SweetSpot: Cameron Maybin

Cameron Maybin's latest setback

March, 4, 2014
3/04/14
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Stop me if you've heard this before: Cameron Maybin is less than fully operable ... again. Oh, wait, you have. That's because if you're keeping score, between the majors and minors this will be the 10th multi-week chunk of time that Maybin has spent on the shelf during his career. He has lost time to injuries to both knees, his right wrist, his left shoulder, and now this latest injury, to his left bicep, which may or may not need surgery.

[+] EnlargeCameron Maybin
Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesCameron Maybin is expected to miss 2-3 months after suffering a ruptured left biceps tendon when he made a diving catch on Sunday.
OK, I lied, I won't stop. The thing is, for the Padres, this isn't alien to them. Everyone recognized when they acquired Carlos Quentin that they might finally have the righty boom stick their lineup could really use. But Quentin has eight multi-week stints on the DL over his full career, and I wouldn't bet against that number getting to 10 this year. If acquiring fragile outfielders was a market inefficiency, the Padres have exploited it to maximum disadvantage. And not just outfielders: Jedd Gyorko, Chase Headley, Yonder Alonso, Everth Cabrera -- the entire starting infield -- all spent time on the DL last year. Catcher Yasmani Grandal? He's already hurt. Of course this team signed Josh Johnson. Of course they did.

It's the difference between looking at the Padres on paper and saying, yeah, I can see how that might work out, if they're healthy ... and then you realize that you're just about done with that train of thought, because they won't be. When have they ever been? And yet Padres manager Bud Black will patch together his lineup cards, lean heavily on the reliably adaptable, reliably underappreciated Will Venable, platoon heavily with bit players like Chris Denorfia, eke out four or five more wins than you'd expect. We'll admire them for what they did, and wonder what might have been if only the Padres were ever healthy.

It certainly wasn't supposed to work out this way for Maybin, not when he was a top-shelf prospect coming up through the Tigers' farm system after being the 10th overall pick of the 2005 draft, and not when he was the key part of a package of prospects sent to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in December 2007. It wasn't supposed to be this way after he was rescued from the dysfunctional Marlins and signed a five-year, $25 million deal after a 2011 breakout. He was supposed to exemplify how a smaller-revenue club could keep blue-chip talents.

The easy, optimistic thing to say about Maybin at this point is that he could be somebody who will turn out better in his 30s than he was in his 20s. Say, a center-field variation on a Jayson Werth-like theme. Health and perhaps a future escape from Petco Park would certainly help to make that so. It's easy to pick out the pieces of his career that keep you hopeful: his .806 OPS on the road in 2011, or his second half in 2012 (.283 AVG/.333 OBP/402 SLG).

But you can go only so far on that kind of cherry-picking, in the same way that you can go only so far enjoying watching him gracefully cover the gaps in center, or flash the blazing speed that makes you think he could swipe 40 bases again, or rip a dozen triples. You see the gifts, and you want to see more. But that's Maybin's problem in a nutshell: We just don't get to see him very often, a reminder that health is a skill, and it's one of the very few he doesn't have.

Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.

Offseason report card: Padres

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
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2012 in review
Record: 76-86 (75-87 Pythagorean)
651 runs scored (tied for 10th in National League)
710 runs allowed (11th in NL)

Big Offseason Moves
Acquired Tyson Ross from the A's for Andrew Werner and Andy Parrino. Re-signed free agent Jason Marquis. Signed free agent Freddy Garcia.

OK, it's the Padres. They're not sitting on a pile of money like their rivals to the north. Still, when retread veterans Jason Marquis and Freddy Garcia qualify as your big moves, that's an uninspiring offseason even if your projected payroll will be higher only than the Astros', Marlins' and Pirates'.

The Padres gave starts last season to Kip Wells, Jeff Suppan and Ross Ohlendorf after a slew of injuries wiped out much of their rotation, so adding starting pitching options was the offseason priority -- the only requirements being the pitchers be cheap and have a pulse.

Ross has long been an interesting arm, but he was never able to put it together with the A's (they won 94 games even though Ross went 2-11 with a 6.50 ERA). It's a gamble but didn't cost the Padres much.

Position Players

Here's an interesting fact: The Brewers led the NL in runs scored, but the Padres scored more runs on the road than the Brewers. With the Padres, you have to factor in the difficult hitting environment at Petco Park, especially in the power department. The Padres hit 74 home run on the road, but just 47 at home.

