Miami Marlins are 29th on ESPN MLB Analytics Rankings
Apr 29, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez (16) throws the ball against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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The contradiction is not necessarily the lack of analytics, it’s the Marlins inherent belief in the “eye test.” The Marlins track record in believing in the eye test and traditional scouting over the past few years has led to some truly disconcerting decision making as well as some great successes. Let’s start on the negative end of the spectrum. The end of the Larry Beinfest era was dominated by what some may call some very questionable draft picks contrasted by a couple would-be superstars. The thing is that with the eye test alone the Marlins drafted Kyle Skipworth and Matt Dominguez but on the other hand also signed Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez.
I understand what Marlins scouts and personnel saw in Skipworth: a big left-handed power-hitting catcher who had all the tools behind the plate. Skipworth coming out of high school definitely projected to be a Matt Wieters type, a supremely athletic catcher with legitimate power. The player they got slashed .215/.279/.383 in over 2000 minor league at-bats. The power was there as he hit 82 career minor league homers, but he lacked in virtually all other areas. He struck out way too much and didn’t walk nearly enough. In short Skipworth was one tool player that unsurprisingly failed to develop any others and therefore failed to even have more than a cafecito with the big club.
The opposite example is when the eye test is so undeniable, so clear that analytics is completely unnecessary in decision-making. Such was the case with Jose Fernandez. It doesn’t take a sabermetric brain trust to figure out that this could be a legitimate Major League pitcher. Just by perusing his Max Preps page (with the least bit of an educated eye coupled with any scouting experience it was easy to see that Fernandez would have a future in the majors.)