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2016 Miami Marlins Midseason Review: Fielding

The Marlins have once again been an above average defensive team with no clear holes in their game.

Cincinnati Reds v Miami Marlins Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The Miami Marlins’ position players did a pretty good job of hitting, though the first-half returns did not yield the number of runs it should have given how well they hit. Of course, there is a halfway decent chance the Marlins knew going into this year that they were building a team low on power and high on contact, even with the presence of guys like Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Justin Bour. This is mostly because the Fish saw the effects of having a strong defense last year and knew they should get similarly good results this year. So far in 2016, that has panned out well.

Total Fielding

Runs Allowed: 370
Team UZR: +19 runs
Team DRS: +18

The Marlins are getting great results from their defensive performance. The team was on a massive errorless streak on the infield for some time between May and June of this year. Their infield has remained one of the best in baseball. The Fish gobble up batted balls at a very efficient rate. The team ranks 10th in baseball with the highest defensive efficiency on ground balls, snagging 76 percent of them for outs. At the same time, they rank ninth in fly ball efficiency, getting 91 percent of them for outs. They also carefully follow infield coach Perry Hill’s mantra of allowing no extra outs, as the team is second in baseball in runs above average on errors; Miami is seven runs above average in terms of avoiding miscues.

All of this adds up. Miami has given themselves almost two wins on the defensive front alone, and that helps a pitching staff that has struggled all year. Being a miscue-light team with good range both in the infield and outfield has let Miami’s staff get away with a few extra batted balls and, for the second year in a row, has provided a boon that this team has not experienced since the 2003 World Series days.

Best Performer: Left side of the infield

It was hard to pick between one of those two strong defenders on the left side, but you can safely claim that Adeiny Hechavarria and Martin Prado have been a strong part of the reason why the team has sustained its strong work on ground balls. Miami’s duo has been worth almost 11 runs above average as a group on that left side, and while neither is likely to win a Gold Glove this year, both are decidedly strong as a tandem. Hechavarria ranks in the top ten of shortstop performances by DRS and UZR this season, and Prado is eighth on both lists.

If there is a group that has followed the mantra of avoiding errors, it has been those two. Prado is fourth in terms of error runs with only three miscues committed, while Hechavarria is third in baseball with only five of them made. Half of their runs above average are based entirely on not making mistakes. This is especially important for an aging Prado who has less range than he once did. Hechavarria has also been interesting in that respect; once upon a time it was said that he was a flashy, rangy athlete who made mistakes on balls he should have gotten, but this year he is converting the most in-zone plays among all shortstops (85 percent of the 174 balls in his "zone of responsibility") but rarely snagging balls out of his area.

Worst Performer: Derek Dietrich

This is a more by-default answer, as Dietrich has the most negative performance at his position than any other Marlins player. And even this is nothing to dwell on; we have seen a lot worse performances by Dietrich in the past, and this is nothing by comparison. He look solid in playing second base for much of the season, being a little below average in fielding range overall according to the metrics. The eye test looked better for him this season, and perhaps most importantly, Dietrich has not been as error-prone as he was even a few years ago. He has committed just four errors this season in 457 innings played, as compared to 10 in 100 fewer innings in 2014. He has not matched up to some of the other players, but he is still about an average contributor, and that is the key for Miami. They seemingly have no one truly detrimental in the field.

Key Second-Half Performer: Dee Gordon

Gordon figures to play a good amount of second base in the second half of the season, and for the Marlins, it represents an interesting decision. Dietrich has hit so well, and his defense has not been a detriment to them, so replacing him on the field is a legitimate question. Gordon likely is not going to hit as well Dietrich. His skillset will never match that of Dietrich’s at the plate; last year, Gordon’s best season at the plate, was worth a .337 wOBA, which is about Dietrich’s career average (.335).

Where Gordon can beat Dietrich is on the field, where Gordon earned a Gold Glove last season with a legitimately strong campaign at second base. Dietrich may be an average second baseman or a bit below that, but there is a chance that Gordon, under the tutelage of Perry Hill, is a yearly Gold Glove challenger. He needs to play at a decently above-average clip in order to make up for his gap at the plate with his counterpart.