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2014 Marlins Season Review: The infield disaster

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The Miami Marlins were counting on their infield improvements from the offseason to assist the team, but the vast majority of the infield underperformed in 2014.

Garrett Jones played a big role in the team's disappointing infield in 2014.
Garrett Jones played a big role in the team's disappointing infield in 2014.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins boasted perhaps the best outfield in baseball in 2014, and that went a long way towards establishing their offense and returning to acceptable levels. But the infield was a completely different ballgame for the Fish, and that happened despite numerous additions to fill gaps in the offseason. The Marlins signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, Rafael Furcal, and Casey McGehee with the intent to fill four of their five infield positions with veterans.

The results of those signings did not work out as planned. Of the four, only McGehee was a league average player by the end of the season. Saltalamacchia had a awkward year at the plate and struggled defensively, particularly with pitch framing. Garrett Jones was unacceptably bad and perhaps the team's worst player. And Rafael Furcal essentially missed the entire 2014 season with a hamstring injury that happened in Spring Training and was exacerbated in his limited playing time.

Combine that with the questionably poor defense and clearly poor offense of Adeiny Hechavarria and you have an ugly infield picture. McGehee was worth two wins by the end of the season (keep in mind that he was supposedly worth two wins by the halfway mark as well). According to FanGraphs, the remaining four Marlins infielders discussed above were worth 1.9 Wins Above Replacement.

Jones: The Mistake

The team's worst performance came from Garrett Jones, who provided neither the bat nor the glove necessary at first base. He hit just .246/.309/.411 (.316 wOBA), which represented a line worse than McGehee's at a position that requires more offense. Jones did hit 15 home runs, so he added the power the Fish were seeking before the season began. But even that was on the downswing in Miami; he posted a 9.3 percent home run per fly ball (HR/FB) rate, which was the lowest of his career.

The rest of his game was a mess. He posted his usual mediocre strikeout and walk rates, and combined with decreased power, that led to his line being almost as bad as it was last season, when the Pirates opted to release him rather than tender him an arbitration contract. His defense was below average, though not disastrous according to most metrics, but it did not help his cause. Now Miami is considering deposing him from the lineup just when they will pay him $5 million in salary thanks to his bad two-year contract.

Second Base: The Wasteland

The wasteland that was second base in 2014 was due to the Marlins' desire for a veteran presence there. Rafael Furcal was signed to play second, but it was always a known risk that the aging Furcal would miss time due to injury. It was not surprising to see that he in fact missed almost all of 2014 with his latest injury. Furcal just took $3.5 million from the Marlins for nothing this year.

The replacements at second base were mediocre this season. Derek Dietrich was the best of them, but his season had question marks. He got on base well, partly from a swing-free approach and partly because he got hit by pitches at an extreme rate. But his defensive struggles were real and went beyond the errors he committed. Miami demoted him to get his glove fixed, and when he did return, he did not exactly hit well. In the end his line was decent, but unspectacular.

Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas were their usual bad selves. The Marlins did not entertain the option of Enrique Hernandez at second base all that much. In total, the position was a disaster in 2014.

Saltalamacchia: The Question Mark

Salty had his worst year in the last four years at the plate while arriving in Miami. One could blame the new park or new pitching environment, but despite an increase in walks, there are definite scary risk factors for a decline in Saltalamacchia's game if his bat continues this way. The loss in power was particularly disappointing; Salty hit just 11 home runs and posted a .142 ISO, both representing four-year lows.

The defense was also a major question mark and could come under more fire in 2015. This year, not only did Salty struggle in throwing out runners, but his pitch framing came into major question according to the defensive stats. Overall, he is a huge question mark going into 2015.

Hechavarria: The Defensive Enigma

The question of Hechavarria will always come down to defense. His bat is what it is; even after improving by leaps and bounds, mostly from a bounce back in BABIP, Hechavarria still was worth 12 runs below average at the plate. The question is whether his defense is there or not. If the spectrum of his defense falls to the negative end, as the zone-based metrics seem to think, then he is close to a replacement-level player. If it falls towards the Gold Glove-level talent that some of the scouting folks and the team seem to think, then he is closer to a league-average player. Likely, however, he is somewhere in between that spectrum. Sadly, that may make him one of the better infielders in this ugly tandem heading into 2015.