The Miami Marlins' 2012 season was defined by failed expectations, injuries, and trades. Logan Morrison was one of the few players who dealt with two of those very problems that were so emblematic of the Marlins' season. Morrison was slated to begin the season as the Marlins' left fielder after an offseason of speculation about the future of the team's two-first-basemen problem. The Marlins opted to ignore the defensive deficiencies of Morrison in left field and figured his bat would be able to cover up some of those problems. After all, he fared well enough in his rookie season and was at least a decent hitter in 2011.
But in 2012, all of that changed drastically.
At the start of the season, the question on most Marlins fans minds with regards to Morrison was whether he would be more of the 2010 or 2011 model of Logan Morrison. In 2010, Morrison racked up a high batting average but only hit two home runs in 287 PA. He also walked 14.3 percent of the time, thus getting on base at a .390 clip. The 2011 Morrison found a significant power stroke, as he hit 23 home runs and had a .233 ISO on the year. However, he also walked a lot less (10.3 percent) and had a lower BABIP, leading to a very low .247 batting average and subsequent "average" .330 OBP.
The problem for Morrison in 2012 was that he took the worst of both 2010 and 2011 worlds and mashed them together into a very poor season. Morrison's BABIP did not improve heading into 2012, as he hit a paltry .248 on balls in play after batting just .265 in 2011. The walks for which he was known continued to dry up despite plate discipline numbers that were even with the rest of his career. Morrison swung and made contact on the same percentage of pitches both in and out of the zone overall; in fact, in 2012, he posted his highest contact rate in his three-year career. Yet due to the fact that pitchers were throwing more pitches in the zone (48.9 percent in 2012) in the past season than in any year in his career, Morrison's strikeouts were still at a league-average 17.4 percent while his walks went down again.
However, unlike in 2011, Morrison did not combine this with good power. His .169 ISO was the second-lowest in his career, and it only climbed to that level because of some late-season power surging, as Morrison slugged .451 and hit eight of his 11 home runs from June through July. His rate of doubles and triples per ball in the field of play was down from last year (7.6 percent) to this year (6.5 percent). This came despite Morrison hitting a similar line drive rate and fewer ground balls this season than he had in his past two years. It seems that Morrison squared up balls a little better yet received poorer results, both in terms of hits and in the power category.
Later in the year, the Marlins found a potential reason for all of Morrison's problems at the plate. His patellar tendon injury that required surgery in the offseason and held him out for a good amount of spring training was a recurrent issue for Morrison throughout the 2012 year. Despite not declaring the problems he was having with his knee, it turns out that Morrison was struggling with the knee injury all year long and, as a result, struggled at the plate and on the field. When late July came around and the Marlins were both well out of the race and making trade deadline deals as "sellers," Morrison's knee got bad enough to go on the disabled list and eventually earn himself a second surgery.
It seems hard to imagine that the Marlins' insistence on playing Morrison in left field somehow did not contribute to his ongoing knee problems. One look at Morrison before the season (indeed, before his major league career, really) and Marlins fans could already see that he was an inadequate left fielder, and the defensive statistics seem to support this.
|Morrison, Left Field
|Runs Above Average
Morrison was rated very poorly by UZR, TotalZone, and DRS in terms of defensive prowess in his 479 innings in left field. Ironically, he fared much better with those systems in playing first base, indicating that his future really should be at that position. Indeed, Morrison's 155 innings at first base in place of Gaby Sanchez in the middle of the season were rated as three or four runs better than average and saved his otherwise atrocious defensive value.
For the Marlins, Morrison struggled at the plate, on the field, and finally failed to stay on the field in the first place. The failed expectations were a team-wide phenomenon, and the injuries struck a number of crucial starting position players and kept two (Morrison and Emilio Bonifacio) out for an extended period of time. As a result, Morrison's season was one of the most representative of the Marlins' overall plight in 2012.