Giancarlo is back. After starting this April with only one home run and a serious dip in his power numbers across the board, Stanton has returned to his regular self in May. So far he’s knocked out 11 homers to go along with a .324/.410/.735 (BA/OBP/SLG) slash line, and the month isn’t over yet. Although it took him longer than expected, Stanton has finally gotten going this year, and he appears to be back on track to hit somewhere around 40 home runs this year.
The main reason for Stanton’s recent success has been the uptick in HR/FB%. In April, only 6% if the fly balls he hit were home runs, while 30.3% have ended up as home runs in May. Stanton’s career HR/FB rate is 23.9%, and he was due for some positive regression towards his true skill level–some regression which he’s clearly taking advantage of.
The change in Stanton has not only been in home runs, however. He has also hit more than twice the amount of doubles in May (9) than he had in April (4), and his Isolated Slugging is up from .096 to .398.
Thanks to the data at TexasLeaguers, we can see visually the difference between the two months for Stanton.
With this graph, what becomes clear is not only did Stanton hit but one home run, but he really didn’t hit for very much power at all. Most of his hits here were singles (either to center or left), and only a few were even threatening fly balls. While not terrible, April was definitely below standard for Stanton, given what we’ve seen and come to expect from him.
On Wednesday night in Miami, the Marlins will open the 2012 season against the St. Louis Cardinals, to much anticipation and excitement. The game is scheduled to be nationally broadcasted on ESPN and will serve as the inauguration of new Marlins Park. Josh Johnson has been named the Marlins starter, but because the Cardinals’ ace Chris Carpenter is starting the season on the DL, on the mound for the reigning World Series champs will be the 33-year old Kyle Lohse.
In order for Marlins fans to be fully prepared for the righty come Wednesday night, here’s a scouting report with what’s to be expected from Lohse.
In last week’s edition, the Marlins’ newly acquired closer Heath Bell’s pitch selection and pitch values were examined using Pitch f/x data, courtesy of Texas Leaguers and Fangraphs. Next up is the team’s second offseason addition, Mark Buehrle.
Before I start on the analysis, try out these coupons for Marlin’s gear at Overstock
The former White Sox was targeted with the intent of bolstering the rotation, and signed as a free agent this December for $58 Million over four years. Like before, we’ve seen analysis of Buehrle’s signing and projections for him going forward (from the excellent Michael Jong of Fish Stripes), but today the focus is on what to expect from Buehrle on the mound–which pitches he has relied on the most, and what has been most effective for him.
As one of the two off-season additions to the Marlin’s pitching staff, fans can look forward to watching Heath Bell close out games in a Miami uniform next season. The three time All-Star and former Padre joined the team when he agreed to a three year, $27 million contract in December. While we’ve seen analysis of Bell as well as projections for him going forward (both from our good friends over at Fish Stripes), today we’ll examine Bell’s pitch selection and which part of his arsenal has been most effective using Pitch f/x data courtesy of Texas Leaguers.
Bell worked a successful 2011 with only three pitches: a four-seam fastball, curveball, and a sinker. While he had used the fastball and curve throughout his career, the sinker was a new addition that he had not previously thrown. In fact, before this season, Bell relied on a change-up and slider as off-speed pitches before ditching both and adopting the slider.
His fastball had average velocity of 93.8 in 2011, next to the likes of Matt Garza and Brandon Morrow (both also 93.8), and right in line with his career average fastball velocity of 94.2. Bell’s sinker also lit up radar guns this year with an average velocity of, coincidentally, 94.2–8th fastest among relievers–in his first year using the pitch. His curveball had an average velocity of 82.1 this season, ranking as one of the faster curves in the league. However, this was not a new development, as Bell’s curve has clocked in at an average of 82.2 throughout his career.
According to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, the Marlins are directing their attention toward Greg Dobbs, attempting to re-sign him. Dobbs is coming off his first year with the Fish, where he hit .275/.311/.389 in 439 plate appearances. He spent much of the season playing at third-base, while also seeing occasional action in the outfield. Although not nearly as exciting as some of the team’s other signings this off-season, the potential move would come as no surprise given the Marlins need for depth in the infield and the added benefit of having a “clubhouse leader” on the roster.
