2011 has been a long, frustrating, and disappointing year for both Marlins players and fans. If you have been following the team this year, even remotely, you don’t need me to confirm that. Thankfully, the season is over and now we have time to take a look at some of the bright spots from the year that was. One way to do just that is by awarding the end-of-season trophies. Today we will start with the Most Valuable Player honors, and then continue from there. Note: These awards are not part of the BBWAA, they are solely my opinion. Also, only position players were considered for the MVP. Yes, that’s right Justin Verlander. Pitchers will be considered for the Marlins Cy Young, which I’ll post sometime next week.
The MVP Winner: Mike Stanton (.262/.356/.537 4.5 fWAR)
No surprise here, Stanton has been without a doubt the Marlins best player all season. His team-leading 34 HR’s have helped him put up a very impressive .537 Slugging, to go along with a decent On-Base Percentage (.356) and Batting Average (.262). For those who can’t stand using AVG, his wOBA is .378. To put these numbers into perspective, his wRC+ is 138 (The links will take you to their Fangraphs description). In this statistic, a 100 is league average. His 138 means Stanton created 38% more runs offensively than league-average (!). Again, this is nothing groundbreaking, but I think Stanton’s excellence can never receive enough recognition.
Along with his offensive prowess, Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton has also been a valuable defender in right field. According to the Fielding Bible, Stanton saved 11 more runs this season compared t0 the average right fielder. Which is to be expected from the fantastic all-around athlete that Mike Stanton is. Another defensive metric, UZR, also thinks highly of him. His UZR/150 scores rate that he has been worth an average of 7.5 more runs each year than the normal outfielder through his first two seasons in the big leagues. For what it’s worth, defensive metrics are still very much an inexact science, so take these stats with a grain of salt. Also, the difference between the two mentioned scores for Stanton are just results of different methods of calculating defensive “value.” No matter which statistics you prefer, the general point is clear that Stanton has been a very solid outfielder.
Considering the year Stanton has had, both at the plate and in the field, it’s no surprise he is the team’s MVP this year. The fact that he turns 22 next month only makes the numbers more impressive. If Big Mike, as he is fondly called, continues to develop and improve as expected, the award may very well become a Mike Stanton dynasty of sorts. Barring a blockbuster trade, or the signing of a marquee free agent this winter, the fiercest competition next year for Stanton looks to be from Hanley Ramirez.
In fact, coming into this season, the majority of fans were expecting Hanley to be the team’s go-to-guy. Fast forward to now, however, and it has been Stanton who has taken on that role, while Hanley battled through an under whelming year (1.3 fWAR) before a shoulder injury ended his season in September.
The Runner-up: Gaby Sanchez .266/.352/.427 3.0 fWAR
While Sanchez wasn’t a world-beater, he was a key part of the Marlins lineup this year. Offensively, he was solid across the board, with the exception of hitting for less power than expected from a first baseman. His .779 OPS ranked on the team behind Stanton and Logan Morrison, to go along with a 113 wRC+. However debatable the merits of RBI’s are, it’s worth noting that Sanchez was second among Marlins with 78 runners driven in.
Defensively, the 28-year-old Sanchez was great. His 5 runs saved above average according to UZR ranked 6th among all first basemen. Sanchez’s durability is also worth recognition. He appeared in 159 of the Marlins games, which ranks first on the team. Whether Sanchez is especially durable, or it was purely luck that he avoiding any serious injuries this year cannot be said. Either way, the fact the he played almost every day over the course of a 162-game season is impressive.
Honorable Mentions: Emilio Bonifacio .296/.360/.393 3.3 fWAR and Logan Morrison .237/.330/.468 1.0 fWAR
Bonifacio had a very productive season at the plate, and his fWAR is actually higher than Sanchez’s (3.3 vs. 3.0). However, the lack of power-.097 ISO-and the added benefit of luck-.372 BABIP- kept me from giving Bonifacio the nod as runner-up.
For Logan Morrison, the two issues I had were his defense and that he played in only 123 games. Playing most of the time in left field, Morrison accumulated a terrible -13.1 runs saved (in this case 13.1 allowed) below average. For UZR to be more reliable, we will need more data to see if this number regresses towards average, or if the small sample size is correct and Morrison is actually that awful in the field. Regarding the fact that Morrison only appeared in 123 games, I just don’t think he was more “valuable” than Sanchez was over 159 games, and his lower fWAR shows just that. But, he was a very productive hitter when he did play, and if he had played a full season, it may well have been Morrison who would have earned the Runner-up award.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a piece on John Buck, and his season to date. The post focused mainly on his offensive output this past year, but I also included a paragraph regarding the 31-year old’s defense. I wrote that Buck is defensively “a bit below-league average.” As it turns out, I may have been too kind in that assessment.
