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MARLINS HOT STOVE

I’ve got 2 action-packed hours of baseball talk for you tonight on Marlins Hot Stove from 7-9 p.m. on 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/Hot Stove.

My guests include Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and first baseman Justin Bour. Kyle Sielaff has a fascinating conversation with long-time major league umpire and current Umpiring Observer Steve Rippley, and I’ll preview the 2015 Washington Nationals with one of their radio play-by-play voices Dave Jageler.

We’ll also discuss the latest news around Major League Baseball, and I hope you’ll participate in tonight’s show as well. Among the topics on the table: recent discussions about trying to speed up the pace of major league games. Tweet me your opinions or your questions or, better yet, call in when we open the phone lines during our second hour.

For more on the Marlins and Major League Baseball, follow me on Twitter at @GlennGeffner and friend me on Facebook at Facebook.com/GlennGeffner. To have new Fish Tales posts delivered directly to you via email, please click the “Follow” button and enter your email address. And join me for Marlins Hot Stove talk every Monday night from 7-9 p.m. on AM 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove.

GOOD RIDDANCE

For all the talk about the anticipated improvement we’ll see from the Marlins in 2015 due to this winter’s slew of roster additions, the club also stands to benefit in the new year from addition by subtraction.

Marlins fans should be thrilled to say goodbye to 4 players subtracted from the rosters of National League East rivals this offseason.

Nationals relief ace Tyler Clippard, traded to the Oakland Athletics yesterday, has been as tough as on the Marlins as any pitcher in the game since he joined the Nats in 2008.

In 52 career appearances against Miami, Clippard is 3-1 with a save and a 1.25 ERA, limiting the Marlins to a .159 batting average while striking out 74 and allowing only 31 hits in 57 2/3 innings.

He was particularly tough on the Marlins over the last 2 seasons, going 1-0 with a 0.86 ERA and a .116 average allowed in 2013-14, surrendering only 2 runs on 8 hits while fanning 28 in 21 innings.

Since the Marlins joined the league in 1993, no player has scored more runs or collected more hits, doubles, triples or stolen bases against them than shortstop Jimmy Rollins, traded from the Phillies to the Dodgers this winter. Rollins has more career hits, triples and runs scored against Miami than against any team, and in 13 games against the Marlins in 2014, he batted .370 with a .460 OBP and a .574 slugging percentage. For good measure, he slugged a walk-off homer to beat Miami in the bottom of the 10th on April 12.

The division rival Braves have traded away a pair of Marlins killers this winter, first sending Jason Heyward to the Cardinals in November, then dealing catcher Evan Gattis to the Astros yesterday.

Since debuting in 2010, Heyward has batted .299 with a .388 OBP in 78 games against the Marlins, saving his best for 2014, when he posted a .377 average and a .415 OBP with 10 RBI in 19 games. Heyward’s 29 hits against Miami last season were the most by any player in Baseball.

And then there’s Evan Gattis, whose numbers alone are impressive but are magnified when you consider when he put them up.

In 2 big league seasons and 27 games, Gattis has hit .289 with a .608 slugging percentage against Miami. His 8 homers against the Marlins equal the most he’s hit against any opponent, while his 22 career RBI against Miami are his most against any foe.

But back to the timing of Gattis’ assault on the Marlins. How about this? All in 2014:

April 21: Hit a walk-off 2-run home run in the bottom of the 10th for a 4-2 victory

April 23: Hit a pinch-hit 2-run double to snap a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the 8th in a 3-1 win

May 1: Snapped a 3-3 tie with a solo home run in the top of the 6th

June 1: Snapped a 2-2 tie with a 2-run homer in the top of the 9th in a 4-2 victory

August 31: Hit a 2nd-inning solo home run, the only run in a 1-0 win

September 6: Hit a 10th-inning solo home run, snapping a 3-3 tie in a 4-3 win.

It’s safe to say the Marlins won’t miss Tyler Clippard, Jimmy Rollins, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis.

For more on the Marlins and Major League Baseball, follow me on Twitter at @GlennGeffner and friend me on Facebook at Facebook.com/GlennGeffner. To have new Fish Tales posts delivered directly to you via email, please click the “Follow” button and enter your email address. And join me for Marlins Hot Stove talk every Monday night from 7-9 p.m. on AM 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove.

FIRING UP THE HOT STOVE

KoehlerI’ve got a jam-packed 2 hours of Marlins Hot Stove talk for you from 7-9 tonight.

