As the first half comes to an end Marlins fans have to be happy. A team that lost 100 games last year and struggled mightily to score runs has turned things around. Giancarlo Stanton is making a legitimate case for league MVP and Casey McGehee has been unbelievably productive.
The other veteran additions have also contributed, Saltalamacchia has been streaky and Garret Jones at least gives the team some left handed power. But ultimately it has been a season about two players, both outfielders, both young, talented, gifted players.
One shows how being productive often isn’t the result of doing one thing well but doing many things above average. The other shows that consistency is hard to find but certain tools are so good that it makes patience a virtue.
Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna are the key to the future. Yelich and Ozuna aren’t just potential stars. At the writing of this article they are among the top 25 outfielders in baseball in fWAR.Although
I fully support the #VoteHitsMcGehee campaign I actually believe that Yelich and Ozuna are the two most deserving Marlins that were left off NL’s All Star game roster.
Marcell Ozuna in only his age 23 season is third in MLB with 1.3 dWAR and 11 defensive runs saved so far in 2014. Which makes Ozuna one of the premier defensive outfielders in baseball.
Advanced defensive stats have been notoriously unreliable in the short time they have existed and are often brought into question by fans, analysts and observers who doubt the value of analytics and the empirical study of baseball.
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Flawed or not the above table features lots of outfielders who are well regarded by the eye test and by common knowledge. Especially the top 2 Jason Heyward and Alex Gordon. Ozuna’s speed, range factor and arm strength make him an unmatched talent in the outfield. Especially playing his home games as he does in expansive Marlins Park.
The ability to protect the gaps as well as making the field smaller with his arm makes Ozuna an unparalleled presence in center field. Despite all of the hoopla surrounding Yasiel Puig Ozuna has a better dWAR (-0.7). DRS (-2) and ARM score than Puig 1.3 to 4.1. His time in left and right field also showed that although Ozuna is great at playing center he would be even better as a corner outfielder.
If Ozuna’s defense marks him as one of the better outfielders in baseball another one of this tools makes him even more unique his power. In 2014 he has a 17.9 HR/FB rate .189 ISO, 15 HR and .467 SLG. I mentioned in an earlier article that minor league career 20.5% HR/FB ratios and ISOs in the .200s in High A and AA in his age 20 and 21 seasons would likely convert to Ozuna panning out to be 25-30 homer guy in the majors.
This is evidenced b yOzuna’s home run to contact rate. Which were 6.1% and 6.4% in the minors and is at 6.5% this year after 350 plate appearances.
Ozuna is a special player although he does still have his faults and that is a product of his lack of experience. He strikes out too much and doesn’t walk enough. In 4 full minor league seasons Ozuna never struck less than 20% of the time or walked 10% of the time.
League average for OF in 2014 is 8.0/20.4 BB/K ration. Plate discipline comes with age and can be taught. What Ozuna has can’t be taught speed and power. No matter how little he walks or how much he strikes out if he can hit the ball out of the yard and hold down centerfield Ozuna will be on a major league roster in Miami or anywhere else.
If Ozuna is a testament to having two extraordinary tools Yelich is the best case for being a jack of all trades.
In 2014 the “Five Tool Player” label means less and less. Traditional scouting is being supplemented with quantitative analytics and empirical decision making. It is no longer enough to just “look the part” as Michael Lewis immortalized Billy Beane saying “we’re not selling jeans here.”
Talking about baseball players as a guy that will hit .300, smack 20 dingers and drive in 75 runs is no longer practical or advised by more and more of the baseball industry. Batting average is quickly being replaced by wOBA or OPS+, homers by ISO or HR/FB rate, RBI by BABIP and win probability added.
Every team in baseball today has to play “Moneyball” maybe not in the way or why the A’s had to in 2002 but the methodology still applies. The old stats lie or at the very least they obscure the truth. Adeiny Hechavarria is hitting .269, Christian Yelich is hitting .271 but what are their wOBAs their OPS+ and their WARs?
The objective is to score runs to score runs you must put hitters on base and advance them. Is there anyone from Miller Huggins, Branch Rickey, Bill James or me and you that would say that Adeiny Hechavarria and Christian Yelich have helped the Marlins equally in creating runs for them this season?
I made an extreme point to help me build my case in asserting Yelich’s value as the second best Marlin so far this season.
The Miami media seems to think that Yelich is a suboptimal solution for the Marlins hitting leadoff, so far this season Yelich in 331 PA has seen 70 full counts, seventy, which have resulted in 5 XBH, 21 walks and .514 OBP.
Put another way when an inning is more likely to start with a runner on and even in scoring position the team has a better chance to score a run. If getting on base isn’t a leadoff hitter’s job what is? Just because Yelich doesn’t look like Juan Pierre or Michael Bourn does that mean he can’t be a leadoff hitter in the Majors?
Remember, we’re not selling jeans here.
Value is best understood holistically much like the traditional five tools. Value can be best quantified by these skills
- Getting on base/ plate discipline – 348 OBP with a 10.6% walk rate and 20.8% strikeout rate.
- Power- .154 ISO, 7 HR, 16.7% HR/FB rate
- Speed 11/13 SB, 6 triples, great outfield range
- Defense. 1.4 dWAR, 7 DRS, 9.4 UZR/150
Yelich checks of all of the requirements. As opposed to Ozuna who relies exclusively on his power and defense skills Yelich is a jack of all trades a well-rounded player that can contribute in many different ways to a Marlins win.
After Gregory Polanco was called up there was a lot of talk about the Pirates having the best outfield in baseball. I don’t think it is ridiculous to say that the Marlins have one of the best and youngest outfields in baseball. Maybe even better than the Pirates vaunted triumvirate