The offense starts with NL RBI leader Chase Headley, who drove in 115 runs -- even more impressive considering the Padres only had mediocre OBP numbers from their 1 and 2 hitters. Headley had that monster second half, of course, hitting .308/.386/.592 with 23 of his 31 home runs. He had a higher road OPS than Miguel Cabrera.

The rest of the lineup shapes up as a middle-of-the-pack offense. Carlos Quentin can hit when he actually plays (86 games last year) and Will Venable and Chris Denorfia make for an excellent platoon in right. Cameron Maybin turns 26 in April but it's probably time give up hope for a breakout season; at this point, it's safe to assume he's .250 with an OBP in the low .300s, but makes up for his mediocre offense with above-average defense in center field.

For the Padres to improve, they'll need more power from first baseman Yonder Alonso, who homered just nine times as a rookie. Petco or not, he'll have to slug higher than .393 or the Padres will be looking for a replacement. Catcher Yasmani Grandal impressed in a 60-game rookie season, but he's been suspended for 50 games for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.

The Padres ranked 23rd in Defensive Runs Saved (minus-24), with the biggest liabilities being the statuesque Quentin in left field and Logan Forsythe at second. Rookie Jedd Gyorko has a career .319 average in the minors and hit 30 homers in 2012 (24 in Triple-A). A third baseman, the Padres tried him at second and he may have a chance to win the job there at some point.

Overall, the offense is probably a little better than the raw numbers indicate, although I'm dropping the grade a bit since Maybin is really the only plus defender.

Pitching Staff

Where to start? Staff ace Clayton Richard led the NL in hits and home runs allowed and struck out just 107 batters in 218.2 innings. No. 2 Edinson Volquez walked 105 batters. No. 3 Anthony Bass had a 6.35 ERA on the road. Marquis had been let go by the Twins after allowing 33 runs in 34 innings. Anyway ...

OK, so it's a bad rotation, its inadequacies masked somewhat by the Padres' forgiving home park. This isn't the rotation the Padres were hoping for a year ago. Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland both underwent Tommy John surgery. Top prospect Casey Kelly missed three months with a strained elbow ligament, although did return to make six late-season starts for the team. Andrew Cashner, acquired from the Cubs in the Anthony Rizzo trade, started in the bullpen before moving to the rotation to help conserve his innings, and made a couple starts before straining a lat. He then cut his thumb in an offseason hunting accident and will begin the season on the disabled list.

No, the future of the Padres doesn't rest on Bass and Marquis, but on those four guys and younger prospects like Max Fried, Matt Wisler and Joe Ross. It's not a good rotation now, but it should be better in 2014.

Heat Map to Watch
What explains Headley's second half in 2012? For one thing, he started destroying fastballs. As you can see from the heat map, there is a lot of red. After hitting .303 with four homers against fastballs in the first half, he hit .392 with 11 homers against fastballs in the second half. From the numbers, it's hard to see exactly what happened. His swing percentage and chase percentage (on pitches outside the zone) were basically the same, so he didn't become more or less aggressive. He did improve his contact rate -- swinging and missing about 4 percent less often -- but that doesn't explain everything. Maybe he just hit the ball harder. Maybe he just got a little lucky. We'll find out in 2013.

Headley HeatmapESPNThe switch-hitting Headley feasted on fastballs in the second half of 2012.
Overall Grade

SportsNation

How many games will the Padres win?

  •  
    11%
  •  
    22%
  •  
    38%
  •  
    29%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,264)

Some people view the Padres as a sleeper playoff candidate, but I have a hard time seeing it with the current makeup of the rotation. Even if some of the young guys return or suddenly mature, they need a lot of things to go right. The offense could be interesting if Alonso adds some power, Headley does his thing again, Maybin improves and Grandal returns and hits, but, again, that's a lot of ifs.

Factor in that the Diamondbacks have improved, the Dodgers have added Zack Greinke and get full seasons from last year's trade acquisitions, and I'm not sure I see the Padres cracking .500.

Thoughts?
First base: Romero rocked again. Considering all the injuries to the Blue Jays' rotation, another issue of concern is the struggles of ace Ricky Romero, who allowed eight runs in six-plus innings -- including a grand slam to Mike Moustakas -- in Monday's 11-3 loss to the Royals. Romero is 8-3 thanks to great run support, but his ERA is 5.35. He's allowed four runs or more in 11 of 17 starts, a figure topped only by Jake Arrieta's 12 such starts. But he's allowed four-plus runs in his last eight starts and 17 over his past two. The Jays are now 40-40 and without Romero at the top of his game, their playoff chances are dimming.

