May 29, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez (2) reacts after hitting a double during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
At the start of the month of May, I played a little "Buy or Sell" with the Miami Marlins. Here is what I said following their putrid performance in April.
Sure enough, the Marlins had themselves a heck of a May, winning 21 of 29 games and leaping their way into a division race in which they trail the leaders, the Washington Nationals, by just a half game to start June. But just like the Marlins were terrible in April and it did not last, the team was super hot in May and it should not last either. However, that does not mean that the Marlins are on their way to another collapse, nor does it mean that their players are going to perform significantly better or worse. And so once again, we get a chance to play a little "Buy or Sell" with the Miami Marlins now and see which ones are on their way up or on their way down.
Buy: Giancarlo Stanton
Of course, this may be the most obvious decision simply because of what Stanton just did, but I am not buying the chances that Stanton hits .343/.432/.789 or rips another 12 home runs in one month (though that would be awfully nice). What I am buying are the chances that Stanton finishes this season as one of the best hitters in baseball.
I mean, this actually is not much of a stretch, as it turns out Stanton was already projected before the season as one of the best. ZiPS projected a .385 wOBA for him, which placed him as the sixth-best projected hitter in their system. The 2012 Steamer projections were no different, putting him at a .395 wOBA and ranking him as the fifth-best hitter in the game. So it turns out that expectations were super high already, and Stanton's hot month has done nothing but encourage them. With Stanton making a little more contact right now, his strikeout rate has dropped significantly thanks to much higher swing rates in the strike zone. The more good pitches he hits, the better he will be, and perhaps pitchers will then have to cower even more in fear and shy away from the zone even further. Either way, Stanton's astronomical growth as a hitter should continue to astound us Marlins fans in June.Buy: Hanley Ramirez
Earlier this month, I pointed out Ramirez's return to power and how he has regained his power stroke by lowering the amount of ground balls he hits. With his hot month of May (.322/.364/.525, .380 wOBA), Ramirez brought his season line to a cool .275/.344/.470. Now, that does not look like much given that it is Hanley Ramirez, former MVP candidate and all, but his May did remind us of what he could do, which is get a lot of hits on balls in play.
From 2010 to 2011, Ramirez hit just .307 on balls in play. This season, his quick regression has already brought him back up to .305, and with most of his stroke back, you cannot be surprised if he does not at least start hitting a little better than that the rest of the way. Sure, he may not be the career .337 hitter on balls in play that he once was (though the .351 mark he hit in May sure reminded us of that guy), he can be a well-above average contributor offensively for the Marlins.
As far as defense, the early reviews in terms of errors have been very good; Ramirez has committed just two errors on the season. Of course, we know errors are not the only thing, and Ramirez has looked a bit bamboozled at third at the onset. However, things can only improve from here on out, and the numbers early are not so bad that we need to be too concerned.
Buy: Jose Reyes
Might as well make the superstar trifecta work. I mentioned last month that, like Ramirez, all Reyes needed was regression on his batting average on balls in play and he would be fine. Sure enough, that is what we saw.
Note the similarities between his .313 BABIP in May and his career .313 BABIP. Similarly, one would have expected Reyes to hit around .290 in 2012 before his awful April start, and he did just that in May along with tacking on an impressive 11.7 percent walk rate and getting on base frequently.
With plate discipline not an issue for Reyes at this point, all that is left is that he gets his power stroke back. He still has not hit a home run this season, and that should change, though it may be lower due to Marlins Park's extreme conditions. He also has not met his doubles and triples rates of his career, as he has hit those at a 6.3 percent clip this year versus an 8.0 percent career mark. With this stadium's deep outfield, you would expect more gappers to be turned into extra bases going forward.
Sell: Omar Infante
Infante is still hitting well, but the power that we saw in April dropped off quickly.
That May month seems more reminiscent of his good seasons in Atlanta and is far more likely to be repeated than that hot April. Still, Infante had to hit .356 on balls in play to reach that mark, and that is not likely to stick either. In his three years before this season, he hit .326 on balls in play, and that is conveniently very close to his current .333 mark. Essentially, I expect more of the same in terms of batting average and OBP, but look for that SLG to continue to drop as we go forward. By the end of the year, I suspect we should have another solid, Atlanta-like effort from Infante, but not the transcedant power he flashed in April.
Sell: Carlos Zambrano
Zambrano is a new man. Even though his strikeout and walk rates are not all that far away from his career and 2011 marks, one drastic change is that he has returned to being able to suppress home runs like he usually does and has induced more ground balls than before. But do not take those changes to mean that he is a 3.00 ERA pitcher as his current stats suggest. He has been holding off a lot of hitters with an unsustainable .240 BABIP compared to his career .275 mark. As a result, he is stranding almost 78 percent of his runners while actually pitching worse with runners on.
Zambrano has held off the home run with runners on, which is also helping him maintain a low ERA. Eventually, these sorts of things tend to even out, and I suspect his ERA will climb up closer to 3.80 or 4.00 than stay at this level. That's still excellent for the Marlins, however,