Not As Good As Everyone Thinks

Now that we’ve completed the Organizational Rankings series, I wanted to spend a few posts talking about some of the points raised about different organizations. Specifically, it became clear to me that a couple of teams are wildly overrated and are likely to finish with a significantly worse record than a lot of you believe. No team fits the bill more than the Florida Marlins.

It became clear in the comments that a lot of you think the Marlins might actually be pretty good this year. They won 84 games last year, after all, and are full of young players, so the immediate future is bright, right?

Sorry, but no.

CHONE projects the Marlins to finish 75-87. PECOTA says 70-92. THT has them going 72-90.

Why the 10+ win drop-off from last year? Regression to the mean.

Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, and John Baker all performed at offensive levels last year that they simply can’t be expected to repeat. The projected regression from those three will cost the Marlins 30+ runs off of their ’08 total. That’s a big deal.

On the pitching side, Scott Olsen, Joe Nelson, and Kevin Gregg have all been shipped off, and while none of them should have been counted on to repeat their performances, it’s also unlikely that the Marlins will be able to replace those 320+ innings with a similar performance. The increase in innings given to Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad (another guy whose performance will regress), and Anibal Sanchez will simply attempt to compensate for the useful performances that they lost from last year.

Last year, the Marlins outscored their opponents by three runs while getting unsustainable performances from a lot of players. The idea that the Marlins have any real shot at contending for a playoff spot this year is a myth. They’re an also-ran, far closer to the Nationals in ability than the Mets, Phillies, or Braves. It’s more likely that they finish last in the NL East than first.

Don’t buy into the hype of the Marlins as a young team that could surprise. The only people who will be surprised by the Marlins this year are those that expect them to contend.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


96 Responses to “Not As Good As Everyone Thinks”

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  1. angrymob says:

    rabble rabble rabble you <3 Sea. too much rabble…

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  2. brtnsbs says:

    Uggla really can’t be expected to repeat his performance? In his 3 years in the bigs he’s hit between 27-32 HR’s (32 last year), 97-113 runs (97 last year), 88-92 RBI (92 last year), 245-280 AVG (260 last year). He is actually remarkably consistent in terms of the numbers he has produced in 3 full seasons. Why can’t he continue to put up the exactly the same numbers as he has been? He didn’t significantly outproduce any of this statistics. Throwing him in with the group of Cantu and Baker just isn’t fair to him.

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    • Gina says:

      His ops rose nearly .70 points above the previous two years. I don’t know what the odds are of sustaining it but that’s a pretty major increase.

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      • B says:

        A player in his third season in the bigs saw an increase in his OPS? No way. In all seriousness though, I think this is worthy of discussion. You expect a regression from Uggla, but how much of a regression? His BABIP last year was .323, probably a little on the high side, but not much and the year before it was .286, so he was probably a little unlucky. His K% increased last year, but so did his BB%. What to make of that? If he puts up a year in between 2007 and 2008 you’re looking at a very small dropoff in offensive production. Do you see other indicators that lead you to believe it may be more significant?

        From what I’ve read from a scouting standpoint, it seems a lot of the Marlins pitchers have the potential to take a big jump, though I’m not an expert ont his myself, nor do I really follow the Marlins very much to begin with. Is it unreasonable to assume a couple of their pitchers have the ability to produce seasons that a projection system won’t see coming? They seem a darkhorse playoff threat – the Mets and Phillies are both good teams they’d have to overcome, but I think talking about them like they’re the Nationals is a big stretch in itself.

        Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but comments like “Chris Volstad (another guy whose performance will regress)” that are so definite don’t sit well with me. Just because a projection system thinks a player will regress doesn’t set the future in stone – after all it’s only meant to be an educated guess based on historical probabilities. It just comes off with an arrogant attitude that seems unproductive at best.

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      • scatterbrian says:

        but only 20 points in OPS+
        112, 108, 128 in three seasons

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    • Gee says:

      Uggla:
      2006: 8.8 wRAA, .347 wOBA
      2007: 8.6 wRAA, .345 wOBA
      2008: 22.5 wRAA, .372 wOBA

      It’s safe to say that he’s due for some regression next year.

