The Marlins are not hitting well. As a team, they are batting .248/.321/.383, good for a .312 wOBA that ranks as 19th in baseball (but ironically second only to the New York Mets in the division). Apparently the team has decided that this performance was not good enough, because they just recently hired Eduardo Perez to replace John Mallee as hitting coach.
“It’s a great opportunity for him, and I think it’s a great opportunity for this organization to bring in somebody with the talent that Eduardo has,” [Larry Beinfest] said. “Obviously this is a very tough stretch for us right now, something we have to fight through. It’s a tough situation, but we look forward to him joining us tomorrow.”
Can I give a comment on the job that Mallee has done versus the job that Perez will do? Of course not, because I know nothing about either person’s ability to coach at the big league level. I know that Mallee was respected as a hitting coach throughout the organization, but this does not mean that he was doing a good job. Neither can the recent struggles of the Marlins at the plate be contributed to Mallee’s coaching, as Logan Morrison points out.
“It’s definitely not his fault that we’re not scoring runs,” said Morrison, who took the news hard. “We let him down. It’s disappointing. I hope he lands on his feet.
How will Eduardo Perez fix things? I am not entirely certain there is much to be fixed. This year, the Marlins are running out a lineup with almost no production out of Hanley Ramirez and newcomer second baseman Omar Infante. The team also has had poor contributions from Chris Coghlan and John Buck. Overall, the team’s wRC+ (park-adjusted runs created, weighed on the same scale as OPS+) is at 92 this season, ranked 18th in baseball. Last year, the Marlins ran out a lineup that had a good Dan Uggla and Ramirez along with the debuts of some of the team’s excellent rookie players. That lineup, which has the gut feeling of being superior, had a 93 wRC+, one that’s almost identical to this season’s team.
You sort of get the feeling that the Fish are simply reacting poorly to a bad stretch of games, but as I mentioned earlier this week, one-run losses are not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. The Fish have lost seven straight, six of those losses coming in the one-run variety, but there simply is no reason to panic. In those games, the Marlins hit .221/.310/.352. Sure, that production is not very good, but how well did the other teams hit? The Marlins’s three opponents, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers, and Atlanta Braves, hit a collective .226/.276/.387 at the time. Which one of those lines is better? I did not calculate wOBA for either one, but just using the quick-and-dirty OPS gives you an OPS of .663 for the Marlins and .662 for the opposing teams. In other words, you couldn’t get any closer in terms of offensive production. One-run losses are essentially coin flips.
The other thing to consider is that league offense is down as a whole. Right now, the Fish are hitting well enough to score 4.02 runs per game on average. The National League average is just 4.09 runs per game. Now, a tenth of a run is important, but it underscores how comparing the offense now to how we thought it might look before the season is overestimating it, because the league as a whole is scoring less.
It does not mean that this move will not necessarily help the team. Maybe they do need some coaching. Or maybe Ramirez returns from injury as the old Ramirez and starts hitting again. Or maybe all this team needs is a healthy dose of regression. Or maybe a team can underperform its true talent, even at that time, by a certain amount over the course of six games, thereby leading to six disappointing losses. There are 162 games in a season, and a lot of things can happen in between those games, and a struggling offense at the beginning of June could easily be one of them.