Second base: Maybin's monster mash. After a breakout season in 2011 for the Padres, Cameron Maybin has been a big disappointment, with a .206/.287/.307 line, but he did belt the season's longest home run on Monday, a 485-foot bash off Trevor Cahill. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that tops Nelson Cruz's 484-foot blast on June 3. Yasmani Grandal also homered for the Padres, making his first three career hits all home runs. That would seem like like a first-player-to-do-it type of feat, but he's the seventh player to do so since 1900, joining Keith McDonald (2000), Alfonso Soriano (1999-2000), Mike Greenwell (1985), Billy Conigliaro (1969), Ed Sanicki (1949) and Chick Fullis (1929). The amazing thing about McDonald: Those were the only three hits of his career.

Third base: Weaving zeroes. Jered Weaver improved to 9-1 with a 2.13 ERA with seven scoreless innings against the Indians and could be in line to start the All-Star Game for the second straight season. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Weaver threw a season-high 20 curveballs, 14 for strikes. Since 2009, Weaver now has 23 scoreless starts, second in the majors to Clayton Kershaw's 28. I still expect Justin Verlander to get the start, but Weaver could be the first to start consecutive All-Star Games since Randy Johnson started for the NL in 2000 and 2001.

Home plate: Tweet of the day. The A's beat the Red Sox 6-1 as they scored five runs in two innings off Daisuke Matsuzaka. Josh Reddick didn't make the All-Star team, but he hit his 19th home run, and former Red Sox prospect Brandon Moss hit his ninth to raise his slugging percentage to .658. Leading to this tweet from Peter Gammons:
Some excellent work from colleagues Tristan Cockcroft and AJ Mass. These pieces are under the fantasy template but apply to "real" baseball as well.
You can follow the entire "30 Questions" series here.
After getting a chance to watch some spring training in baseball in Arizona, and sighing at being back in the Northeast, it was time to tape Tuesday’s Baseball Today podcast with Arizona resident Keith Law (he gets to stay!). We had many interesting topics:

1. Special guest pitcher/author Dirk Hayhurst joined us to discuss his new book "Out Of My League," but also to reacquaint us with the Garfoose and share thoughts on his future adventures in a new country.

2. If you know KLaw you know he can’t be pleased with MLB adding two wild card teams. Hear his reasons and my gripe as well.

3. We check in on hotshot young players Bryce Harper and Mike Trout to see if their chances of making the Opening Day roster have changed, and also discuss other spring news, including an unfortunate Alex White situation.

4. A pair of young National League outfielders recently signed long-term contract extensions, but were their teams really the biggest winners, rather than the players?

5. It’s email time! Among the topics were our opinions on whether teams have or need faces of the franchise, and the ongoing myth about lineup protection.

So download and listen to Tuesday’s Baseball Today podcast, teeming with entertainment and information, and check us out next week. The show goes daily the week of March 19, and we can’t wait!

Manager interviews: Bud Black

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
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DALLAS -- Some comments from Padres manager Bud Black:

  • On Cameron Maybin's development in 2011: "Any time a player gets more reps, he's going to better. We think he's going to show improvement (in 2012). He plays a premium position and does a lot of things on the baseball field."
  • On interleague play now being stretched all season and what it means: "I don't think it has a grand impact on scouting or anything like that. It would be nice to be able to set your roster for interleague games, to make you sure you get the guy DHing that you want to DH."
  • On using Nick Hundley and John Baker in the same game: "I could see that, yes." (Black said it would be unlikely, however, that the Padres would carry a third catcher."
  • On Jesus Guzman: "He was arguably our best hitter in the second half, both in terms of average and production. He's proven that he can hit. He was more than adequate at first base and he handled left field OK."

A look at team baserunning

August, 25, 2011
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One of the guilty pleasures of listening to Chicago White Sox broadcasts when Hawk Harrelson and Tom Paciorek were in the booth during the 1990s was their discussion of "team speed." They sometimes even nonsensically talked about individual players who possessed good team speed. I'm not quite sure how one guy could have good team speed, but you trust that Hawk and Wimpy would mull the possibilities. It was one of those things a team wanted. In the absence of hard data, speed could get reduced to a question of who was successfully stealing bases frequently.