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      • B says:

        Why? He’s only been in the league 3 years and got better over that span, which isn’t exactly unusual. What evidence do you have that this isn’t a sustained improvement rather than one outlier season?

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      • Nacho says:

        Uggla
        Year : Age: BABIP: BB% : ISO:
        2006: 26: .315 : 7.3 : .198
        2007: 27: .286 : 9.7 : .234
        2008: 28: .323 :12.7: .254

        It would seem he’s got some pretty good possitive trends and that 2007 BABIP might have been a little fluky, dragging down his wOBA and his 2009 projections. That BABIP may have had something to do with his lowest to date GB%. And his LD% has been very steady at ~16%. His HR/FB% went way up last year, however that may have just been due to him entering his prime power years… over all I’d say he’s a decent bet to beat his projections (which are still better than his 06/07 seasons).

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      • Wally says:

        I’m curiouse too what sort of year Uggla will be having next year, 29 is still young enough to keep building upwards although last years HR/FB% could be worrisome. I think you’re right and there’s a good chance he beats his projections.

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      • Gee says:

        The discussion isn’t about beating his projections; it’s about whether or not he’ll regress from this past year’s performance. Even if he has improved, he’s not going to put up 22.5 wRAA. That’s just not a normal progression. Is it possible for him to repeat? Yes, but is it likely? The evidence is stacked against him.

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      • Nacho says:

        Well beating his projections means coming pretty close to last year’s performance and not doing his share of the -30 run difference between those 3 players. Its all explained more further down.

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      • B says:

        Gee, you think Uggla is due for a regression, and that’s fine. But give us some justification. We’ve thrown out the facts we see as to why Uggla can repeat or nearly repeat his 2008 performance, but nobody has thrown out any facts as to why he’ll probably regress. Players do in fact improve over the first 3 years of their career – why do you think it was Uggla playing above his talent level as opposed to him becoming a better hitter? I think it’s a good discussion and hopefully we’ll get some good answers.

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      • Gee says:

        His projections range from 6.6 wRAA to 19.3 wRAA with an average of about 10 wRAA. That’s about 12 runs and a full win away from what he did last year. He can beat the predictions and still come nowhere close to last years performance.

        Uggla hits almost 50% fly balls and only 15% line drives yet his BABIP was .323 last year, about 20 points higher than what you should expect. His HR/FB went from about 13% for his first two years to 18.4% last year, a pretty incredible (and probably somewhat lucky) increase. Plus he K’d a bunch more last year… maybe more pitchers have found out he can’t hit sliders.

        Uggla probably got a lot better last year, but not 14 runs better. I think the predictions are pretty close to what to expect, about 10-12 wRAA, which would be a regression from last year, but better than his first two years.

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  3. Ed Nelson says:

    Ok I see where you are coming from Dave. The only thing is that this is what everyone says about the Marlins’ every year, and every year they seem to defy and exceed expectations. I mean seriously how many years in a row has Dan Uggla been predicted to regress? His BB% was almost 13% last year when are we going to accept that he’s just evolving in a way we didn’t expect?

    Uggla is the example of what baseball experts hate about the Marlins. That somehow, someway, they reliably do the unexpected because the Marlins’ front office is simply better at this then they are. Who saw Nolasco’s breakout coming? No one but the Marlins. Who thought Cantu could bounce back? No one but the Marlins. Uggla was a rule 5 pick who hit 30 homers at 2nd base!

    This year someone will probably regress (Cantu), but the truth is someone else will assuredly blow the entire system to pieces at the same time. Bonifacio hits .310 and steals 50 bases, or Andrew Miller wins 15 games and has 190Ks, or Jeremy Hermida leads the NL in slugging %. I officially have given up on counting on the Marlins collapsing. It’s simply too heartbreaking to endure again.

