Last season, I spent a lot of time addressing John Buck’s defense (here and here), with most of my commentary being negative. Coming off one of his worse years, and entering into his 30′s, I was expecting to see a decline in defensive value as the effect of aging sets in. However, 2012 has been a vastly different year for Buck, with his catching so far showing great improvement.
While our current methods of quantifying catchers defense are far from perfect, they can still provide useful information about how valuable a player has been behind the plate. My personal favorite, and one of the better available rating systems is Matt Klaassen’s. His methodology and explanation of the system can be found here, although it’s easy to follow along with.
According to Klaassen’s most recent installment of the rankings, Buck has been the 11th best defensive catcher in the majors–saving 1.5 runs above average through May. Much better than in 2011, when he was 39th among all catchers, and was worth only .4 runs over the course of the whole season.
When the Miami Marlins became one of the most active teams on the free agent market this past winter, most of the attention was focused on their pursuit of Albert Pujols and ultimately the signing of Jose Reyes. Mark Buehrle, who followed his skipper Ozzie Guillen to the bath salt capital of the world, was seen as a solid addition to the Marlins’ rotation, and most figured that the lefty would give fans what he had put up routinely in his days with the White Sox. 200+ innings, a low walk rate and a sub-4.00 ERA. So far in 2012, Buehrle is on pace to do just that, albeit with a surprisingly different approach.
On Saturday night, the Marlins beat the Rays 4-3 in the 15 inning marathon. While the team recorded 13 hits and put up one of their better offensive performances of the year, it was not a night to remember for Omar Infante. The Marlins second baseman went hitless in seven plate appearances, with four of his outs coming by way of strikeout.
The hitless days have been occurring with increasing regularity for Infante as of late. Since the start of June, he’s been hitting .175, and has an under .300 OBP since the start of May. Worse still is the disappearance of Infante’s power—which many thought he would be able to sustain after he got off to a hot start.
Through May 11th, Infante had a team-leading 6 home runs, 10 doubles, and 2 triples, enough for a .650 Slugging percentage, over .250 points higher than his career mark of .396. His ISO of .320 was also almost 3 times higher than his career average (.121).
Below is a spray chart of Infante’s balls in play through May 11th:
The power shown here is quite impressive—especially so for a second baseman. The left field line and fence are clustered with extra-base hits, along with a few singles up middle in center. Also, while most of his hits here are pulled, Infante has shown power to the opposite field, drivng balls to the gap in right-center.
Finally, a series I feel particularly and specifically capable of previewing.
The Toronto Blue Jays are coming to town! Or, from my perspective, going to Miami (I’m Canadian, have I mentioned this?).
Two teams with completely opposite plans when it comes to team building match up in Interleague play sporting very similar records.
The Miami Marlins (33-34) spent $117m to bring in multiple key players in hopes of competing this season in the tough NL East.
The Toronto Blue Jays (35-34) spent $75m with high ceiling, but very raw prospects filling the Major League roster in hopes of competing two seasons from now in the tough AL East.
So, why are these teams playing with similar records? I have no idea, but I think it goes back to my last article.
Miami needs to win this series. I’ll say that first. After what can only be described as an abysmal month thus far they have a Jays team coming to town having lost four of their Top seven starting pitchers coming out of Spring Training and are struggling to gain traction Their top hitters have been underperforming, their young hitters have been streaky, and their bullpen has been overworked in recent weeks while relying on minor league call-ups to eat up multiple innings.
We all have them about pretty much every detail of our lives. Big expectations, small expectations, some we’re aware of and some we have without knowing it.
We expect to wake up every morning, we expect the sky to be blue, we expect work or school to suck and we expect life to continue when it does. Reasonable expectations.
I expect to write a snappy article that makes no sense when I start writing and somehow manages to conclude in a witty fashion. Another reasonable expectation.
However, like many expectations, including my expectation of myself, not all expectations are met every time.
With this in mind I give you the 32-30 Miami Marlins, a team who is just 1-7 in their last 8 games and have not lived up to their overall expectations as a unit.
And with all the lofty expectations that fans and media have for this team, mostly because of the big name acquisitions they had in the off-season, the blame does not and should not fall on those stars.
Although the non-waiver trade deadline is still six weeks away, it’s becoming easier to tell which teams will be a buyers and which teams will be sellers.
The Marlins enter today at 32-30 on the season, six games out of first place in what has been an ultra-competitive NL East division. The Nationals don’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, so the moves that the Fish decide to make in July could determine their fate for a wild card spot when the playoff race heats up in September. I’ve decided to take a look at a few names that the Miami could be interested in come July 31st.
1B Bryan LaHair (Chicago Cubs)
LaHair has been one of, if not the biggest, pleasant surprises in all of baseball this season. After spending parts of nine seasons in the minor leagues, the 30-year-0ld LaHair has gotten the chance to prove himself for the new-look Cubs and has made the most of it. LaHair has posted an impressive .304/.388/.591 line to date and his 12 home runs are good for eighth-best in the NL. The Marlins could certainly be a fit for the Cubs’ first basemen, as first base has been huge hole for the club so far in 2012. Despite the Marlins’ potentially-potent lineup, they still rank near the bottom of MLB in slugging percentage, and the numbers would be even uglier if it weren’t for the superhuman efforts of Giancarlo Stanton. LaHair’s trade value is at an all-time high and there will certainly be many other teams in play come deadline time, but adding a bat like his could get the Marlins that much closer to a playoff spot this season.
