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Marlins to improve on defense

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First, we will address an obvious weak spot for the team as a whole.

After an offseason self-evaluation, second-year manager Fredi Gonzalez said he's ''going to do some stuff different'' -- including a bigger emphasis on defense after the Marlins committed a baseball-leading 137 errors last season. With spring training opening next week, defense and starting pitching are by far the biggest areas where Florida must show growth.

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'We are going to emphasize defense more to the players, and make it a pride thing. Nobody is going to get lined up and shot. [But] you make a dumb error, we're going to look at you and go, `Come on' or even guys among themselves. Our pitching staff made [an MLB-high] 20 errors. Some of our young guys, this is their third year, they're not young anymore.''

While every Marlins fan agrees that the defense needs to improve, but last year really wasn't any worse than it was the previous year.  If you use, the next to useless metric of team defense, fielding percentage, the Marlins were about the same in 2006 as in 2007.  The 2006 fielding percentage was .979 and in 2007 it was .977 -- and both of the numbers suck.

It is very true that defense has an effect on starting pitching.  A team can't keep giving the opponents 4, 5 or 6 outs an inning and have the pitchers remain effective.

But defense wasn't the only problem last season, injuries took its toll on the pitching staff.  In the previous season the young starters were extended in the total number of innings pitched, and when that takes place, more than likely one of two outcomes will happen the next season: an injury or a bad year.  It has been documented time and time again.

The defense can and should get better, since the young guys seem like they want to field their positions better.  Sure, they won't make anyone forget how good the 2003 team was defensively -- but they should improve.

How well the starting staff rebounds from injury, is still up for grabs.  It is doubtful that any of the 2006 starting rookie pitchers will return to form, with the possible exception of Scott Olsen.