By reaching the All-Star break, the Miami Marlins have reached the official (if not mathematical) halfway mark for the season. The midseason mark find the Marlins in an uncomfortable situation given their goal in 2012 of a playoff run. The Fish suffered through three months of strangely one-sided play, sandwiching a dominant May between a poor April and a second straight horrific June month. As a result, the club sits three games under .500 and a good ways away from the playoffs, though their chances are not completely eliminated.
At the midway point, I usually put up a series of reviews that discusses the Marlins' play up to this point of the season. I usually discuss it in terms of offense, pitching, and fielding, and once again we will take this approach here at Fish Stripes. Without further ado, let us look back at the first 84 games of the Miami Marlins 2012 season in the 2012 Miami Marlins Midseason Review.
Runs Scored: 334
Runs Allowed: 390
Pythagorean Record: 36-49
As you can see, just from a superficial glance at the numbers, it is easy to tell that, despite the disappointment of the Marlins season right now, the team is even lucky to have this record. The Fish have scored and allowed runs like a team with a .420 winning percentage, The horrific month of June brought a good number of blowout games that skewed the Marlins' Pythagorean record to as poor as it is there. Surprisingly, the Marlins have not had a skewed mark on one-run games, as teams that often outperform their Pythagorean often do; the Fish have more or less split one-run affairs with a 16-15 record. Their primary problem is the 3-13 mark in games decided by more than five runs, as clearly the Marlins have not been the winning end of those.
Runs Scored: 334
wOBA Runs: 335
wOBA Rank: T-21
wRC+ Rank: T-26
The Marlins' offense has been as bad as advertised. The Fish are struggling to score runs due to a large array of underachieving players, from Jose Reyes right down to John Buck. In fact, a look at the lineup shows all but two players underperforming his projections from before the open of the season. A good number of these players have since recovered from that issue and are on their way up, but some concerns remain about many of the Marlins' top positions players and their work with the bat.
Of course, one player stands out above them all, and unfortunately he will start the second half a little late.The Good: Giancarlo Stanton
Prior to the season, Giancarlo Stanton was expected to do big things. ZiPS projected a very good .267/.361/.549 slash line (.385 wOBA). Before this season, we guessed a similar .381 wOBA. And you know what? He has not disappointed, as Stanton has hit an impressive .284/.364/.554 (.392 wOBA) on his way to a three-win season by the end of the first half.
How did Stanton pull off such a strong year? The best part about Stanton's season is that it has gone almost exactly as expected. The projection systems and the fans figured his numbers could only go up as he aged a little more into his age-22 season, and sure enough we all nailed it. He improved in the categories you expected him to improve in order to better himself. He decreased his strikeout rate once more, down to a 24.9 percent rate from 27.6 percent last year. He maintained an absolute steady diet of home runs, as his 23.8 percent HR/FB rate is almost exactly equal to his career 24.0 percent rate. In order to take advantage of that massive power, he decreased the number of ground balls he has hit, down to 38 percent from a career 42.5 percent mark. As a result, 5.9 percent of his PA have ended in a homer this year, up a bit from his career rate of 5.7 percent.
Earlier in the year, Stanton was being challenged inside the zone, as pitchers went after him looking for him to swing through those in-zone pitches. But in May, he tore up that strategy to the tune of an amazing .343/.432/.769 batting line (.495 wOBA) and pitchers quickly abandoned that strategy. It is telling that, after seeing more than 50 percent of pitches inside the zone in April, Stanton has finished up the first half with the 23rd-lowest rate of pitches in the zone among qualified players. To get an idea of the sort of respect he is earning, note that he is seeing pitches in the zone at a level akin to that of Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira. Stanton's swing selection could improve, but even with his paltry skills of recognition, he is still drawing walks in 10.3 percent of his PA just from the fear of pitchers.
The Bad: Gaby Sanchez
Much has already been said about Gaby Sanchez's horrific season thus far. His .202/.250/.306 batting line (.244 wOBA) speaks for itself. The fact that he has been demoted twice, with the latest send-down likely to be for much of the remainder of 2012, also speaks for itself. Sanchez has been awful this year, and the Marlins had to, at some point, find an alternative (whether the alternative they found was worth what they paid is a different story).
Sanchez has looked lost all season, and it is particularly frustrating to see how bad he has been this year. This is not just a BABIP extended fluke; all of his peripherals are way down from career marks.
Nothing looks correct, and that extends even beyond these numbers. Part of the reason why Sanchez's BABIP is so low is that he is making such meager contact. He has hit pop ups on 17.4 percent of his fly balls; among players with at least 180 PA, that is the 11th worst mark in baseball. And while the determination of line drives versus fly balls is a pretty subjective one, it is also telling that, according to Baseball Info Solutions' classficiations, Sanchez has the third lowest line drive rate at 13.5 percent among those same players. The only two players with fewer line drives are Ryan Raburn (.171/.228/.251, .214 wOBA) and Juan Rivera (.251/.289/.343, .251 wOBA), which shows you just far Sanchez has fallen.
Going forward, it was difficult to say whether Sanchez could have made real improvement on whatever is ailing him or if it was just a terrible extended slump. In either case, the Marlins had no patience with his black-hole bat in the lineup and did not wait to see if it was going to get better on its own. Hopefully, Sanchez can improve and fix his swing issues in the low-pressure Pacific Coast League.
Bounceback Candidate: Hanley Ramirez
I have already mentioned enough about Jose Reyes and his obvious upwards trend, so I chose to tackle a more difficult topic. Ramirez has underperformed what we thought he would do heading into 2012. We expected something closer to his 2010 edition, but that has been a pipe dream compared to what we have gotten. But look at the ZiPS projection from before the season began for various Ramirez peripherals.
So ZiPS did not miss by much honestly. The only place where Ramirez has severely underperformed was in batting average on balls in play. Of course, before his season ended in 2011 with the shoulder injury, he was hitting .275 on balls in play, meaning that we have almost seen a full season of him performing at this low level. But with everything seemingly in line, though still underwhelming, it is reasonable to suspect that Ramirez can improve on that average and thus bring up the rest of his batting line.
We certainly saw glimpses of that in May. In fact, before the season many said that this team would go as far as Ramirez would take, and indeed the Marlins' performance has mimicked Ramirez's. He hit .322/.364/.525 (.379 wOBA) in May and the Marlins won 21 games in the month. In his poor April (.207/.316/.390) and June (.227/.312/.381) months, the Fish were awful. This month has not started well, but hopefully it can end well for Ramirez, who may still be a useful part to the Marlins in 2012, provided he can start finding some holes in the infield and gaps in the outfield.