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  4. thumble says:

    “Regression to the mean” is not a legit arguement for players that are entering their late 20s.

    There are plenty of stats on this site that could be used to bolster the argument that the Marlins will not repeat (contact%, babip, tHR, FIP, etc) but the macro argument of regression is weak. You could just as easily argue that there will be a “regression to the mean” for the underperformers and the net effect would be zero.

    I agree with the conclusion, but not the path that got you there.

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  5. Omar says:

    Is this thread so Dave can bitch about the Marlins, or so we can discuss the organizational rankings as a whole? If the latter the Mariners management sent out a big fuck you to Ms fans everywhere by naming Morrow closer.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Did they? That’s apparently what Morrow wanted. Given the injury concerns with him, maybe they just decided not to risk blowing him up as a starter.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Hooray for ignorance.

      “It was my call”, said Morrow.

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      • Omar says:

        If they let players decide their fate, they’d never yank starters, no veteran would ever change positions, and starters would almost never rest for a bench player. The fact that it was his decision almost makes it even more ridiclous.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Did you read Matthew’s post today at Lookout Landing?

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      • Omar says:

        Yeah I saw it and by and large agreed with it, at any rate this hurts the Ms quite a bit and it’s grotesquely stupid to not even five him a real shot at the rotation

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      • ThundaPC says:

        Morrow had a real shot to crack the rotation. Morrow has a few starts under his belt.

        With the choice between starting and relieving, Morrow, after weighing the personal pros and cons, decided that he’s better off in relief. It sucks, but it is what it is. He made that call.

        I know people are looking for ways to deduct points from the Mariners current front office but you won’t find any reasons in the Morrow situation.

        And on a side note, this organization does not simply let players decide their fate as they did not allow Adrian Beltre to participate in the WBC due to recovering from shoulder surgery.

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      • Omar says:

        You’re a fucking idiot for writing that first sentence. “A real shot to crack the rotation” Yeah, I guess those five starts he has over his career really was a real shot. If that’s the case the Red Sox should just give up on that Buchholz scrub…he’s had 18 starts, he must really be terrible. They should deal him for a real 4th OF that doesn’t have a genetic condition that prevents him from playing every day.

        Second, you do not let the player make the final call. Since he has a chance to be a much better pitcher than Ted Lilly…they should at least give him I don’t know maybe ten more starts before they decide to limit him to the bullpen.

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      • ThundaPC says:

        Being hostile kinda gets in the way of a discussion.

        “You’re a fucking idiot for writing that first sentence. “A real shot to crack the rotation” Yeah, I guess those five starts he has over his career really was a real shot.”

        Now, if you weren’t so hostile, you might have figured that I was also referring to the fact that they had him penciled in as a starter for the season. Hence he had a real shot of cracking the rotation.

        “Second, you do not let the player make the final call. Since he has a chance to be a much better pitcher than Ted Lilly…they should at least give him I don’t know maybe ten more starts before they decide to limit him to the bullpen.”

        Oh, if only there weren’t health issues involved with the decision. Morrow feels that he can better control his Diabetes in the bullpen. Forcing players to do what they don’t want to do especially with a health risk is not a good idea.

        There’s been a mess-load of things already said about Morrow going to the bullpen and I don’t feel like rehashing them here in a non-Mariner thread.

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      • Walter Jones says:

        Omar: Morrow is a diabetic. Lay off. Management that doesn’t listen to players when they have serious concerns about their physical health give sports a bad name.

        It’s a bummer that Morrow doesn’t want to be an ace SP, but I’d rather see him live a long, fruitful life than to hurt himself for stupid baseball pressure.

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  6. vivaelpujols says:

    I’m not sure how much stock you can put into the projections for the Marlins. There entire roster is made up of 2 or 3 year players, and most of them are way to hard to project due to breakout (or disappointing) seasons last or injuries. Also, even if they disappoint next year, the fact that they have so many young players with room for improvement should bode well for success in the future. Not to mention that they probably have the most valuable farm system in the majors (http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/3/27/807059/farm-system-value-rankings), so that they will continue to pump in talent when players leave in free agency or trades.