[+] EnlargeCameron Maybin
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireCameron Maybin and the Padres have been rewarded for their fleet-footed ways this season.
But there’s more to it than that. Happily it’s also the sort of thing that Baseball-Reference.com and other outlets capture and report. So this year, we can see that no team is helping their offense more with effective basestealing than the San Diego Padres. This is not just because they lead the majors in attempts (185) or steals (150), but because they’re also stealing bases at an MLB-best 81 percent clip.

However, that isn’t the only thing that Bud Black’s team is doing well on the basepaths. The Padres also lead the majors in equivalent baserunning runs (EqBRR) with 17.8. This is Baseball Prospectus’ aggregate stat of runs accrued by stealing, advancing on fly balls, grounders, extra bases taken on hits -- or basically any other opportunity a player might have for getting extra bases at the risk of additional outs. EqBRR was developed by Dan Fox before he became the Pirates’ director of baseball systems development, and it's a nice aggregate stat. But there's also plenty to find rooting around in B-Ref's raw baserunning info.

The Pads’ stolen bases (an MLB-leading 5.5 runs) accounts for only a third of their baserunning runs. They are also better than almost everyone advancing on hits or outs. It’s also a team effort -- Cameron Maybin may lead the team with 6.5 baserunning runs, but eight different Padre players have chipped in 1.6 or more, while their worst menace, the lead-footed Ryan Ludwick (minus-2.8), has already been dealt away to a life of Piracy.

The next-best teams when it comes to boosting their offense with stolen bases are the Dodgers -- another high-percentage stealing team at 80 percent -- and the Boston Red Sox, but neither club runs as often or as well as the Pads. However, the teams best at stealing bases aren’t automatically the best teams when it comes to helping themselves on the basepaths in other ways. Consider the New York Yankees, who lead the American League. They run a little more frequently than other teams, but most of their team total of 9.5 baserunning runs is due to advancing on fly balls (2.4 runs) and grounders (9.3).

The Los Angeles Angels are a team that doesn’t execute all that well on stolen bases, despite their oft-avowed preference to push defenses. They are successfully stealing 74 percent of the time (slightly above the MLB and AL average of 72 percent) but that doesn’t net them any more runs. Their opportunities lost to being caught slightly outweigh the benefit of the extra bases snagged -- a cost to the Angels of a little more than a run (minus-1.22, to be precise). The Angels’ tendency to lean hurts them with a league-leading total of outs on base, Baseball-Reference’s tally of plays where runners get thrown out attempting to advance on outs, wild pitches/passed balls, or balls in play.

This makes it sound like it’s best for the Angels to stand pat, right? Wrong, because the Angels get a small return on their aggressive baserunning. Forty seven percent of their runners take an extra base on hits. That puts them among the leaders in equivalent runs on hit advancement (EqHAR) with 6.56 second only to the Texas Rangers at 6.6. The Angels’ risks add up to a modest benefit, 5.5 runs in the black on the season, their best mark since 2007 after several seasons in the red. Mike Scioscia accepts the risks to try to make the most of the hits he does get while putting pressure on defenses.

If that sounds like a lot of work to generate a fairly modest benefit on offense, sitting still comes with penalties, even working with an experienced roster. In a lineup stocked with a few heavy-footed boppers, the aging St. Louis Cardinals are baseball’s worst team at stealing bases with 42 taken on just 73 attempts (58 percent). They’re not good at it, so they don’t run very much, but that still translates to 5.7 runs lost to straight steals and busted hit-and-runs and whatnot. But that lack of speed in the lineup hurts them as well when it comes to avoiding double plays on ground-ball outs, which contributes to the loss of another 12.7 runs on grounders. That adds up to almost 18 total runs lost on baserunning, MLB’s worst mark. And like the Padres, it’s a team-wide feat, with nine different players chipping in marks of minus-1.6 runs below zero or worse.
In his blog this morning, Buster Olney wrote that Justin Verlander would be his choice for AL MVP: "If I had a vote today, I'd pick Verlander. No player has made a bigger difference to his team than the right-hander. On the days he has pitched, the Tigers are 12 games over .500; on the days he hasn't pitched, they are a .500 team."

