Archive for Marlins

How Did Pedro Martinez Get Bombed?

Clayton Kershaw is coming off what was legitimately one of the best starting-pitcher seasons of all time. Though he would miss a few turns due to injury, that problem was quickly forgotten, as Kershaw still approached 200 innings and finished with both an ERA and an FIP that were half the league average. There was one stretch where Kershaw didn’t allow a single run over four consecutive starts, and that stretch was bookended by a pair of one-run outings. Yet as amazing as Kershaw was, there was one game where he allowed seven runs in under two innings to the Diamondbacks. Those seven runs were 17% of Kershaw’s regular-season total. In July, I tried to investigate what went wrong.

Kershaw, in 2014, had one of the better pitcher seasons ever. Pedro Martinez, in 1999, had maybe the best pitcher season ever. Pedro posted the lowest FIP- ever by a starter, at 28. The next-best mark is 36, also posted by Pedro. The best non-Pedro mark is 45. Over the course of baseball history, that 1999 FIP- is a full five standard deviations better than the mean. Pedro’s strikeout rate that season was 5.4 standard deviations better than the mean. I should note that this doesn’t include what Pedro did in the All-Star Game, or in the playoffs. In the All-Star Game, he struck out five of six batters, with one reaching on an error. In the playoffs, Pedro spun 17 shutout innings, allowing five hits and a .267 OPS. Pedro Martinez, that season, was probably the best that any starting pitcher has been. The statistics are unreal even before you remember to adjust them for the era.

Yet on July 18, Pedro faced the Florida Marlins and couldn’t get out of the fourth. His final line shows nine runs on a dozen hits, with no other season run total exceeding four. That year’s Marlins had one of the worst offenses in either league, and they’d lose 98 games. Just as Kershaw’s disaster was fascinating, so, too, was Pedro’s, particularly in retrospect. How did one of the best pitchers ever, in probably the best pitcher season ever, get killed at home against a bad team on the wrong side of a fire sale?

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The Top-Five Marlins Prospects by Projected WAR

Earlier today, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Miami Marlins. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not Miami’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Marlins system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.

Below are the top-five prospects in the Marlins system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

5. Arquimedes Caminero, RHP (Profile)

IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP WAR
50 8.7 3.8 0.9 3.86 0.1

Caminero is part of a small collection of minor-league pitchers whose fastball has been identified independently as hitting 100 mph or higher. It’s possible to fail even with that sort of velocity, but the margin of error is larger. Caminero hasn’t thrown quite that hard in limited major-league exposure, sitting more at 95-96 mph. But he’s generated sufficient whiffs both with that and his changeup to compensate for a relative paucity of strikes.

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Evaluating the Prospects: Miami Marlins

Evaluating the Prospects: RangersRockiesD’BacksTwinsAstrosRed SoxCubsWhite SoxRedsPhilliesRaysMetsPadresMarlins & Nationals

Scouting Explained: Introduction, Hitting Pt 1 Pt 2 Pt 3 Pt 4 Pt 5 Pt 6

Amateur Coverage: 2015 Draft Rankings2015 July 2 Top Prospects & Latest on Yoan Moncada

The Marlins are at an interesting place in their development cycle. We’ve seen them be at every stage of the spectrum, from rebuilding to contender, over the last couple decades and now they’re flipping young players for ready-made big leaguers to put around Giancarlo Stanton while he’s in his prime. It remains to be seen how much of a contender they will be in 2015, but it’s clear a switch has been flipped and that’s evident in what the system looks like.

It isn’t that top heavy and it isn’t particularly deep in tradable assets, but I liked what the Marlins did in the later rounds in the most recent draft. The club told me they had leaned to pitching in recent drafts and needed hitters. They identified a number of lower six figure prep hitting prospects to help stock the lower rungs of the system. Going under-slot in the sandwich round for prep catcher Blake Anderson helped them do that; it’ll be a few years before we know if this draft strategy will pay off.

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Marlins Exchange Nathan Eovaldi for Depth

A move that wasn’t a Padres move happened Friday.

