Marlins know defense will be key factor in resurgence
While Miami hopes to bolster offense this offseason, run prevention remains a priority
MIAMI -- Pitching and defense were cornerstones of the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship team.
If the organization is to get back to contender status in the next few seasons, run prevention will once again be essential.
It's no secret Miami scuffled at the plate last season. Finishing last in pretty much every significant offensive category was proof. But what hasn't received much attention is that the 2013 Marlins -- despite losing 100 games -- posted the best ERA (3.71) in franchise history, and the club was strong defensively. Miami finished in the middle of the Majors in errors committed with 88.
The Marlins can take small consolation in the fact they made the fewest amount of errors by a team to lose at least 100 games since the 162-game schedule was instituted. The American League first went to 162 games in 1961, and the National League followed in '62. Since then, 69 teams reached the century mark in losses.
Typically, teams to lose that many games are terrible defensively. The Marlins' 88 errors were by far the fewest of any of those teams. The 2006 Royals were next with 98 errors, and the 2008 Mariners finished with 99. Those are the only three teams to reach the century mark in losses but not in errors.
The 1998 Marlins, who lost 108 games, committed 129 errors.
"We've always wanted to take care of the ball and support our starting pitching," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "I feel like we've obviously made some strides in that direction from where we were. We were pretty bad defensively and made a lot of strides."
The 88 errors showed a dramatic improvement over the 103 committed by the 2012 Marlins.
The 2003 World Series title team was stellar defensively, making just 78 errors.
Stressing the fundamentals was a priority for manager Mike Redmond and his staff. Infield coach Perry Hill is regarded as one of the best instructors in the game, and the team's performance showed why. Credit also is given to Joe Espada, Miami's former third-base and outfield coach, who is now in the Yankees' organization.
In preparing for 2014, the Marlins have some holes to fill. The outfield is expected to be set with Christian Yelich in left, Marcell Ozuna or Jake Marisnick in center and Giancarlo Stanton in right.
Adeiny Hechavarria is an athletic shortstop who dazzled with his glove. Second baseman Donovan Solano was named Miami's top defensive player by Wilson.
Logan Morrison, healthy after two surgeries to his right knee, is at first, and Jeff Mathis returns at catcher.
The team is in the market for a third baseman, as well as another catcher to split time with Mathis.
"Obviously, we still have some names to pencil in around the infield," Hill said. "But if you look at what we have, our outfield defense should be outstanding. What we have behind the plate, Mathis is above average. Shortstop is above average. A healthy LoMo on two legs should be better at first."
Hechavarria has become one of the more disputed players in the game. In terms of tools and athleticism, the 24-year-old has impressed Miami's coaching staff, his teammates and a number of scouts. But his advanced metrics have him ranked very low.
According to FanGraphs, Hechavarria's WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a minus-1.9. As an organization, Miami is curious as to why the analytical community has such low calculations on Hechavarria. The Marlins would like some answers, and they actually plan on having a team representative meet with some numbers people at the Winter Meetings in December.
"I know zone rating," Hill said. "I know range factor. And I know an above-average defensive shortstop when I see one with my eyes. The numbers don't match."
Harvard-educated, Hill is well-versed in evaluating players based on their advanced numbers as well as physical tools.
"From a scouting standpoint, [Hechavarria] is what you want," Hill said. "Ask anybody who played against us if they would take Hechavarria at shortstop. Hands down [they would]."