Marlins Season Review: Defensive Inefficiency

Defense

Runs Allowed: 766
Team bUZR: -25.9
Fielding Runs from Beyond the Box Score Power Rankings: -27

The Marlins rank 21st in baseball in terms of bUZR runs according to FanGraphs and 25th in fielding runs (incorporating both bUZR and THT’s batted ball data) as calculated by Justin over at BtB’s Power Rankings, as of last week. In my midseason review, I already went over the impact defense can have on the team, and a prime example the club saw this year was the case of Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco has a FIP of 3.35, a tRA of 4.05, and the exact same K/BB rate that he had last year. He actually improved over last season’s numbers slightly, but has appeared to be hammered by a 5.06 ERA. What does that mean? Part of it was luck, though his BABIP isn’t terribly high. Part of it was also poor defense, and that’s something the club could easily improve this offseason, if they recognize the condition the defense is in.

Best Performer: Brett Carroll

Brett Carroll led the team in UZR, compiling 13.2 UZR runs above average in only 353 innings in the outfield this season. Again, there are definite sample size issues with measuring UZR in just 353 innings of work, but the Fans Scouting Report results and my own eyes also tend to agree with the sentiment that Carroll is an elite defender. I can’t count the numerous amounts of plays that Carroll’s plus range tracked down that Jeremy Hermida and Chris Coghlan would have let drop in for singles and doubles. I ran a projection earlier in the year that yielded a potential UZR/150 of 13.8, and that doesn’t include his work in the minor leagues playing the corners. In a pinch, Carroll could also probably play center field, though the position is currently held by two Marlins incumbents, Cody Ross and Cameron Maybin.

Carroll’s bat will never be confused as good or even decent; even if he had finished well this season, a .340 wOBA in onyl 150 PA is about as definitive as his defensive numbers currently are. He’s in line for some regression, and all signs point to about a .300 wOBA hitter. Still, as a platoon player and a guy who can bring value every game with his glove, Carroll is going to be worth something to the Marlins over the next few seasons. I sincerely hope he gets some playing time, because his defense alone is worth more than a few runs and is just an amazing sight to watch.

Worst Performer: Chris Coghlan

It was actually a tight race, but according to UZR/150 defensive games, Cohglan ranks the lowest on the team along with having the worst overall run total. Coghlan’s -13 runs was worst among qualified left fielders and sapped a lot of value from his bat. As with most players on defense, many of their problems arise with the issue of range; Coghlan’s -11 runs in range is the fourth worst among qualified players. However, Coghlan’s five errors also seem to have hurt him; he’s one of three players (the others being Alfonso Soriano and Johnny Damon) to have a negative value for error runs among qualifiers. The argument that Coghlan got better as the season went on also seems incorrect, as Coghlan’s UZR/150 actually dropped to these low values as the season progressed.

This isn’t to say that Coghlan couldn’t survive with another season in left field and eventually become decent. However, I do feel that with his past work in second and third base, he may be better off in his comfort zone in the infield, despite the inherent increased difficulty of playing the infield. With the very real possibility that Dan Uggla will be traded, the Marlins could move Coghlan to a more comfortable position, which in the past he’s proven somewhat decent at playing; my projections of his minor league defensive totals suggest a -5 run defender at second base, which would be much better than the numbers he put up this season and my projection of -8 runs in left for Coghlan next year.

I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Uggla’s terrible defensive season. He had a similarly poor year two years ago in 2007, sandwiched between two average defensive years in 2006 and 2008. I don’t know if this is a trend or just the way it is, but at this point, Uggla projects at around -5 runs without regressing to the mean. With a regression that drops to -4 runs in 150 defensive games. While this isn’t good, this is the best guess we have, and a value of -5 runs would not be enough to eat into Uggla’s significant offensive contributions.

Biggest Second-Half Improvement: Jeremy Hermida

Hermida was limited in playing time, but his numbers in right field did improve over the course of the season. Whereas in the first half he was on pace for -20 runs in the outfield, combining his work in the two corners, his season actually ended with him at -8 runs between left and right field, with only about -3 runs in right. Again, even the amount of work Hermida has put in is open to a lot of fluctuation, but in terms of performance we can say that Hermida did indeed improve by about six runs from the first half to the second half. It doesn’t appear as if this will save his Marlins career, and the Fans Scouting Report still ranks him (rightfully) as the worst defender on the Marlins, but the numbers (at times) don’t lie, so I’ll tip my cap to Hermida.

I’d also be remiss to mention the long-term improvement that we’ve seen from Hanley Ramirez’s defense. This year, Hanley put up a 0.7 UZR, the first positive runs he’s ever recorded over a full season. Sure, it’s basically an average score, but Hanley has shown for two straight years essentially average defensive value at shortstop, which is more than buoyed by his bat. So to all those people who don’t follow the stats or the Marlins and still think Hanley is a “butcher” at shortstop, I’d much rather have his average glove and ridiculous bat than any combination of your shortstops, thanks.

Tomorrow, expect the final leg of this review, the pitching.

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Tags: Brett Carroll Chris Coghlan Dan Uggla Hanley Ramirez Jeremy Hermida Miami Marlins

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