Miami Marlins Manager Needs to Take a Page out of Miami Heat’s Erik Spolestra’s Playbook


Apr 17, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra in the second half of a game against the Orlando Magic at the American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 105-93. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Too many times teams and managers become fixated on the statistical results of what went on during a game and ignore the process that led to the outcome. Spencer Schneier wrote an article on Beyond the Box Score last week dealing with how offensive statistics can be overrated, if you measure them with the results, instead of the process. Here is a little snippet of what he had to say:

"A double comes in many forms. A blooper, a blast in the gap, a slow roller down the line that turns into a “hustle double,” and even a ground-rule double. All of these are considered equal when evaluating a hitter, but should they be?When a batter steps up to the plate, his ultimate goal is to make hard contact. The successes and failures of a hitter should be based on the kind of contact they made, not whether or not the fielders were able to reach it or not. My argument is as follows: offensive statistics, as they are commonly used, are flawed because they do not paint an honest picture of the contribution of the hitter.Take, for example, the following two plays. In the first video, we see Jedd Gyorko hit a bloop double that ends up crediting him with an extra-base hit, while in the following play we see Mike Napoli robbed of an extra-base hit by Colby Rasmus and ultimately get penalized for the at-bat."

This article got me thinking about how Marlins fans should track the growth of the team through the precision of how they reach a final result, as opposed to just looking at the final result.

For example, if Adeiny Hechavarria hits a hard liner that a defensive player makes phenomenal catch on with runners in scoring position, Marlins fans should credit Hech with a strong AB and look at that at-bat as an unlucky one. If Adeiny can continue hitting the ball like he did in that at-bat, hits and runs should follow for the Marlins. More often than not, a hard hit ball will find somewhere to land for a hit.

If Greg Dobbs barely makes contact and bloops a single to right and drives in a run, while the run is more than welcome, Dobbs should take the result, but work on making more contact in his next at-bat. The less contact a hitter generates, the less likely he is to pick up a hit.

Mike Redmond can seek Heat coach for advice

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spolestra has a phenomenal philosophy he employs with the NBA Champion Heat that focuses on the process instead of the final result. Coach Spo is known to want the Heat to take smart shots, closer to the hoop. He would prefer superstars Dwyane Wade and Lebron James getting to the basket rather than making low percentage jump shots.

Erik stresses to his championship team that they need to “build good habits.”  Marlins manager Mike Redmond needs to take these words and heed the message to his own team.

What Good Habits Can the Marlins Build On?

For the Marlins batters, it starts with the following hitting categories:

  • On Base Percentage
  • Walk Rate
  • Strikeout Rate

A statistic that the Marlins should focus more on than batting average would be the teams on base percentage. If the team can work counts and get on base via the walk, the team will provide itself more opportunities to see more pitches from the pitcher and better pitches to hit later in the game. Currently, the Marlins sit second to last in on base percentage (.279) in the National League. The Marlins currently sit 11th (7.7%)  in the National League in their walk rate.

With the team already struggling to pick up hits, not forcing walks will also be detrimental to the team, as pitchers can have quicker innings and work deeper into games.

Something that the Marlins lineup has done well to this point in the season is avoiding the strikeout. Marlins hitters have a strikeout percentage of just 16.4%, the second best in the National League. Putting the ball in play provides obviously provides a better chance of getting runners on base.

If the team’s hitters can focus on these three aspects and improve that in their game, no matter the results, the team should be pleased with the outcome, as it shows the hitters developing a good habit that should make them better in the long haul.

On the pitching side, the Marlins need to focus on the following:

  • increasing strikeouts
  • limiting walks
  • inducing ground ball outs

In terms of striking out hitters, the Marlins are the second worst in the NL. The number one key to a pitchers success usually deals with the number of strikeouts the hitter can get. If a pitcher can strikeout hitters at a high clip, they do not need to worry about what their defense does behind them. They are less prone to fielding errors and unlucky bloopers falling in.

Of course, striking hitters out does not insure success for a pitcher. The other key for a pitcher is to avoid walks. Walking a hitter not only increases the pitchers pitch count, it also adds unnecessary base runners. Pitchers tend to pitch better when there are no base runners and they can work a quick inning. The clubs walk percentage sits as the fourth worst in the NL.

Lastly, the Marlins pitching staff needs to induce ground balls. Yes, the Marlins pitch in a humongous ballpark that tends to suppress home runs. This however does not change the fact that a pitcher with a better ground ball rate is still less susceptible to the long ball then a fly ball pitcher.

If the Marlins pitchers can follow these three processes to a tee, the results should follow. The process over results method is something that NBA championship coach Erik Spolestra has applied to his team. While the Marlins lack the talent that the Miami Heat possess, it does not mean the team cannot benefit to learn from them.

A championship team is one built on a team that has developed good habits and avoids the pitfalls of falling in love with the results. Instead, the teams focus their time on the process that leads to good results.