SP Jason Vargas (Seattle Mariners)
The Marlins’ starting pitching has been one of the most consistent aspects of the club this season, but an injury or string of bad starts could severely hinder a chance at staying in the NL East race. With the lack of top pitching prospect depth in the upper levels of the minors, Miami could be best suited for finding pitching outside the organization. One name that could be in play is M’s lefty Jason Vargas. Vargas has been a reliable middle-of-the-rotation starter for Seattle since being acquired from the Mets in 2009. He’s made 30 or more starts each of the past two seasons and would provide some good depth in the rotation if Josh Johnson’s injury bug came back or Carlos Zambrano swung too hard. He’s on a one-year deal, and with the Mariners anxiously awaiting the arrival of top pitching prospects like Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, the Marlins could be able to acquire Vargas at a discounted price.
RP Ryan Cook (Oakland A’s)
Ryan Cook makes the list of potential Marlins’ trade targets due in large part to the fact that he plays for the trade-happy A’s organization, but that certainly doesn’t mean Oakland would give the righty away for free. Just about every club in contention at the July deadline is looking for bullpen help, and adding a power arm like Cook’s could prove crucial in late-game situations. The rookie Cook started the season with a 23-inning scoreless streak that was snapped at the end of May, and has been one of the most impressive relievers in baseball this season, even with the high walk rate. The Marlins’ have posted the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in the league in June at 6.51 and could use a shutdown reliever like Cook, who has allowed just eight hits in 27.0 IP in 2012. If Heath Bell returns to early-season meltdown mode or injuries begin to take a toll, the Fish could very well look to revamp the bullpen and Cook would be a solid acquisition.
The 2012 MLB Draft has officially come to an end and it provided its fair share of drama, as we got a first look at how the new CBA and altered draft rules affected teams’ draft strategies. I discussed the Marlins’ first-round pick, left-hander Andrew Heaney out of Oklahoma State, and now I’ll be taking a look at how the Fish fared on days two and three of this year’s draft.
The Marlins had to wait 95 picks after the Heaney selection to take local Florida high schooler Avery Romero in the third round. Romero played shortstop in high school but most think he has the bat to be able to stick at second or third base in the pro ranks.
Another one of the more intriguing Marlins’ picks on Day 2 was Louisiana prep outfielder Kolby Copeland. An athletic, toolsy outfielder, some were comparing Copeland before the draft to White Sox first round pick Courtney Hawkins. The Marlins were also linked to Hawkins in the days leading up to the draft, but perhaps the club felt they had the chance to get a similarly-skilled player in a later round, thus part of the reasoning behind taking Heaney ninth overall.
In the fifth round, the Marlins grabbed another high school bat in Austin Dean out of Klein Collins HS in Texas. Though he played third base in high school, the club selected Dean as an outfielder. In watching video of Dean at the plate, you can see that he has a bit of a funky stance and gets out on his front side a bit too much, but he also generates tremendous bat speed that should translate into power in the pro ranks. He’s committed to play at the University of Texas, so he could be one of the Marlins’ tougher signs from the first ten rounds.
The Miami Marlins tabbed Oklahoma State southpaw Andrew Heaney with the ninth overall pick in today’s 2012 MLB Draft.
Heaney was seen as the most polished collegiate lefty of this year’s class, and although he doesn’t have the upside of high schooler Max Fried (taken by the Padres with the seventh pick), Heaney still brings plenty to the table.
The Oklahoma State junior was selected by the Rays in the 24th round out of high school but opted to continue to play Big 12 baseball in Stillwater. He had a breakout 2012 campaign that included being named a First-Team All American, striking out 140 and walking just 22 in 118.1 innings, as well as leading the team with a 1.60 ERA.
You hear it all the time while watching baseball games. It’s one of those widely used baseball cliche that fans, writers, and commentators have latched onto. Some player hits a long homerun and a good 7/10 times I guarantee you’ll hear it referred to as a “bomb”.
I would describe a bomb as a loud, devastating, violent, ‘game’-changing event… So, I won’t argue that the comparison is without its merit.
But, it got me wondering; if homeruns are equated to bombs, what then is a stolen base?
Then it came to me. How about a lightning strike? Fast, exciting, there and gone in an instant with little to no warning, and often beautiful in its dangerousness. Yeah… I like that.
“What are you talking about, Mike?”
Oh, hello again my imagined reader. Allow me to explain.
As of the moment I write this article (about 11:00pm on 05/29) the Miami Marlins lead the entire MLB with 60 stolen bases, 15 more than any other team. This puts them on pace for 194 stolen bases this season, 24 more than the leader last season (San Diego – 170) and the most any team has accumulated since Tampa Bay also had 194 in 2009.
Which would also tie them for the highest total since 1996 when Colorado had 201 SB’s and Kansas City had 195, respectively.
In a league that’s modern era has seemingly moved away from the stolen base in favour of the more ‘fan friendly’ long-ball, it’s exciting to watch a team stealing bases at such an enthusiastic pace.