Do Not Worry About Marlins With RISP

Let Hanley Ramirez and the Marlins figure things out on their own with runners in scoring position. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

Joe Frisaro and Tom Green over at MLB.com pointed out that the Miami Marlins were dead last in the league in batting average with runners in scoring position this season following Monday's 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now, a good deal of that may have rectified after the team's strong performance in a 6-2 win last night, but nevertheless, as of that loss, the Fish were batting .207/.309/.319 with runners in scoring position. For his part, Ozzie Guillen does not seem concerned with the team's effort at least.

"They're just not getting it done," Guillen said. "They're not selfish. Everybody is pulling the same rope together. They're pulling for each other in the dugout. When I see a player not doing what they're supposed to do, I'm not hiding it from anybody.

"If you know my style, this is my job. I will let you guys know if I see any bats or I see somebody do what they're not supposed to do. If I see somebody not playing the game right, I will get on his butt."

It must be frustrating not to drive in those runs with your teammates so close to home plate. But as Guillen is seemingly saying, there is no reason yet to change anyone's approach at the plate because of this problem, and that is a key point to make sure fans understand early in 2012.

Hitting Bad In General

Part of the reason why the Marlins are struggling with runners in scoring position is because they are struggling in general. The Fish are batting just .239/.308/.393 (.307 wOBA) as a team, so it is no surprise to see them struggling in all aspects, including with runners on base. Once the Marlins start heating up (and they have already begun in May, as they have hit .254/.333/.403 with a .328 wOBA this month), they will pull up with their rising tide the ship of performance with runners in scoring position.

Usually, performances like these do not vary much from a team's overall line, so there is good news in that respect for the Marlins. This season, the league as a whole is hitting .250/.318/.397 in general, while the league is hitting .250/.338/.391 with runners in scoring position. Those numbers are highly similar, and this is not just a one-season event.

Season Slash Line, Overall Slash Line, RISP
2011 .255/.321/.399 .254/.339/.393
2010 .257/.325/.403 .259/.347/.403
2009 .262/.333/.418 .263/.351/.411
2008 .264/.333/.416 .266/.355/.414

The entire difference in the lines lies in OBP, and that difference is accounted for entirely by intentional walks, as almost 100 percent of intentional walks occur with a runner in scoring position. The batting averages and slugging percentages are indicative that teams, as a whole, hit about the same with runners in scoring position as they do overall.

The numbers are not drastically different when you look at the "best" and "worst" teams in baseball either. For example, take a look at the last three seasons worth of World Series winners and worst-record teams.

Team (Season) Slash Line, Overall Slash Line, RISP
St. Louis Cardinals (2011) .273/.341/.425 .290/.378/.454
Houston Astros (2011) .258/.311/.374 .258/.326/.366
San Francisco Giants (2010) .257/.321/.408 .248/.338/.377
Pittsburgh Pirates (2010) .242/.304/.373 .250/.332/.385
New York Yankees (2009) .283/.362/.478 .272/.370/.433
Washington Nationals (2009) .258/.337/.406 .255/.350/.404

Based on these six examples, there does not seem to be a great relationship between doing well and hitting better than normal with runners in scoring position. One might posture that the teams at the top are likely to be hitting a bit better with runners in scoring position while the team's at the bottom are doing a little worse, but those changes are likely minute enough that they are indistinguishable from luck.

Don't Change The Approach

The important part for the Marlins, since they know they have not done well lately with runners in scoring position, is to not change their approach significantly in those situations. With so many Fish hitters struggling early in the season, there needs to be a systematic approach involving careful video watching and scouting data if the team is going to tinker with a player's swing. Simply suggesting the cliche advice of "going the other way" with a runner on second may force the hitter to continually think that way and give up hits and bases that he otherwise would have gotten in his normal approach.

The Marlins just cannot panic with their performance at the plate, regardless of the state of the runners on base. The problem right now, as has been evidenced by the regression in the month of May, is a simple case of bad luck, and that extends to the runners in scoring position situation. If the team starts tinkering with, say, Hanley Ramirez (.214/.283/.407 with RISP), Omar Infante (.259/.276/.296) or Logan Morrison (.167/.333/.167), then those players may lose more in trying to adjust in a particular fashion in that situation than they would have gained by simply waiting out their slumps and continuing the way they were going.

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