Over the course of the 2 hours, I’ll talk with Marlins first base coach and infield instructor extraordinaire Perry Hill (below) as well as Marlins righthander Tom Koehler (right).

I’ll discuss my outside-the-box proposal for a 2015 Marlins batting order, which you can read at http://glenngeffner.mlblogs.com/2015/01/10/shuffling-the-lineup-card/

Former Marlin and current MLB Network Analyst Cliff Floyd shares his thoughts on the moves the Marlins have made this winter.

Our coverage of the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2015 includes a Kyle Sielaff conversation with our own Hall of Famer, Dave Van Horne. Dave was the voice of the Montreal Expos when Hall of Fame electee Pedro Martinez broke through in the big leagues, and he’ll share some terrific memories of a young Pedro beginPerry Hillning on the road to Cooperstown.

And I’ll begin a series on the Marlins’ rivals in the National League East Division with a look at the New York Mets, talking with Mets radio broadcaster Josh Lewin.

Marlins Hot Stove airs every Monday night throughout the offseason on 940 WINZ. You can also listen live on iHeart Radio and at Marlins.com/HotStove.

If you want to get caught up on what you’ve missed to this point throughout the winter–guests like Michael Hill, Dan Jennings, Mike Redmond, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Steve Cishek, Dee Gordon, Michael Morse, Mat Latos, Jack McKeon and more–all of our Marlins Hot Stove shows are archived at Marlins.com/HotStove, and they’re also available as free podcasts on the iTunes Store.

For more on the Marlins and Major League Baseball, follow me on Twitter at @GlennGeffner and friend me on Facebook at Facebook.com/GlennGeffner. To have new Fish Tales posts delivered directly to you via email, please click the “Follow” button and enter your email address. And join me for Marlins Hot Stove talk every Monday night from 7-9 p.m. on AM 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove.

SHUFFLING THE LINEUP CARD

Washington Nationals v. Miami Marlins

While I don’t pretend to have a thorough understanding of all the numbers, I find Baseball Analytics to be fascinating. 

In recent years, I’ve incorporated some advanced metrics into our Marlins radio broadcasts. While stats like WAR (wins above replacement), BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and FIP (fielding independent pitching) can help add some context to the game, there are some statistics (defensive metrics for example) in which I have little confidence and reference rarely, if at all. And there are others that, while they definitely carry some weight, are virtually impossible to use in the context of a radio broadcast because it’s just not practical to dedicate the time necessary to give a thorough explanation of exactly what you’re talking about every time you want to reference wRC+ (weighted runs created plus for those of you who didn’t take a foreign language in high school). TV could use an on-screen graphic to provide a definition if it chose to without interfering with the game. On radio, it’s just not possible when nothing that a play-by-play man does is more important than describing what’s happening on the field at that second. 

The one area of Analytics that has particularly interested me is lineup construction. The point is this: There are ways to maximize the number of runs you score with the 9 players in your batting order. And it often boils down to hitting this player 3rd instead of 4th and that guy 5th instead of 7th. It’s about having the right hitters not just in the lineup but in the right spots in the lineup. 

That brings me to the 2015 Marlins. 

Barring injury or something else unforeseen, we know who the 8 position players will be in Mike Redmond’s Opening Day lineup. The question becomes how do you line them up in order to maximize the Marlins’ season-long offensive efficiency. 

I’ve got a radical proposal to make. 

At one point in the winter, immediately after the Michael Morse signing, it looked like there was one most logical way to make the pieces fit:

1. Dee Gordon, 2B

2. Christian Yelich, LF

3. Giancarlo Stanton, RF

4. Michael Morse, 1B

5. Casey McGehee, 3B

6. Marcell Ozuna, CF

7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS

9. Pitcher

But then, for me, things changed. In separate trades consummated on the same December afternoon, the Marlins added Martin Prado and subtracted Casey McGehee. 

Could Prado, who would take over for Casey at third base, slot right in to the 5-hole McGehee would vacate? Sure. But he’s enjoyed most of his career success hitting 2nd, and he profiles as a prototypical #2 hitter. So now what?

Try this on for size:

1. Christian Yelich, LF

2. Martin Prado, 3B

3. Giancarlo Stanton, RF

4. Michael Morse, 1B

5. Marcell Ozuna, CF

6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

7. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS

8. Pitcher 

9. Dee Gordon, 2B

Yes, I’m proposing the Marlins hit the pitcher 8th in 2015 with Dee Gordon batting 9th. 

