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2011 Marlins Season Review: Left Field

Today, we move into the outfield in our 2011 Marlins Season Review, starting off in left field. Of course, while the cream of the Marlins' prospect crop is out doing wonders in right field, left field was left in a bit of limbo. Despite a solid debut in 2010, a lot of questions still followed Marlins left fielder Logan Morrison. Could he bring power to his patient game at the plate? Would his defense override his offensive performance? It turns out that in 2011, some of those questions were answered positively, some were answered negatively, but the entire package was merely disappointing.

2011 - Logan Morrison 123 525 .247 .330 .468 .344 115 1.0 0.2

The Good

With regards to the question of power, Morrison certainly proved that he had plenty of pop.

Morrison XB/H ISO GB% HR/FB%
2011 0.895 .221 47.4 18.1
2010 0.580 .164 48.2 3.2

While Morrison's power numbers appeared decent in 200, they were mostly a triples-fueled mirage; triples do not indicate more power than doubles, but rather more speed and or fortuitous placement of the ball, and Morrison had seven triples in 2010. The most egregious difference was in the home run department, where Morrison blasted 23 homers despite not playing full time due to injuries and a brief demotion. It seems Morrison has some legitimate power that could play in the majors.

While Morrison's walk rate dropped this season, it still remained at a respectable 10.3 percent rate. Similarly, his strikeouts rose in 2011, but not to an unbearable level given his general plate approach. His approach and ability to make contact remained relatively similar between the seasons.

Morrison Swing% Contact% Zone Swing% Outside Swing% Zone Contact% Outside Contact%
2011 39 83 57 24 89 68
2010 36 81 55 20 89 68

While he did swing at more pitches in 2011, this was not necessarily a bad thing, as he made contact on around the same amount of them. The fewer walks were a natural result of pitchers throwing more aggressively at him, as they upped the number of pitches thrown in the zone against him from 45 to 47 percent. Nevertheless, if Morrison continues this steady approach, we should see another solid season at the plate from him.

The Bad

Much of the rest of Morrison's sophomore campaign went poorly for the 24-year old. Part of it was a simple matter of BABIP; after having a crazy-high .351 mark in 2010, he followed that up with a crazy-low .265 mark in 2011. The overall career mark ends up being at a nice round .295 average on balls in play -- a mark which i suspect we may see in the future with Morrison. The odd thing was that Morrison was keeping his brisk BABIP pace until he flat-lined starting in June.

April-May 2011 143 .320 .406 .574 .356
June-September 2011 382 .221 .301 .429 .232

Of course, this could be a mere coincidence, but essentially Morrison's career at the plate has been split by his first 387 plate appearances with a BABIP in the .350's and his next 382 with a BABIP in the .230's. He has lived at the extremes for both sides, and the shift is pretty radical. It doesn't mean he will continue to bat at either extreme going forward, but it does mean that he is neither of these players and is more likely to resemble his career numbers going forward.

The other problem with Morrison, and the one that may be more concerning going forward, is his defensive capabilities. UZR and TotalZone both measured him as an atrocious defender on the order of 13 to 16 runs worse than average just last season. Baseball Prospectus's FRAA, which does not rely on granular batted ball data like UZR does, measured him at a more modest three runs below average. This major difference could be critical to measuring how good Morrison really is; if he is merely a below average left fielder, his bat can play at the position, but if he is well below average, he may require a move to first base.

What did the fans of the Fans Scouting Report think? They tended to side with a more conservative approach. The average left fielder rated as slightly below average at a 48 defensively on a scale of 0 to 100. Morrison was rated as a quarter of a standard deviation below that number, which should prove not to be too substantial to require a switch. However, when you talk to most Marlins fans, they would generally agree that Morrison may require a move to the infield, so the question remains up in the air.

As for the remainder of his problems, they remained off-field. Morrison ran into some trouble with the front office for some of the things he mentioned on his always-entertaining Twitter account, but he also missed a voluntary photo session that led to him being demoted. Had he been accepting of the demotion, there would have been little news to it, but he was very upset about it and did not hesitate to tell that to the media. I stand on the side of apathy in this instance, as I am more concerned about Morrison's on-field flaws than his off-field antics. Rumors of his "prima donna" behavior in the locker room do not bother me as much as his defense in left field may, so I'll leave that to others to speculate.

The Rest

Morrison's foot injury early in the season did allow other players such as Emilio Bonifacio and Bryan Petersen to spend some time in left field. Petersen will be discussed with the other center fielders, and Bonifacio has already been described in detail.

Fish Stripes readers, what say you? What did you think of Logan Morrison's 2011? Was his attitude a problem or simply the mild, immature gaffes of a 23-year old? Will his defense shape up in left field or will it require him to move to first base?