Did We Overestimate the Miami Marlins Offense?

June 17, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Miami Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez (2) strikes out in the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. The Rays won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

After a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Marlins once again suffered a series loss and were left questioning where they will go from here. One thing that has plagued the Fish this month is their offense. The Marlins were shut out and had just two hits last night, and two evenings before they were shut out by the Rays as well with only one hit to their name. For the month, no team has hit worse than the Marlins' .204/.272/.336 (.267 wOBA), and this is not necessarily an isolated situation. Yes, the Fish were hot in the month of May, but they were still 14th in the league in wOBA that month after a month of April during which they also struggled at the plate.

But this was not supposed to be the case. Before the season, the Marlins were projected to be pretty good on offense. Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projected a .265 TAv that would have put them third in the National League. Even in May, the club was only tied for sixth in the National League in hitting after park adjustment. Overall, the Marlins are only better than the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs with the bats thus far. When combined with the team's poor defense overall, the Fish are currently second to last in the NL in FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement for their position players.

With the team's bats faltering now for one and a half of the two and a half months of the season, the question becomes whether we overestimated the Marlins before the season began.

The Tally

Here are the eight position players whom the Marlins played in their Opening Day lineup and how they have fared so far this season versus their preseason ZiPS projections.

Player Preseason ZiPS wOBA 2012 wOBA
John Buck .306 .262
Gaby Sanchez .345 .228
Omar Infante .310 .329
Hanley Ramirez .360 .340
Jose Reyes .362 .329
Logan Morrison .354 .298
Emilio Bonifacio .305 .328
Giancarlo Stanton .385 .372

All the players in red are guys that underperformed their projection by more than 20 points of wOBA. The lone player in green, Emilio Bonifacio, is the only guy who outperformed his projection by that much. Omar Infante, who has regressed since his hot April, is the only other starter who has outperformed his projection.

It is very clear that almost all of the Marlins have struggled at the plate, but not all Marlins have been "deservedly" bad. That is, for many of these guys, we can expect regression, and we suspect their true talents have not changed by that much. Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez have each lost about 10 points from their preseason projection, and both players have had good stretches that show that they need only see it through to the end of the season to see regression work in their favor. John Buck, as we noted last week, has improved his approach and is getting some pretty bad luck. The same could be said for Logan Morrison, though his situation is more of a mixed bag at this stage. Of the players in the Marlins starting five, only Gaby Sanchez has seen a tremendous fall in performance with a plausible explanation that does not involve large amounts of bad luck.

It should not surprise anyone, then, to see Sanchez be the player with the biggest drop in projected wOBA now versus from the preseason.

Player Preseason ZiPS ZiPS ROS Proj
John Buck .306 .293
Gaby Sanchez .345 .325
Omar Infante .310 .314
Hanley Ramirez .360 .353
Jose Reyes .362 .351
Logan Morrison .354 .341
Emilio Bonifacio .305 .306
Giancarlo Stanton .385 .381

I arbitrarily chose to highlight anyone who lost more than 10 points on their projection from the start of the season. Immediately you can see that Ramirez and Reyes should be fine, and that the three concerns should lie on Buck, Morrison, and Sanchez. Of those three, I would be more concerned about Sanchez and Morrison. Morrison has not put together a good extended stretch of baseball the entire season, and the results of his swings have vacillated from power-heavy and light on contact (June) and patient but weak and lacking in hits (May). Sanchez, on the other hand, has continued to pop the ball up, and his strikeouts are at an all-time high while his walks are down to a career low. His struggles at the plate look very real at the moment, and if anyone was in need of some coaching assistance, it would be him.

Bench Concerns?

When three of your starters have real concerns at the plate, you may already be doing poorly. But the Marlins have compounded this by granting poor backups significant playing time and getting burned with their results. The Fish have given non-Opening Day starters 539 PA and received a .234/.299/.344 (.279 wOBA) out of those guys. Yes, some of them have stepped up, particularly Austin Kearns (.317/.379/.533), Justin Ruggiano (.310/.394/.690), and Donovan Solano (.367/.429/.433), but eventually those players too are sure to regress and bring that bench wOBA down.

However, compared to the other benches in the NL East, for example, we have done at least an adequate job.

Team Bench PA Bench wOBA
Atlanta Braves 516 .262
Miami Marlins 539 .279
New York Mets 780 .292
Philadelphia Phillies 539 .322
Washington Nationals (non-Harper) 743 .275

The Phillies and Mets have gotten strong bench production, while the Marlins have outperformed the Braves and Nationals (without Bryce Harper because, let's be honest, he could have started this season and done this well). The Marlins have been able to avoid injury and utilize their bench significantly less than the Mets and Nationals. So despite our frustrations with the Marlins' bench underperforming, the Marlins seem to have been in at least an average situation compared to their division.

Can It Be Fixed?

The team is obviously struggling as a whole, but as we pointed out, only a few players are of real concern. Overall, however, it is likely that we overestimated this team's offense, as evidenced by the dropping projections for each player. The two players to keep an eye on for the rest of the year are clearly Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez, both of whom have significantly underperformed their projections.

Still, it was impossible to predict that going into this season. Gaby Sanchez had been a metronome of consistency in terms of end-of-season production at the plate in his first two years. Morrison was a concern heading into this year, if only because we were not sure whether we would get power or batting average Morrison. This season, we have not gotten either.

But while the rest of the team has underperformed, they have not changed so significantly that we should be overly concerned. Going into the season, maybe this team's offense was not the third best in the National League, but it certainly is not the third worst. Everyone else should either stay the course or be on the way up going forward.

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