Miami Marlins Position Review: First Base Grades

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Sep 8, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Miami Marlins first baseman Garrett Jones (46) hits a solo home run in the second inning as Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (20) watches at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 3, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins first baseman Garrett Jones (46) connects for a base hit during the fifth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Marlins Ballpark. The Marlins won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Garrett Jones – D+

During the offseason of 2014, the Miami Marlins made some radical changes surrounding the first base position. This has been a recurring experience for Marlins fans for many years. This year we watched fan favorite, yet baseball lacking, Logan Morrison head to Seattle while the front office put their faith in Pittsburgh Pirate cast-off Garrett Jones.

On the surface, a platoon with the left-handed Jones doesn’t seem like a bad proposition, if that is what Miami had done with Jones. Instead they trotted him onto the field for 146 games, and to his defense, he delivered exactly what he has in his entire career.

Let’s get to some of the statistics. Jones finished as the 19th best first baseman in terms of WAR, posting a 0.2 according to Fangraphs.com. He slashed .246/.309/.411 in 547 plate appearances. He managed 15 home runs, 11 of which were solo-shots, 53 RBI’s, 59 runs scored, and struck out approximately 4,297 times with runners in scoring position (I kid, I kid). He did manage to lower his strikeout rate by a couple of percentage points (21.2%) and raise his walk rate by a point (8.4%).

Where Garrett Jones really stood out was his defense, or lack thereof. He posted a -12.0 fielding stat, which is to say that he was 12 points below average. Historically, first baseman struggle in that category, but when compared with other first baseman, Jones was in the bottom half. It wasn’t just the advanced metrics that saw Jones struggle. He affectionately earned the nickname “Clank” from the writers here with his propensity to boot ground balls, and I have already gone on the record discussing his stretch technique.

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In reality, it is tough for me to really come down on Jones when he performed exactly the way his career has suggested he would. This is more of an indictment of the Marlins front office and manager Mike Redmond than it is of Garrett Jones. Jones would have been much more effective if he had only faced right-handers, and the stats back that up.

His batting average was almost 30 points higher against righties. He hit all of his home runs, I repeat, all 15 of his home runs against the right side. He struck out more than 20% of the time that he faced a lefty. He had 3 RBI’s all season against lefties. It wasn’t pretty.

Justin Bour – Incomplete

When Giancarlo Stanton went down with his injury that ended his season, Jones was shifted into right field, and it gave the Marlins a good opportunity to check out Justin Bour at first base. The early results were  promising as Bour continued to do what he did in the minor leagues, rake. His power numbers weren’t apparent, but a .361 OBP in 131 plate appearances were a good indicator that Bour may be a better lefty than Jones. With Bour’s limited action, i can’t give him any more than an incomplete grade, but I have high hopes for Bour.

Aug 24, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Miami Marlins first baseman Jeff Baker (10) rounds third on his way to score in the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Baker – B-

To discuss Jeff Baker, we have to take a look at what his noted strengths and weaknesses were coming into this season. Baker has had a well-earned reputation of being someone who hits lefties extremely well, and really struggles against righties. In essence, he is the perfect complement to Garrett Jones. Unfortunately for Baker he inexplicably received almost half of his plate appearances against righties.

Some of his playing appearances came as a second baseman, but it is inexcusable to not know your players strengths and weaknesses, or if you do know, to not deploy them in the best situation to succeed. Baker’s splits against righties and lefties were even more pronounced than Jones’.

Baker hit .264/.307/394 on the season, but he only hit .191 against righties, while hitting .319 against lefties. Again, wouldn’t it have made more sense to bat Baker in Jones’ place against lefties? Maybe that is too obvious. Baker didn’t provide much in terms of power, only mustering 3 home runs to go along with 27 runs and 28 RBI’s in the spacious Marlins Park.

So why would I give Baker a B-? I believe that Baker, more than Jones, did exactly what he was brought in to do. He hit left-handed pitching. It isn’t his fault that Redmond only gave him 130 plate appearances against lefties. Baker can’t tell Redmond to put him into the game, although he probably should have at times.

Instead, Baker was a passible pinch-hitter and occasional platoon player. Baker gave the Marlins the flexibility to provide a few different looks in various infield positions and earned his value in 2014.

What do you think about these grades? Let the discussion begin in the comments below!

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