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With not much going on in the way of Marlins related news, it’s a good time to examine how players from the 2011 team fared in an interesting statistic called Power Factor, or PF for short.
Power Factor is a different way of measuring a player’s raw power, instead of the more common slugging percentage or ISO. The advantage of Power Factor is that it removes bias towards contact hitters–while the other two statistics do not–as Lewie Pollis explains at Beyond the Boxscore.
It should be noted that Power Factor isn’t a very good measure of a player’s overall hitting ability; if “hitting the ball hard” is the general key to extra-base hits, PF focuses only on “hard.” Given the choice between a player with a high PF and a hitter with a high ISO or SLG, you’d take the second guy (unless you were playing T-ball). The former is a more powerful hitter, but the latter is a better power hitter.
Sunday night, the Marlins finally created the big splash they had been expected to make all off-season by signing Jose Reyes to a 6-year deal worth $106 million. As new details continue to emerge, it seems that an option for a 7th year is part of the agreement as well. Fans who had been waiting nervously (and for some, skeptically) to see if the team was serious about increasing payroll could breath a sigh of relief.
While most of Miami couldn’t be happier with the news of the Reyes signing, Matt Dominguez, the Marlins third baseman of the future, is the odd-man out in all of the madness. He is almost assuredly not thrilled with the Marlins most recent move. Reyes and Hanley Ramirez are now primed to man the left side of the infield until at least 2016, and Dominguez appears to be without a role or a future with the Marlins.
For those who are unfamiliar with Dominguez, he spent the last four years in the Marlins minor league system playing third-base before getting called up late in the year when rosters expanded in September. The 2007 first round draft pick has been arguably the team’s top infield prospect, and he could be ready to move into the big leagues permanently sometime soon.
The main concern with the 23-year old Dominguez going forward is his hitting. Although he was never regarded as a great hitter, less than stellar performances in the minor leagues has led to some questioning whether he will ever be able to produce at the plate in the majors. He hit a combined .255/.325/.418 in the minors so far, while only a paltry .244/.292/.333 in his brief tenure with the Marlins.
Luckily for Dominguez, because of his impressive fielding at third base, he wouldn’t necessarily need to hit at an astounding rate to be valuable to his team. The always-great John Sickels gave his perspective on Dominguez earlier this year:
“If Dominguez can be even adequate with the bat, he’ll have a long career: his glove is excellent. He has a strong and accurate throwing arm, soft hands, and (although his outward athleticism isn’t exceptional) superior range. He anticipates with the best, and seems to come out of nowhere to make plays other third basemen don’t reach. Unlike many young infielders with flashy defensive skills, Dominguez is also reliable on routine plays and commits few mental mistakes. He is capable of winning Gold Gloves once he settles in.”
(The link will take you to his full breakdown of Dominguez, which is worth reading.)
Even if he doesn’t win Gold Gloves, his fielding at third would still be very valuable. A top tier defender like Dominguez is expected to be could save a team as many as 15 runs each season in comparison to a replacement level defender at third.
Although it is possible that Hanley makes the positional change to second base or centerfield, third base seems the most likely and logical destination for him, given the lack of depth at the position and his well below average defense at shortstop. However, whether he will embrace this new role and make the transition smoothly remains to be seen.*
In the case that Hanley were to refuse to move away from shortstop, Dominguez could be given the opportunity to win playing time out of spring training this season, or possibly next year after one more season of development in the Minor Leagues. But, realistically, the shortstop situation is going to be resolved one way or another (my gut feeling is that Hanley will resist the move initially, then make way for Reyes a few days later after fully considering the situation) and Dominguez will be left in the cold.
With his primary position on the Marlins already locked up for at least the next 6+ years, Dominguez makes for an interesting potential trade candidate. Having him spend the peak of his career in the Minor Leagues would be a waste. And while it’s unclear what kind of return the team could get for him, or if the team is even willing to deal him at this point, it would be in the Marlins best interest to seriously consider parting with Dominguez.
*No official word has been given yet from Hanley or his agent, but ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported Sunday night that Hanley has already agreed to shift to third base to make room for Reyes. Then again, Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post indicated Monday that Ramirez is “distraught” over the idea of changing positions, which would contradict Stark’s earlier report. At this point, neither rumor has been confirmed, and we are left only to speculate.
