2014 Miami Marlins Midseason Report: Fielding

Steve Mitchell

The Miami Marlins improved as a team in terms of fielding, but might their imbalance between good outfielders and poor infielders hurt them at some point?

The Miami Marlins have gotten away with an interesting fielding dichotomy in 2014. While the Fish boast the league's best outfield in terms of overall contribution, its infield has been barren in production. This includes the infield's defensive play so far in 2014. The outfield hosts three potential Gold Glove players, two of whom have some of the best arms in baseball. Meanwhile, the infield has a questionably good player, a questionably terrible player, and one guy who we know is bad at his position. The varying differences in value between Miami's infield and outfield continues to grow.

The Numbers

Team UZR: -12.5 runs
Team DRS: +5 runs

These two different zone-based metric systems have Miami rated differently, to no one's surprise. The major differences come from how positive the systems are on the team's outfield. Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton rate very well in DRS, but they are simply around average by UZR. Given what we have witnessed for most of 2014, I would be inclined to lean towards the former rather than the latter, but taking the entirety of the data into account, Miami should have closer to an average defensive team than not.

Still, the discrepancy between the outfield and infield is once again apparent. In either system, the outfield has significantly outperformed the infield. The four main players who have manned the infield positions around the diamond have combined for 16 runs below average by UZR and 15 runs below by DRS. In contrast, Miami's three primary outfielders have added about seven runs above average at their primary positions by UZR and a whopping 21 runs above average by DRS. Either way, the differences are extreme.

Midseason MVP: Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna

I could not decide on just one MVP based on the numbers and the roles played in 2014, so I gave the award to two of the team's spectacular three-headed outfield of fly ball deaths. For Stanton, it is a return to prominence after an ugly defensive season last year. Part of last season may have been injury, as he suffered that early-season hamstring injury and was slowed down on multiple fronts after that. Part of it might have been motivation, as the Marlins were sinking fast and perhaps Stanton took more time off of playing hard to avoid further injury. Either way, a healthy Stanton with two good legs underneath him once again has proven to be a defensive stalwart. This season, Miami's star outfieler has recorded between two and eight runs better than average according to different metrics. He certainly has looked the part as well, moving in more gliding motion and taking fewer bad routes to balls. He has also flashed the spectacular arm for which he is known; he has gathered up two runs so far this year on the back of his outfield assists, and countless more on the threat of it.

Ozuna has basically the same reasoning, except minus the injury concerns. His range is now not being questioned after spending half a season combined in center field. He seems more than capable of handling the position, even in the spacious confines of Marlins Park. But what brings Ozuna's defensive money home is his cannon arm. He boasts the best arm on the team, and on its own it probably holds runners from advancing. The few who have tried this year have paid the price; Ozuna already has four outfield assists, tied with Stanton thus far this season.

Grade: A

Midseason LVP: Garrett Jones

A number of infielders could have been the recipient of this award. Derek Dietrich has 10 errors on the season and has already been demoted for defensive purposes. Adeiny Hechavarria is supposed to be a Gold Glove player, but he is struggling to float above average according to the metrics. But the worst player on the infield has to be Garrett Jones, who has the least amount of performance asked of him and still cannot avoid flubbing up on defense. Jones has quietly committed nine errors of his own, including five inexplicable throwing errors from first base. His range is not impressive, perhaps a byproduct of years spent splitting time in the outfield and first.

Heading into this year, he was a known liability, and he continues to be one. Miami is not getting enough offensive production from him to justify his standing either, meaning the Fish are seeing replacement-level play from their $7 million investment for the next two years. Not a good start to his career in Miami.

Grade: F

Other Starters

Derek Dietrich: Awful season so far. Committed ten errors, many egregious and at times quite costly. Has never really shown great range either despite coming from shortstop. He'll need to clean up his defensive game, because his offensive game is average but unspectacular. Grade: D-

Adeiny Hechavarria: Expected to be the Marlins' infield stalwart, he is still having trouble being a big league shortstop. There is conflicting evidence that Hechavarria might be better than the numbers are crediting, but nowhere near the Gold Glove performance that was expected. Grade: C-

Casey McGehee: Leads all NL third basemen in fielding percentage, with only three errors committed. But cannot field a lot of balls because he apparently has stone-footed range. There is the danger of using fielding percentage as your only tool. Grade: C

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Expected to be poorer defensively, and has not been able to control the running game. Only caught nine of 50 would-be basestealers, which is worse than career mark by a long shot. Numbers revised on catcher framing reveal below average performance as well, hurting his defensive benefits even more. Grade: C-

Christian Yelich: Unheraled third cog in the Marlins' Gold Glove outfield. Great range, capable of playing center field, and so far his arm has not gotten him into trouble necessarily. Great asset to have in left field. Grade: B+

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