Garrett Jones, Marlins trying to use Marlins Park to their advantage

Garrett Jones has heated up, particularly in Marlins Park. - Rob Foldy

The Miami Marlins have been among the best teams in baseball at home so far this season, and Garrett Jones thinks he has found the secret to hitting in the cavernous Marlins Park.

The Miami Marlins have a league-best record at home, and the biggest thing they have found so far at Marlins Park is, surprisingly enough, offensive success. The Fish boast an impressive .308/.371/.484 line at home, good for a .371 wOBA. That mark is the second-best line in baseball at home, behind only the Colorado Rockies at the launching pad of Coors Field. In terms of wRC+, which is adjusted for park environments, the Marlins have the third-best line behind the Rockies and Tampa Bay Rays. No matter how you slice it, the Fish have found some strong success at home.

Garrett Jones is one of the players who has enjoyed the home cooking. So far this season, he is hitting .281/.365/.453(.352 wOBA) at home versus .255/.294/.468 (.331 wOBA) on the road. According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, Jones says that he has found the strategy needed to beat the park.

"I think you just see the ball well here," Jones said. "The key here is you want to hit low and hard. You have a fast infield and big gaps in the outfield, so you want to think low line drives, gap to gap."


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/04/4096541/miami-marlins-garrett-jones-finds.html#storylink=cpy

This description does not sound surprising. Ever since the initial information on the dimensions of Marlins Park were revealed, it seemed clear that the best way to take advantage of the wide open spaces was to hit the ball on a line and go gap-to-gap rather than to try and drive it deep into the difficult power alleys. Going deep was always more doable on the left field side, where the distance to the Clevelander was not nearly as bad as the home run porch on the right field side. It helped to explain why lefty hitters like Logan Morrison might have struggled at home.

This year, however, the Fish are flourishing. Is it because Miami is staying low to the ground with grounders and line drives? The Marlins are ninth in the league in line drive rate at 20.8 percent, and they are 13th in ground ball rate. That leaves them at 21st in fly ball rate, which is exactly where the team wants to be if it wants to go gap-to-gap and avoid too many dead fly balls in the expansive outfield of Marlins Park. The team has hit a few more line drives and a few fewer grounders at home so far this year as well.

But the real success in Miami does not come from the gap hitting, though the Fish do have a .357 BABIP at home as well. Not only is the team running into more hits, likely do to a good run of luck, but the club is also hitting plenty of home runs. The Fish have the tenth-best home run per fly ball (HR/FB) rate in baseball at home, and the fourth-best overall. Of the nine teams in front of them, six play in homer-friendly parks, and all of them have a better park factor for home runs than Marlins Park. Yet Miami has seen a surge of power quite unlike their 2013 edition. The additions of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jones, along with the return of a power-laden Giancarlo Stanton, have boosted Miami's home run output.

Jones, Saltalamacchia, and Stanton have all approached Marlins Park with power. Which Marlins have attacked Marlins Park with the least fly ball and power tactics. Christian Yelich boasts a ground ball rate of over 60 percent for the season thus far, and his combination of line drives (19 percent at home) and grounders (59 percent) leaves the smallest percentage of fly balls. Casey McGehee (29 percent fly ball rate at home) and Adeiny Hechavarria (24 percent) have also heeded Jones's advice.

The approach to avoid power swings has helped so far, but a good amount of it is probably sheer luck that should regress over time. The Marlins are showing that, to be successful, they also need some power in their lineup, and it is possible the team has found the right combination of power and gap-hitting to score runs in Marlins Park. The question is whether this combination will continue to perform as it has, and that appears less likely. Still, the early success by Miami knocks some more holes into the "Marlins Park offensive death trap" theory.

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