    Dave, I agreed with nearly all of your rankings, but I still vehemently disagree with this one. Maybe the fact that so many other people do too should either make you change you’re opinion or at least come up with some evidence suggesting that they will be one of the worst teams in the majors going over the next 5 years.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Based on the quality of the comments of people who think the Marlins ranking is wrong, I’m actually reassured that I’m not in agreement with those people.

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      • Omar says:

        They have some good talent it’s just that “F-” doesn’t even begin to describe how much Loria sucks.

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      • B says:

        If you’re going to make dick comments/replies like that the least you can do is address legitimate questions like: why do you think Uggla is bound to regress? As I addressed earlier I see some of his peripherals as indicating he wasn’t outperforming his expectations by much (if at all) last year, like his BABIP wasn’t outrageously high at .323, and though his K% increased so did his BB%.

        What about the high ceilings of a lot of the Marlins young talent? Do you have a reason to believe it is impossible for a couple of them to significantly outperform their projections given their youth and talent?

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      • Skel says:

        “Based on the quality of the comments of people who think the Marlins ranking is wrong, I’m actually reassured that I’m not in agreement with those people.”

        Hooray for condescension.

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      • tom s. says:

        if pointing out that the 29th team on your list has the best farm in baseball doesn’t count as a quality comment, what does?

        even if you accept that loria is not going to drop one more nickel on the team than he has to, you have to look at the marlins and say they have excellent bats coming up out of the farm to compete at least until they reach arbitration. is loria going to trade them for nonunion players who work for LESS than league min?

        is it less probable that the marlins could succeed with some good players who haven’t yet reached arbitration than, say, that the pirates will succeed soon?

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Tom, I don’t think that Dave was insulting my comment, he was referring to my last paragraph.

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      • Nacho says:

        viva, you are right Dave wasn’t insulting your comment, he was just insulting all the comments in general….. what a guy uh?

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  7. coreyjro says:

    I don’t really see a “the Marlins are good!” argument I’d buy. Yes, they have one of the best players in baseball. Uggla has proven to be a useful player. All of the pitchers are suspect, but with decent potential. Still, a lot of unexpected things are going to have to happen for them to do more than battle for 3rd.

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  8. Senta says:

    Predictions never work in baseball. Never. Whether it be predicting a bad outcome or a good one.

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    • JH says:

      Last year, Chone’s AL East projections were 8 games off on the Rays, 3 games off on the Red Sox, 3 on the Yankees, 3 on the Blue Jays, and 3 on the Orioles. You’re totally right. Predictions never work.

      That’s not to say there aren’t huge swings and misses. Some teams come out of nowhere with huge breakthrough performances while their veterans stave off decline (i.e. 2008 white sox), and some teams fall apart (Tigers, Mariners last year), but projections are usually a pretty good indicator of the relative strength of teams.

      In the Marlins case, there are 3 teams projected at 11-12 games above them. That’s a lot of ground to make up from the median expectation, and it makes their odds of reaching the playoffs very, very long.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        The Marlins have a much better shot of beating there projections than any other team, due to there ridiculous amount of young talent.

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  9. Mike says:

    The projections are brutal on Nolasco

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  10. Mike says:

    Rather, BJ and ZiPs see siginificant regression

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  11. Nacho says:

    Dave, I’d like to see how you came up with that 30+ run figure from Uggla, Cantu and Baker. Uggla is expecting ~.020 drop in wOBA, Cantu basically 0, and Baker because only played in 60 games last year his weighting is going to be low, and the confidence of his projection is low (he hit very well in the minors so while he might not be this good, he might be pretty darn close). So, it would seem nearly the entirety of this group’s regression will come from Uggla, and that likely isn’t more than 10 runs.

    Also, belittling comments that you disagree with is not a valid argument against them.

