The Snarkbox: Alternate CF plans and the new stadium

I was not expecting an early release of MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro’s latest inbox article, but I am always ready to bring the snark in my responses when it is necessary. So let’s get on with the Snarkbox, shall we?

I read an article recently that proposed moving Mike Stanton to center field. It said that he had betters numbers in center than right when playing in the Minor Leagues. Is it a possibility that he could play center field this year?
– Steve M., Fredericksburg, Va.

Steve M, was that my article? Because if so, then I have been mentioned in a Joe Frisaro inbox piece! Yes!

Nevertheless, this question deserves a serious response. When I used the scouting reports of the Fans Scouting Report, I got that the numbers would favor moving Chis Coghlan to center field over Mike Stanton, not because Stanton would be a worse center fielder, but because the combination of having Stanton in center and Coghlan in right field was worse than having Coghlan in center and Stanton in right. Having said that, the FSR did not take into account the fact that we have about a year and half worth of UZR/DRS/other defensive statistics data that says he is a below average fielder and that he is coming off a medial meniscus injury that required surgery.

If you recognize that Stanton is the best athlete of the team’s current outfield, it would only make logical sense to move him to the most difficult position. But Joe Frisaro sees otherwise:

[Stanton's] body is still maturing. Say he packs on another 10 pounds. It would not be ideal for him physically to roam center field. With more ground to cover in center, that would mean more wear and tear on his body. Yes, he may be able to play the position well. But he’s had some nagging injuries in the past, namely his shoulder and back. I’ll take Stanton playing right field and getting 600 plate appearances rather than looking for him to be Willie Mays flagging down balls on the warning track at the 434-foot mark at Sun Life Stadium.

No offense to Frisaro, but this answer felt completely incoherent. Shouldn’t the club be looking to maximize Stanton everywhere? I get what he means by making sure he isn’t injured over the course of a season trying to cover center field, but shouldn’t the same concern be given to Coghlan, who has suffered a more serious injury more recently? I think it is ridiculous to ignore Coghlan’s knee injury and bring up supposedly nagging shoulder and back injuries for Stanton as a reason why he shouldn’t play center field. Right now, he can play the position, and if in the future he fills out and bulks up for power, he can shift back to his more natural right field position. But right now, he’s the best athlete in the outfield, and there is no reason why he shouldn’t at least get reps there to see if he can handle the position.

The truth is that the Marlins are avoiding the question of Coghlan in center field. They are going into the season thinking he is the only option available when they should have brought in more insurance to make sure they were not caught in a predicament in case the plan doesn’t work. Every answer I have read from Frisaro or the Marlins front office and coaches says that the team “believes” in Coghlan and that he is athletic enough to handle the position. They said his conversion to left field was so smooth that they foresee no issues with him moving to center. They are glossing over the fact that he is coming off an injury and that no one outside the organization believes that this is going to work. Three or four weeks into the season, we could see the Marlins panicking about not having an actual center fielder on their team.

A while back, I heard about a possible Marlins trade for Michael Bourn. Does a deal like Bourn for Gaby Sanchez make sense? That way, Logan Morrison could move to first base and Chris Coghlan can stay in left field.
– Luis C., Puerto Rico

Luis came here to Marlin Maniac and posed the same sort of question, so I’ll rehash what I said. Michael Bourn would be an interesting option, but trading Gaby Sanchez straight up for him might be selling the Marlins end a bit short, since Sanchez is under team control for five more seasons. Still, Bourn is an excellent defender, and it would move Logan Morrison away from left field and back into his familiar first base position, where his defense is supposedly above average.

Here’s Frisaro’s response:

Personally, I wouldn’t make a Sanchez-for-Bourn deal for several reasons. Yes, Bourn is a Gold Glove-winning center fielder, but he hit .265 with a .341 on-base percentage last year. He is one of the fastest players in the game, but he lacks power.

With Bourn in the lineup, the Marlins essentially would have three leadoff-type hitters — Bourn, Coghlan and Omar Infante. I wouldn’t subtract Sanchez’s 20-plus homers and 90 RBIs for more speed and defense.

What Frisaro doesn’t get is that, for the most part, it doesn’t matter that we have “three leadoff-type hitters” and less power. The only thing that matters is runs, as in how many does Bourn save on the defensive end and create on the offensive end. Bourn is slightly above average when you consider all of his excellent baserunning prowess (he has led the league in Equivalent Baserunning Runs each of the past two seasons), which is about ten runs worse than Sanchez on offense. However, Bourn probably saves five to ten runs above average on defense, and that doesn’t include the savings we get for not having Coghlan in center field.

Power, speed, on-base percentage, ultimately it doesn’t matter how much you have of each of those things (to a degree). What matters is how they contribute to scoring runs. Frisaro doesn’t see it that way.

I thought the Marlins were making the transition of their name to the Miami Marlins in 2011. Also, that they were going to change their uniform and logo in preparation for 2012, when they move into their new stadium. Has there been a change in plans?
– Frank P., San Jose, Calif.

Honestly, I really don’t care. Defer to Frisaro. Next!

It seems the Marlins are assuming a new ballpark will cure all their attendance problems. In Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore, this was a help, but only for a couple of seasons. Milwaukee is still too soon to tell. Is there a contingency plan if a new park doesn’t work out?
– Harold H., Culloden, W.Va.

The Marlins draw on television, but they don’t draw live, and part of the reason is that it is hot and uncomfortable and rainy during the summer in Florida. Part of it is also that the fans aren’t all concentrated in south Florida, and those fans won’t be making it to games regardless of the stadium. Part of it is also that the local area isn’t a good sports town outside of football (look at how the Miami Heat draw at home despite the team’s intrigue).

In other words, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into why the Marlins don’t draw live, and not all of it is going to be fixed by the stadium. But since it is going to be built, the Marlins have no more excuses. It’s time to deliver on the promises they’ve made for years. I’ll call them out on it if they don’t.

Will the Marlins have a .500 season or better? Can they win the National League East or the NL Wild Card?
– Jeremiah D., Miami Gardens, Fl

That’s a pretty ridiculous question to ask in an inbox. What’s Joe Frisaro going to say, that the team is only average and has no chance at the Wild Card? Of course the answer is going to come out optimistic, it’s an MLB.com article! They’re optimistic about Wes Helms’ chances of producing. They’d be optimistic about me if I were on the team.

The short answer is yes, .500 is about where I’d expect them to be. Yes, the team can win the Wild Card, but they are the fifth or so team in line to do so. There’s my unbiased answer, optimism excluded.

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Tags: Chris Coghlan Gaby Sanchez Miami Marlins Michael Bourn Mike Stanton New Stadium

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