(CBSMiami)- The first three weeks of the MLB season have been a roller coaster for manager Don Mattingly and the Miami Marlins. A season-opening series win over the Phillies was followed by a COVID-19 outbreak among players and staff, leading to a week of not playing games. Since their return to play, they have gone 5-3 while playing every game on the road. Their record stands at 8-4 now, good enough for first place in the N.L. East.
That start has, not surprisingly, vastly improved the team’s playoff odds. Heading into the year, SportsLine had the Marlins with a 7.9% chance of making the postseason. Prior to Thursday night’s affair against the Blue Jays, the team’s odds had improved to 21.4%. FanGraphs had a similar expectation for the team with a 8.4% chance of the playoffs before Opening Day. That has now improved to 23.8%.
Again, the team has started 8-4 despite being on the road since exhibition games in Atlanta on July 21 and losing double-digit players from the Opening Day roster to COVID-19 Injured List.
“We talked about this season, in general, before the season, that it was going to be different,” Mattingly said to the team’s website. “The team that could get past all of that stuff would have a better chance of surviving, knowing that you’re going to get tested, the protocols and everything else. When we talked about that, I had no visions of this type of trip.”
The Marlins have made it to this point despite ranking 18th in the league in average (.235), 19th in OBP (.314) and 26th in home runs (15). The pitching staff ranks 12th with a 4.22 ERA. But, the team is fifth in average with runners in scoring position (.289) and fifth in average with runners on and two outs (.274), making the Marlins one of the best teams in the league in situational hitting.
Their run differential of plus-6 is fifth best in the National League. Granted, they have only played 12 of a possible 60 games, and the schedule will be back-loaded with more doubleheaders to try and fit as many games in as possible. But, the strong start on the road in the face of plenty of challenges has improved the Marlins’ chances at making the postseason.