Marlins expected to be more analytical in future

ST. LOUIS — Although there is about six weeks remaining in the season, the Marlins are already partially looking ahead to what promises to be a busy and eventful offseason.

As the organization aims to figure out how to move forward, I’m expecting the Marlins to become more analytical in 2016. It’s widely known Miami is at the lower end of teams that rely on advanced metrics when making roster decisions. That is likely to change.

Instead of having one person or a small group of people crunching numbers — as the team currently does — the Marlins may create an analytical department.

Not surprise, but I don’t think the Marlins will be major players on the free agent market, at least in terms of signing the marquee names, like David Price or Johnny Cueto.

Their No. 1 need certainly is pitching — starters and relievers. One is not a priority over the other. Sure they could use an ace like Price. Who couldn’t? But not at the dollars he will command.

More realistic alternatives are free agents coming off either injuries or down years. Doug Fister is far more realistic than Zack Greinke.

While the Marlins can’t spend with the deep-pocket clubs, they can close the gap based on how they evaluate.

Repeatedly, we’ve seen money alone doesn’t win championships.

As MLB.com columnist Richard Justice pointed out in a state-of-the-game-story: “Competitive balance? If the season ended today, six of the top nine teams as measured by payroll would miss the playoffs. The ability to spend will always matter. But smarts and good decisions matter, too.”

The Marlins understand they must get smarter in their evaluations. They clearly miscalculated in trading for Mat Latos and signing free agent Michael Morse.

To what extent the Marlins will rely on analytical data remains unclear. But as technology advances, there is more information at every team’s disposal. Might as well best use it.

Former Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell, an analyst on The MLB Network, has an interesting take on metrics.

“I like it to a certain degree,” Lowell said the other day at Marlins Park. “I don’t like it where I think some people are so extreme that they believe the numbers can explain the outcome day in, day out. Baseball is so weird. You can have a guy that swings the bat really well and go 0-for-4, and guy that swings terribly and goes 2-for-4. Does that mean the guy who swung the bat bad is a better player? I think it evens out over the course of a season.”

Lowell is a fan of Statcast, MLB’s state-of-the-art tracking technology that measures pretty much all movement on the field. It is Statcast that gives home run projections and exit velocity on balls put in play.

“I’m intrigued by that Statcast,” Lowell said. “I don’t know how exact it is, but like jumps for outfielders, first steps for infielders. That intrigues me. If we can really quantify that, I think some guys who are not fast might have better range.

“I’m a big fan of exit velocity. They’re big on spin rate now for pitchers. I agree. I think someone who has a bigger spin rate is probably going to have a curveball that isn’t as picked up as easily. Or it probably breaks a little more.”

Most likely the Marlins won’t become strictly an analytical club, either. They likely will strive for balance.

“I buy into some of it, not all of it,” Lowell said. “But I think you’ve got to accept the technology that comes with the game.”

Joe Frisaro

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