With payroll expected to jump to around $80 million, the Marlins are now looking like serious spenders in this year’s off-season. They have been linked to some of the biggest name free agents on the market, and seem intent about signing one, if not more, to their new home in Miami. While this certainly isn’t a bad sign, whether they can turn extra payroll dollars into production on the field remains to be seen. And to do just that, the front office will have to target players who specifically fit this team’s needs. One of which, possibly the most critical of all, is at third base. Below is one of possible free agents the Marlins could realistically sign or promote to fill that void–I’ll continue with more players in ensuing posts–with the benefits and downfalls of each different route.
Jose Reyes-Any discussion of infielders in this year’s free agent class is going to begin, and end, with Jose Reyes. The four time All-Star shortstop, 2011 NL batting champ, and now former New York Met is officially a free agent. If the Marlins are able to sign him, the benefits are obvious. His 6.2 fWAR highlights his outstanding season this year, which was the result of a .337/.384/.493 triple-slash line. Reyes’ speed on the basepath would also be a welcome addition to the top of the lineup. In 2011, he barely missed the 40-steal plateau, finishing with 39. With this in mind, what makes Reyes’ value (6.2 fWAR) even more impressive is the fact he was only able to play in 126 games. Extend his pace out to a full season, and he easily could have finished with an fWAR above 8–if he did, we could easily be talking about Jose Reyes, the 2011 NL MVP.
However, Durability is a legitimate concern with Reyes. His stint on the DL this year was not the first time (it was actually his fifth, for those who are wondering) in his career. The Marlins would have to take the risk that his legs stay healthy, and that he is finally behind his past injury concerns.
Two years ago, the Marlins best player was without a doubt Hanley Ramirez. He was coming off back-to-back fantastic seasons, and was runner-up in the National League MVP voting. Not to mention, at only 25 years old, he was only beginning to enter his prime. Hanley’s performance certainly made it easy for fans and media alike to acclaim him as the face of the franchise, as they should have. Back then, Mike Stanton was but a 19-year old playing in double-A ball. Now, however, the picture is not so clear, and there is no easy answer to the question of whom, of the two players, was, and will be, the better player.
After posting two 7+ Wins Above Replacement seasons, expectations were high for Ramirez coming into 2010. As we all know, things have spiraled downward. Some causes for the dip in production, such as injuries, have been the result of bad luck. Others have criticized him for not hustling on the field, as well as the apparent lack of leadership he has displayed (or, rather, has not displayed). I’m sure the majority of fans have heard this told far too many times, so I won’t reiterate the topic further.
Stanton, on the other hand, burst onto the scene last June as one of the youngest players in the game. He has since responded by hitting 56 Homeruns, and posting 7.3 Wins Above Replacement in just under 1000 plate appearances.
Hanley’s career numbers obviously trump Stanton’s (as Ramirez will be entering his 7th full season to Mike’s third), but the statistics from their first two seasons are comparable. Using these numbers, over at Marlin Maniac, Ehsan Kassim makes his case supporting Hanley Ramirez. While I have the utmost respect for Kassim, unfortunately I can’t agree with his method of reasoning in this case. In his post, the author cites statistics from both players first two years in the MLB.
Here are the numbers he uses in defense of that statement
|First Two Seasons:||PA||AVG||OBP||SLG||wOBA||WAR|
While Ramirez holds an edge in those numbers, I think it would be rash to go as far as Kassim does, when he says
“Hanley’s first two seasons completely blow Stanton’s first two seasons out of the water. There is really no comparison between the two.”
Firstly, the statistics are not as pro-Ramirez as they may seem. The three win difference at the right end of the column can be almost entirely explained by the 400+ more At-Bat’s Hanley had in the two years. If Stanton’s WAR is extended to 1406 AB’s (as many as Ramirez), his WAR would be identical to Hanley’s, at 10.3. The OBP and wOBA both are comparable, Stanton leads in Slugging, and Ramirez has the edge in Batting Average. Still, nothing here that would justify calling Hanley’s first two seasons that much better than Stanton. Honestly, a case could be made that Stanton actually played better during his first two years, especially if one is looking for a player with power.
