With Marlins Offense Anemic, Some Changes Must Be Made

ap-marlins-spring-baseball-x-largeThe good news is, the Marlins have the pitching and the defense to make a push for a strong run. They could, potentially, rattle off 5-10 wins in a row. Then there is the bad news – the offense just plain sucks. They can’t scratch out runs, let alone score runs in bunches.

Nothing new to report there. The Marlins knew they were going to be challenged at scoring runs and there was a recognition that there would be a power outage this year. The lone power threat, Giancarlo Stanton, has yet to hit a home run or even an RBI in his 43 ABs. But there is hope – Stanton is not the only hitter in the lineup with the ability to hit for power and as soon as some of these injuries sort themselves out, he may actually be getting some protection in the lineup.

Justin Ruggiano has 3 home runs right now, hitting 2 on this road trip in Cincinnati on back to back nights. When you look at the lineup, he is hitting behind Greg Dobbs in the 5th spot. Why not slide him behind Stanton to give him a little more protection?

Manager Mike Redmond is trying to get blood from a stone here, but his strategy appears to be sound. He has Stanton batting 3rd so that he will be guaranteed an AB in the 1st inning. Sounds good except pitchers tend to be a little more adjusted after the first two batters and the next inning they start changing their pitching approach around. The thought is that Stanton will be able to sneak in there with RISP and get something going. So far, that hasn’t happened.

The Marlins best overall hitter right now is Placido Polanco who, with RISP, is hitting .467. In fact he is hitting .286 when ahead in the count and .304 when behind in the count. Although he is more apt to hit in the #2 slot, he could slide down and be an effective turn over hitter in the first inning if anyone gets on base in front of him or if he just needs to get on to extend the inning for Stanton.

Which then leaves us with Ruggiano. He offers better protection behind Stanton because not only has he demonstrated he has pop in his bat, he is a pretty good high pitch hitter and if a pitcher walks Stanton to get to Ruggiano, his control may slip a bit and he could very well leave a pitch hanging for Ruggiano to do something with. Even if that doesn’t play out, Ruggiano is a better option behind Stanton than anyone else in the lineup and it is time for Redmond to recognize that and scrap the Dobbs experiment.

Speaking of Greg Dobbs, it is time to get Joe Mahoney some time in at 1B. Not only does he offer a big defense target for the defense over there, but he is a lefty bat with lots of pop. If he could get going, he too could offer something this lineup is lacking – the ability to score runs in bunches and drive in runs.

The Marlins don’t strike out – which is a good thing. They are currently rated 6th in all of baseball with a 6.83 K per game average. What is more telling though is that they are 3rd in the league with regards to sacrifices per game – the Fish are sporting a 0.61 average for sacs per game; only San Francisco (0.72) and San Diego (0.76) are above them.

So what gives? Well, there has been an attempt to call the Marlins LOB City, but they are not the worst. Their current average is 13.67 LOB per game, 15th in MLB (the worst is Detroit 18.71). The team is putting the ball in play, getting sacrifices when it needs to, and is right in the middle when it comes to leaving men on base. Here’s why – hits per game. The Marlins are 30th in MLB with a 6.72 average. The best? Detroit with a 10.24 average – which is why their LOB average is so high, When you hit that much a game, you are guaranteeing that you will leave men on.

The input from the Marlins is low but they are definitely maximizing their output as much as they can. They are putting the ball in play, they are not striking out, they do sac to get runners over, but they just aren’t hitting enough to score runs. Very rarely do the Marlins actually get more than one hit per inning – as their average testifies. So, what is the solution? Bunch up all the power you have and give it a chance to make a bigger splash.

Redmond has spread out his power bats a bit trying to generate scoring opportunities in each inning but it flat out doesn’t work. The Marlins need to isolate their power and give themselves a chance to score in bunches every couple of innings or so. To do that, they need to have Stanton protected by Ruggiano, the only guy proven right now to hit with power. They can then follow him with Mahoney or Dobbs. Then turn the lineup over again with the bottom of the order.

Basically, the Marlins have a plethora of #2 slot hitters – guys who can hit behind a runner on base, but not necessarily have the ability to drive them in. If you look at those types of hitters on this roster, you have Donovan Solano, Placido Polanco, Rob Brantly, Chris Coghlan. Juan Pierre is a leadoff hitter and Adeiny Hechavarria is inconsistent to this point to really have a proper appraisal of what kind of a hitter he can be. He may be a #2 guy, but he can hit with some pop from time to time, too. If he can continue to cut down on his K rate, he may offer some interesting upside to complement his stellar defense.

All of this is prologue towards Logan Morrison’s eventual return. What kind of a hitter he will be once he returns remains to be seen, but he has the promise and the ability to be a major offensive threat while holding down 1B. With his return, he could be better served to bat behind Stanton or even in front of him. The core of the Marlins power then becomes Ruggiano, Stanton, and Morrison but until that day arrives, the Marlins will have to take their chances with what they have.

Another good thing to keep in mind is that Stanton is a notoriously slow starter. He usually fares poorly in April but gets hotter as the season moves along. He has the ability to carry a team’s offense, but that probably won’t surface until he gets more ABs and gets hot moving towards May.

Keep an eye on Christian Yelich, too. He is not healthy yet, but he will get some ABs in AA Jacksonville. If he gets hot down there, and Juan Pierre continues this “funk” he is in, the Marlins may be tempted to call up the wunderkid and see what he can do. Yes, there is the possibility that we don’t see him anytime until after the All Star Break so that the clock is not started early on his arbitration but if the Marlins are serious about winning (ahem, Jeffrey Loria) then they will make that call much like they did with Jose Fernandez.