What was already a very good defensive infield has become an even better unit for the Miami Marlins.
Per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, a year after ranking near the bottom in total number of infield shifts, the Marlins are now among the most active teams when it comes to repositioning their infielders. The results are evident, as if not for one questionable error last week at Seattle, they would be heading into Philadelphia on Tuesday night trying to establish a Major League-record errorless streak.
Miami's lone infield error came on April 19 in a 10-5 loss at Seattle. In the sixth inning, Mitch Haniger reached on Martin Prado's misplay at third base. The decision was questionable when you consider the ball was scorched. Per Statcast™, the exit velocity of the grounder was 108 mph.
Now that the team has its entire infield in place with the return of third baseman Martin Prado and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, continuity will help this team play even better. Utility infielders Miguel Rojas and Derek Dietrich filled in for the injured starters and proved to be just as effective with the glove.
The Marlins knew this was something they would work on in the offseason. Manager Don Mattingly said he wanted the team to work on turning ground balls into outs. This, along with better hitting early this season, has made a difference over last year.
Miami infield coach Perry Hill, one of the game's top instructors, is a stickler for fundamentals and positioning. The combination is working. Dating back to the final 10 games of 2016, the Marlins went 24 straight games without an infield error.
Shifting is helping the infielders make more plays. Through their first 18 games, per fangraphs.com, the Marlins have done traditional shifting to 187 batters, which is tied with the Rangers for the seventh most in the Majors. The Rays have shifted a league-high 266 batters.
The breakdown of innings in which Miami's infielders have shifted is 44 2/3, the sixth most in the Majors. Of the 187 batters faced, opponents have 45 hits for a .241 batting average.