Verlander
Verlander
On his blog, Joe Posnanski reveals that he has an actual vote this year and would consider Verlander, although Jose Bautista is his guy right now. On Tuesday's Baseball Today podcast, Jim Caple -- also the owner of a vote -- says he would also consider Verlander. After all, as Jim pointed out, the rules says both position players and pitchers should be considered for the award.

The reality, of course, is different. The last pitcher to win an MVP Award was A's closer Dennis Eckersley in 1992 -- an absurd selection, as Posnanski mentions. The last starting pitcher to win was Roger Clemens of the Red Sox in 1986. In fact, in recent years, voters have all but ignored pitchers, especially starting pitchers. The only starting pitcher to receive a first-place vote in the past decade was Johan Santana of the Twins in 2006, when he received one. The last starting pitcher to finish in the top five in the voting was Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox in 2000, when he finished fifth. Pedro finished a controversial second to Ivan Rodriguez in 1999, even though he received more first-place votes, as some writers left him entirely off their ballots.

This AL vote is shaping up a lot like that 1999 AL vote, when Rodriguez edged out Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Roberto Alomar. Like 1999, we have several candidates with no clear favorite. Is this the year a pitcher can win?

Other links

Tigers prospects dry up after AFL

July, 16, 2011
7/16/11
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When the Tigers traded Scott Sizemore to the A's over Memorial Day weekend, it brought an abrupt and mildly startling end to his tenure as Detroit’s second baseman of the future. The Tigers, after all, anointed him as the heir apparent to Placido Polanco almost immediately after they lost Game 163 to the Twins in 2009.

[+] EnlargeScott Sizemore
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireScott Sizemore didn't pan out as Detroit's long-term second baseman.
Polanco was eligible for arbitration, which coincided with the Tigers’ momentary spending freeze, and soon he was back with the Phillies doing everything fans in Detroit had become accustomed to: steadiness in the field, reliability at the plate.

But back to Sizemore. In 2007 the Tigers sent him to the Arizona Fall League, “a graduate school” for top prospects according to the AFL media guide. They did so again in ’09 in what they undoubtedly expected to be a final tuneup before handing over the keys to second base to him for the foreseeable future.

Within days of the start of the 2009 AFL season, Sizemore’s ankle was broken as he attempted to turn a double play, so his fall league tune-up experience went kaput. It didn’t stop the Tigers from hoping that he could recover in time for spring training, however.

Fast-forward to May 27 this year, when he was dealt to Oakland for David Purcey (himself an AFL graduate), closing the book on Sizemore’s career in Detroit: 65 games, a .223 average, .605 OPS and a mere three home runs. Not legendary stuff, and certainly nowhere close to Polanco’s track record.

Sizemore’s flameout got me thinking about the poor results the Tigers have seen from their Arizona Fall League representatives, particularly when contrasted with AL Central rivals. Over the past five years, the players sent by the Tigers to the AFL (including Sizemore, twice) haven’t lived up their billing. Tigers fans heard breathless projections of guys such as Brent Clevlen, Cameron Maybin and Virgil Vasquez -- not to mention Jeff Larish and Cale Iorg -- only to see them cut loose or traded or otherwise vanish from baseball. In some cases, Cody Ross and Burke Badenhop for example, Tiger AFL prospects have gone elsewhere and had success.

Expand the view a bit wider and you’ll see that Curtis Granderson, Tony Clark and Frank Catalanotto and current Tigers utilityman Don Kelly also spent an autumn in Phoenix. But outside of Granderson, which Tigers player and AFL alum over the past five seasons has the most big-league experience? Outfielder Casper Wells, who at the All-Star break had 97 games with the Tigers. Next in line is Opening Day second baseman Will Rhymes (73), Sizemore (65) and pitcher Eddie Bonine (62). Where are they today? Rhymes is a Triple-A all-star in Toledo, Sizemore’s playing in the East Bay and Bonine is pitching for the Phillies’ Triple-A club.

From the perspective of a Tigers fan, these underperforming prospects are that much more frustrating when the Indians, White Sox, Royals and Twins accelerate their AFL players from the desert to the big-league club. How’s this for a collection of who’s who as prospects go: Chris Getz, Gordon Beckham, Joe Crede, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Mitch Maier, Joe Mauer, Grady Sizemore and David Huff.

This examination of the Tigers’ AFL classes doesn’t mean the franchise hasn’t developed important players. Since 2006, Justin Verlander, Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila, Joel Zumaya all came through the Detroit farm system -- but they all bypassed Arizona on their way up.