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  12. B says:

    To add on to that, Olsen, Nelson, and Gregg combined for just under 2 wins last year based on Fangraphs wins formula. I don’t think it’s completely out of the question for some unseen player at this time to throw 100-150 innings of 2 win pitching for the Marlins given their farm system.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      Volstad and Johsnon should be able do double that next year.

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      • B says:

        Those two combined for 3.3 wins last year, though Volstad only threw 84.1 IP and Johnson 87.1.

        Johnson seems to have strong numbers to support a nice year in 2009 – last year he had a 3.61 ERA despite a .332 BABIP. He also had a FIP of 3.37 with a nice K/9 of almost 8 and K/BB at 2.85. His HR/FB% was also right around his career average at 9%. He did have a strand rate of 76% that will probably drop somewhat, but the rest of the numbers support the fact that a healthy Johnson pitching double the innings he did in 2008, so ~170, will make up for 2 of those wins himself.

        As for Volstad, his peripherals were mostly weaker than his ERA suggests last year. Only 5.55 K/9 and 1.44 K/BB – he was helped by a BABIP of .282 and strand rate at 77%. He also had a HR/FB of 3.9%. That said, his FIP was 3.82 and his GB/FB is excellent at 1.86. Overall, a repeat of his 2.88 ERA seems unlikely, however, if he pitches ~150 innings he seems likely to add at least a little bit to the 1.4 wins he had last year.

        It doesn’t seem impossible for those two to combine for ~5.5-6.0 wins next year, easily making up for the loss of Gregg, Olsen and Nelson. If anyone has any thoughts to counter this, the discussion is appreciated. I also wouldn’t be overly surprised if some Marlin arm we aren’t expecting (as in, still a prospect), comes out of the blue with 2-3 wins like Josh Johnson did in 2006.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Yeah, I was saying that the extra innings provided by Johnson and Volstad (not the mention no-hit Sanchez) should easily be able to match that. Johnson is probably one of the best 3 pitchers in the NL East (by FIP he may even be the best) and Volstad and Sanchez are above average as well. Not to mention continued improvement from Miller.

        Seriously Dave, what the hell are you talking about. This rotation has the chance to be excellent, much better than last years.

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  13. RYAN says:

    i’m done doubting the Marlins and their organization. They play smart ball, continually scout well and find market inefficincies. Why i dont think they will overtake the phillies/mets, writing off a team that has the best pitching in the division is a mistake IMO.

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  14. CH says:

    I don’t think the Marlins have any chance to compete this year, but I still think they’re slightly better than 29th in baseball. I would put them ahead of the Nationals, Astros, Royals, Pirates and Padres, which would make them 25th overall.

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  15. vivaelpujols says:

    Also, not that this really proves anything, but the Mariners are only projected to do a little better than the Marlins next year. You say that JZ will be good for them in the future (and judging by the last couple of days, you have to be feeling a little disappointed) and that will allow them to improve, but they also don’t have the farm system that the Marlins have nor Hanely Ramirez.

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    • Ted says:

      Dave doesn’t actually follow his own description for the ranking, and its painfully obvious.

      The point of this is to look into the future and not the past. To see who is in a good position to be good not only next year but in years to come. Yet all the rankings are based on either last years performance (The Rays) or his prediction of how young talent will do no matter what competition or realities are present. (Orioles, Marlins, Mariners)

      He won’t even defend his rankings, he just makes short comments about dumb posts, instead of actually answering questions.

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      • JH says:

        The Rays ranking wasn’t based at all on last year’s ranking. It was based on an excellent organization returning its entire young core for the next several years that has more depth than any other organization in baseball.

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      • Ted says:

        Oh an excellent organization? What based on one year? Wow they took down stickers on the outfield wall and put up a few new ads?

        Here is the problem with the Rays at #2, they don’t have a finances to continue to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox and the rest of the AL East. They may have the most young talent, but as this post points out young talent is fickle and you can’t really count on it from year to year.

