Marlins 2011 MVP: Mike StantonBy
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.