valdez ended up hurt, or why Jose Abreu has been horrific at the plate, or why Alex Bregman has forgotten how to hit, or why Josh Hader has collapsed… you get it.

So that leaves the Rockies and Marlins, which checks out for our purposes because the two are both bad and cheap. The Rockies aren’t Pittsburgh or Miami level cheap, sure, but they lost 103 games last year and cut payroll after a one-year spike, and are notorious for signing up to spend a lot more money than they actually end up ever having to pay out, given their propensity for dealing their big money guys away. Last year’s team couldn’t hit nor pitch in about equal measure, despite owner Dick Monfort’s boisterous projections — only the White Sox put up a worse offense by OPS+ in 2023, and just three teams had a worse ERA+ — so not trying to add talent and spending less is a real choice. It’s not like the Rockies have a ton of prospects on the way to save them, either, with Baseball Prospectus ranking their farm system 22nd of 30 back in January, so, what other choice is there but to spend on established players? Not spending, and continuing to be awful, apparently: the Rockies are 7-19, already 8.5 back in the NL West, and April isn’t yet over.

The Marlins aren’t exactly a surprise for a poor season: despite an 84-70 record in 2023 that gave them third place in the NL East and a Wild Card slot, they had a below-average offense (94 OPS+, 19th in the majors) and were carried by a pitching staff that was noticeably better (107 ERA+) but not extraordinary (it ranked 13th). Another way to put it is that their expected record had them at 75-87, as they were outscored by 57 runs, and yet they still managed to finish just over .500 and with a postseason spot that only exists because of the expanded format of this era. As I wrote for Baseball Prospectus when Kim Ng left her position as general manager owing to clashes with ownership over actually trying to win by, you know, trying, the Marlins are a team that can’t escape themselves. They could have built on 2023’s surprise success, as there was obviously room to improve there, but instead, they made the kind of offseason moves that leave you wondering if they were active mostly as a preemptive defense against another grievance from the Players Association.

Their payroll is still $92 million, as it was a year ago, except now the below-average offense isn’t even hitting well enough to be called bad, and there are enough noteworthy poor performances on the pitching side that it’s outweighing all the good that remains. Good that won’t include last year’s standout rookie Eury Perez at any point to balance things back out, since he’s one of the early season Tommy John recipients of 2024. It’s difficult to overcome injuries when your team is trying to build depth and a sizable amount of talent. When you operate like the Marlins do, in a way where “shoestring” does not begin to describe the budget, doing so is impossible.

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