Yankees send to Marlins:

Marlins send to Yankees:

German is a prospect. Eovaldi has three more years of team control, while Jones has one. Prado has two more years of team control, and Phelps has four, although he’s a Super-Two asset. The way it’s being phrased, the Yankees are chipping in $3 million in each of the next two years to partially pay down Prado’s salary. But if you’d like, you can mentally cancel out the $6 million and German. Now, German is actually an intriguing, live-armed prospect, so his value is probably a little north of $6 million, but they’re close enough to being even. This is mostly about the major-league players, and the one who grabs your attention is Eovaldi. That’s the guy with the big, big upside.

From their end, you can see what the Marlins are doing. They didn’t need Eovaldi, and Phelps is useful enough, and Prado can play all over the place. But from the other side, the Yankees might well be ecstatic. Theirs was a roster in need of help in the rotation. It’s not often you can land an arm like Eovaldi’s without paying through the nose. It was this very player who, a few years ago, got traded for Hanley Ramirez. Eovaldi’s not even 25 years old, and he can run it up to the triple digits.

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One Way to Get Excited About Nathan Eovaldi

There are plenty of ways to poo-poo Nathan Eovaldi. Dude has thrown 300 changeups and they’ve been bad, for the most part. Dude has gas, but his four-seamer gets only gets average whiffs. Dude’s thrown almost 500 innings and been league average. Dude’s done this in pitcher-friendly parks and leagues and now is headed to Yankee Stadium. Dude.

There’s at least one way to get excited about Eovaldi. By arsenal shape, speed, and peripheral results, he’s pretty much Garrett Richards.

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The Biggest Remaining Lineup Needs

The Winter Meetings revelry has passed. We’re still waiting on a few big trades to finally ‘consummate,’ but the list of free agents is less attractive by day. Before you turn down a chance at glory with the guys left waiting for a team, it’s probably a good idea to look at how badly you need them. This is not dating advice, but it sort of feels like it.

To that end, I’ve taking our depth charts and calculated a quick stat for ‘neediness.’ By averaging team WAR over 13 roster spots — the portion of the 25-man roster usually used for offense — and then looking at the difference between that average WAR and each position WAR, I’ve found a way to show where the biggest remaining lineup holes are.

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Why Steamer Doesn’t Like Mat Latos

As was made evident by the Giancarlo Stanton extension, the Marlins are trying to build up to win. On Wednesday, they added Dee Gordon, a player who has been good in one year. On Thursday, they added Mat Latos, a player who has been good in several. There’s another difference, though — in 2014, Gordon was at his best. Latos, meanwhile, missed half the season due to a variety of injuries. The Marlins are betting on him to be successful in his last year of team control before free agency. To Cincinnati go Chad Wallach and Anthony DeSclafani.

Latos is a player of particular interest. Previously in his career, he was moved from San Diego in a blockbuster. Twice, he’s hit 4 WAR, and two other times, he’s come in around 3 WAR. He’s now coming off a half season in which he was worth 1.5 WAR. In a full season in 2015, Steamer projects Latos to be worth 1.2 WAR. It’s a surprisingly pessimistic figure, for a pitcher who just turned 27, so it’s worth explaining why Steamer thinks the way it thinks. Why is Steamer so down on a front-of-the-rotation starter?

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What Do The Marlins See in Dee Gordon?

Unpopular opinion time: the Miami Marlins are the not a band of penniless rubes ready for the exploitin’ by the Dodgers slick-talkin’ front office army. The Marlins are a lot of things, but clueless is not one of them. They don’t have much in the way on field success — minus a couple of championships — but the Marlins could very well have the best player development record in baseball. The Marlins never-ending prospect churn seems to have produced more than its share of talent, and that’s probably not an accident.

At some point, even the thrifty Marlins decided to roll up their stake and make a move. The moves are still Marlins-sized, but this isn’t your typical Marlins deal. This time, the Marlins are trading pre-arb players OUT and bring established players IN, so this is not the run-off-the-mill Marlins sell-off. Something is afoot. Something is amiss. Could they be making their team…better?

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Marlins Pay Steep Price to Not Get Better

Things have been enthusiastic around the Marlins lately. They surprised the industry by managing to lock up Giancarlo Stanton, and then they turned their attention to trying to extend a handful of other promising young big-leaguers. Also, the Marlins swore to improve the immediate big-league roster, signaling that they want to get to the playoffs. There’s been a sense that, for the first time, the Marlins are serious about getting good and staying good, and paying money to do so. The Marlins are trying to convince everyone they’re entering a new era. Which is all well and good, until you make a misstep in trying to improve. That’s the real dangerous bit.