Secondly, and more importantly, is the difference between the ages of the two when they played their first two years. After a brief call-up in the September of 2005, Ramirez played his first two full seasons during 2006 and 2007. During his first season Hanley was 22 years old. In contrast, Stanton played his first year in the Big Leagues at age 20. Here is where Stanton separates himself from Ramirez. Essentially, he produced at the same level Hanley did in his first two seasons, but Stanton did it while he was two years younger.
In essence, Kassim compared Hanley’s performance from ages 22-23 to Stanton’s production at ages 20-21. The two years of extra development and more experience would be another advantage that Hanley had, but Stanton did not. In this situation, Stanton is certainly going to be at a significant disadvantage, and it would be more prudent to withhold judgment of “who had the better first two seasons” until after Stanton’s 23rd birthday, where a comparison can be made while looking at performances compiled at similar ages.
Along with comparisons through each player’s first two seasons, fans have been divided over whom will be the team’s better player going forward. To which, we simply don’t know. Will Hanley ever be healthy again? Will Stanton continue to develop as a player, or has he already reached his peak? With as many questions and variables as there are surrounding the two players, we won’t be able to make conclusion regarding “who will be the better player” until at least after 2012 is well underway.
The opening of a new stadium and a new city are certainly going to usher in a different era of baseball in Florida. However, before anyone can forget the 2011 Marlins, it’s worthwhile to award the team’s end-of-season trophies to the deserving players. Last week we examined the Marlins MVP for this past season. The winner, which should come as no surprise, was Mike Stanton. Now, it’s time to recognize the most valuable pitchers from the team in 2011 by handing out the ‘Cy Young’ award. Note: These awards are not part of the BBWAA, they are solely my opinion.
The Winner: Anibal Sanchez 3.67 ERA 3.35 FIP 3.8 fWAR
Sanchez, a 27-year old righty, has taken some big steps forward this year. Although his ERA and fWAR were slightly better last year, the 2011 version of Sanchez was very much improved. He struck out almost exactly two more batters per nine innings this year (9.26 vs. 7.25) , while also cutting down on how many walks he allowed (2.93 vs. 3.23).The reason his ERA or fWAR can be misleading is because these statistics don’t include his Homerun/Flyball rates in their calculations. In 2010, Sanchez benefited from the fact that an extremely low number of flyballs hit against him turned into home runs. While pitchers do have some control over whether flyballs hit against them become outs or home runs, there is a lot of luck and randomness involved. Not surprisingly, this year his HR/FB rate was back around league average at 10.4%.
Regardless of his HR/FB rate, Sanchez has been the Marlins best pitcher this season. He led the team in ERA, FIP, fWAR, as well as in xFIP among the team’s starters who threw at least 80 innings. His 8-9 Win/Loss record doesn’t do him justice, but I think Marlins fans could recognize his record was not an accurate reflection of his performance.
Without the team’s superstar, Josh Johnson, for most of the year, Sanchez was the Marlins most valuable pitcher. He put together a solid season, and if he can continue to improve like he did this year, he may present a threat to Johnson as the team’s “ace” next year, as well as further down the road.
The Runner-up: Javier Vazquez 3.69 ERA 3.57 FIP 3.2 fWAR
Strictly according to fWAR, Ricky Nolasco was actually ahead of Javier Vazquez by .3 of a “win.” However, that number is such a small difference that it is relatively insignificant. Instead, I went with Vazquez for a combination of a few different reasons. According to ERA and FIP, Vazquez fared slightly better, and he also struck out about one batter per nine innings more than Nolasco (7.57 vs. 6.47). Not to mention the impressive 25-inning scoreless streak Javier went on towards the end of the season, which helped me to make a decision between the two. Anyhow, between these pitchers, either one is a very legitimate choice. You could certainly make a case for Nolasco, on the basis of his very unlucky BABIP of .331, which, if regressed to league average would make his numbers look much better. To further that support that claim, Vazquez’s stats could also be regressed to a more luck-nuetral environment-he was quite lucky with only a .279 BABIP against him. However, while both were quality starters, Vazquez was a bit more impressive, which is why he is the Runner-up.
All data is from FanGraphs.