SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 01: Jose Reyes #7 of the Miami Marlins salutes Hanley Ramirez for driving him in against the San Francisco Giants in the fourth inning at AT&T Park on May 1, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
"This game is about adjustments, and we're not making any adjustments," Guillen said. "Day in and day out, we are seeing the same swings, same approach at the plate, the same mistakes."
"People who survive in this game and people who have better days and years are the people who can make an adjustment quickly. If you cannot make adjustments, I will make them for you. That's my job."
Sure, the Marlins may have to make adjustments to play better. But as we mentioned earlier, there is not only the idea of adjustments, but also of simple regression bringing the Marlins back into competitive play. Earlier in the week, we pointed out that numerous Marlins starters on offense were slumping and should be on the way back up, even without possible changes to their approach and work at the plate. At the same time, it is difficult to deny that the Marlins are doing a little bit wrong during their disappointing April.
So where is the balance between adjustments that may help the team succeed and those that may hinder a player's natural return to good graces? Let's examine a few examples.Jose Reyes: No Adjustment
As mentioned before, Reyes is having a fit of bad luck on balls in play, as they just are not landing for hits. Everything about his balls in play seems decent, except they are meeting more gloves than green. Reyes is doing everything else exactly the same, from his prototypical plate discipline to his classically low strikeout rates to even his improved walk rates. Everything but Reyes's BABIP has been good, and it would not be feasible for Reyes to continue to hit .162 on ground balls when he hits .266 career on those balls. Eduardo Perez and Ozzie Guillen should not do any tinkering with the veteran Reyes's approach.
Giancarlo Stanton: Adjustment
The adjustment may be slight, but I think the Marlins should consider it given the change in how pitchers have approached him in 2012. Yes, Stanton is being attacked in the zone a little bit more by pitchers, and he has increased his swing rate. But the coaches should take a look and see if they cannot find a way to have him make more contact on those zone pitches. Of course, were it this easy, I would be a coach, but the Fish should look into a way of helping Stanton change his ways to adjust to this latest change in plan of attack.
Hanley Ramirez: No Adjustment
Yes, Ramirez's strikeouts and walks are up, and yes, it is a little strange that Ramirez's contact rate inside the zone is down from previous years. But his contact and swing rates are more or less even compared to his career numbers, and I feel as though a higher strikeout, higher walk version of Hanley Ramirez is the next evolution of the player. Plus, with Ramirez's current approach, he has finally broken through his ground ball rut through which he suffered for the last two seasons and got him to hit more fly balls. The rest of Ramirez's current issues are just BABIP small sample problems that should be able to resolve themselves. They do not currently need to tinker with Ramirez as of now.
Heath Bell: Adjustment
Something may very well be wrong with Heath Bell. Even in last night's outing, he only recorded one swing and a miss, relying on three balls in play to get him out of the ninth inning with his third save. Bell's strikeouts are still down, and his location has not been pretty thus far. There was some talk of the coaching staff and Randy St. Claire already working on adjustments to his motion and timing mechanism, and that bodes well for the Fish given what we know St. Claire has already done with pitchers (remember, he fixed Javier Vazquez last season and he helped to get Josh Johnson's whiffs and control back). But if there was any guy on this team who needs an adjustment in his current mechanics or gameplan, it is Bell.
The Marlins are sixth in the majors in errors committed, and for the most part, a good number of them were not of the "attempting to field a well-hit ball" variety so much as the "blatant mental errors" variety. For the moment, the Fish have been off defensively, and it has not just been on the error department either. According to UZR, the team has actually cost themselves about seven runs on defense, which easily accounts for almost an entire other loss in this young season. In terms of UZR, the Fish are seventh to last in that department. All in all, it has been yet another rough campaign on defense, but some of that was expected with the change of Ramirez to third base and the continued ineptitude of Logan Morrison in left field. The problem thus far has been that Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton, players who were not expected to struggle, are also messing up on the field.
How can the Marlins fix that? Simple fielding drills may help, but I think the team should consider changes in alignment prior to the pitch in order to best position their defenders. That job is on both the defender and the coaching staff to figure the best configurations, but it is something to look at, especially with the spacious dimensions of the new park and the relative blooper bleeding that some of the Marlins' staff has gone through.
As you can see, not everyone needs an adjustment or coaching, and players like Reyes and Ramirez whose approaches are at least in line with their career marks should not be tinkered with further unless clear mechanical issues separate from their performance are seen. Too often coaches look for problems when a player is one for his last 20 or 25 PA, and they dig too hard for a mechanical issue that simply is not there. Rather than spend time trying to fix what simple regression will resolve, the Marlins should spend time with players and situations like their defense that could use some technique guidance.