I’m not sure if this is the worst move of the offseason. If it is, I’m not sure if this will remain the worst move of the offseason. But my later response continues to match my initial response: Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers are making out like bandits, successfully selling Dee Gordon about as high as possible. The Dodgers are losing a probable regression candidate, about to enter his Super-Two seasons. They’re getting probably the Marlins’ best prospect, and then even more to boot. The Dodgers picked up some more long-term assets. The Marlins might not have gotten better at all.

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2015 ZiPS Projections – Miami Marlins

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Miami Marlins. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Tampa Bay.

Batters
At five-plus wins Giancarlo Stanton receives the top projection among Marlins players — a figure that will likely represent one of the highest WAR projections among all players to appear in this series. Unsurprising, that, for a player who just produced a six-win season as a 24-year-old.

Perhaps surprising for a player who just produced a six-win season as a 24-year-old is that Stanton’s projection isn’t more optimistic. To that sentiment, Dan Szymborski would likely reply — indeed, has replied before — that star-level players have a “pretty much one-sided risk curve.”

Notable elswhere among Marlins hitters is Christian Yelich‘s very encouraging projection of nearly four wins — this, despite possessing slightly below-average (present) power and playing a corner-outfield spot. Complementing those drawbacks with strong plate discipline and considerably above-average defense in that corner, however, Yelich is a candidate to become the National League’s version of Alex Gordon.

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Josh Willingham: Honoring the Hammer

Someday, an up-and-coming SABR scientist should try to measure the psychic effect that losing has on ballplayers. As everyone knows from watching “The Natural,” losing is a disease — as contagious as polio, syphilis and bubonic plague. Attacking one but infecting all, though some more than others. And no other major leaguer over the past decade, among hitters, lost as frequently as Josh Willingham did.

Willingham, 35, recently announced his retirement after playing nine full seasons and parts of two more. What a relief it must have been for him to finish as a part-timer with the Kansas City Royals, who made it to the seventh game of the World Series. Only once before had Willingham played significant time for winning team (with the Florida Marlins in 2008), and never had he played in the postseason. Cross it off the list, call it a career. And it was a good one, aside from all of the losing.

Overall, his teams went 503-644 in Willingham’s appearances, producing a .439 winning percentage, the worst among anyone who recorded at least 4,000 plate appearances since he broke into the majors in 2004. It usually wasn’t Willingham’s fault that his team lost; he was the best hitter on the Marlins as a rookie, after Miguel Cabrera, and he was better than Hanley Ramirez. He was the fourth-best hitter in ’07, the third-best in ’08 — and in ’09 and ’10 after being traded to the Washington Nationals. He was the best hitter on the Oakland Athletics in 2011, and the Minnesota Twins in 2012.  It’s just that Willingham’s teams lost anyway.

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Looking for Value in the Non-Tenders

The list of non-tenders is out. Time to dream!

It’s actually a very tough place to shop, even if there are a few names that seem attractive this year. Only about one in twelve non-tenders manages to put up a win of value the year after they were let loose. Generally, teams know best which players to keep, and which to jettison.

You’re not going to get 12 non-tenders in your camp in any given year, but there is a way to improve your odds. It’s simple, really: pick up a player that was actually above replacement the year before. If you do that, you double your chance of picking up a productive major leaguer. So let’s look at this year’s market through that lens first.

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Investigating Steve Cishek on Behalf of Adam Ottavino

When the Rockies came to town this year, there was a tap on my shoulder. Adam Ottavino wanted to talk pitching. For some reason, I didn’t turn on my recorder. That’s fine, I guess, sometimes you just lose yourself in the conversation and want to kick yourself later when you look down. We had a good time talking, is what I remember. I even got some grips pics from him.

But anyway, I don’t have the exact quotes and so I can’t provide you a break down of Ottavino’s season peppered with the interesting things that Ottavino said about his craft. Just know that, yes, he thinks about platoon splits. And the primarily fastball/slider righty thinks about changeups. But a changeup hasn’t worked for him yet, and the strategies he’s had to deal with platoon splits have had varying success.