Here’s my top-to-bottom rationale:

Christian Yelich flourished when pressed into service as Miami’s lead-off hitter in 2014. He’s a patient hitter, who ranked among league leaders in pitches seen per player appearance as a 22-year-old in his first full big league season. He did a good job getting on base. He’s got the ability to steal a base. And at this point in his career, he’s primarily shown himself to be a singles-doubles hitter. While many expect him to develop more power and become a middle-of-the-order force with age and experience, the fact is he’s not yet consistently driving the ball to his pull side. 

Martin Prado is, as stated earlier, your prototypical 2nd-place hitter. He’ll take a pitch to allow a base runner to steal. He can hit behind a runner to move him up. He’s always done a good job getting on base as evidenced by a .340 career OBP. He’s got, at least to this point in their respective careers, more doubles-homers pop than Yelich, having averaged 35 doubles and 12 long balls over the last 6 years. And as we discussed extensively last season, the ability of the 2 men ahead of Giancarlo to reach base consistently does as much to protect Miami’s biggest bat as having a big bat behind him. With runners on base ahead of him, it’s harder to walk Stanton. It’s harder to even pitch around him. The reigning National League home run champion is going to see more pitches to hit, maximizing his chance of doing damage. 

As for Stanton in the 3-hole, this is a no-brainer for me. Could you hit him 4th? No doubt. But the norm in Baseball has become to bat your best hitter 3rd for a few reasons. First, you’re guaranteed to get him an at-bat in the first inning every night, a chance to get on the scoreboard with one swing in inning number one. Second, research shows your 3-hole hitter bats with more base runners aboard over the course of the season than your clean-up man. More RBI chances for your best hitter is always a good thing. And finally, over the course of a full season, your #3 hitter will average about 2.5 percent more trips to the plate than your #4 hitter. Again, more chances for Stanton to crush is always a good thing. Any time Giancarlo comes to the plate, he is in scoring position. Getting him up more often and with more base runners makes all the sense in the world in trying to maximize the club’s offensive output.  

In Michael Morse, the Marlins may not have signed a prototypical 35-home run clean-up hitter, but the new Miami first baseman does possess tremendous power. Morse has hit as many as 31 homers in a season. He hit 16 in the regular season for the Giants last year. And the 10-year vet, with a career .808 OPS, definitely gives pitchers something to think about hitting behind Giancarlo. (It’s worth noting that the Marlins got a major league-low 6 homers and just a .726 OPS from their clean-up hitters last season. In 2013, Logan Morrison and then-rookie Marcell Ozuna received the bulk of the team’s at-bats from the clean-up spot with the tandem totaling 4 home runs out of the 4-hole.)

In the 5th spot, Marcell Ozuna gets the nod in my lineup, entering his 2nd full major league season at age 24. The Miami center fielder slugged 23 homers and drove in 85 runs in 2014, hitting mostly in the 6-hole. In all of Baseball, only one player 23 or younger had more home runs and RBI than Ozuna: American League MVP Mike Trout. Improved plate discipline with more experience would be key to helping Ozuna build on those numbers as he climbs in the lineup. 

Switch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia begins the season hitting 6th in my lineup, although a bounce-back season for Salty, putting up numbers more along the lines of what he produced as a Red Sox in 2013, could move him up a spot if Ozuna were to struggle or in match-ups against certain tough righthanders. More doubles and fewer K’s will be key for Salty in 2015.

And now this is where I’ll really deviate from the probable norm. 

I propose Adeiny Hechavarria bats 7th. While the 25-year-old shortstop raised his OPS 99 points from 2013 to 2014, he still has room for improvement. He did take several positive steps in 2014, however, particularly in shortening his stroke and going the other way, improving his bunting game under the tutelage of Brett Butler and hitting more line drives, more ground balls and fewer fly balls. 

Now the fun really begins as I propose the Marlins hit their pitcher 8th in 2015. 

The key here is, if an NL team is going to bat a position player 9th, you need the right personnel to make it work. And I think the Marlins have just that grouping. 

