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Michael Morse: The Marlins' search for production

Was Garrett Jones productive last year? Was Michael Morse more productive? Is Michael Morse the answer for first base? Will he be fun to watch? Read on for all of these answers and more!

A Morse is a Morse, of course of course
A Morse is a Morse, of course of course
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, my name is Tom Hanlon. Just as a disclaimer, I’m a fan of the San Francisco Giants. But I have mad respect and admiration for the Marlins. Hopefully you’ll enjoy my articles; they’ll be packed with opinions based on objective analysis (most of the time). I have a wry sense of humor and I think it translates through my writing. Feel free to let me know if you would like me to cover anything specific!

The Premise(s)

1) First Base is an important position.
2) Good teams have good first basemen.
3) Garrett Jones, in 2014, was not a good first baseman.
4) Michael Morse, in 2015, will be a good first baseman. (Maybe)

All of the statements above are true. Except for the last one. The last one is a prediction. A hope, more like. The truth is that good teams want need productive corner infielders. The Marlins recognize this, which is why they went out and replaced both of theirs. Goodbye, (future San Francisco Giant) Casey McGehee. Hello, Martin Prado. Goodbye, Garrett Jones. Hello, (former San Francisco Giant) Michael Morse. We’re glad to see you.

The Problem

There’s no doubt that Garrett Jones and company (Jeff Baker, Justin Bour) provided serviceable production from 1B. Jones, in 547 PA at 1B, contributed with a slash line of .246/.309/.411. In limited plate appearances his counterparts combined for .324/. 355/.435.  However, when taking a look at the Marlin’s combined production at 1B relative to the league, the Marlins rank 24th with 0.1 WAR. In fact, Garrett Jones had a WAR of -1.1. That’s a problem, especially when one considers that the average production from first basemen in the NL East comes out to a WAR of 2.3. Just as a helpful reminder what that all means, here’s a chart from our friends at FanGraphs:

Scrub 0-1 WAR
Role Player 1-2 WAR
Solid Starter 2-3 WAR
Good Player 3-4 WAR
All-Star 4-5 WAR
Superstar 5-6 WAR

What does this chart say? Well it says that the Marlin's were playing "Scrubs" (or worse) last season. Do you want your first baseman to be a scrub(or worse)? I didn't think so.

The Solution (Possibly)

It was clear that the Fish needed to find an answer. Enter, Michael Morse: a 6’5, 245lb "beast" (Coincidentally that is also his nickname). Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles once compared Michael Morse running the bases to Sweetums from The MuppetsIf you need a visual, I’d say it’s a pretty apt description. His size and boisterous personality, while lovely things in their own right, aren’t the most intriguing aspects of the former Giants leftfielder.

The Positives

In 131 games, Michael Morse hit .279/ .336/ .475/ .811 with 16 HR and 61 RBI. Fairly impressive numbers for someone who just one year earlier put up paltry numbers in an injury riddled season. (We’ll get to that a little later).

Michael Morse has the potential to put up monster production. In fact, wind the clock back a few years earlier and you'll see that Morse was a 2011 MVP candidate as a first baseman/outfielder for the Nationals. That year Morse hit .303/ .360/ .550/ .910 with 31 HR and 95 RBI. It happened to be his most productive season. While that might appear to be his peak, let’s take a closer look at Morse’s career record against NL East opponents. In 612 PA Morse has hit .297/ .355/ .471/ .862. His familiarity and success against the NL East certainly appears to be an attractive quality.

In addition, Morse will be moving back to his natural position at first base* (*Technically his natural position is SS). Curiously Michael Morse is a more productive hitter at 1B than he is in the OF. In roughly 600 PA at first baseman, Morse hits an outstanding .322/ .378/ .558/ .936. Compare that to a slash line of .263/ .314/ .473/ .787 in 844 PA as a left fielder. Maybe he's more at ease as a first baseman? It is clearly better that he doesn't play the outfield defensively anymore, as he has rated as one of the worst defensive players in the game last year.

The Negatives

It goes without saying that Michael Morse is not all sunshine and home runs. After all, he's bounced around the league a few times. Teams don’t just give up on players like him, especially players with his type of power.

Now that you mention it, he does happen to be injury-prone. In the past five seasons, Morse has been limited to an average of 113 games. His penchant for injuries and his infamous defensive liabilities must mean that a team is willing to sacrifice defense and durability for offense. At first base, he should be able to make routine plays….


The Conclusion

While Morse may not be an ideal first baseman, he still has spectacular potential. Who knows? Maybe a combination of his familiarity with the NL East and playing at first base allow him to lock in at the plate. He might be able to do this every once in a while.