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Marlins Season Preview: Important Numbers, Position Players Edition

Pitchers and catchers are reporting to the Miami Marlins today, so today we will start our Miami Marlins Season Preview with our yearly feature, Important Numbers. The premise of the format simple: for each player playing a prominent role on the Marlins in 2012, we post an important number to look at for the 2012 season. Today, we will begin with position players.

John Buck: 20

One would think that, after a 2010 season that saw Buck hit a career-high 20 home runs and a 2011 campaign that saw him drop to 16, his goal in 2012 would be go back up to 20 homers again. But in fact, the 20 listed here is not so much about home runs (though that would be nice) as it is about doubles. Buck's ISO fell from .208 in 2010 and .178 career to .139 last season despite a 16-home run campaign, and much of it likely had to do with his distinct lack of doubles. Every year since 2005 in which he has had around 400 or more PA, Buck has hit at least 18 doubles. Last year, he hit 15, displaying the sort of power he showed in his earlier career. The problem is that Buck's primary offensive benefit is that of power, so if he loses that, he contributes a lot less as a catcher and as a player overall, as he is a below-average defender at the plate. Depending on the source that you ask, Buck was worth anywhere between one and two Wins Above Replacement last season, but with the ballpark getting bigger, it may be difficult for him to improve on the one thing he does best, which is hitting balls a long ways.

Gaby Sanchez: 81

For Sanchez, the number that may be important is "81," as in the last 81 games of the season. In each of his first two major league seasons, he has massively outperformed in the first half as compared to the second half.

Sanchez, Half PA AVG OBP SLG
First Half 745 .297 .370 .470
Second Half 590 .234 .316 .402

But if you take a look at the peripherals, it seems as though he has been pretty even on most.

Sanchez, Half K% BB% ISO XB / H BABIP
First Half 15.3 9.9 .173 0.579 .329
Second Half 15.0 10.0 .169 0.719 .247

Based on those numbers, it seems all Sanchez has lost in each of his second halves was a number of singles, as his BABIP fell but his ISO (which only counts extra bases and thus considers singles as equivalent to outs) remained the same. This effect has only been seen in two seasons, so I doubt this is a "true" effect, but it is worth watching. Hopefully Sanchez can string together two solid halves in 2012.

Omar Infante: +10

This number references what a lot of defensive statistics had as Infante's defensive contribution in terms of runs last season. As a result, despite a season that was his worst offensive campaign since 2007, he still ended up being worth around two to three Wins Above Replacement by most metrics. Of course, we should suspect a bit of a bounce back from Infante, but the question is going to be how much he regresses, if any, on defense. Before the season, we were told he was going to be a top-notch second baseman, and he delivered on that promise, but can he keep up a Gold Glove-level defensive performance and again be an above-average contributor to the Marlins?

Hanley Ramirez: 5

There are a lot of things that are on the line for Hanley Ramirez in his 2012 season, but perhaps the biggest change is going to be moving from the "6" position at shortstop to the "5" position at third base. Defensively, the two positions emphasize different skills in terms of importance, with third base more dependent on fast reflexes and reactions rather than rangy defensive play. Since Ramirez was never known for his strong range, hopefully his reactions are a bit better. We have always known that his arm could handle the position, but will it be accurate enough to make those across-the-diamond throws on every play? These questions definitely deserve answering, and we will not know for sure until Spring Training games begin.

The other interesting thing to note with Ramirez is how the move to third base may affect his offensive performance. He is due for a bounce back up to perhaps his 2010 levels, but if the position change hinders that recovery in any way, it may become a difficult inaugural third base campaign for Ramirez.

Jose Reyes: 130

Jose Reyes is a top-notch player in baseball, which is why the Marlins signed him to a six-year deal worth $104 million to be the team's shortstop. But the question, as it always has been with him, is playing time. Each of the last two seasons, Reyes has played around 130 games each year, and this is a number the Marlins are looking for him to match in the next few seasons as well. Sure, getting a full year of Reyes would be amazing, and when he was at his best from 2006 to 2008, he was a full-time player logging more than 150 games a year. But the truth of the matter is that those times are probably gone, but the Marlins carefully managed his deal such that he would be projected to meet the numbers he would need to be worth his contract by playing only 130 games. Really, the team did an excellent job in evaluating Reyes, and I suspect that he will meet the requirements the club needs of him in 2012 and beyond. If the team gets a full, healthy season from the 29-year old shortstop, it will be gravy and the Fish may be in line for the playoffs.

Logan Morrison: .295

This is Morrison's career BABIP, leading to a .259/.351/.460 career batting line. Whether this is a good estimate of his true talent is another question entirely, as he has put up BABIP of .351 (in 2010) and .265 (2011) in his career. Which one is the real Morrison? I would lean more towards his .351 mark based on his minor league career, but that lean is probably very slight. I would be willing to bet that his BABIP and subsequent slash line are due for a jump, with his BABIP ending closer to .300 or .310 than .270 or .280 in 2012. If he can pull that off and keep some of the power he flashed in 2011, all of Morrison's silly Tweeting off the field will be forgotten given his strong performance at the plate. He may be a lost causeout in the outfield, so his offense will need to pick up some major slack.

Emilio Bonifacio: .372

That would be Bonifacio's 2011 BABIP and a line that is likely unsustainable going into the future. Yet most Marlins fans are insistent that Bonifacio will do a good job mostly repeating his 2011 season. It is true that he has made improvements since his disastrous 2009 season, but Bonifacio still has some of the same problems he has always had. Since 2009, his strikeout rate has stayed near 20 percent, but he does not have enough power to sustain a good batting line with that kind of strikeout rate and no assitance on BABIP. Essentially, we may have seen the best that Bonifacio can produce, given that his BABIP was at the highest we could expect for any given season. If that is the case, Bonifacio has nowhere to go but down.

Mike Stanton: 24.0

Everyone really wants to know if this season is the year we see Stanton knock 40 home runs out, but one interesting point to bring up is that his home run per fly ball (HR/FB) rate for his career is at a robust 24.0 percent. Since 2010, only one player (Jim Thome) has put up a mark higher than that, which means that Stanton may already at the pinnacle of league power. Sure, it is possible that he hits more home runs on his fly balls as he continues to grow, but the chances are less likely that he will simply grow more raw power. However, it does not mean his home run numbers should plateau; I think there is a possibility that he improves in terms of gaining fly balls rather than raw power. If he hits more fly balls than his current rate of 40 percent of his batted balls, he will undoubtedly send more long balls out, even in the Marlins' deeper park.