This season, we are again reviewing the Marlins and where they stand at the All-Star Break rather than the true midseason mark. Truthfully, it’s more convenient for the blog, as the Fish (along with the rest of baseball) are off for the break and are conveniently allowing us time to look at a set of statistics frozen in time. So let us continue with the third annual Marlin Maniac Midseason Review, 2011 edition. As always, we will examine the team’s offense first
Current Record: 43-48
Runs Scored-Runs Allowed: 352-396
Run Differential: -44
Pythagorean Expected W-L: 41-50
Runs Scored: 352
Team Slash Line: .245/.313/.378
Team wOBA: .307
Team wRC+: 90
This year’s edition of the Florida Marlins are obviously struggling a bit on offense, but remember that part of that supposed struggle is the fact that everyone is struggling on offense. As a whole, run scoring is down for the second straight season in a row, which contributes to some of the effects we see. Still, the Marlins offense has indeed struggled compared to last season; in 2010, the Marlins had a .319 wOBA that translated to a wRC+ (a metric that is park- and league-adjusted, with the league average equal to 100) of 93. The Fish this season have a wRC+ of 90, meaning they are three more percentage points worse than the league average compared to their 2010 season. A good deal of that lack of performance is clearly tied to the fact that multiple players on the team have struggled without regressing heavily to their expected means. Meanwhile, players that have outperformed their preseason expectations have begun moving down to their projections, leaving the Marlins at a net loss.
Best Performer: Gaby Sanchez
Truthfully, this particular accolade could go to any of Sanchez, Logan Morrison, or Mike Stanton, as they all have performed at similar levels. Sanchez gets the nod here because his .369 wOBA is slightly better than that of Morrison’s (.361) and Stanton’s (.360), but those differences are minuscule. There are things to like about Sanchez’s All-Star first half, in particular with regards to his improving plate discipline. While he is still missing pitches at about the same rate, the advantage he has now is that he is taking more pitches and perhaps seeing fewer of those in the zone (as evidenced by a decreased called strike percentage). It is possible that Sanchez is simply receiving fewer pitches in the zone and being more selective about the things he swings at; indeed, if you believe the BIS data that is shown on FanGraphs (and I have my reservations, and so should you), that is exactly what it is suggesting.
The supposed slump in June (he hit .240/.308/.404 during that month) did something to correct his sky-high BABIP, but it left him at a very believable .293/.374/.472 level of performance. Sanchez has put up 2.8 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) so far this season, and if he continues to hit decently through the rest of the year, a four-win campaign is not out of the question. Not bad for a guy who was supposedly a middling prospect.
Worst Performer: Omar Infante
While not entirely accurate, this shirt made by Strip Club With Stanton says it all. To be fair to Infante, he has hit the ball on the ground in 44.9 percent of his balls in play, but boy does it seem like all he does is hit lazy fly balls. Indeed, some of that holds bearing, as he has an infield fly ball rate of 8.6 percent, meaning that almost nine percent of his balls in play have been meaningless popups. When you are a Mike Stanton (10.0 percent infield fly balls), you can afford to do that since you are also hitting “massive dongs,” as I’ve heard them called. But when you are the punchless Omar Infante, you cannot afford to be giving away balls in play for outs, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.
To be fair, it is also a fair bit of bad luck that has struck Infante in 2011. His .274 BABIP pales in comparison to his three-year mark from 2008 to 2011 of .343. And with his ability to avoid strikeouts, his average and OBP should get better. But right now, it’s not happening, and the Marlins are suffering as a result of this. It is certainly making acquiring him and Michael Dunn for Dan Uggla look stu…
At least we have that going for us.
Key Second-Half Improvement: Hanley Ramirez
Infante might have been the worst performer, but Ramirez was the most visible and egregious. The fact that he is now currently hitting .242/.337/.370 is a miracle given that just three weeks ago, he was batting .200/.298/.295. This is by far the worst season Ramirez has ever encountered, and it is difficult to understand why exactly he has struggled. Yes, his BABIP is at an all-time low at .272, and that is not likely to continue. Yes, his power has dropped precipitously, down to a Jeter-esque .128 ISO. Yes, he is continuing to hit too many balls on the ground, now with a 52.6 percent ground ball rate. But I could not tell you why those results are happening, other than perhaps an extended statistical fluke. All I know is that it just is not likely that a player of his caliber could simply collapse as poorly as he has.
Others have put out a lot of different speculative reasons for Ramirez’s problems in 2011. Maybe he just isn’t trying hard nowadays. Maybe he’s gotten too big to play the game he is accustomed to playing. I’m not sure what’s going on with him that has caused him to struggle. The fact that he has been blistering hot since late June is a testament that Lady Luck can favor you and that there’s a good chance that he really is Hanley Ramirez and not some malfunctioning robot used to replace him. Expect some good things and something resembling the old Hanley Ramirez as we move into the second half. If the team has any chance of climbing back into a respectable .500 mark, it will rely on Ramirez being his old self again.