Luis Arraez: A First Half for the Ages

Photo by Miami Marlins

Miami, Florida – What a first half for the Miami Marlins, historic is an understatement. The Fish enter the midsummer classic with a 53-39 record, the second-best in the National League, and hold the top Wild Card spot. It was not the start to the season that many expected but here they are with the best start in franchise history. The Marlins have not been lighting it up offensively but have still found success with formidable starting pitching and timely hitting. It seems like someone different is stepping up every night but spearheading the charge game after game is the hit machine, Luis Arraez.

Bye Bye Pablo

The Marlins’ front office had a clear idea as to what they wanted to target in the offseason when it came to position players. They went out and looked for players with high contact rates, and that can utilize the gaps in cavernous loanDepot Park. Miami attempted to go against the current mold of MLB offenses which is homer runs and strikeouts and so far it has worked to perfection.

Highlighting the Marlins’ offseason was the trade to acquire Arraez with the Minnesota Twins. It was a tough, but much-needed trade as the franchise parted ways with fan-favorite Pablo Lopez. Up to that point, Lopez only played for the Fish and was coming off the best season of his career. He made himself the clear No.2 pitcher in the rotation behind Sandy Alcantara and was entering his prime years at 27 years old. Lopez completed his first full MLB season and recorded a 10-10 record but more importantly, he made 32 starts without any major injuries.

With pitching as their strength at the major league and minor league levels, the Marlins traded away the player on the roster with the most value not named Sandy or Jazz Chisholm Jr. It was thought that the Marlins can replace Lopez with the depth of pitching they have and fortunately it was worked out in Miami’s favor even with the injuries to Edward Cabrera and Johnny Cueto in the first half of the 2023 season.

Hello Luis Arraez

On paper, it initially seemed like a fair trade since both teams were filling a massive void for their respective squads. Minnesota received a top-of-the-rotation arm and Miami in return got arguably the best pure hitter in the game.

Luis Arraez has definitely put himself in the conversation as the best hitter in MLB as he entered the All-Star break leading the sport in hits (126) and batting average (.383). Arraez was hitting .400 and over that mark up until the month of July. If his version of “cooling off” is hitting in the .370’s, then fans won’t have much to worry about.

2022 was Arraez’s best season in his young career up to that point. He completed his fourth season with the Twins and led MLB with a .316 batting average. Arraez also made his first All-Star game and was awarded the Silver Slugger award. He only recorded eight home runs but Miami was getting a player that can hit and get on base consistently at the top of the lineup. It was an important piece of the lineup that Miami was extremely lacking since they had Dee Gordon at the top of the order from 2015-2017.

All Eyes on Arraez

At the 2023 All-Star game, the Marlins had two selections: Arraez and DH Jorge Soler. With his first-half performance, it was only fitting that Arraez earned the starting nod at second base. Arraez became the first Marlins second-baseman to start in the All-Star game and the first starter in general since 2017. He joins a list of Marlins starters at the midsummer classic that includes Gary Sheffield, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Hanley Ramirez.

Finally, baseball fans had the chance to see what Arraez can do with a bat in his hands. Against the game’s elite, Arraez went 2-2 with two singles on just two pitches. His second base hit came in the top of the fourth and it was an RBI single to put the National League on the board and tie the game 1-1.

The All-Star game is just a small sample size but it was enough to show why he is the catalyst of Miami’s lineup that has propelled them to the second-best record in the National League. Miami’s offensive statistics are not much different from last year’s abysmal numbers but the clear difference on offense has been Arraez’s presence and the level of dedication he brings to the craft. That work and training has clearly transferred over to others in the clubhouse and they do say hitting is contagious.

Luis Arraez Nearing Marlins History

If Luis Arraez keeps this performance up in the second half and does not have any injuries, he will have broken a few franchise offensive records including hits and batting average. Juan Pierre holds the record for base hits in a season with 221 in 2004 and  Hanley Ramirez has the single-season batting average record at .342 in 2009.

It would take a massive dropoff by Arraez if he can’t break Ramirez’s batting average record but the same can’t be said for Pierre’s. In Pierre’s first Marlins tenure from 2003-2005, he did not miss a single game. You read that correctly. Juan Pierre played in 162 games for three straight seasons which gives him the most opportunities to record base hits.

Then again, this is the same player who recorded three 5-hit games this season in the month of June. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Arraez is the fourth player since 1900 to have three 5-hit games in a single month and the last since Dave Winfield in 1984.

If he accomplishes another 5-hit performance, he will join Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Tony Gwynn, and Ichiro Suzuki as the only players to record four 5-hit games in a single season. Exciting is an understatement for Marlins fans when watching Arraez hit because they have never seen a player hit practically .400 for an entire half of a season.

His hitting reminds fans of how baseball used to be played. It’s nostalgic but still successful even in today’s game of launch angle and 100 mph fastballs. When your name is affiliated with players like Cobb, Gwynn, and Winfield it is fair to say that Luis Arraez is on the cusp of carving his name in Marlins and MLB lore.

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