        Everything went right for the Rays last year, a few injuries and they are in huge trouble. Why? Because unlike the Yankees and Red Sox they don’t have the money to rent players or pull off mid-season trades for vaterens in exchange for that young talent they have. They cannot get rid of the young talent because there payroll is so low.

        So as you look into the future of the Rays, yes they have a very good chance of being very good into the future, but more things have to fall in place for them then almost any other team. The young players must turn out to be good, they must win before there players reach arbitration, and they can’t afford injuries. Other teams can and that is why other teams should be ranked higher.

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      • JH says:

        No, because they put together an incredible roster based on low-risk high-reward deals.

        They don’t need the financial resources to compete. The only free agents at year’s end are Troy Percival and Chad Bradford. They have the resources to replace them, and they’re still a championship-level team. Their core players are in place through 2011 at least, and a couple of them are locked in longer. Their system is also light years ahead of the Yankees and Red Sox.

        As regards the Rays’ 2008 season, their bullpen was shaky, Kazmir had the worst season of his career, BJ Upton’s power disappeared, Carl Crawford had his worst season since 2003 for no apparent reason, Carlos Pena was 2.5 wins worse in ’08 than ’07, and Edwin Jackson’s K-rate plummeted. But you’re right, everything went right for them.

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      • JH says:

        “a few injuries and they are in huge trouble”

        This is particularly funny given that the Yankees just had to scramble to replace Alex Rodriguez for a month, and Cody Ransom was the best they could come up with.

        For this year, the Rays are better situated to cover for injury than any other team in the league. Willy Aybar, a 2.5 win player given a full season, is ready to fill in at 1B, 2B, and 3B in the event of injury. Reid Brignac is in triple-A with a plus glove and offensive potential to fill in for their all glove no-hit shorstop if he goes down. In the outfield, Matt Joyce is a 2-win player who can fill in at either outfield corner, and if Upton goes down in CF, Crawford slides over and Joyce steps in. The team is 6 deep in solid rotation options even before you consider their two top prospects in the high minors (Wade Davis and Jeremy Helickson).

        That’s an above average option at every position but catcher in the event of injury. The Yankees, in contrast, are giving the 3B job for April to a 33-year-old with 183 career at-bats who had an OBP of .338 in Triple-A last year.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        JH- The Rays also got very lucky is some regards last year. 1) They outperformed their FIP by about .40 points last year. Some of that can be attributed to their stellar defense, but they also got lucky. 2) The starting rotation was incredibly healthy. Everyone but Kazmir had at least 30 starts, and he had 27. As Tom Verducci noted, starting rotation health is a huge factor in getting to the playoffs. 3) They outperformed they Pythagorean record by a few games last year although there WAR record matched up well.

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      • JH says:

        Of course a few things went in the Rays favor. They also got excellent performances from Erik Hinske and Gabe Gross. Saying everything went right is just absolutely false. Several everyday players underperformed, including the team’s best bat and best arm from 2007.

        The FIP difference isn’t that shocking given the best defense in the league. They have two shorstops on the left side of the infield and two center fielders in the outfield. Their defense is disgusting. The health of the rotation is a point well taken and definitely a big part of the reason they made the playoffs. However, they did lose a lot of innings from their ace, who underperformed all year, and Edwin Jackson made a lot of starts, but he didn’t go deep – he only averaged 5.2 innings/start. More importantly, the dropoff to Jeff Neimann or Jason Hammell really wouldn’t have been that huge. The difference between Jackson and Hammell over a full season probably would have been less than a win. (4.88 FIP vs. 5.25) Hammel in place of anyone for half a season or less wouldn’t have been much of a hit at all.

        Next year they get a fully healthy Upton, a full year from Longoria (and another year along the natural development curve), they replace Cliff Floyd with Pat Burrell, and they can look forward to potential rebounds from Kazmir, Crawford, and Pena, further development from Navarro and Garza, and a bunch of innings from the best pitching prospect in baseball to throw in there.

        The Rays certainly aren’t a lock to repeat, but they have the upside to be even better this year than they were in ’08. Calling them a 1-year wonder during a season where absolutely everything went right is just incorrect.

