Miami Marlins: MLB’s best in one-run games

280px-Steve_Cishek_2013By defeating the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night, the Miami Marlins got their 29th victory by one run so far this season. That statistic is the best in the majors. While it may seem somewhat obscure, it speaks to the development of the team and immense progress that it has made since a dismal 2013.

Monday night’s game marked contest No. 118 for Miami. The Marlins have been involved in a total of 46 affairs that were decided by a single run. That means that about 39 percent of the Marlins’ games have been decided a run, or about one in every three games. Once again, that may seem obscure until you consider what it means.

Not only does the Marlins’ proficiency at winning these one-run affairs, a winning percentage of .630, demonstrate that this team is getting closer to being competitive, but also the fact that they’ve been involved in so many of them, win or lose. If you look back at the same statistics for 2013, there is significant progress.

Last season Miami played a total of 59 games that were decided by one run and lost 35 of them, a winning percentage of .407. If the current numbers remain consistent, by the time the Marlins have played 162 games in 2014 they will have played in 63 games decided by a run and will have won 40 of them. A improvement of five games may not seem like much to the casual fan, but in the standings at the end of the season, five games can be huge. Had the Cleveland Indians won five more games last season, they would have won the American League Central division.

Why has Miami been so good at winning these tight games? There are two primary reasons: late-inning offensive efficiency and Steve Cishek. Going into Monday night’s game, the Marlins had a team on-base percentage for the seventh inning on of .313 and were slugging .373 in those innings. They had scored 165 runs with 89 extra-base hits in the seventh inning or later.

Miami’s proficiency at scoring late runs has been matched with the effective closing out of games by Steve Cishek. Once again going into Monday night’s game, Cishek was averaging four strikeouts to every walk and on Monday he worked the ninth inning for his 30th save of the season.

Finally, if you consider the fact that the Marlins have accomplished this without their best pitcher and arguably second-best player, Jose Fernandez, for most of the season, the outlook for 2015 improves even more. Miami expects to get Fernandez back around the All-Star break. Adding Fernandez will not only improve the Marlins’ chances of winning tight games, but should boost their ability to win games by a more convincing margin as well.

It’s apparent that this young team is learning how to compete on an everyday basis. The next step is for them to learn how to win with similar consistency. If they figure that out and make the right additions in the offseason, the postseason in 2015 could be a very real possibility.