The Miami Marlins are finally getting into the swing of things in May after a terrible offensive April. The team is hitting .249/.329/.402 for the month (as of the start of games on Monday night), good for a .326 wOBA. The team has scored 55 runs this month, and based on their peripherals, they were in line to score 59 runs this month; in either situation, the team would have scored between 4.6 and 4.9 runs per game. Those numbers are indicative of a team that is regressing to the mean offensively and showing signs of life.
All of those things are good, and Logan Morrison has had a part in that, though it has not been a good part this month. While everyone else has been ripping much better this month than last, Morrison has hit .233/.361/.333 (.296 wOBA) in that time span. Now, none of that is necessarily terrible, but it is interesting in that Morrison has been performing at an average, yet unspectacular level all season in the midst of two odd circumstances. Ozzie Guillen has had Morrison batting cleanup for the Marlins, and he has had him doing so sparingly because Morrison has had the most amount of time off among the team's starters.
Given the context of the season thus far, neither of these decisions make a whole lot of sense.The Cleanup Confusion
Logan Morrison is batting cleanup. He has done so the most among all the Marlins hitters, having hit there 17 times before last evening's game. This is not a far-fetched option, but in any way that you look at things, there is no reason for him to be doing this. For the cleanup spot, you traditionally want your best power hitter in that slot. When you consider the ideas for lineup writing in The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, you should also consider that the cleanup man should be among your three best hitters. Usually, traditional managers and us saber-types agree on the importance of the cleanup hitter, but no matter how you determine the quality of hitter, Morrison should not be the man at the position.
Consider, for example, the Ozzie Guillen method of lineup writing, which involves riding the currently hot players. Let us use the current season's stats and see who among them has had the best power numbers.
If you had to judge who was the best qualified hitter to bat cleanup based on the current numbers, it would almost certainly not be a competition involving Logan Morrison. Morrison is the team's third best hitter right now, but if you had to choose between the three, the easiest choice would be between Infante and Stanton in terms of power. Given that Infante is already batting high in the lineup, the most logical choice would be to bat Stanton there. Morrison is tied with Gaby Sanchez in terms of power production this season, and the cleanup spot needs power hitters the most because it encounters the largest number of runners on base.
But if you are reading Fish Stripes, then you must know that making those judgments based on the season's performances through 150 or so PA is not the smartest idea. We should take into account a player's current performance along wiht his past, with his current performance weighted a little more than the past and the distant, distant past weighted not at all. So let's look at an in-season updated projection of the Marlins' players to see if Morrison is a better option in this light.
|Player, ZiPS Proj||ISO||XB/H||wOBA|
In this projection, Morrison looks like a much better choice, but unfortunately, there is still yet a better choice in that situation. Giancarlo Stanton is clearly waiting to hit cleanup, a spot that he claimed to start the season, but he has yet to reclaim it despite the massive hot streak he is on at the moment. In addition, it is questionable that Hanley Ramirez could also be also be a choice there. Either way, Morrison is still not the best choice.
Time Off, But Why?
Now, changing the batting order here or there is not going to change the run output by much, honestly. Batting Emilio Bonifacio cleanup would probably cost the Marlins around three to five runs over the course of a season as an isolated move, so it is not as if moving Morrison from fourth to fifth in the lineup will actually mean anything in the long run. What will mean something in the long run, however, is Guillen's consistent rest for Morrison.
The Marlins have rested Morrison more than any other player in their lineup, and there is a strong chance that that is costing the team runs. Morrison's replacement in left field is Austin Kearns, a guy who projects to hit .226/.327/.350 (.303 wOBA) on the season. Even if we use projections for Morrison against only left-handed pitchers, presuming that he would only be rested against such pitchers (which has not been the case thus far), resting Morrison an extra 28 PA this season has cost the Marlins one run already on the season. It is not much, and it is mitigated by Kearns's superior ability in the field a bit, but you have to wonder why the team's cleanup hitter has been rested so often.
Yes, these concerns are tiny. Yes, they likely are not costing the Marlins many runs, maybe one or two thus far. But the Marlins are in the sort of situation offensively in which one or two runs could be useful. The team could use that extra tenth of a win here or there, and by the end of the season, if this managing keeps going and the team plays up to their preseason potential, one win could mean the difference between being in or out of the playoffs. As a result, even though these errors are slight, they may be worth asking about in 2012.