2013 Winter Meetings: Post-Meetings Marlins lineup optimization

Do Garrett Jones and the new-look Miami Marlins figure to score more this season? - David Welker

The Miami Marlins made a series of moves to try and improve from the putrid 2013 season. Did the additions of Garrett Jones and Rafael Furcal and the subtraction of Logan Morrison help or hurt the team? Let's optimize the lineup and find out.

Last week, after the Miami Marlins signed free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, we figured that may be one of the two major roster moves the team might make. One week later and it is difficult to recognize what this franchise has done with the roster. Signings of players like Garrett Jones and Rafael Furcal, combined with the trade of long-time first baseman Logan Morrison, have left Miami looking like a completely different club.

Given that the goal of the team was to improve over last season's putrid offensive output, has Miami accomplished that task so far? Let's look at the latest optimized Marlins lineup and see what we can find.

A Reminder

Keep in mind that we have optimized the lineup recently after the Saltalamacchia signing. Fish Stripes readers by now should be aware of how we optimize batting lineups. You can read the rules again in the linked article, but the gist is that we want our best hitters batting first, second, and fourth, with our best on-base guy batting first and our best power guy batting cleanup. The other two top hitters can hit third or fifth interchangeably, and the rest of the roster fills out the lineup in descending order of quality.

Furcal is a switch-hitter, so we will not project platoon splits for him. For his long career, he has slightly favored hitting lefties (career .344 wOBA) versus righties (.326 wOBA), but I will give him the benefit of the doubt here. Jones is a left-handed hitter, and as we will see shortly, this is beginning to pose a problem in Miami.

For all projections, I used the average of the Steamer and Oliver projections provided by FanGraphs on the player pages.

Right-Handed Lineup

Here is the lineup against right-handed pitchers.

POSITION PLAYER PROJ WOBA VS. RHP
1 Christian Yelich .342
2 Jarrod Saltalamacchia .323
3 Garrett Jones .324
4 Giancarlo Stanton .399
5 Marcell Ozuna .304
6 Rafael Furcal .300
7 Donovan Solano .292
8 Pitcher ---
9 Adeiny Hechavarria .273

Call me crazy, but I like this lineup! There is some concern about having three lefties at the top of the order, and that may be enough consider even moving Stanton to second in between Yelich and the recently acquired sluggers. Ozuna is not the best base stealer on the team, but he has speed and can maneuver himself for the worse hitters behind him. The bottom of the order is, of course, still questionable with Solano and Hechavarria, but considering what the Marlins were playing last year, this lineup seems much stronger.

For those who are interested in seeing Jake Marisnick earn the spot over Ozuna, Marisnick is projected to hit a .293 wOBA versus righties, so he would slot in behind Furcal and bat sixth.

Left-handed Lineup

Here is where the trouble for Miami comes.

POSITION PLAYER PROJ WOBA VS. RHP
1 Donovan Solano .306
2 Marcell Ozuna .324
3 Rafael Furcal .300
4 Giancarlo Stanton .424
5 Christian Yelich .299
6 Adeiny Hechavarria .290
7 Jarrod Saltalamacchia .277
8 Pitcher ---
9 Garrett Jones .273

The Miami Marlins have three hitters who are significantly worse than a .300 wOBA against lefties, and two more of them are at .300. Only Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton are significantly better versus lefties as of right now. And lest you think this is just a product of good players like Yelich having no sample size, you might want to know that Yelich has struggled versus lefties for much of his career in the minors. Last year, he ripped Double-A righties for a .337/.414.542 line and hit just .182/.275/.282 versus lefties. The year before that, in High-A Jupiter, he did perform better, batting .340/.426/.553 versus righties and putting up a respectable .313/.367/.464 line versus lefites. Marlins fans are hoping for more of the High-A performance than the Double-A marks.

How can Miami solve the lefty problem? The first obvious move is to find a platoon partner for Jones, who is useless versus left-handed pitching. Sadly, playing Jeff Mathis and his superior defense would not be an awful idea versus left-handed pitching, though it does not solve the problem so much as minimize Saltalamacchia's defensive deficiencies. Miami could rest Yelich versus tougher lefties and try Jake Marisnick, except that if Marisnick does not win the center field job, he should be in Triple-A working on his game full-time. Brian Bogusevic, the team's newest addition in the outfield, does not help here either, as he cannot hit lefties either (projected .279 wOBA).

It is possible for Miami to run out that lefty lineup and hope for the best, but the team should at least work to given one of either Jones or Saltalamacchia a worthwhile platoon partner. One name to consider is Kevin Youkilis, who could serve a dual role as a third baseman and platoon partner for Jones at first base. Youkilis is 36 years old and probably does not have much in the tank, but if the Fish can get rid of Greg Dobbs, Miami should have room to fit another veteran on the bench or in the lineup semi-regularly.

What do you Fish Stripers think? How good is the right-handed pitcher lineup? How bad is the left-handed lineup? What would you do to improve the roster? Let us know in the comments.

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