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  16. Peter Jensen says:

    From your March 9 Post on Organizational Rankings for Florida:

    But, with a few good hitters and some good arms, this is a team that should win about as often as they lose, and has some upside beyond that.

    Have you ever been diagnosed with schizophrenia or have the Marlins some how gotten 10 games worse in the last 3 weeks?

    Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, and John Baker all performed at offensive levels last year that they simply can’t be expected to repeat. The projected regression from those three will cost the Marlins 30+ runs off of their ‘08 total. That’s a big deal.

    You don’t really explain how you are calculating a 30+ runs decline for 2009, but it seems very pessimistic. Uggla at 29 should still be near his peak value offensively Offensively he gained 12 to 14 runs over his previous two seasons in 2008. There is no reason to expect him to give back more than half of that. Cantu has not been very consistent offensively in his first 5 partial MLB seasons but he too should be peaking now. His average value has been about 1 run above an average offensive player per 600 PA. In 2008 he was about 7 runs better than that. Again, giving half that back subtracts only 3.5 runs. Baker is harder to project from his 1/3 of a year of MLB playing time. He was old for a rookie and had spent 3.5 seasons at the AAA level. But he kept improving his numbers there every year. He probably will give back a significant portion of the 8 runs above average that he contributed in his limited playing time last year. But the important point to note is that he will be replacing the PA’s of Matt Treanor who was -11 runs in 234 PA’s last year. Even if if Baker is only average this year the position GAINS 3 runs as a whole this year. Best guess is that these 3 players together will perform no worse than 5 to 10 runs worse this year compared to last.

    +21 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JH says:

      Well, with Canto sliding over from 3rd to 1st full-time, even if he hits exactly the same he loses 10 runs through positional adjustment. He’ll make some of that up by being better defensively there, but it will be a net negative.

      I think a little offensive regression is likely given his absolute meltdown in Tampa Bay after his promising 2005 season.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Cantu’s career UZR/150 is about 15 runs better at first than at third. Even by regressing those numbers to the mean (as his +3.8 at first comes in less than half of a season, and he was a little better at third last year), that would cancel out the positional adjustment.

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      • JH says:

        Cantu’s career UZR/150 is also based on about 440 innings at the position. Last year he was +12 UZR/150. The last time he played first he was -22.2. That’s a meaningless number.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nacho says:

        But who’s taking over at 3rd, and what’s the defense going to be like? How does the whole alignment compare this year to last year, hitting and fielding? This is the problem with looking at positional adjustments when talking about the team as a whole. Canto doesn’t play in a vacuum.

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  17. Senta says:

    I bet you would have ranked the Tigers first last year huh

    And the Cubs and Red Sox having an epic world series?

    Nope, Baseball is a very random sport, you think you have the grasp of things with all these nerd stats but as I said, it’s too random.

    Pujols doing good is common sense. It’s an over and under type deal, 50% on one side of the spectrum, 50 on the other.

    -19 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • vivaelpujols says:

      Actually, I’d bet with Tigers atrocious defense and overrated pitching staff, Dave would have ranked them outside of the top ten. Also, the “nerd stats” give us a baseline to predict randomness. You can say that the Marlins are projected to win 70 games, but the standard error of projection systems is around 10 wins, meaning that there is a good possibility that they will beat (or underperform) those projections by a large margin.

      With the Marlins, I would say the potential variance is a lot higher than with most clubs due the ridiculous amount of young players that they have. Young players are simply too hard to project due to the lack of data. I would not trust the projection systems much here, but rather go more by scouting reports for the Marlins.

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    • Ted says:

      No question Dave would have had the Tigers in the top 10, maybe even the top 5 last year

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    • JH says:

      If you don’t like nerd stats, you’re on the wrong site.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jim says:

        Why is he on the wrong site? People who don’t agree with the stats used here have just as much of a right as the swooning zealots who bow at Dave’s feet. He has a point there. Take the Marcel projections. While those projections tend to be accurate for groups of players, the individual player projections are actually pretty bad. There will always be some players who are spot on projected, but there will also always be the players in the group that either vastly overperform or vastly underperform projections. It is dangerous to build arguments on projections alone.

