IF THE COMMISSIONER ASKED…

With Major League Baseball’s new Commissioner taking office last week and so much conversation about his ideas and priorities, I was thinking about changes I’d like to see made to the Sport. While I don’t expect a call from Commissioner Manfred any time soon, here are some of the things—both very large and very small–I’d recommend if he asked.

Nowhere do I claim that any or all of these ideas are mine and mine alone. But they’re all things that can be done within reason to, in my opinion, make the Game better, fairer, more accessible and more fun.

In no particular order, here we go…

EXPANDING BASEBALL’S GLOBAL REACH

The internationalization of Baseball was an important priority of Bud Selig’s and remains a priority for new Commissioner Rob Manfred. We’ve seen many major league teams play both exhibition and regular season games around the world in recent years, even traveling as far as Japan, China and Australia. While these trips do so much to promote the game globally, one of the drawbacks is you sometimes hear teams talk about being put at a competitive disadvantage when they travel thousands of miles to open their seasons, disrupting their spring preparations and being taken out of their routine by the often physically exhausting trips. I’ve got an idea to make the challenge of these trips more of a “shared sacrifice,” an idea that was born out of a Facebook exchange I had with a Marlins fan in Australia who was telling me how much the Dodgers-Diamondbacks series in Sydney to open the 2014 season has meant to the growth in popularity of the Game in his home country.

In my proposal: Every other season, all 30 major league teams would open their seasons with 2 international games. While there may or may not currently be 15 international markets that already have a stadium whose facilities and, most importantly field dimensions, could accommodate a regulation MLB field, you can basically cut the number of facilities you need in half by sending groups of 4 teams (2 AL and 2 NL) to each of 7 different cities and 2 teams (one AL and one NL) to an 8th city. In the 4-team cities, you could play 2 days of day-night doubleheaders, with each team giving up one home opening, so they’d still play 80 home games in their home ballpark.

For example, the Marlins, Dodgers, Mariners and White Sox could open the season in London. On the first day, the Marlins could play the Dodgers, and the Mariners could play the White Sox. On day 2, your doubleheader could match the Marlins and Mariners in game one and the Dodgers and White Sox in the nightcap.

While those 4 teams are playing in London, you could have 4 teams in Tokyo, 4 in Rome, 4 in Beijing, 4 in Rio de Janeiro, 4 in Mexico City, 4 in Madrid and 2 in San Juan.

Some of these markets could host games every 2 years, while others can be inserted into a rotation to include new and emerging Baseball markets with capable facilities. These bi-annual Baseball-wide international openers could be a huge boost to the Sport around the world while exposing all 30 clubs in the benefits and the challenges of helping broaden Major League Baseball’s appeal worldwide.

EXPAND EARLY, NOT LATE

Teams carry 25 active players all year until September, when they’re able to call up any member of their 40-man roster for the season’s final month. I’ve never understood why games at the most critical time of the season, when playoff spots are often won or lost, are basically played under different rules and with different rosters. Teams can have 15 pitchers in their bullpens. They can more easily match up relievers in key spots. They have a seemingly endless supply of extra players on the bench to mix and match at any time. All of this removes so much of the strategy that makes the Game great all season at a time when you’re playing your most critical games. Here’s my 2-part proposal:

First, I’d suggest teams can carry 5 extra players in April when teams often find themselves more reliant on their bullpens because many starters are not yet fully stretched out and often don’t pitch as deep into games as they do as the season wears on. They can protect themselves from that challenge by carrying extra arms in the opening month. If they choose to instead, yes, they could carry extra position players as well on their 30-man expanded April roster.

That said, I’m not suggesting the elimination of September call-ups. I fully appreciate rewarding players for successful minor league seasons or exposing prospects to the major leagues for the final month. Yes, I’d say you can still call up anyone on your 40-man roster, but I propose a limit of 28 active players for any given game. When a manager takes out his lineup card each night, he must specify who his 28 active players are for that night’s game. This eliminates the excessive use of relief pitchers or pinch hitters that fundamentally changes the way the game is currently played in the critical month of September.