Coincidentally, the day after my post went online, Mike Fast published his excellent article concerning catchers defense. For those who haven’t already read it, I highly recommend checking it out. In the article, Fast quantified the long mysterious and sought after effects of catchers ability to “frame” pitches. His findings? Framing can make a significant difference in whether a pitch is called a strike or a ball. His work cited Dan Turkenkopf’s finding “that switching the call from a ball to a strike on a close pitch was worth about 0.13 runs on average.” As a result, over the course of a season, a catcher who is very good at framing can add an extra 20 runs to his team. On the flip side, lesser backstops can cost their teams as many as 20 runs.
Unfortunately for the Marlins, Buck does not fare well in this metric of measuring catchers defense. According to Fast’s data, Buck is actually one of the most unskilled catchers. In 2011, his framing (or lack thereof) cost the Marlins 11 runs. Over the past 5 years, he is tied for 8th worst of all catchers playing regularly. Granted, these numbers are slightly skewed because of 2010, where he recorded an atrocious –17 runs. The point remains, however, that Buck is actually costing the Marlins in this area, rather than helping.
Combine these numbers with Buck’s -3 Defensive runs saved from Fangraphs (which does not incorporate framing pitchers), and a defensive I called “a bit below average” now is looking “very below average.”
As we look ahead to next season, it’s hard to see Buck’s defense improving significantly as he enters his 30′s, and his 9th season at catcher. Unfortunately, arm strength as well as speed is only going to decrease as Buck gets older. Not to mention, the toll of playing 120+ games behind the plate every year can only speed up the inevitable and irreversible process of aging.
Framing pitches, on the other hand, is something that could presumably be learned, no matter the age. It may take considerable time and effort, but Buck certainly could improve his defense in this respect. From a managerial standpoint, I would prefer to have a catcher who is not very skilled at framing pitches, rather than a catcher with a weak arm, simply because you could improve your framing skills much easier. Whether or not we see an improvement from Buck next year remains to be seen.
In a deal that was announced without much coverage Tuesday, the Marlins agreed to a two-year deal with second-baseman Omar Infante. While most of the baseball stratosphere was dedicated only to the developments of the Ozzie Guillen saga that took place the same day, it’s Infante that I am more excited to see don a Miami Marlins jersey next season.
As SCWS pointed out earlier this week, a manager’s value to a team and his impact on their performances on the field is most likely very little. As much as he dislikes it, Guillen is worth only one win over the course of a 162-game season, if not less. What Guillen will provide, granted, is many headline-ready quotes and the occasional rant. The latter I am already looking forward to. As you most likely already know, Ozzie agreed to a 4-year deal worth $10 million, signing the contract late Tuesday night. Also included is a minor league pitcher from the White Sox who has yet to be announced. To complete the trade, the Marlins are sending prospect Ozzie Martinez to Chicago.
With much less fanfare, Infante agreed to terms for $8 million over the next two seasons. After being traded over from the Braves before the season, Infante was assigned the difficult task of replacing fan favorite Dan Uggla. While he hasn’t made anyone forget Uggla’s exceptional 2010 season for the Marlins (4.9 fWAR), he was slightly more valuable compared to Uggla this season (2.6 vs. 2.5 fWAR).
Going forward, Marlins fans should expect very similar numbers offensively from Infante. He doesn’t hit for power or walk at a high rate, but he does hit for average, and he did so this year without the luck of an astronomical BABIP. This season, he also has decreased his K%, making him less reliant on a high BABIP. The 29-year Venezuelan old is still far-off from seeing a serious decline due to age, and I’m personally hoping he will be productive well into his mid-30′s.
The signing of Infante is key for the Marlins, and his value going forward should help keep the Marlins competitive in the powerful NL East, but if the team decides to rebuild, he could be a valuable trade chip at the deadline. Either way, Infante’s signing of the dotted line should be making the headlines in Miami, instead of this “Ozzie” guy.
Just an off-season ago, John Buck inked a contract that would net the backstop $18 million over three years. Buck brought with him high expectations to the Marlins following his All-Star 2010 campaign. Those expectations have not been completely fulfilled, but he’s still been valuable to the team, posting a 2.2 fWAR as of Wednesday. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you John Buck.
