Big trades, big payroll, big names. The buzz at the start of this season was that the Marlins had put together a team with pennant potential. At the end of September, the team finished in close contention for the bottom of baseball. Why?
Here at Marlin Maniac, there is a theory batted around that there were two areas that were the biggest contributors to the disappointing season: Hitting and relief pitching. Statistical regression from several key players contributed to some of the worst team offensive production in baseball, and Marlin relief pitching developed an ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with agonizing consistency.
This post will take a look at the Marlins’ hitting slump in 2012.
The Marlins’ struggle to capitalize on runners in scoring position was a key component of this year’s W-L record. At 609 total runs produced, the Marlins finished almost two hundred runs less than the Rangers, at 808; they were next to last in all of baseball, beating the Astros by only 26 runs. With men in scoring position, the Marlins’ OPS in 2012 was a dismal .679.
Individually, several of the players had terrible years. John Buck went 50 points off of his already borderline .242 career average. He registered only about half of the base hits typical for him in a season of baseball. Gaby Sanchez also dropped 50 points off of his average. Bright spots were Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Reyes, with Donovan Solano and Justin Ruggiano showing tremendous potential for next year.
A couple of things come to mind that bear consideration when trying to understand what needs to be fixed for next year. First, the Marlins have historically favored a flashy, power-hitting offense. With the deep fences of the new stadium, the team would be much better suited to develop a OBP-heavy roster, rather than the SLG-heavy team of years past. The obvious exception is Stanton. There isn’t a stadium built that he can’t dominate. Furthermore, manager Ozzie Guillen is an old-school small ball manager, well suited to the hit-and-run and base hitting game.
Another piece of the puzzle may be the hitting coach, Eduardo Perez. Since taking the job, team slash lines are at their lowest in ten years. The chart below shows the differences between Perez and his predecessor, John Mallee:
This isn’t to say that Perez needs to go, but to suggest that he might modify his approach to emphasize contact hitting rather than power hitting. The new ballpark would certainly reward a team that hit more singles and doubles to the gaps than long fly balls that would be round-trippers in another venue.
In summary, developing a high-OBP roster, and cultivating that capability via the hitting coach would go much farther toward a successful 2013 than making offseason trades for the Uptons and Hamiltons off of the free-agent market ever would.