What stuck with me since that conversation was a pitcher he was interested in: Steve Cishek. Really, Ottavino was interested in how a primarily fastball/slider pitcher could avoid platoon splits. So, Adam, if you’re out there, let’s take a look at Steve Cishek for a bit. The rest of you that are still here, come along for the ride!

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How Giancarlo Stanton Contracts Would Have Gone

In case you were wondering, yes, you’re already used to this. The biggest contract in the history of North American sports is being handed out by perhaps the most famously cheap organization in the history of North American sports, and with a press conference scheduled, that means we’ve got something official: the Marlins are giving 13 years and $325 million to Giancarlo Stanton. Potentially. It’s complicated. But the contract’s agreed to, which is amazing, and almost as amazing as the fact that many of us have already moved on from the news given it was almost done late last week. This is the day to discuss Russell Martin or Jason Heyward or Shelby Miller. We already processed the Stanton stuff, but it feels like we should make a conscious effort to process a little more. This is a big deal. It’s also a big deal.

Fresh off of the Twitter, we have Buster Olney making a relevant guess:

Seems like the industry usually reacts with astonishment, early in offseasons, before going on to make similar decisions later in offseasons. It’s always startling to recognize how much money there is in this game. The Stanton deal, though, is obviously exceptional — this is a new level of commitment. You can’t not stare at the potential maximums. What does 13 years even mean? How many dollars is three hundred twenty-five million dollars? This contract would conceivably end in 2027. By then, current eighth-graders could be getting PhDs in microbiology. It’s crazy to think about the commitment because the future is overwhelming. None of us know what’ll happen tomorrow. 13 years is almost 5,000 tomorrows.

Something we can’t do easily with our own lives is compare ourselves to similar people in the recent past. I can’t develop a profile of my neighbor and analyze a bunch of other people to see what might be going on with my neighbor in four or five years. But we can do this with athletes, at least in terms of their athletic performances. So let’s follow through with this pretty basic concept. How crazy a contract is this, that the Marlins are giving out? We don’t know anything about Stanton’s next 13 years, but what about the next 13 years, for previous Giancarlo Stantons? How did those go?

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Henderson Alvarez and Being Worse Than a Coin

You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this to happen. Sure, probably nobody else noticed that it happened, and Henderson Alvarez himself probably didn’t notice that it happened, but, let’s not be judgmental. You have your things, and I have mine. This is one of my things.

Let’s break hitting down to a level that’s so simple it barely even applies to real hitting in the first place. As a hitter, you want to hit the ball hard. To hit the ball hard, you want to maximize your swings at hittable pitches, and minimize your swings at less hittable pitches. The strike zone mostly captures the hittable pitches, and a pitch taken in the strike zone will count against you for a strike. So to make things excessively simple: you want hitters to swing at strikes, and you don’t want hitters to swing at balls. Generally, a swing at a strike is a good decision. Generally, a swing at a ball is a bad decision. The most disciplined hitters in baseball will swing at a lot more strikes than balls.

Conveniently, we can establish a discipline baseline. What’s the worst discipline one might ever expect? That would be an even blend of swings at strikes and swings at balls. That would suggest zero discipline at all, and that’s the approach we’d expect if swings were determined by flipping a coin. If everything were 50/50, a hitter would have an O-Swing% of 50% and a Z-Swing% of 50%. To somehow perform worse than that would hint at the existence of anti-discipline, which I don’t even know how I would explain.

Henderson Alvarez is best known for being a baseball pitcher. Because his employer’s in the National League, he also sometimes has to be a baseball hitter. This past season he came to the plate 67 times. Henderson Alvarez’s discipline was worse than a coin’s.

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Baseball’s Least-Improved Pitch-Framer

You ever notice how “improved” doesn’t have a good selection of antonyms? That’s what I’m going for. “The pitch-framer who’s gotten a heck of a lot worse somehow” gets the idea across, but it makes for a pretty lousy headline. Anyway, now you know the question being answered.

Dave has noted a few times in the past that at this point, the market doesn’t seem to pay very much for quality pitch-framing. There could be any number of reasons for this, but one could be that teams simply think they can teach their catchers to receive the ball better. Why pay for what you can instruct? Jason Castro would be an example of a guy who’s gotten way better at receiving with proper, targeted instruction. I think it makes sense to us how a guy could learn to receive pitches better. It makes less sense how a guy could just flat-out do worse. It seems like a fundamental skill once it’s learned, but every stat has its players who get better and its players who get worse, and the catcher who’s had the biggest performance decline between 2013 and 2014 is a catcher who last winter inked a three-year contract after winning a World Series.

