Editor's note: This was written yesterday, but due to the early game, we're just publishing today. All numbers are as of June 18.
Logan Morrison returned to the Miami Marlins' lineup on June 9. Giancarlo Stanton came back on June 10. Prior to those games, the Marlins' offense had been on an unmatched run of incompetence. The team was hitting .226/.286/.320, completely at the bottom of the offensive barrel. Now, the Marlins are hitting .230/.286/.330, meaning they made a small jump in improvement since that time. Indeed, from Morrison's return to the 3-2 loss from two nights ago to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Marlins have hit a psedo-respectable .257/.293/.399 and scored 39 runs in nine games. That batting line falls more than bit short of the league average .253/.317/.400 right now, but only in the OBP department. The runs scored mark is actually better than the league average 4.22 runs per game!
Part of that happens to be good timing (Morrison's return coincided with the finale of a nice series versus the New York Mets). Part of that is legitimately better play, as the Marlins desperately needed some power infusion into the most popless lineup in baseball. But most importantly, the Marlins' lineup looks and performs better with two significantly better players batting in the middle of the order.
But what do these two players bring to the table, and how can they help (or not help) the Fish?
Giancarlo Stanton: Power
Stanton clearly brings most of the pop in this two-man return. Consider that, as of right now, the Marlins have hit just 36 home runs, the lowest total in baseball and a mark only the Kansas City Royals can even approach. Stanton has hit seven of those homers, meaning the rest of the Marlins' lineup has contributed just 29 home runs. Then consider that eight more of those 29 home runs belong to Justin Ruggiano, who is currently languishing on the bench for no reason. Two players who have missed time or are expected to miss significant time going forward have put up 15 of the Marlins' 36 homers.
Stanton has already shown that his immense power has not gone away. The early blip this season turned out to be another slow start for a player who has struggled three straight years in a row at the beginning of the regular season. Stanton has four home runs since his return and is singlehandedly trying to drag the Marlins out of the slugging basement.
The Marlins' current .099 ISO is the lowest in baseball. The team needs power to score runs, especially when your lineup is filled with players like Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, and Adeiny Hechavarria. But the Fish also need men to get on base, and pitchers seem more than happy to help that cause with Stanton at the plate. Stanton has walked in a team-high 11.5 percent of plate appearances; no other Marlins player with at least 100 plate appearances has close to that mark, with Greg Dobbs and Ruggiano tied for second at 7.8 percent. The rest of the Marlins' roster is incapable of getting on base, but Stanton can do regularly given that teams pitch around him. If there is one thing Stanton will need from the Marlins, it is more help driving him in since he will be on base the most for the team.
Logan Morrison: Patience
Conveniently enough, Logan Morrison may help provide the answer that Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins need on the patience side. Morrison has a career 11.0 percent walk rate, primarily on the back of his 14.3 percent mark in his rookie year. Morrison's on-base ability is fueled by a mostly patient approach (38 percent career swing rate) coupled with decent contact rates (83 percent career contact rate). If situated properly in the lineup, he can provide the on-base skills Stanton and the Fish are lacking in playing guys like, well, Pierre, Polanco, and Hechavarria. This is sorely lacking in the Marlins' roster, especially when the Fish play black holes at the top of the lineup to suck up the most plate appearances.
Morrison also has a decent power bat, and that is why the Marlins have situated Morrison behind Stanton. His career .190 ISO is just as useful to the Fish, and makes Morrison something of a "mini-Stanton" in that regard. As long as he can continue to hit the ball in the air (career fly ball rate of just 35.4 percent), he has the power to occasionally drive Stanton in.
What they're missing
As good as Stanton and Morrison's additions have been, we have to consider whom the Marlins are replacing as well. Stanton enters for the spot Chris Coghlan once had and the position that would have been Justin Ruggiano's before Stanton's return. Ruggiano has struggled this season, but his current and potential performance is infinitely better than Juan Pierre's. The Marlins are throwing away runs with that move.
Morrison replaces Greg Dobbs, who was the third-worst regular on the roster up until last week. That removes one of the team's black holes, but the ultimate issue is that, even with the return of these two players, the Marlins still have too many essentially empty spots on their roster. The Fish are boasting Pierre, Polanco, and Hechavarria regularly, and only one of them has no apparent replacement. Hechavarria at least contributes defensively and is young, but the other two players are older and on their way out of baseball.
Add to that the current struggles of Rob Brantly (.247/.293/.300 and splitting time with the hapless Jeff Mathis) and the Marlins have four regular black holes out of their eight lineup slots. Derek Dietrich and Marcell Ozuna are contributing, but four major leaguer hitters out of eight spots just is not enough. The Marlins gained back an All-Star and a regular contributor, but offense in baseball still ends up being a team sport. Individual performances can only go so far in contributing towards team runs, and despite the additions, the Marlins are still missing real players at other positions, and that should hold this offense back despite all efforts by Stanton and Morrison.