For many teams, particularly those in the AL Central, the Arizona Fall League has been a key stop on their development fast track. Unfortunately, for the Tigers and their top prospects this graduate school has handed out nothing but failing grades of late.

Mike McClary is the founder of The Daily Fungo, the Tigers affiliate of the SweetSpot network.

Cameron Maybin a good bet for Padres

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
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I read three different pieces about last week's Marlins-Padres deal -- for example, here and here -- without seeing a single mention of what I consider the primary driving force in the deal: Cameron Maybin's minor-league statistics.

Maybin
To this point, Maybin has failed his major league trial. He hasn't failed it badly. In 2009, he was decent in his 54 games with the Marlins. In 2010, he was less than decent in his 82 games with the Marlins.

Maybin has 610 plate appearances in the majors, which is equivalent to roughly one full season (with a day off, here and there). His numbers include 172 strikeouts and a .313 on-base percentage, neither of which are really acceptable for a player without a great deal of power.

But that's not really the player the Padres traded for. The Padres traded for the player with (roughly) three full seasons in the minor leagues and a .393 on-base percentage, not to mention a .478 slugging percentage and a significantly lower strikeout rate.

Now, the majors are harder than the minors (one point to the Boy Wonder for obviousness!). But the majors aren't that much harder than Triple-A, and Maybin's Triple-A numbers are fantastic. For a fine defensive center fielder, anyway.

Of course the Padres already have one of those in young(ish) Tony Gwynn. The problem is that Gwynn isn't likely to hit much, ever. He's such a wonderful fielder that you can live with his hitting, but you would rather not.

Maybin might not hit. There are 610 plate appearances suggesting that he won't. But there are nearly three times as many plate appearances -- his time in the minors, and he's still only 23 -- suggesting that he will hit, if given the time.

If Maybin does hit, he'll be more than worth the two relief pitchers the Padres gave up to get him. If he doesn't? You live with a decision that didn't work out. If you're not willing to trade two relievers for a young every-day player with potential, you might as well get out of the baseball business and find a real job.

Giants have to find room for another OF

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
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It looks like Cody Ross is heading to the Giants ... and it's not clear that they wanted him; apparently they wanted to keep the Padres from getting him. Jeff Fletcher:
The Marlins apparently were happy to let Ross, and the approximately $1 million of his remaining salary, go to the Giants. They recalled Cameron Maybin, who will presumably become their everyday center fielder.

The Giants did not have a need for Ross, because center fielder Andres Torres has been one of their most productive players, hitting .283 with 12 homers and 49 RBI. However, Torres has struggled against left-handed pitchers, so the right-handed hitting Ross could platoon.

Ross, 29, is hitting .263 with 11 homers and 58 RBI, but he's hit .280 with a .542 slugging percentage against lefties.

What's more relevant are Ross' career numbers against lefties, which are even more impressive than his numbers against them this year. So, yeah: A platoon in center field could be highly productive. Or, if not a straight platoon, something that gets Ross into the lineup against lefties. Of course, the Giants already have Pat Burrell and Jose Guillen, who need to play against lefties.

I can't quite figure why the Giants would be worried about Ross going to the Padres. Granted, the Padres could use a center fielder. But the Giants really don't have to worry about the Padres, who are close to uncatchable. The Giants need to worry more about whoever doesn't win the East and whoever doesn't win the Central.

Anyway, the big winner here is the Marlins, who really should (finally) just let Maybin play. Maybin didn't hit much last year, and he's hit less than not much this year.

In the majors, that is. Maybin's still only 23 and he's triple-slashed .325/.401/.477 in 115 Triple-A games. Before that, he was nearly as good in 114 Double-A games. His minor-league track record suggests that he'll eventually hit. Maybe he won't. But the Marlins need to quit fooling around and find out.

Are Marlins trying to win?

July, 21, 2009
7/21/09
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From SunSentinel.com's Juan C. Rodriguez, breaking news about the Marlins:
    After Monday's 3-2 win over the Padres, the Marlins optioned left-hander Andrew Miller to Triple-A New Orleans.

    Albeit with the All-Star break in between, Miller put together back-to-back starts of 2 2/3 innings, allowing 10 runs (six earned) on 11 hits, seven walks and no strikeouts over the two games.

