Arraez and Shine! Marlins vs. Mets Moneyball


Jun 9, 2023

“How can you not be romantic about baseball?” Brad Pitt’s words as Billy Beane in the 2011 biopic Moneyball never rang truer and more parallel than with the case of Luis Arraez and the Miami Marlins.

If you’re an MLB fan and haven’t seen the movie, forget the chill and get your Netflix on quicker than an Arraez infield hit. For those who haven’t, here is your 2023 iteration of Coles Notes, ChatGPT, with a brief synopsis:

“Moneyball” is an innovative baseball drama based on real events. It follows Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, who is forced to reinvent his team on a tight budget. Struggling against conventional wisdom, he partners with a young Yale economics graduate, using sophisticated data analysis to recruit undervalued players. This game-changing strategy redefines the art of baseball management and transforms the underdog team into a formidable contender.

Last year’s AL batting champ was with the Minnesota Twins, the franchise who eliminated Beane’s 2002 magical team after the A’s set the AL record with 20 straight wins en route to a 103-win campaign. Arraez hit a modest .316 last year to take the title. The small market Minneapolis club (16th in 2022 payroll) led the division much of the way but missed the postseason because of a late-season collapse. 

Is Arraez Getting Love in the NL MVP Race?

Miami, an even more fiscally responsible team in need of offense, traded for Arraez in the offseason. Unable to compete with division fat cats, the New York Mets, with the top team salary in baseball at over $345 million and Atlanta’s eighth highest payroll at $202 million, the Marlins had to go against the grain, Moneyball style.

They’ve already done so by hiring the first female GM in Big Four sports history, Kim NG. The highest-ranking exec in baseball and the first person of East-Asian descent to achieve the position sprinkled some Beane magic on the Marlins since taking the mantle ahead of the 2021 season.

With the 22nd-ranked team payroll this year, almost a quarter of what their NL East rivals, the Mets, are paying, Miami is 5.5 games up on New York and just 3.5 back of the division-leading Braves

Moneyball is all about efficiency, getting on base, and using sabermetrics and other advanced data vs. cost. Arraez (.452 OBP) accounts for just over six percent of Miami’s payroll at $6.1 million this year, so Miami is paying about $57 grand per walk+hit. New York’s Francisco Lindor makes $34 million, almost 10 percent of the payroll. The former eighth overall pick (.296 OBP) makes nearly $450,000 per walk+hit.

The Curious Case of Starling Marte (play on words on another solid Brad Pitt flick) brings our story full circle in the Moneyball era of haves and have-nots. NG traded Marte in 2021, knowing she wouldn’t or couldn’t sign the impending FA in the offseason. Marte was dealt from Miami to Beane’s (now executive VP of baseball operations and minority owner) A’s for then 23-year-old pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo (tied for Miami’s team lead with 5 wins in 2023). Oakland then let Marte walk into the hands of the Mets to the tune of a four-year, $78 million deal.

New York’s paying a struggling Starling (.314 OBP) over $20 million this year, costing them nearly $320 K each time the former Marlin reaches base. 

Arraez is not only flirting with .400, albeit mid-June but is killing it on Statcast metrics, the essential offspring of the Moneyball model, sabermetrics. The throwback hitter is in the top 2% of the league in weighted on-base percentage (.409), top 1% percent in strikeout rate (4.6%), and expected batting average (.335).

Can Luis Land a Prop Tonight in Chicago? Check our MLB Model.

Arraez can become the first player in the modern era to win consecutive batting titles in different leagues. While it’s still early, a more than .70-point lead over the next nearest competitor (Ronald Acuna) bodes well for that being in the bag barring injury. Becoming the first player since 1941 to hit .400 is a taller order.

Oddsmakers are already counting it out by July, as FanDuel Sportsbook has him priced at -500 to be at the magical mark at the All-Star Break and +340 to maintain around his current .403 mark.

But bucking the odds is nothing new for the Venezuelan infielder. He went undrafted out of San Felipe and did not crack any of MLB’s, Baseball America’s, or Baseball Prospectus’ top 100 prospects rankings. What this 26-year-old is doing cannot be understated.

Personal accomplishments aside, Arraez is helping bring the National spotlight to the Marlins, slightly boosting last year’s 22nd-ranked ballpark attendance and, most importantly, winning. Miami is paying $2.75 million per victory, while it’s costing New York over $11.5 million for a W.

Despite today’s standings, no one is giving his team much of a chance to make the playoffs, win the division, with even longer odds of winning the Pennant and, dare say it, the World Series.

Where Does Miami Stand in the NL Playoff Picture?

With NBA and NHL playoffs winding down and baseball moving to the forefront, the longer into Summer, Arraez can dance with history, the better for the little guy franchise, baseball fans, and potentially the history books.

Say it again, how can you not be romantic about baseball?

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Thumbnail photo via USA TODAY Sports Images

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