The Miami Marlins began the 2012 season with the plan of playing Hanley Ramirez for the next three years at third base. After signing Jose Reyes to a six-year contract this past offseason, it finally seemed like the Marlins had figured out their third base hole that had been present since Miguel Cabrera was traded. Ramirez would learn the position, reclaim his spot among the better hitters on the team, and the Marlins would reap the offensive and fielding benefits.
But just four months into the season, these plans drastically changed.
Hanley Ramirez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Marlins were suddenly left once again without a third baseman. The team since then tried five different players at the position at different times, with no one clear-cut option sticking. The team ran platoons at the position, but neither half of any platoon the team sent out succeeded in a significant fashion. The team was so bereft of talent at the position after the Ramirez trade that it seemed like a flashback of last season, when the club began the year with backup players at third base and ended the year with other backups there.
The Marlins completed the 2012 season with Gil Velazquez making the final 12 starts at the position. That cannot be good for anyone.
Greg Dobbs probably deserves his own post. After all, not only did her record 347 PA as a Marlin in 2012, but he also is the #mostinterestingmaninbaseball. But for the sake of saving post counts on Fish Stripes, I included him along with the rest of the team's third basemen. Indeed, Dobbs made the second-most starts out of all Marlins players at third base this past season, trailing only Ramirez.
Dobbs gets major props from parties close to the Marlins' organization, as one might expect from a player who exhibits the "gritty veteran leadership" the ownership and front office seem to like. But the sheer misunderstanding of the quality of Dobbs's 2012 season deserves a lot of attention. As a Marlins fan, one often hears Tommy Hutton sing the praises of Greg Dobbs for what can be summarized as "doing the little things." It was well-noted that Dobbs led the team in driving runs in with a runner on third and less than two outs, a classic "little thing" that got harped on consistently on the TV broadcasts, for example. His decently high batting average, which hovered around .300 as late as mid-September, was also often lauded.
This praise is why Dobbs's season in terms of his raw numbers looks so awful in contrast. For all of the "productive outs" and leadership actions that Dobbs supposedly accomplished. his 2012 season was a terrible year. Yes, he hit .285 on the season. But Dobbs walked just nine times unintentionally in 2012, and his five home runs yielded the lowest HR/FB rate of his career since he joined the Philadelphia Phillies six years ago. Dobbs hit a double or a triple on only 15 of his balls in play available to defenders this year, yielding a rate of 5.5 percent. If you will recall, even Donovan Solano had a rate of six percent. Dobbs was a weaker doubles hitter than Donovan Solano this season. Despite all of those "little things," Dobbs's .297 wOBA was his third-worst year the plate since he joined the Phillies in 2007.
Even though all of that was true, Dobbs would still have been at least a passable bench player had he been a competent defender at his position. But because of the Marlins' lack of depth in 2012 due to injuries and trades, Dobbs was asked to not only play the more familiar third base but also to move to the outfield to handle the corner positions on occasion. One look at Dobbs's defense in the outfield and you can totally understand why the defensive metric numbers came out this way.
|Third Base||262 1/3||-10||-10||-10|
|Right Field||122 1/3||-3||-5||-4|
|Left Field||105 1/3||-1||-3||+1|
As you can see, the metrics disliked Dobbs's defense at all but one position, with first base being his most likely positive contribution. Left field was not a train wreck, but watching Dobbs play right field was a disaster. In multiple attempts, he would often fumble, misjudge, or flat-out drop balls that were otherwise catchable by decent outfielders. It is hard to blame Dobbs for his mistakes an an unfamiliar position, but it is worth blaming the Marlins for placing him in a position to fail. His performance at third base may not have been that bad, but he was not an average player at his more natural position either.
In short, Dobbs may have had one of the worst seasons in Marlins history while being praised for his contributions the entire year. By Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement, Dobbs's season was the worst in Marlins history, even eclipsing Alex Gonzalez's 2000 campaign and Mike Jacob's confusing 2008 season.
Murphy was likely the Marlins' first choice for the small half of a third base platoon, and he certainly was the first player who was sent out there by the Fish once Ramirez was traded. Unfortuantely, the problem with Murphy, as always, was twofold. On one hand, while he was on the field, his plate discipline was awful. Murphy whiffed in 27.1 percent of his PA this season while walking in only seven percent of those PA. Yes, Murphy has decent power for a backup infielder, especially for someone who can fake it at shortstop, but his inability to make good contact (career 70.7 percent contact rate) prevents him from being a passable hitter at this level of power.
Of course, the other problem was that he simply could not stay on the field. Murphy missed a month of playing time this season on separate occasions, but more importantly, he missed that time at the most inopportune times for him. In both instances, Murphy missed time with a thigh strain and a concussion in times when he was likely to receive the most playing time. Combine that with his long delay thanks to a wrist injury last season and you can see how Murphy could be labeled as "injury-prone."
Nick Green was here for 24 PA, played some really good defense, was as awful as expected given his status as career minor leaguer, then got hurt on a slide and never returned from his DL stint. Sounds like the Marlins season.
Velazquez took over at third base following Donnie Murphy's second significant injury. With Greg Dobbs's minor aches and ails keeping him out of the lineup for the end of the year, Velazquez made the last 12 starts at third base this year. One look at his batting line shows you why he is a career minor leaguer. He occasionally made good plays at the hot corner, but for the most part was just a terrible singles hitter.