While the drop in batting average and power are not what Marlins fans were hoping for this year, expectations based off last season were probably unfair to begin with. Built on a .335 BABIP, 2010 was a breakout (and very lucky) year for Buck. His slash line of .281/.314/.489 were all career highs entering this season. 2011 has not been as kind to Buck, and his (more luck-neutral) .271 BABIP is shown in his season’s line-
Compare the two sets of numbers, and you see a significant drop in both his slugging percentage and batting average. On the other hand, the on-base percentage actually increased. This can be attributed to a much-improved approach at the plate. In short, he is swinging less often and at better pitches when he does take his hacks. Furthermore, below are Buck’s swing % and o-swing % from 2010 as well as 2011. Swing % shows the total percentage of pitches a batter swings at, while o-swing % will tell you what percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside of the strike zone.
Year Swing % O-Swing %
2010 56.8% 40.2%
2011 49.9% 31.3%
For Buck, this has lead to a high OBP even while his other numbers have declined from last season. Micheal Jong also posted a nice article at Marlin Maniac going more in depth about the emergence of Buck’s newfound skill for getting on base.
Defensively, Buck is a bit below league average. Which, is to be expected from a 31-year-old playing the most taxing defensive position. He has allowed seventy-eight stolen bases, against seventeen baserunners caught stealing, which works out to 17.9% of runners thrown out. Looking at advanced defensive ratings, he fares not much better. According to FanGraphs’ defensive runs saved, Buck has cost the Marlins two runs more than league average.
Overall, you could call Buck’s season a disappointment, but that would just be ignorant. Rather, you’re better off calling his 2010 offensive statistics an aberration, built on the not-so-sturdy foundation of a .335 BABIP, and also the reward of playing within the hitter-friendly confines of the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
His significant improvement in terms of patience and plate approach has made him a valuable player, even when luck (BABIP) is not as friendly to him. Instead of disappointment, recognize that the John Buck of this season (and future seasons) is still a pretty decent player.
In a year that has been one part disaster and two parts mediocrity for the Marlins, Emilio Bonifacio has produced offense and provided speed on the base paths all season long. The author of a 3.0 fWAR, the young utility player has been one of the most productive and valuable players to the team. Let’s take a closer look at how he has done just that.
While he has been getting on base with some proficiency, no one has accused Emilio Bonifacio of being a power hitter. He has accumulated just four home runs in his career, three of which have come this season. However, this is only his fourth year in the Majors (fifth, if you want to count his eleven game stint with the Diamondbacks in 2007). This season, his through-Sunday slash line reads as:
The batting average is decent, so to is the on-base percentage, but the slugging is sub-par. For more proof about Bonifacio’s power (or lack thereof), he has a Isolated Power of but .090. At the moment, that is the 13th lowest of all qualified hitters. For reference, the ML average is .145 (Joey Bautista’s ISO is a whopping .322).
The low ISO (power) can be attributed to a high ground ball rate. Bonifacio puts it on the ground more than 52% of the time. Emilio also has one of the highest line drive rates this season. He checks in at 24.8%, among elite players such as Joey Votto, Andre Ethier, and Michael Young. This is most likely fueling Bonifacio’s astronomical .367 BABIP. To put that in perspective, the league average this year is about .290, and only Adrian Gonzalez, Michael Bourn, Alex Avila and Matt Kemp have higher a higher BABIP.
Over the course of a season, generally, players outperforming the .290-.310 benchmark generally regress towards the average, while players under performing that will usually see an improvement in their BABIP. This is the part about Bonifacio’s numbers that amaze me most. Through the first half of the season, he had a very high .360 BABIP. Then, instead of seeing that number take a sharp decline, Bonifacio’s batting average on balls in play actually improved, the result of a .374 second half BABIP. However, this is not unfamiliar territory for the 3rd baseman/outfielder. Throughout his career, Bonifacio’s batting average on balls in play has been rather inflationary; his career BABIP is .336.
However, his above average numbers in this statistic are not simply a case of favorable luck throughout his time in playing in the majors. Along with the LD%, a skill such as speed would allow players (such as Bonifacio) to beat out slow ground balls or even bunt for a hit, and thus resulting in a better-than-average BABIP. And speed is certainly not something Emilio Bonifacio is lacking.
As of Sunday, the speedy utility player has stolen thirty-six bases, and if he can continue at this pace for the remainder of the year, he could finish with upwards of forty against only 9 caught stealing. His talent for swiping bases is not a new development, in 2009 he stole twenty-one, and to put his speed into context, he also stole sixty-one bases his first year of professional ball. While he isn’t the second coming of Rickey Henderson, his base running has been valuable to the Marlins. According to Baseball-Refrence’s Rbaser stat, Bonifacio’s presence on the base paths has given the Marlins four more runs than an average player over the course of the season.