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Domingo German: Flamethrowing Reliever or Useful Starter?

When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades. There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.

The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades. -Kiley

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Mike Fiers and Pitching Rattled

Perhaps the biggest problem with sports analysis is believing too strongly in one’s ability to understand the future. Perhaps the biggest problem with sports commentary is believing too strongly in one’s ability to understand the present. We’re always more than happy to play psychiatrist when it comes to discussing people we know and talk to every week, but then we allow this to carry over into sporting events, with completely unfamiliar people trying to navigate completely unfamiliar circumstances. We pretty much never know who a player is, and what he’s going through. That doesn’t stop people from analyzing the activity waves in his brain.

You know what I’m referring to, and it happens with every sport, in particular down the stretch and in the playoffs. Choking. Stepping up. Wilting. Clutch. So many people offer so many psychological explanations, yet, we never know whether there’s actually any truth. They’re just explanations after the fact, even though, in every competition, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. So rarely can we actually speak to the psychology of sport. We don’t know when we’re observing a certain mental state, so we can’t analyze what that means.

Which brings us to Thursday night and Mike Fiers. Let’s say that professional athletes are mentally strong — mentally stronger than most. So let’s say it would take a lot for one to be rattled. What kind of event might rattle more than anything else? I’d volunteer a high hit-by-pitch. When you throw a ball that hits someone around the head, that goes beyond competitive adversity. So given what transpired, perhaps Fiers is an actual, observable example of a player playing while rattled. These examples are exceedingly rare things.

Yet, maybe it still didn’t matter. Turns out this stuff is complicated.

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How Close To The Playoffs Would the Marlins Be With Jose Fernandez?

When Jose Fernandez blew out his elbow in May, the baseball world wept, rightfully so. It didn’t matter if you were a Marlins fan or not, it only mattered that one of the brightest young stars in baseball was gone, just one of a billion (probably) pitchers to learn that pitching is really, really unhealthy. It wasn’t fair, in the same way that it wasn’t fair when Matt Harvey went down, or when Stephen Strasburg was injured before that. Never love a pitcher. They’ll just let you down.

If it was sad for baseball, it was all but certain doom for the Marlins. They had Giancarlo Stanton, sure, and a few interesting young players, but they also had little rotation depth, an infield that was supposedly going to be duct-taped together by guys who sort of looked like they might have once been Casey McGehee, Rafael Furcal, Garrett Jones and Jeff Baker, and two tough competitors in the NL East. Even with Fernandez, it was going to be a tough run to the playoffs. Without him? Impossible.

As expected, the Marlins are not going to make the playoffs. As completely unexpected, the Marlins have not only not collapsed without Fernandez, they’ve hung in there all season long. A win last night over Milwaukee would have put them at .500, on a four-game win streak and 3.5 games out of the second wild card. You can certainly make the argument that being the second wild card is barely “making the playoffs,” and many have. Of course, the Marlins have won two championships and have yet to win a division title. Considering how they’ve stuck around, did Fernandez’ injury cost Miami the playoffs?

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What a Giancarlo Stanton Extension Might Look Like

With the Marlins hanging around the periphery of the Wild Card race, there’s a strong chance that Giancarlo Stanton is going to win the NL MVP award. He’s the classic traditional candidate, leading the league in home runs and runs batted in, and the Marlins small gap from the Wild Card leaders will allow people to talk themselves into his performance having come in games that mattered. With all of the other top candidates requiring the rejection of some long held ideal, Stanton looks like a pretty easy choice for someone who likes the way that MVPs have traditionally been selected.

This may actually be bad news for the Marlins, however. An MVP trophy would be nice recognition for the franchise’s best player, but it would also increase his asking price in arbitration, and Stanton is already in a position where he has significant leverage. The Marlins have thus far eschewed trade requests for their right fielder, hopeful that they can convince him to sign a long-term deal to stay in Miami, but an MVP trophy might make a tough road even more difficult. Let’s look at the kinds of numbers Stanton may very well ask for to pass up the chance to hit free agency after the 2016 season.

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