Today, we continue our first-half overview of the performance of the Florida Marlins by examining their work on the defensive end. In the past, the Fish have been quite poor on the defensive side of things, and this season has shown us mixed signals in terms of the difference despite a supposed emphasis on the defensive side of the ball.
Team Runs Allowed: 396
Team UZR: -6 runs
Team DRS (without home runs saved): +6
Team RZR: .842
Team Out of Zone plays: 242
The numbers shown here do show some difference in the ability of the Fish to get to balls this season as opposed to last year. Last season, they had a team Revised Zone Rating of 0.821 last year, and now this season they have one of 0.842. The values for both UZR and DRS are better than they were last season as well, indicating the possibility that the changes made in the offseason with the inclusion of Perry Hill as the infield coach and the acquisition of Omar Infante may have worked. At the same time, the accounts say that the Fish saved anywhere between three and ten runs on defense by switching to these various options. Is that a good enough return for the Fish? The end of season numbers should tell us more if anything, but the team does look a little better by eye than they they were last season.
Best Peformer: Omar Infante
Infante may be the team’s worst offensive performer this season, but at least he has not disappointed on defense. UZR has him at almost +3 runs this season with the glove, and he has certainly had his share of exciting plays this season. I mean, did you see this play that Infante made off the glove of Hanley Ramirez? Or how about this nifty barehanded play against the Texas Rangers? Or how about this diving stop in Seattle? And those were all from the last few weeks, as he has quite a few more plays in his pocket from earlier in the season as well.
There is a little disagreement between statistics, but in general it seems that they think Infante is doing a good job. Among the major play-by-play data metrics, only DRS has him at negative value, with TotalZone and Baseball Prospectus’s nFRAA agreeing with him in terms of his superlative play. It is a shame that, because of his horrific offensive performance so far, he has been less than half a win above replacement level; otherwise, we would be hailing his defense a lot more.
Worst Performer: Logan Morrison
According to the statistics, Morrison has been everything we expected in terms of playing left field. UZR has him at -6.5 runs so far this season, on pace for a UZR/150 games of -17 runs. Among left fielders, only two players have rated worse in UZR (Juan Pierre and Raul Ibanez). Before the season, one of my biggest reasons for considering a change regarding Marlins All-Star Gaby Sanchez was that Morrison was more likely to be a part of the future of this organization, and his future was more likely to be successful playing first base rather than left field. So far, he has proven me correct, as his defense has diminished his strong performance at the plate.
Can Morrison improve? I’m sure it is possible. But if the Marlins want to win now, they need to maximize their resources, and Morrison simply is not maximized playing left field. He has already struggled for two seasons in a row and it has not helped that he suffered a listfranc foot sprain in the past. A long-term move to first base would be most beneficial, and the Marlins are currently blocked in that area. The team will continue to wait and see with Morrison in terms of his defense out there, but it will be difficult to ignore his problems in the outfield for too much longer.