Miami Marlins Season Review: Hech of a Season!

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Next on our or trip around the Miami Marlins diamond we’ll make a stop at the 6 spot, more commonly known as short stop. This is one of the few positions where the Miami got consistent production, from multiple players.

If you go over to Fangraphs and take a look at the SS leader-board for the Marlins, then set the plate appearances requirement to its lowest point, you see that there are three players who manned the position for the Fish in 2015, Adeiny Hechavarria, Miguel Rojas, and Donovon Solano.

We will discuss the latter two but since Hech ate up the lion share of the playing time this season, it seems logical to start with him.

Coming into this season Hech was one of the strangest oddities in baseball.

Blessed with quickness, great hands, and a strong-arm, essentially all the traits you could ever ask for from a SS, he was still somehow a below average defender, by all the metrics. Posting a -8.9 DRS over his first two seasons, he may not have even been below average, those numbers suggest he was downright bad. It’s one of the most extreme examples of the eye test and advanced stats not linking up in recent history.

Well after this season that’s all over. Hech had a positive 15.8 DRS this past year, good for second in the league behind only Andrelton Simmons.

So what happened?

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It’s possible he suddenly got better, familiarity and comfort on the major league level relaxed him and allowed for better defensive play. The margin of improvement is so wide that this is highly unlikely, but worth mentioning because it’s possible.

Another possibility is that the poor ratings were simply statistical variance that finally evened out in 2015. This kind of thing happens with Saber-metrics from time to time, especially defensive ones. Small sample size can make crazy things show up in the data, for example a player who hits a Home Run on opening day is technically on pace for 162 over the course of the season. It’s the same concept with DRS and UZR, it’s just the stabilization point is far more vague and takes longer to reach.

Both those are possible, and probably each played a role, but the most likely cause has to do with the way Hech has been positioned this year.

In seasons prior the Fish had him play everyone essentially straight up, meaning he’d stay in the same position whether the batter was a south or north paw. Since most hitters are far more likely to pull the ball, this doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Every shortstop in the league cheats to the pull side (unless it’s a push batter at the plate, which is rare and usually very well known), This season Hech did as well and it’s been reflected in his defensive metrics.

On offense it was a different story. Posting a .281/.315/.374 and a 4.2% walk rate, Hech has a similar profile to Dee Gordon, just without the speed and the spray ability.

Turns out that’s not a very good hitter as Hech produced an 86 wRC+ over the course of the season. Still, with the lack of shortstops who can hit in the league right now that was good for 17th among those with 400 plate appearances, acceptable if the defense remains as stellar as it’s been.

On to Miguel Rojas, who saw major action as a fill in, once Hech got hurt late in the season.

The book on Rojas is simple, smooth fielding defensive specialist, the kind of guy you want on your bench as a utility infielder or late game defensive replacement (especially if your other short stop is Hanley Ramirez, as was the case when Rojas was with the Dodgers) but hope to god you don’t have to start him.

This book held true in 2015 as he produced a 4.1 Def WAR while posting a -2.1 Off WAR. That negative offensive impact came despite easily the best month of his career in September, which feature a likely unsustainable wRC+ of 108. Rojas remains one of the more useful defensive specialists in the game, as long as he’s on your bench and not in the starting lineup.

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Finally Donovan Solano. There isn’t much to say about Solano, he received only 94 plate appearances in 2015 and yet managed to rack up a full -1.0 WAR. That’s impressive ineptitude.

At this point being a rarely used utility infielder is beyond his abilities, if you see Solano (either of them) in 2016, something has either gone horribly wrong, or Samson is trolling us again, either way demand a refund on your ticket.

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Next: Season Review: Second Base

Next: Season Review: First Base

Next: Season Review: Catcher

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