Additions provide needed balance

MIAMI — The Marlins may not have landed a prototypical middle of the order slugger, but their offseason moves have certainly given the lineup some needed balance.

Free agents Garrett Jones and Jarrod Saltalamacchia offer left-handed hitting pop to a team that finished last in the Majors in home runs last year.

Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter, but his power has clearly come from the left side. Rafael Furcal also switch-hits, but his role will be to get on base, not necessarily drive in runs.

The Marlins have severely lacked left-handed punch for a while.

They have not had two left-handed hitters connect on more than 10 home runs in the same season since Mike Jacobs (32) and Jeremy Hermida (17) in 2008.

Actually, the Marlins have by far the fewest amount of home runs by left-handed hitters since Jeffrey Loria assumed ownership in 2002. In that span, Miami has 392 home runs from lefty batters. The team ranked 29th? Houston, with 608. The Yankees lead the Majors in that stretch with 1,474.

It’s a different story for the Marlins from the right side. Their right-hander hitters are fourth in the Majors since 2002 with 1,470.

For years, Miami had a philosophy that quality is quality, no matter which side of the plate a batter stood. The rationale was the 2003 club won the World Series with a predominantly right-handed hitting lineup. From the ’03 team, the only regulars to bat lefty vs. right-handers were Juan Pierre and switch-hitting Luis Castillo, two table setters.

Yes, there were plenty of quality right-handed hitters on that team, but there are plenty of examples of championship teams before and since ’03 who have had left-handed power threats.

A big part of reshaping the ’14 roster has been adding balance.

Now, against right-handed pitching, the Marlins can run out four right-handed and left-handed hitters.

Jones, Saltalamacchia and Christian Yelich are each more than capable of double-digit home runs from the left side. Another potential candidate to be in the group is Derek Dietrich, who will see time at third base in Spring Training. Dietrich had nine homers in two months in the big leagues last year.

In spacious Marlins Park, home runs in general have been hard to come by. Just 36 of Miami’s 95 home runs in ’13 came at home.

Even on the road, Miami hasn’t had much home run production the past two seasons.

Almost as glaring has been the lack of punch from the left side.

Since moving into Marlins Park, left-handed batters have accounted for 55 total home runs (home and away), compared to 175 from right-handed hitters.

Not surprisingly, Giancarlo Stanton has been the primary power source — belting 37 homers in ’12, and 24 in ’13.

Logan Morrison has accounted for the most total by a left-handed hitter — 17, with six coming in ’13.

Morrison, of course, was traded to the Mariners for reliever Carter Capps a few weeks ago.

Jones and Saltamacchia (batting lefty), meanwhile, had combined for 80 home runs the past two seasons. When you throw in the two Furcal hit in 2012, that is 82 total from those three new additions.

Jones has 102 career homers, with 42 since ’12. Saltalamacchia chips in with 38.

The new-look Miami lineup may only have Stanton as a realistic 30-plus home run threat, but the club now certainly has some added balance that was absent for several seasons.

Joe Frisaro

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