Jun 29, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Marcell Ozuna (48) connects for a two run RBI triple during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
2013 Marlins: June Team Review
Part I: The Offense
After an abysmal May, that was somehow even worse than a seemingly deplorable April it was easy for Marlins to despair and to think that there was no light at the end of the tunnel. But June came along and it was so surprising, I still can’t believe it actually happened. As the Marlins closed the month of May they had a 14-41 record and had won all of six games in that month. May was rock bottom for the team, Kevin Slowey was struggling, Tom Koehler replaced Wade LeBlanc, Steve Cishek couldn’t close a game. If the pitching was struggling, the hitting had completely disappeared. In May, to say the offense was struggling is an understatement. Below are the Marlins key offensive team stats for May.
The main culprits for this low of a level of run creation for the Marlins can be traced to three main factors: The absence of Giancarlo Stanton from the lineup, the lack of offensive production from the corner infield positions and the inability of Marlins catchers to contribute to the offense. The main starters at first base, third base and catcher in the month of May was Rob Brantly with 51 PA, Greg Dobbs with 91 PA and Placido Polanco with 107 PA.
In May the Marlins totaled 1 combined home run and -2 WAR from their catchers, first basemen and third basemen. Again it is important to note that the concept of WAR implies that if any AAA players was called up and “replaced” an injured Major League starter he would at “replacement level;” 0 WAR. In May the three above positions were worse than notional idea of replacement level, no wonder the Marlins struggled to create runs.
The injury to Giancarlo Stanton hurt the team in a way that is much harder to quantify. Stanton adds “depth” to the lineup, meaning that the bad players can hit lower in the lineup and the players batting in front of Stanton have a better chance of scoring if they get on base. Having somebody as intimidating as Stanton in the middle of the lineup can be a definite boon to any team, no matter how good or how bad. This was manifested in the Marlins case throughout May when two rookies and raw rookies at that, Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich were forced to bat 3 and 4 in the Marlins lineup. It is unfair to criticize Mike Redmond for making that decision, at the time it was the configuration that gave the Marlins the best chance to win. All parties involved, the players, Red, management, the media and the fans knew it was a temporary stopgap until Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison returned from injury sometime in June.
If May was the bottom then June is a glimpse into the future and the first rung up into the ladder of respectability and later, hopefully contention. Keep in mind the above May offensive team stats when reading the below June stats.
Every single one of the offensive stats improved from May to June, with the most marked increases of nearly 1.5 runs per game scored, 83 OPS points and nearly 3 WAR. This can most easily be attributed to the return of LoMo and Stanton to the lineup, but what can’t be underestimated is how much better Brantly and Mathis hit in June and the effect of Ed Lucas being called up to Major League club.
In June the offensive turnaround can be easily attributed to Stanton and LoMo returning, but that undervalues the importance of a better hitting catching platoon as well as the unexpected rise of Ed Lucas as an everyday Major League third baseman.
Lucas and Polanco have been truly lucky to be batting second in the Marlins order in June. Marlins 3B have the fifth most runs scored in the month of June, behind teams like the Red Sox, Tigers and Cardinals, truly elite offensive teams. Lucas and Polanco combined for 1 WAR compared to the nearly negative 1 WAR of the month before. The Marlins still have a deep power deficit at third base, but at least Lucas and Polanco have shown that they can get on base in front of Stanton and LoMo.
Brantly and Mathis together are nearly an adequate, mediocre Major League catcher. Mathis has shown surprising extra base power recently and in June Brantly has been getting on base at a decent clip. Catcher is not the most important offensive position on the field, at catcher much like the other position “up the middle” one can sacrifice some offense for plus defense and game-calling. Jeff Mathis is a great defensive catcher who is an offensive liability and the moment Brantly is both a poor defensive catcher and needs to work on his approach at the plate. Although in June he has shown signs of what he may become, a poor man’s Nick Hundley.
Arguably the biggest difference for the Marlins lineup in June besides the return of Stanton and the surprising skill that Ed Lucas has shown is the return of Logan Morrison to the Marlins. Morrison in only 54 PA in June has shown as much power and patience as we expected from him. LoMo since his return has been credible protection for Stanton in front of him as well as being key to keeping innings alive. Morrison has been key to keeping the Marlins offense afloat and giving opportunities for Ozuna and Dietrich to drive in runs for the Marlins. It is undeniable that a Marlins lineup where Stanton and Morrison are hitting third and fourth gives them the best chance to win. I could easily spend another paragraph talking about the importance of Stanton’s return to the lineup, but that would be wasting my time and yours, we all know how good he is.
We will have part two, covering the Marlins starting pitching for the month of June later today.