Emilio’s defense has also provided value to the Marlins this season. He doesn’t have the best range, or the strongest arm, but his versatility has turned out to be crucial this season. With Hanley and other players spending time on the disabled list during the 2011 campaign, Bonifacio’s ability to step in and play various positions around the diamond (and play them well) has certainly been appreciated by the manager throughout the past few years. This season alone, Emilio has seen considerable playing time in six 0f the nine positions, the three where he has yet to play being 1st base, pitcher, and catcher.
Overall, you get a solid everyday player who can help your team win games. Yes, his power is below average, but he also has shown he can hit for a decent average, get on base and make the most of his opportunities from there by stealing bases. His defense isn’t spectacular, but is above average, and his versatility in the field has made him a key part of the Marlins defense and especially valuable to the organization.
2011 has been a tale of two seasons for Gaby Sanchez. The 28-year old first baseman started the year on a tear, but his numbers have since fallen greatly. Granted, after hitting .345 through May, he was destined for regression, but a 142-point drop in OPS is a cause for (at least a bit of) concern.
To further illustrate the point, here is Sanchez’s slash line before and after June 17th
Before June 17th- .312/.392/.511
After June 17th- .215/.292/.348
The first thing that jumps out at me here is the huge drop in Slugging percentage. You see an almost identical drop in Batting Average and On-Base percentage at about 100 points, but Slugging dips an astounding 143 percentage points. That the power has been hit hardest by his long slump is clear to see.
For those prefer whole numbers- 2B/HR
Before June 17th- 17/12
After June 17th- 13/6
(I should note that these numbers are through a very similar number of games- 70 before the 17th, and 66 after)
With this information, it would be easy to say that he is most likely experience the downside of luck, and that would be correct. His BABIP’s are as follows:
In the short history of the Florida Marlins, the team has already accumulated not one, but two World Series victories. The organization has boasted many great players who have come and gone, and a few that are still with the team. What the Marlins cannot boast, however, is an MVP award.
Granted, Livan Hernandez and Josh Beckett have both won the World Series MVP honors, yet no Marlin has taken home the regular season trophy. The list of former players who spent parts of their careers in Florida makes the fact even more surprising. With the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Derrek Lee, Andre Dawson, Gary Sheffield, and Mike Piazza all donning a black and teal jersey at one time in their careers, you would think the Fightin’ Fish would come across the coveted award at least once. That, however, is not the case.
The closest a Marlin has come so far is a second-place finish in 2009 by Hanley Ramirez. And two years ago, it was an accepted fact that Hanley would win one, if not more, for the soon-to-be Miami Marlins. Instead, what we have is a seemingly endless saga of drama, accompanied by dissapointing and sub-par performances. Don’t get me wrong, Hanley is a rare talent, and he may come out of this slump better than ever. I would be happy to have him prove me wrong, but at this point I just can’t see him being the MVP anytime soon.
One look at Chris Volstad‘s 5.66 ERA, and most Marlins fans will turn away in disgust. The numbers, though, are a bit misleading. When you look at the former first-rounder’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP, which evaluates a pitchers performance using walks, strikeouts, hit batsmen and home runs allowed), the numbers are much better.
I should mention that the stat is scaled to read like ERA, so the lower the number, the better. He checks in at 4.63, which isn’t so terrible. However, when you dig a little deeper there is even more reason to not give up on the 24 year old righty. A variation of FIP, called xFIP assumes all pitchers have league average home run/fly ball rates. In short, home run/fly ball rates tell you of all the fly balls allowed by a pitcher, how many were home runs. As a pitcher, you would obviously want to have a small percentage of fly balls hit against you result in home runs. In this aspect, Volstad has a relatively good 3.64 xFIP. The big question is if he can or will be able to lower his HR/FB rate. As of right now, he is at a very poor 17.4%. Remember, the league average is 10.5%. Last year, though, Volstad actually had a very good HR/FB rate at 8.8%, so there is hope he can attain a lower rate in the future.
Also, Volstad’s struggles with allowing the longball were previously explored on this site in this piece by Mr. Burie.
Chris Volstad-ERA FIP xFIP
5.66 4.63 3.64
So behind that disappointing ERA, there is evidence that Chris Volstad is better than he gets credit for. Granted, the numbers still aren’t anything great, but they are much better than a 5.66 ERA suggests, and if he can somehow fix his Achilles heel for allowing home runs, he could become a much better pitcher.
And thats certainly nothing to turn away in digust about.