    Rick VandenHurk, who on Monday earned his first major league win since last July 22 after allowing two runs over six innings, will assume Miller's rotation spot. The Marlins don't need a fifth starter until July 31 at the earliest.

    --snip--

    Miller becomes the second member of the Marlins' ballyhooed season-opening rotation to require a trip to the minors because of performance issues. Ricky Nolasco spent two weeks in New Orleans starting in late May and made two starts before retuning and regaining his form.

    No word yet on who will replace Miller on the roster. Manager Fredi Gonzalez wouldn't specific whether it would be a pitcher or position player, but it's likely the latter considering the Marlins are down a bench guy. Ideally, they need a reserve infielder but they can't bring back Andy Gonzalez for 10 days.

Now we do have word on Miller's roster replacement: according to the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer, infield prospect Gaby Sanchez has gotten the call. More on him in a moment. First I want to discuss the Marlins' rotation, which essentially has been two different squads this season.

The first squad -- composed of Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, and Ricky Nolasco -- has issued 2.4 walks per nine innings, with each member posting solid (or better) strikeout numbers.

The second squad -- Miller, Sean West, and Anibal Sanchez -- has issued 4.5 walks per nine innings, with all the corresponding struggles that you might expect.

So it's a good thing they don't need five starters until July 31 (at the earliest), because right now they've got only three reliable starters. Fortunately, VandenHurk's got a chance to become a fourth, at least if his Triple-A career (8-2, 2.99 ERA) is any guide.

It's all moot, I fear. I just don't think the Marlins are serious about winning. I won't think they're serious until they get Emilio Bonifacio out of the lineup; I suspect Sanchez will not be givin Boni's job. And I won't think they're serious until they get bring Cameron Maybin back to the majors and give him an every-day job in the outfield. He's been in New Orleans for more than two months, he's hitting .343/.425/.500 while the big club's corner outfielders are struggling, and you leave him down there ... why, exactly?

Like I said, talk to me when you're serious about winning.

Still wondering about Boni

June, 30, 2009
6/30/09
3:31
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Juan C. Rodriguez asks a question
 
  Al Bello/Getty Images
  Marlins third baseman Emilio Bonifacio is struggling this season.
I thought we'd already answered: "Can the Marlins win with Emilio Bonifacio at third base?"
    ... for all the buzz about Gaby Sanchez moving from first to third at Triple-A New Orleans, it's looking less and less likely Bonifacio is going anywhere. Are the overall numbers still disappointing? Yes. Even aftera 1-for-3 performance with a triple and sacrifice fly that knocked in the deciding run in the eighth, Bonifacio's OPS remains .601. His on-base percentage (.298) has been south of .300 since May 22. He's been error-prone at third, a position he hadn't played before this spring.

    Yet for all that, I thought manager Fredi Gonzalez had a telling quote about him after the game: "Boni, even through all the stuff he's been going through, at the beginning of the year and hitting .900 and people expecting him to hit .970, he comes every day to work and he's getting better. He's got a nice little hitting streak going. He's hitting a little over .300 from the right side ... He's doing fine. He's one of those guys you characterize as a winner because he'll find something to do during the course of a game to help you win a ballgame."

    --snip--

    Would the Marlins be a better team with Mark DeRosa starting at third every day? Probably, but this notion that the only reason Bonifacio is still here is so the Marlins can justify the trade that sent Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham to the Nationals is absurd. If that was the case, why isn't Cameron Maybin here to justify the Miguel Cabrera trade? Come on.

    I know Bonifacio's fan base has dwindled to next to nothing since his flashy first week, but if I were a Marlin fan I'd get used to him being in lineup in some capacity. It doesn't look like he's going anywhere.

I wouldn't get used to him being there. Not in the lineup regularly, anyway. I don't know if Bonifacio's still in there because the Marlins are trying to justify a trade, or because someone's got a serious blind spot, or because of something else. I don't want to suggest that management is foolish; it's just that management is behaving foolishly in this particular case. Hey, everybody makes mistakes. Usually they're not so glaring as this one, but someone has to be No. 1, right?

Regarding Fredi Gonzalez, either he really believes that claptrap he's spouting or he's just saying something nice because he has to. If it's the latter, I feel sorry for Marlins fans.

