Power outage cause for Marlins’ offensive ineptitude?
By Michael Jong
Remember the 2008 season? We had just traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis and the fans were already feeling bad for themselves coming off of a 71-91 season. The Marlins were looking bleak on the offensive side of the ball, losing their best hitter and potentially replacing him with a crew of journeymen including Jorge Cantu and Jose Castillo.
Well, it seemed like it turned out fine in the end. The Marlins scored a respectable 770 runs that season, led by a quartet of infielders who pounded over 25 home runs each that year. The team of Cantu, Mike Jacobs, Dan Uggla, and Hanley Ramirez belted a combined 125 home runs on their way to career years (Jacobs not included). The team averaged 4.75 runs per game, and all was good with the offensive world.
Two seasons later and the Marlins are struggling with a .500 record and floundering offense. The Fish are scoring just 4.49 runs per game this year, eighth in the National League but a far cry from the 4.7+ run averages the team had posted the last two seasons. Coinciding with that has come a curious power outage from quite a few of the team’s expected power sources, particularly Cantu, Ramirez, and Cody Ross. Could this outage be the cause of the team’s offensive struggles?
Here’s a table displaying the team’s offensive and home run output from 2008-2010.
These numbers suggest that power is not the reason the Fish have suffered a drop in scoring. Despite a seeming lack of power from key contributors like Ross and Ramirez, the Marlins have actually hit home runs at about the same pace as they did last season. While both the above mentioned players are knocking homers out at below their 2009 pace, the rest of the team is compensating. Having Gaby Sanchez and his 12 homers sure beats having Emilio Bonifacio and his one shot. With Cantu and Uggla keeping pace with 2009 rates, the team as a whole has been about even on home runs between 2009 and 2010.
However, as you can see from both the team wOBA and the run index (Runs scored per game / NL runs scored per game), the Marlins’ offense has clearly deteriorated. Furthermore, a lack of power certainly did not hurt the 2009 team, which posted a similar wOBA and better run index than the power-laden 2008 team. So what seems to be the problem? One look at the slash lines for the three seasons should give it away.
Basically, the 2010 Marlins are getting on base like it’s 2008 but driving the ball like it’s 2009, taking the worst of the two critical aspects of run scoring from each season. The result is a massively inferior offensive team which is struggling to put runs on the board. The Marlins’ ISO between last season (.148) and this season (.144) is essentially identical, meaning their power outputs are very similar. But that .256/.321 AVG/OBP looks awfully familiar to the 2008 version (.254/.326), except that it lacks the .179 ISO that all those homers provided in 2008.
The Marlins have also walked less this season than last year (8.0% BB% compared to 9.0%), but much of the difference lies in the batting average. The .268 AVG from 2009 was supported by a .316 BABIP, which ranked second in all of baseball. This year’s more modest .307 mark dropped the Marlins’ average and OBP enough to cause a significant run scoring problem.
So the problem is not so much a lack of power, something most of us can immediately see when we look at Ross or Ramirez. The Marlins are also simply hitting less than they were last season, and along with the decreased power (a factor both of regression in the case of Ramirez/Cantu and replacement in the case of Jacobs’ and Josh Willingham’s departures) has caused an extreme run-scoring drought. The Fish rank a fairly pathetic 20th in the league in wOBA, behind ten other National League teams. With the team’s fielding and pitching, that sort of production will not cut it.