MODIFY INSTANT REPLAY

I’m fine with Instant Replay. I think it made the game better in 2014. In a perfect world, I’d propose one replay umpire in every press box in Major League Baseball, who can immediately look at any play that could be potentially challenged and usually offer a decision within seconds. There are challenges to this proposal, including the expense of hiring additional full-time umpires to fill this role and the expense of adding technology in all 30 press boxes. You throw in the large financial investment MLB made to construct its Instant Replay Command Center in New York last year, and I acknowledge the ship has sailed on this idea.

That leaves us to look at the process we now have. Can it be sped up? No doubt. And the easiest way to do that is to eliminate the need for the manager to make the slow, protracted walk out to the field while trying to buy time for his replay coordinator to render a verdict on whether or not to challenge the call in question. My proposal is simple: If a team thinks there’s a chance it may want to challenge a call, the manager—without leaving the top step of the dugout—immediately calls out to the home plate umpire that his team needs to take a look at that play. The umpire then pulls out a stopwatch, and the club must decide whether or not to challenge within 60 seconds. If you don’t have the answer in one minute, you forfeit your right to challenge, the call stands, and the game resumes. All of this happens quickly and without the silly scene of the manager making the long, slow walk out to the field and the long, slow walk back to the dugout.

Another thing I’d change about instant replay is to make the names of the umpires responsible for each game in the New York replay command center readily available. Yes, as I learned last August, MLB distributes a weekly schedule to members of the media who specifically request it (although that schedule lists 2 crews and does not specify who is responsible for which individual games). Just as the names of the 4 umpires on the field on a given night are printed on lineup sheets distributed to the media and presented in the ballpark, on radio and on television, so too should the names of the replay umpires working each game be made public prior to the start of every game. They should be every bit as accountable to fans and media as the umpires on the field are.

And finally, there needs to be a system in place through which fans in the ballpark, and fans enjoying a game on radio or TV, are informed in a timely manner of what exactly is being challenged (that’s not always 100 percent clear) and whether a call that is not overturned was upheld because it was “confirmed” on video replay or it merely “stands” because replay was inconclusive. As one who for some games had access to the direct communication from the New York command center to the ballpark last season, I know with certainty those key words, “confirmed” and “stands,” were not always communicated in the first season of Instant Replay. There has to be a quick way for the crew chief or home plate umpire to get thorough information to home team PR officials in the press box for distribution to the media, to the broadcasters and to the control room personnel who can either put information on the scoreboard or put it out via the public address, making sure that fans in the ballpark, and those listening to the radio or watching TV, are fully informed in a timely fashion.

SAY BYE BYE TO RULE 7.13

I’m all for protecting catchers from injuries that could be sustained in malicious collisions at home plate. If you want to require base runners to slide into the plate as they do in high school and college, fine. But this rule as it was employed in 2014, so ambiguous and left so wide-open to interpretation, created far too many problems. And I’d estimate that 90 percent of the players (especially catchers!), managers, general managers and club officials with whom I’ve discussed the topic feel the same way.

DELAY THE DEADLINE

I’d push the non-waiver trading deadline back from July 31 to August 15. With expanded playoffs, more teams than ever are in the hunt in late July, making the “buy-or-sell” decision tougher than ever. A couple of extra weeks gives everybody more time to see how things play out. If you still want to make a deal on July 31 (or earlier), go ahead. But an extra 2 weeks would add some clarity for many ballclubs.

