Miami Marlins: MLB Could Fix the Team Out Of Their Defense
Whether you are a fan of the Miami Marlins or some other team, much of the off-season has focused on dramatic rule changes coming to the game of baseball.
Mercifully, of those major changes, only the intentional walk modification has passed so far. But that hasn’t stopped MLB from passing their regular allotment of updates and tweaks, the same as they do every season.
Ultimately, I would argue that it is one of those minor updates and tweaks that should be of the greatest concern to fans of the Miami Marlins.
Rob Manfred and Friends might have just fixed the Marlins right out of a key component of their defensive philosophy, and tried a time-tested tool out of the hands of the club’s defensive guru.
Released on March 2 by the MLB Communications office, the full spate of new or revised rules can be seen below.
MLB New or Revised Rules – 2017 Regular Season
The well-documented and oft-discussed intentional walk rule leads off. There’s a lot of stuff on replay. The first four are all about speeding things up, almost as if the commissioner’s office is under the impression baseball is too slow or something.
Don’t hop on one foot and then another on a Tuesday, don’t have base coaches stand too close to the players because it confuses the cameraman.
Alright, I might be paraphrasing a few of these.
But that fifth bullet point- that’s the doozy folks. Because that directly impacts the Miami Marlins own Perry Hill, known as Bone to his players, and as possibly the best infield coach in the business to everyone else in the game.
In his twelve years with the organization, the Fish have fielded Top 15 defensive squads seven times. That stretch of work includes five Top 10 finishes, with three teams even cracking the Top 5; the past two seasons were Top 10 efforts. The man knows his stuff. However, his stuff centers upon a key secret.
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Hill routinely uses marks to direct his players.
In the past, he’s been praised for it. Doing things the old-fashioned way in an age where analytics and advanced computers are just as important to coaches as anything else in their tool bag.
Just last year, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times waxed poetically about the man who’s been coaching up defenders for nearly thirty years.
Back in 2014, Phil Rogers of MLB.com did a write up focusing exclusively on Hill’s peculiar drills and mantras, chronicling how he’s been teaching big leaguers the same lessons for longer than the Marlins have existed as a franchise.
How about we go back to 2009, and consult this article Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette penned on the Gold Glove pedigree of the Pirates new infield coach?
The story is the same in every case. Players love him. He gets results.
And he makes a bunch of little marks on the field before every game, unless the team is at home, in which case the marks come preinstalled.
It’s no exaggeration. I’ve been fortunate enough to take in a lot of road Marlins series over the years, and there are always two constants during warmups. First, everyone stops what they’re doing and watches with wonder when Giancarlo Stanton takes his swings during batting practice. The second though is at some point Perry Hill will hustle out and make those marks.
Certainly, there’s been more to his success than just some color by number formula. He works on technique extensively, preaches fundamentals. He’s also had some immensely talented athletes. For those of you who aren’t prepared to give much credit to coaching. Dee Gordon won nearly every defensive award imaginable in 2015, and he’s probably not even the third best middle infielder Hill has had under his tutelage.
So will this rule change have a noticeable impact on the Miami Marlins? With the same infield returning, one would hope that the lessons have stuck and the unit has gelled to the point that it’s a nonfactor. Or, if you’ll pardon the pun, maybe I’ve missed the mark entirely on this being a factor at all.
Next: Who Had The Best, Worst First Week In Camp?
Only time will truly tell the tale, as evaluating defense fairly is a season long story. But if the errors start adding up, if the fielding percentage starts dropping, if those defensive runs saved we’ve seen in past seasons start disappearing as the range of the infield seemingly starts to shrink, feel free to start blaming the commissioner’s office.