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2021 Miami Marlins: Brian Anderson’s Slow Start Not a Concern

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When the 2021 MLB season seemed just around the corner about a month ago, the 2021 Miami Marlins were heading into a crucial campaign. Previously, the team had snatched its first postseason berth since 2003 last year. However, the challenge to duplicate this tremendous success over the course of a 162-game campaign, even for a Marlins team which lost very little during the offseason, could prove very difficult, with a real test regarding Miami’s consistency ahead.

Thus far, their competition within the NL East division has proven just as stiff as expected. The Mets, the Phillies, and the Braves all promise to be a part of a close race for the division crown down to the final weeks of the 2021 season. Yet, the Marlins have been able to hold their ground and remain solid through their first 24 games, placing fourth with a record of 11-13.

Although Miami is currently just a game out of first place, it is beyond apparent that the margin is only going to widen between now and the end of the season on October 3rd. While the Marlins’ record is wandering near the .500 mark, the breakdown of their different units is not as positive. The club’s rotation has slid down to the 13th-worst whereas the lineup is as bad as advertised at 29th. Even at the very beginning of the year, this is concerning.

Nonetheless, very few pieces of that weak lineup have surprised with their early numbers, either pleasantly or disappointingly. One of the exceptions to this trend is third baseman Brian Anderson. Anderson started his fifth campaign for the Marlins on a low note before entering the Injured List after just 16 appearances. Despite his still light workload, he has not provided an eye-watering turnout.

However, there is too much baseball left to declare him an underperformer, especially considering his track record points in the opposite direction.

2021 Miami Marlins: Anderson’s 2021 Display (So Far)

As already mentioned, Brian Anderson has only registered 65 plate appearances. That is too insufficient an amount to draw any conclusions but it surely hasn’t been impressive either.

Through sixty at-bats, Anderson has posted a batting average of .200, as well as an on-base percentage of .262. Moreover, his slugging figure has landed at .300, with his OPS coming at .562. All of that occurred prior to April 22nd, when the Arkansas alum joined the ten-day IL list with a left oblique strain. All in all, each of the numbers he has posted in those four components represents a career-worst by at least 20 percent.

To put these facts into perspective, the only players who have put on lower batting figures and have more than 50 PA are Garrett Cooper and Adam Duvall. Furthermore, his OBP is second-worst after the former Braves and Reds outfielder. However, his slugging percentage and OPS are the most underwhelming within that group of players.

While these numbers seem very frightening at first sight, they have very little importance whatsoever, at least when it comes to this point of the Major League Baseball season. If he doesn’t experience any serious time-wasting injuries, Anderson should confidently be a bound to bounce back from his previous struggles. The trends that the past two or three seasons have observed confirm that his potential is in an entirely contrasting direction but more on that in the next paragraph.

Moreover, even simply regression to the mean would contribute to Anderson’s figures moving away from the extreme values and nearer to a more steady figure for the MLB level. That would be even if Anderson was to go on a noticeably downward trend across the full season. Therefore, his numbers are virtually guaranteed to go up narrowly at worst.

That could have a slightly positive effect on the offensive output of the 2021 Miami Marlins. However, much of that is very dependent on what direction the other members of that group head towards. If anything, strong batters like Starling Marte or Jesus Aguilar are more intriguing cases since the expectations had faired in the range of their current numbers.

However, the short answer is that statistical figures during the year and before it is over are inconclusive. At the same time, the 2021 Miami Marlins lineup, as expected, would have difficulties lifting itself from the bottom. That would be the case even if Brian Anderson improves because other players’ self-explanatory downfalls would balance that out. The track record of their lineup from last year, to which they didn’t add much in impactful assets, further supports that statement.

2021 Miami Marlins: The Encouraging Track Record of Brian Anderson

The notion that Brian Anderson has the potential of not only moving away from the extreme values on his current statline but that he is an over-average batter in the MLB context is not a false one. Between his identity as a powerhitter and the not-so-discussed reality as an efficient OBP hitter, Anderson didn’t just turn in numbers considerably higher than the league averages before 2021. Furthermore, him being 26 years old would assume an upward trend to follow.

An improvement over what he was already clearly capable of would be beyond significant. That is because his performance previously shown was nothing short of impressive.

Between 2018 and 2020, Brian Anderson played more than 100 games in every year except for the infamous pandemic-shortened campaign. In that span, his on-base number was .350 whereas his OPS standed at .785, though he put on a figure north of .800 in each of the latter two seasons of that period.

For comparison, Major League Baseball’s average OBP for each of those years was .318, .323, and .322, respectively. This year, it is down to .309. This makes a potential, and perhaps expected, upward tick even more valuable to the woeful 2021 Miami Marlins lineup. Moreover, this three-year period also saw Brian Anderson hit 42 homeruns and drive in 169 runs.

Having that in mind, it is much more likely for Anderson’s figures to fare in the range of his previous averages rather than anywhere close to his outlook at the moment. Apart from the regression to the mean, which could also be used in this context, the “rule of averages” simply points out that his present numbers include too short of a period. Therefore, this low workload discredits the low values just as much as it takes away the credibility from the extreme highs.

Players are evaluated around the league based on how they perform over the as many games as possible that they might have played in a full, 162-game season. Consequently, front offices neither do nor can acquire the best players for a shorter year. In fact, the 2020 MLB campaign is a perfect example of that inefficiency. That year would go on to leave some teams in limbo heading into 2021 as well, for the same reason. The point here is that numbers across such short spans hardly ever matter, if at all. Meanwhile, Brian Anderson’s 2021 potential is closer to his previous figures, if not better due to his age.

2021 Miami Marlins: Significance to the Lineup

As already laid out, Brian Anderson has been tremendous during his last three campaigns. He has not only put on strong numbers over the whole three-year span but he’s been immensely consistent. For instance, his on-base figure settled north of .345 in each season. Moreover, his powerhitting abilities were in the same boat, with his SLUG going over the .450 mark in each of his last two seasons as a Marlin.

However, to say that he hasn’t had enough support or reinforcements would be the quite the enormous understatement. Despite Brian Anderson’s prolific achievements at the plate, Miami’s offensive output was insufficient, to say the least, on all three occasions. The Marlins finished 21st, 29th, and 25th, respectively, in runs scored. What that means is they have ranked in the bottom third of Major League Baseball in every year since the beginning of the 2018 season.

Miami started the offseason that preceded the 2021 campaign particularly after placing 11th out of 15 teams in the National League. The struggles of the batting lineup, which the rotation had to endure and overcome, were apparent. Despite that, the only notable additions to that unit turned out to be Duvall, a veteran outfielder with abysmal career averages and just as bad recent showings, and Jazz Chisholm, a prospect making his first steps on the major-league level.

There is serious proof as to why Brian Anderson should be anticipated to get back to his usual performance. However, that doesn’t guarantee an upward tendency for the group as a whole as other batters decline. Yet, if Anderson has a down campaign, that could affect the 2021 Miami Marlins lineup insofar that it might just be in a worse position than during the 2020 season. Subsequently, coupling that with the ongoing issues of the rotation could send the Marlins quickly back to the competition for the first overall pick in the MLB Draft.

Nonetheless, the rotation should be expected to also balance out its woes when important names such as Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sanchez return to the mound. In short, the units within the Marlins roster have similar identities to the club’s past two seasons. Over a longer campaign, that might not be enough for an as decent a display as last summer’s Miami team witnessed.

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Teodor Tsenov is the Jets and Marlins writer for Overtime Heroics, as well as an NFL and MLB writer for Franchise Sports UK. From Bulgaria.