The Miami Marlins need to do something to jump start their anemic offense.
According to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, Marlins' skipper Ozzie Guillen gave serious thought of making dramatic lineup changes while the squad was flying to San Francisco to start a nine-game road trip. Although Guillen has decided against making significant changes in their first two games against the Giants, he shouldn't wait much longer to do so.
Miami (10-14) has taken the first two games against San Francisco however they have continued to struggle offensively. In the first two games against the Giants, the Marlins have scored five runs and recorded 11 hits. Miami took game one 2-1 and then won game two 3-2 in 10 innings. The Marlins are now 4-9 away from Marlins Park.
Miami ranks near the bottom of the major leagues in the four major statistical categories. The Marlins are 29th in majors in runs (78), 28th in batting average (.224), 27th in on-base percentage (.291) and 24th in slugging (.364). Miami also ranks 22nd in strikeouts (171), 15th in walks (73), 26th in batters hit by pitches (4), 20th in sacrifice hits (5) and 22nd in sacrifice flies (5). The Marlins have also grounded into the second most double plays (27).
There is some good news which is that Miami is tied for the seventh most pinch hits (8) along with the 11th best pinch hitting average .286. The Marlins also have the third most stolen bases (25) and are tied with Philadelphia for the best stolen base percentage (85%).
Miami has scored two or fewer runs in 11 games this season which includes being shutout three this season.
Struggling offensively on the road
Including their two victories over San Francisco, Miami has scored a total of 32 runs in 13 road games. Of the 32 runs the Marlins have scored, they have tallied just 11 in their last seven games. Miami's past seven away games have come against Washington, the New York Mets and San Francisco. The Marlins lost both of their games to Washington by a combined score of 5-2, all three to the Mets by a score of 10-4.
Miami currently has the lowest batting average and on-base percentage for a visiting team in the majors. The Marlins are hitting .197 and have a .256 on-base percentage away from Marlins Park.
How to fix the lineup
Fixing the lineup will not be easy as Miami has a lot of players struggling and they don't have a lot of quality depth on their bench.
A big reason why the Marlins are struggling to produce runs is that their number one and two hitters -- Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Reyes -- aren't hitting or getting on-base nearly enough. Bonifacio -- has batted leadoff and from the second hole this season -- is batting .237 with a .330 on-base percentage and 11 runs scored --- while Reyes -- the Marlins' main leadoff hitter this year -- is batting .216 with a .307 on-base percentage and 7 runs scored.With the top of the order struggling, the first thing Guillen should do is to discontinue batting Bonifacio and Reyes at the top of the lineup. Since a key part of the Marlins offensive game is speed, they do need either Bonifacio or Reyes to lead off. Since Reyes - hit .219 (4-19 with 6 walks from April 25 -May 2) - appears to be on the verge of breaking out of his season long funk, he should stay at the top of the lineup. While Reyes has been going through his best stretch of the season recently, Bonifacio -- .143 average (4-28, April 25-May 2) -- has struggled. To make matters worse Bonifaco has had a hard time making contact as he has struck out 25 times this year which includes 14 times in his last 43 ABs. Bonifacio does lead the Fish in on-base percentage, steals and hits.
With Bonifacio struggling there is two things Guillen can do. The first thing is to bench Bonifacio and see what Bryan Peterson can do. Peterson -- was recalled from New Orleans on April 30 -- has appeared in 97 career games and has a batting average of .246 to go along with seven stolen bases. Since it is unlikely Guillen will replace a healthy Bonifacio with Peterson, Guillen should move Bonifacio to either the eighth or ninth spot in the lineup. The reason Bonifacio would be a candidate for the ninth spot is his speed -- he has a team high 10 stolen bases -- and it would also allow Bonifacio and Reyes to still bat back-to-back in the order. The obvious downside is if Bonifacio is slated in the ninth spot is that Guillen would have to take a page out of Tony LaRussa's book and bat the pitcher eighth.
If Bonifacio is moved out of the two hole, the Marlins would have to find the right guy to bat second. I believe the best candidates for the job would be Omar Infante or Greg Dobbs. Infante -- has batted fifth, sixth and seventh this year -- is a good contact hitter and handles the bat well. Infante also doesn't strike out much (7 times in 70 at bats) which would let the Marlins hit and run often. The move could also allow Infante -- has five homers - to continue his power production as he would likely see a lot of fastballs with Hanley Ramirez batting behind him. Dobbs -- one of the best pinch hitters in the game -- would be the second best option. If Guillen chooses Dobbs -- .286 batting average and .375 on-base -- he would probably replace Gabby Sanchez -- .200 average, 1home run, 8 RBIs -- at first.
Speaking of Ramirez, I believe Guillen has two options. The two options are to leave Ramirez -- .209, four home runs, 14 RBIs and 23 strikeouts -- in the third spot while the other option is to move him to the sixth hole. I believe Guillen will leave Ramirez where he is in the order but if he is dropped to the sixth spot I believe it would take the pressure off of him. If Guillen did move Ramirez down to sixth in the order, the prime candidates to take over the third spot would be Giancarlo Stanton, Gabby Sanchez and Dobbs. I believe Stanton - recently moved to the five hole - would be the best option because it would give him a few more at bats. Stanton -- .268 avg., 3 HRs -- is warming up as he is hitting .333 (April 25- May 2) the past seven days and has hit three homers in his last four games. Sanchez is best suited for the sixth or seventh spot in the order though if Guillen replaces a starter, Sanchez is the prime candidate. Dobbs is probably best suited as a sixth or seven hole hitter.
So when Guillen decides to jumble the Marlins lineup, I believe he should use the following as a guide. SS Reyes, 2B Infante, 3B Ramirez, LF Logan Morrison, RF Stanton, 1B Sanchez or Dobbs, C Buck, CF Bonifacio and the pitcher.
Daniel Benjamin has followed the Marlins since their inception in 1993.
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