Miami's next challenge: Finding 10 more wins

By adding starting pitcher, more power to lineup, Marlins aim to be contenders

Miami's next challenge: Finding 10 more wins

MIAMI -- Improving by 15 games returned the Marlins to respectability. To reach the postseason in 2015, the front office's next challenge is adding the pieces to pick up an additional 10 or so wins.

The World Series-bound Giants did just that, going from 76-86 in 2013 to 88-74 and earning a Wild Card berth this season. For the Marlins to make a similar leap, they'll need their young core to keep progressing, along with addressing their needs.

"Those next 10 wins are what we're looking for, to get into the high 80s to 90s where you have a chance to get into the playoffs," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "Obviously, that will be a challenge. But we've got a very solid core group of guys here, and a great team."

If you look at the three most basic phases of the game, the Marlins ranked near the middle of the National League pack in '14. On offense, they scored 645 runs, seventh most in the NL. Their pitchers allowed 674 runs, with 613 earned, which rate fifth in both categories. Defensively, they were pretty solid. Their 97 errors were the 11th most.

Compared to 2013, when the Marlins went 62-100, being in the middle of the pack marked major improvement. If not for injuries to Jose Fernandez (Tommy John surgery) and Giancarlo Stanton (facial fractures), the organization believes it would have finished above .500 and made a more realistic playoff push.

Minus their two All-Stars, Miami stumbled to the finish line and ended up 77-85.

"Obviously, you're not where you want to be because you're not playing into October," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "But to think of where we were last year, having lost 100 games, we're happy with the step we've taken."

The Marlins stayed on the Wild Card fringe until Stanton was struck in the face by a pitch on Sept. 11 at Milwaukee.

"To think you lose your Cy Young candidate, and you lose your MVP candidate, and you're still able to do some of the things this club has done, that's why you're excited," Hill said. "That's why you're happy with the year that you had. But we know, this is a tough business. There are 30 teams trying to play into October."

By the end of the month, the front office will meet with owner Jeffrey Loria and put together their offseason plan. As the Marlins prepare to look forward, here's a look at how the '14 club stacked up in the National League.

Offense: Miami ranked seventh in the NL in runs (645), batting average (.253) and RBIs (614), and sixth in on-base percentage (.317). A couple of areas that need improvement are power and putting the ball in play. Stanton paced the NL in homers with 37, but the team had 122 total -- 12th overall. They also were eighth in slugging percentage (.378). Strikeouts were an issue. They fanned 1,419 times, second most in the NL. The fact that the Marlins aren't a big homer-hitting team makes putting the ball in play much more important, especially in spacious Marlins Park.

Pitching: The loss of Fernandez clearly hurt the overall numbers. The team's ERA of 3.78 was 11th in the league, and opponents hit .264 (13th). When Fernandez went down, he was pacing the National League in strikeouts. But as a team, Miami had 1,190 strikeouts, which ranked second to last in the NL. Adding a starting pitcher is an offseason priority.

Defense: Overall, the team defense was solid, posting a .984 fielding percentage, good enough for fifth best in the NL. Much of the everyday roster will be back, but changes could be made at first and second base.

The core is in place, but across the board there is room for improvement.

"What we will work on this offseason is to close that gap, and do whatever we feel is necessary to get to that next level," Hill said. "Will it be easy? Definitely it will not be. But that's what's in front of us."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.