With Dee Gordon batting 9th, you get the 2nd lead-off hitter effect with him and Yelich batting back-to-back once Gordon comes to the plate for the first time in a game. You now have the benefit of 3 consecutive on-base threats (Gordon, Yelich and Prado) batting directly ahead of your best RBI man Stanton without pushing Stanton to the 4th spot and costing him ABs over the course of the year. I’d also argue that you free up Gordon, the 2014 major league stolen base leader, to run even more if he hits out of the 9 spot. If Gordon leads off, no matter who hits 2nd, when Dee is at first base with Stanton on deck, you find yourself in that spot where you fear the risk of Gordon getting thrown out attempting to steal, costing yourself a base runner with your best hitter lurking next. I’d further argue that a stolen base from Gordon is more valuable when he is hitting in front of both Yelich and Prado–as they’re more likely to single Gordon in from second base, whereas Stanton’s propensity to hit doubles and home runs means that Gordon often wouldn’t need to steal a base to have a good chance to score with Giancarlo coming up. Taking it a step further, Gordon on base ahead of them means more fastballs for Yelich and Prado, even in breaking ball counts, leading to potentially more production from 2 of the bats the Marlins will count on to lift some of the offensive burden off Giancarlo’s shoulders in 2015. 

One downside to this possible batting order is you’d have your only 2 pure left-handed hitters in the lineup (Gordon and Yelich) hitting back-to-back, making it easier for opposing bullpens to match up in later innings. That said, both Gordon and Yelich posted reverse splits a season ago, enjoying more success against lefty pitchers than they did against righthanders. Yelich hit .317 with an .819 OPS against lefties in 2014 as opposed to .273 with a .747 OPS against righties, while Gordon posted a .295 average with a .719 OPS against lefties as opposed to a .287 average and a .699 OPS vs. righthanders. (You could potentially remove this concern by batting Prado first and Yelich 2nd although we’ve already explained Yelich’s 2014 success at the top of the order and Prado’s career-long track record in the 2 spot.)

And for those who worry about the pitcher’s spot coming up more often when he hits 8th, remember that, in a typical game, a National League starting pitcher would rarely bat more than twice before often leaving for a pinch hitter or as part of a double switch. If he’s batting much more than twice, you’re either having a big game offensively or he’s pitching exceptionally well, shutting down the opposition and working deep into the game. Finally, statistical analysis indicates any loss of production out of the 8-hole in this scenario would be more than compensated for by the benefits of lengthening the top of the order with more production out of the 9-spot. 

So there you have it, my proposal to attempt to maximize production out of the Marlins’ 2015 lineup. 

While there’s no guarantee this lineup outscores any other that may be considered, I think there are compelling arguments that it likely would. 

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. 

IT’S WHAT MADE PEDRO…WELL…PEDRO

When he stood on the pitcher’s mound, Pedro Martinez was simultaneously as intimidating as Randy Johnson and as artistic as Greg Maddux.

Featured imageBlessed with an amazing gift for words, he was every bit as poetic in discussing whatever might have been on his mind on a given day as he was in befuddling major league hitters.

He had as much personal style, flair and charisma as any player I’ve been around and was unique in his ability to electrify his teammates, a ballpark and even an entire region with his actions on the diamond.

When Pedro broke into the majors with the Dodgers in 1992, he heard whispers that he was too small to withstand the workload of a big league starting pitcher. He never forgot that, those doubts serving as motivation every fifth day for the next 18 seasons.

He called himself Baseball’s David, trying to slay Goliath. And time after time, this David came out on top.

What Pedro did on the mound relative to his contemporaries in an era dominated by offense was staggering. I could drown you with one statistic after another, but when I think of Pedro, the first thing that will always come to mind has nothing to do with numbers. It was an interaction I shared with him in 2003, my first season with the Red Sox.

It was a simple exchange that reflects the seriousness with which he approached his craft, his passion for what he did and even the significance that words hold to him.

I approached him at his Fenway Park locker pre-game one afternoon, looking to schedule an extended interview with him later in the week. Wanting to make sure we found a day that worked well with his between-starts routine, I recommended trying to do it the day after his next start.

“You throw Thursday night, right?” I asked.

“No,” he shot back, a look of surprise and an unusual sternness suddenly in his eyes.

My mind started racing. I knew he’d last pitched Saturday…

There were no upcoming days off on the schedule…

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure you throw Thursday…against the Orioles,” I told him.

Then he decided to let me off the hook, but not without teaching me a lesson that has stayed with me to this day.

“I don’t throw on Thursday,” the great Pedro Martinez told me. “I pitch on Thursday.”

Point made. I’ll never forget the day one of Baseball’s newest Hall of Famers hammered home for me one of the reasons for his historic greatness.

For more on the Marlins and Major League Baseball, follow me on Twitter at @GlennGeffner and friend me on Facebook at Facebook.com/GlennGeffner. To have new Fish Tales posts delivered directly to you via email, please click the “Follow” button and enter your email address. And join me for Marlins Hot Stove talk every Monday night from 7-9 p.m. on AM 940 WINZ, iHeart Radio and Marlins.com/HotStove.

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