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2012 Miami Marlins Midseason Review: Fielding

Omar Infante has been the Miami Marlins' most impressive fielder thus far in the first half. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Omar Infante has been the Miami Marlins' most impressive fielder thus far in the first half. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

A couple of days ago, we went over the hitting aspect of the Miami Marlins, and yesterday we went over the pitching side as well, so the only thing that is left to discuss is the fielding of the Miami Marlins. The Marlins have made fielding a point of emphasis in discussions over the last few seasons, but it is clear that only this year have they really done anything to address that problem. And even then, they still have major issues in the fielding department, so it is worth looking at what the numbers think of the Marlins on the defensive front.

Runs Allowed: 390
Team UZR: -16 runs
UZR Rank: 25
Team DRS: -23 runs
DRS Rank: 25
Team FRAA: -4 runs

In terms of the fielding metrics of today, most agree that the Marlins have cost themselves quite a few runs in the field. UZR and DRS, both of which use the zone data provided by Baseball Info Solutions (BIS), have the Marlins as among the five worst fielding teams in baseball, and Marlins fans would probably not disagree with that assessment. Baseball Prospectus's FRAA, which is based on Retrosheet data, has the Marlins at a more respectable total, but has a number of interesting discrepancies that differ from the BIS-based metrics. Such is the life of the analyst when looking at defensive statistics, which vary between each other and do have issues of bias.

So we will judge players not just on the stats, but on what I have seen from their first halves as well. We will use a qualitative as well as quantitative approach in today's review.

The Good: Omar Infante

It is hard to knock Infante's defense at any point. Following a Gold Glove-caliber year in 2011, Infante has regressed to a more expected mean but is still an above-average contributor with the glove. The statistics all have him between two and three runs above average this season, and I would be more than willing to posit that that number could be even greater. We have seen Infante anchor the infield defense and make a number of rangy, spectacular plays. The defensive statistics seem to believe that Infante is more of a sure-handed player within his zone of responsibility rather than a rangy guy, however. Infante's rate of plays made within his zone, according to BIS, is the second best in the game this season, behind only perennial Gold Glover Brandon Phillips. However, according to their data, Infante has not made a whole lot of plays outside of his zone, ranking in the lower half alongside guys like Neil Walker and Danny Espinosa.

A special mention should go to Giancarlo Stanton in the "good" category. He leads the team in defensive runs saved compared to players of his position by any of the statistics, and he has done so after a defensive struggle in April. We all witnessed him make more than a few mental and mechanical errors in the outfield in April and questioned whether he was a good outfielder. Well, since that month (which was indeed a negative month based on the stats), he has turned it up a few notches and made up for those problems. According to BIS, Stanton was the opposite of Infante, being a more rangy player who got to balls out of his area but not securing the ones that were in his zone.

The Bad: Logan Morrison

It does not take a genius or advanced statistics to point out that Logan Morrison is not a good defender in left field. Marlins fans pointed out this much in the Fans Scouting Report last season, but they did not go to the extent that UZR and DRS have judged his defense. This year, both systems have Morrison costing the team a whopping six runs compared to the average left fielder. That is pretty significant, as it is more than half a win on defense alone. The fact that Morrison played decently at first base by both the eyes and the numbers (three runs better than average according to the stats) shows that there is a benefit to moving him away from the outfield.

Still, the Fans thought he was bad, but not catastrophic at the position, and Baseball Prospectus's FRAA thinks he was above average, so there are still some mixed signals. Still, Marlins fans on this site are united in desiring Morrison be moved away from left field, and many of the statistics support such a notion. He has always looked clumsy and is perhaps the worst or slowest runner on the team, so it makes no sense to continue him in the spacious Marlins Park outfield.

Bounceback Candidate: Hanley Ramirez

By the eyes, I think most Marlins fans have to be decently happy with Ramirez's performance thus far. He has made quite a few flubs at the third position in 2012, but those are the growing pains of learning on the fly. While Ramirez could have helped himself by working more on the position in the offseason rather than dragging out his decision process, ultimately he has shown the work ethic necessary to do well.

Unfortunately, the numbers do not support him performing all that well. While UZR thinks he has not been terrible, DRS and FRAA both have him at around 10 runs worse than average so far this year. If that were the case, he would be on the catastrophic side defensively, but we know that, even if he has been that bad, it is in part because he is still learning the position. The Fish have time to allow him to accustom himself to third base, as they have Ramirez for another two seasons after this one. In the second half, I would not be surprised to see him get more used to ranging to his left and right at third base a little more. Right now, he does seem to be having the same horizontal range issues that plagued him at shortstop, so maybe more familiarity will breed better performance. I would be inclined to think Ramirez is a good candidate for better performance, even if it still is not above average performance.