Regarding Gaby Sanchez, I'm not sure why his switch to third base isn't considered more newsworthy. The Marlins moved him a few weeks ago, and he's now got nearly as many games at third base as first. This, after he was voted the best defensive first baseman in the Southern League last year; the Marlins wouldn't have moved him back to third -- where he played quite a bit early in his pro career, and then again last season -- if they didn't think that position might be in his immediate future (and it's not like they have a powerhouse first baseman ahead of him).

Just one problem: Sanchez has been moved off third base twice in his pro career already, simply because he wasn't much good at it; in 126 games there, he's got a .917 fielding percentage, and that just won't play in the majors. So this is probably his last shot. If he doesn't start making the plays, he'll go back to first base for good. And the early returns are not good: four errors in 19 games.

If Sanchez can't play third base, can someone else? Sure. Right now the Marlins often have three second basemen in the lineup: Bonifacio (at third), Dan Uggla (at second) and rookie Chris Coghlan (in left field).

Coghlan hits like a second baseman, Uggla hits like a third baseman, and Bonifacio hits like a surprise call-up from Class AA.

Coghlan used to play third base, in the minors. Uggla's been playing second base like a third baseman for years. Bonifacio's glovework (which is shoddy) is irrelevant because you could justify playing him regularly only if he were a Gold Glove shortstop (which he is not).

Depending on how you measure such things, the Marlins have one, two, or three players who are capable of assuming Bonifacio's duties, and the only catch is that they might have to find a new left fielder. Which -- as I noted just a few days ago -- shouldn't be all that hard, considering that top prospect Cameron Maybin has a .410 on-base percentage with New Orleans this season.

And yes, it was just a few days ago. Sue me. In Blogging for Idiots, right there on Page 37, it says to keep hammering the same point until the suits do what you've told them to do. It also says on Page 37 that when that happens, you get to take credit. So, you can understand my fixation on this matter.

(H/T: BTF's Newsstand)

Contending Marlins confound at 3B

June, 26, 2009
6/26/09
12:52
PM ET
As David Pinto notes, the Marlins and the Mariners have both balanced their streaks this season to sit around .500 and are actually contending in their weak divisions. I've already given my prescription for the M's -- get Mike Carp and Michael Saunders into the lineup, stat -- but what about the Marlins?

R.J. Anderson suggests that maybe it's Maybin Time:

    Cameron Maybin's stay in the minors could be coming to an end soon. The Marlins' collective centerfielders aren't getting the job done, ranking in the bottom third of the league in offensive and defensive contributions. Meanwhile, Maybin has scorched Triple-A in his second month at the level. Overall, Maybin is hitting .323/.404/.452 with a homerun, four stolen bags, and a passable BB/K ratio.

    --snip--

    There's also the question of whether Maybin is indeed ready for major league action. Given a limited sample size of just under 200 plate appearances, Maybin has hit a pedestrian .242/.309/.345; although, the incumbent group of centerfielders is not doing much better, with a combined line of .272/.321/.443. If Maybin is able to make contact better than 70% of the time, he could do a lot better.

Anderson is selling the Marlins' center fielders short, because lately center field has been manned solely by Cody Ross, and Ross' hitting stats would place him in the upper third of the league's center fielders. While it's true that his fielding stats this season aren't good, career-wise he's been fine.

The question really isn't whether Maybin's better than Ross. The question is whether Maybin's better than rookie left fielder Chris Coghlan or right fielder Jeremy Hermida, both of whom have been less than brilliant. And the question might even be whether Maybin's better than backup outfielders Alfredo Amezaga and Alejandro De Aza, both of whom haven't ever hit (or ever will).

In a close-run thing, the only way to win is to get your talent on the field. Maybin's struggled during two of his major league trials, but he's pretty clearly more talented right now than the Marlins' fourth and fifth outfielders. I suppose they don't want him sitting on the bench and wasting developmental (and service) time, but they probably should find a place for him.

All that said, though -- and I hate to keep harping on this, but the Marlins leave me no choice -- the real problem isn't in the outfield; it's at third base, where Emilio Bonifacio just keeps sucking up plate appearances, game after game after game after game.

Which Marlin has the lowest on-base percentage? Emilio Bonifacio.

Which Marlin has the lowest slugging percentage? Emilio Bonifacio.

Which Marlin has the most plate appearances? Emilio Bonifacio. Naturally.

And you know what the kicker is? He's not even a good third baseman.

If Marlins management were a doctor, the fans could sue for malpractice. I love an underdog, but any team that believes Emilio Bonifacio is an every-day third baseman simply doesn't deserve to win.

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