EARLIER START TIMES FOR WORLD SERIES GAMES

I grudgingly accept that there are several reasons why you can’t play day games during the World Series. Day games on weekdays limit your television audience, and day games on weekends would go head-to-head with the majority of a weekend’s College Football and NFL games. Still, why can’t we start all World Series games at 7 p.m. Eastern? That start time works in all MLB markets all season. Why do we let TV dictate that the biggest games of the year start an hour or more later, meaning most kids can’t watch? We’ve taken the World Series (and much of the entire postseason) away from the next generation of fans. This may ruffle feathers on the West Coast, although we’re only talking about one hour. That said, 80 percent of the US population lives in the Eastern and Central time zones, with less than 15 percent in the Pacific time zone. This move would be in the best interest of the vast majority of the country (and the overwhelming majority of major league fan bases as 22 of the 30 clubs are in the Eastern or Central time zones). Starting earlier for the 15 percent in the West is no worse and no more unfair than ending later for the 80 percent in the East and Midwest. And for the record, I did a quick check of the last 45 World Series, going back to 1970. 28 of the last 45 World Series have featured 2 teams from the Eastern or Central time zones. Only 3 of the last 45 World Series have been contested between a pair of West Coast teams. And only 20 of the last 90 World Series participants have called the Pacific time zone home. I’m not looking to pile on the West Coast. I love the West Coast and lived there for 6 years. But numbers dictate the extreme majority of fans in this country would benefit from moving the start time of all World Series games to 7 p.m. Eastern. If MLB is serious about trying to cultivate more young fans, this is critical.

NEXT TIME IT DOESN’T COUNT

I’d put an end to the All-Star Game determining home-field advantage for the World Series. I like and respect so much of what Bud Selig did for the Game during his historic and revolutionary 22-year tenure as Commissioner. I truly believe that every move he made was made with what he believed to be the best interest of the game at heart. But determining home-field advantage for the World Series by who wins an exhibition game in which the best players don’t even play more than a couple of innings is ludicrous. Take your pick: the league champion with the better regular season record gets home-field advantage (like in the NBA) or—if you want to do something more innovative—give home-field advantage for the World Series to the champion of the league that posts the better record in Interleague Play during the regular season. At least those are real baseball games that teams are doing their all to win. The All-Star Game is a fun exhibition game. That’s all it should be.

BRING BACK PETE

It’s time for Baseball to bury the hatchet with Pete Rose. Pete (finally) confessed to his crime, and he’s done his time. While I do not believe someone who admitted to gambling on major league games as a manager should ever be allowed to manage again, I’d welcome Pete back into the game if an organization would like to hire him as a coach or minor league instructor, and I would definitely put him on the Hall of Fame ballot. Maybe the writers don’t see fit to elect him, but his playing career merits a spot on the ballot to let the electors decide. His potential induction would introduce a whole new generation of fans to a player whose performance and passion for the game inspired millions and ought to be celebrated anew by young fans who never got to see him play. The PED crowd got a competitive advantage, cheated the Game and brought a tremendous black eye to the Sport during their playing careers. Still they appear on the Cooperstown ballot for the writers to determine their fate. Pete Rose, whose crimes were admittedly serious, committed his offenses after his playing career. To me, it’s not right that Barry Bonds can be on the Hall of Fame ballot, but Pete Rose cannot be.

And, finally, my personal favorite suggestion:

SCHEDULE CHANGE

I’d change the regular season Major League schedule to more of an NBA-style format, where every team plays each of the other 29 clubs every season, and I’ve come up with the math to make it work. Under my plan, each club would play 2 home and 2 road series against every other team in its division as well as one home and one road series against the other 10 clubs in its league. Each team would also play one series a year against every club in the other league except for its “natural rival,” which it would face in 2 series, one at home and one on the road. If you play a team from the other league at home this year, you’d play that team on the road next year. This serves several purposes, including making sure that every fan base has the chance to see every team in Baseball at least once every 2 years and also assuring that every playoff contender in each league has played essentially the same schedule outside of its division. No one carries the burden of a brutal Interleague schedule as opposed to someone else’s parade of cupcakes.

Here’s how you break it down to make the math work: Every team plays 56 games within its division (a 3-game series and a 4-game series at home and on the road against each of the other 4 teams in its own division). Each team plays 3 games at home and 3 on the road against each of the 10 other clubs in its league. That’s another 60 games, bringing you to 116 and leaving 46 Interleague games. You play one 3-game series against 14 of the 15 teams in the opposite league (7 series at home and 7 on the road), and 4 games (2 at home and 2 on the road) against your “natural” rival. That adds up to 162 and also means teams will only play 2 2-game series every season. No one in Baseball likes 2-game series (the Marlins are scheduled to play 4 in 2015).

I’d love your feedback on the suggestions above. And what realistic ideas would you suggest if YOU had the Commissioner’s ear? Go ahead and comment below.

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.

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. 

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