The Miami Marlins have finally reached the halfway point of the season (well, a little more than halfway, more like the All-Star break), and that means it is time to review the first half of this difficult 2013 season. Coming into the year, the Marlins were expected to struggle, as the team was fielding a lineup filled with aging veterans and new players hoping to establish themselves in the big leagues.
The combination on offense has led to a disaster for the Marlins. For the first two months, it looked as though the Fish were going to set new record-lows for offensive production. It did not help that the team was without Giancarlo Stanton for all of May and Logan Morrison for the first two months as well. The team picked it up during their surprisingly winning June, but the Fish are still the worst offense in baseball by a fairly hefty margin.
Runs Scored/Allowed: 306/395
Pythagorean Win%: .387
Runs scored: 306
Team slash line: .233/.292/.340
The Marlins' offense was on an epic run of terrible play in the first two months of the season. The Fish were on their way to historically poor offensive numbers; up until May 31, the team was hitting .221/.281/.316 with only 152 runs scored. Since that time, they've only just doubled their output with about a month and a half of performance, meaning that while the Fish are hitting better than they were when they were on pace for a league-worst mark, they are still below the league average.
Despite the improvement, the Marlins are still playing terribly overall. The Fish are currently last in runs scored by close to 40 runs, last in wOBA, wRC (the estimated runs scored based on wOBA), and wRC+ (wOBA-based metric corrected for park and adjusted compared to league average). Due to their terrible start, they have buried themselves in an offensive hole that will be extremely difficult to dig out of. Even with the returns of Stanton and Morrison, the Fish are scoring just 4.05 runs per game and hitting .248/.307/.373. Such a line is closer to what the Pirates and Royals are hitting this season than the Astros and White Sox, but not much better than the cellar.
The Good: Gianarlo Stanton
It is not a good sign for Marlins fans when even your "good" hitter of the 2013 first half is having a disappointing season. Yes, Stanton is having the best first half of any Marlin; he is one of two Marlins players who is hitting better than the league average after accounting for park factors, and his line of .250/.357/.458 (.357 wOBA) is still 27 percent better than the league average.
But somehow, this all still seems very beneath Stanton's established level of play. This line is similar to the one he posted in his rookie season but is a far cry from his .290/.361/.608 (.405 wOBA) from last year or even his second year .262/.356/.537 (.381 wOBA) from 2011. The biggest problem this season seems to be his power; Stanton has just a .208 ISO after posting a .318 mark last season. His home run per fly ball rate is down to 18.9 percent from a career 24.9 percent mark. He is also hitting more grounders this season (47 percent) and squaring up pitches less (12.8 percent line drive rate) this year, all leading to fewer doubles and triples as well.
It looked as though Stanton was waking up early in June when he launched four home runs in a span of two weeks, but since then, he has only hit three. He still has a good chance at 25 homers and even an outside shot at 30, but perhaps the adjustment to pitchers throwing well off the plate against him is still ongoing; despite improvement, he is still posting his worst contact rate of his career.
The Bad: Adeiny Hechavarria
Heading into the year, most projections saw Hechavarria being a poor hitter, but maybe they did not see him being this poor. So far, Hechavarria's .240/.277/.324 line has underperformed even his low expectations, and that cannot be a good sign for the future of the Marlins' only real shortstop in the organization.
Hechavarria struggled in the places you would expect. He is striking out at an acceptable pace (15.1 percent) but has not established any control over the strike zone. His 4.9 percent walk rate is tied for the 20th-worst mark in baseball among qualified players, and this is despite his attempts to be more patient than he was last season; he is swinging at only 47.6 percent of pitches compared to almost 53 percent last season.
While Hechavarria struggled with his plate discipline, his BABIP of .279 has also hurt his batting line. We all expected him not to have power, and he has shown that thus far with a .084 ISO, but the batting average has fallen as he has failed to find gaps in the defense. That should improve, but in order for Hechavarria to show some additional value, he needs to hit more fly balls and fewer weak tappers in the infield, as the 53 percent ground ball rate is not helping him get the ball out of the infield more.
Second-Half Watch: Logan Morrison
Logan Morrison returned in early June in a game against the New York Mets, and since then he has done nothing but hit. His .282/.371/.518 (.382 wOBA) line is best on the team by a good margin and represents actual production at first base, something the Marlins have not had since Gaby Sanchez was an All-Star in 2011. Morrison has combined his best patience attributes (11.3 percent walk rate) with his power flashed in 2011 (.235 ISO, 18.2 percent home run per fly ball rate) and the result has been the sort of Morrison the Marlins had been hoping for for years.
The question is whether he can maintain this performance. He is hitting at an absurd BABIP, but his ground ball rate of 50 percent does not bode well for his continued power surge. Not all of his line drives and fly balls are going to land for hits, and some of them are going to land for singles or go in gloves. If Morrison can start pumping more pitches into the outfield, the Fish might be in for a treat.
Rob Brantly: Other than his slight defensive improvement (and that does not include work on blocking pitches, as he is still not good at that), Brantly has had a terrible sophomore effort after a nice start in 2012. He has been supplanted as the team's starting catcher. Grade: D
Jeff Mathis: Jeff Mathis is hitting .196/.279/.337. That's supposed to be good enough for this team. Grade: D
Greg Dobbs: Somehow, Greg Dobbs got worse than last year. But hey, productive outs!!!! Grade: F
Donovan Solano: Solano and the Marlins saw his regression come as expected this season. Before his injury took him out of the lineup, he was hitting .268/.323/.317 with a perfectly normal .305 BABIP. Punchless hitters be punchless. Grade: C-
Derek Dietrich: Dietrich has nine homers, which puts him second among National League rookies. He is also hitting just .218/.282/.421, which means that the first two numbers are not good enough. Still better than Solano. Grade: C+
Placido Polanco: It's safe to say, after Polanco's .251/.313/.297 start, that his batting career is over. Grade: F
Ed Lucas: Lucas has been one of the pleasant surprises of this team, When a pleasant surprise for your team is a .269/.345/.315 hitter, you need to re-evaluate the concept of pleasantness. Grade: C
Juan Pierre: See Placido Polanco, insert Juan Pierre's batting line. Grade: F
Justin Ruggiano: I'd love to say that Ruggiano was having a great first half but he has really been off-and-on. Just when Mike Redmond gave him the starting job over Pierre, he went on a terrible cold streak, and now his line is at .212/.289/.387. If he gets benched, we'll all be upset, but then he may go hot again, and the cycle will continue. Grade: C
Marcell Ozuna: Ozuna was the first outfielder to be promoted, and it was very confusing to see a player known for his power get by with large quantities of singles. Ozuna's plate discipline was expected given his 4.0 percent walk rate and 20.5 percent strikeout rate, but the balance between his power and BABIP has yet to be found. He cannot keep trying to get by with squeezing singles through the infield. Grade: B-
Chris Coghlan: Coghlan had a resurgent May after he looked all but out at the start of the season. Then he got hurt right as the team was going to try him at third base, and we do not yet know when he will return. His line is dependent on BABIP, but it would be nice to see if he can keep up an extended run of decent play instead of flashing months of good stuff. Grade: C+