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      • JH says:

        If the crux of your argument is “nerd stats can’t prove anything,” then fangraphs isn’t for you. There’s no reason for someone coming from that position to read the content here.

        Do you know what Marcel’s used for? It’s designed to be the stupidest, most basic projection system around. It applies a normal aging curve to previous performance with a weighting formula, and doesn’t take any context whatsoever into account beyond the previous 3 years. The article that introduced it basically said “this is the baseline – if your projection system isn’t more accurate than this, it’s broken.”

        The original poster didn’t have a point, he had a rant coming from an opinion set in stone. Sounding off against nerd stats on a site designed to provide advanced statistical analysis is trolling, plain and simple. Particularly when you call people names while doing it.

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      • Senta says:

        How was what I said trolling? I frequent this site daily, just projections are almost always way off, nobody projected the Rays to go to the world series, nobody expected the Phillies to win it.

        Baseball is watched because you DON’T know whats going to happen. When you think you know what’s going to happen (projections) that’s when the whole idea of the sport goes down the drain.

        I’ve played it in college, probably more than all of you, I know how random of a sport it is.

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  18. Ed Nelson says:

    There isn’t anything about Uggla’s, Cantu’s, or Baker’s skill set that absolutely points to anything “lucky” about their 2008 performances (except Baker’s small sample size). That said it is doubtful that they all improve and the possibility for some regression is obviously there.

    What bothers me is that with all these players it is obvious that a lot of baseball experts/projectors look at every performance from a player that they didn’t see coming and without any particular statistical reason say “He’s not capable of that. It must be a fluke. He’ll regress to the mean.” For example for the 3rd year in a row PECOTA is predicting Shane Victorino to steal fewer than 30 bases. The system simply can’t look past his rule 5 beginning and see a better player. Uggla is similar in that the way he plays has been evolving for the last 3 years. He’s become more selective, and in the process is coming closer to rounding out into a more 3 true outcomes kind of hitter, which is a repeatable skill. Despite that ESPN has had him as a fantasy bust for about the last 3 years.

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  19. Jim says:

    If over the next 5 years, the Mariners put up a better combined record than the Marlins, I will eat a Yankees hat.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • McExpos says:

      Considering the division the Marlins play in, and the finances that the Ms have to work with…. I think you’d better start investing in tabasco sauce.

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      • Jim says:

        The Yankees are the only team that have enough money to actually buy a succssful team. No amount of financial resources is going to make that team into a contender within the next 3 years.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. Russell says:

    Wow, I was sure that once the Sox got ranked we could put all this behind us, and just come to this site to read great, intelligent articles about often overlooked aspects of this game we love. But I guess instead I’m going to hear that I’m a fool for assuming that Baltimore won’t turn three good arms into three major league aces, and how it’s obvious that the 4 most likely teams to make the World Series in the near future are all from the same league, three from the same division. Yaay.

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  21. Nny says:

    Defensively: They were ranked 11th last season by plus/minus. The main problem: corner IF. The OF ranked 4th in all of baseball. The MI ranked 6th. The corner IF was 4th worst.

    The OF should get even better with Maybin and Carroll replacing Willingham and Gonzo. There will be two elite defensive OFers (Maybin and Cody Ross), and one that should be above average in LF (Hermida).

    Uggla and Hanley are both roughly average defensively, but it’s also picked up by great defense from Amezaga and Andino. This might regress a bit, but even then, that shouldn’t be a big problem.

    Jorge Cantu got better as the year went along and has the possibility of even being average this coming year. I think he’ll still cost us a few runs if he’s at third though.

    We got rid of Mike Jacobs who was [b]THE WORST DEFENSIVE PLAYER IN ALL OF BASEBALL[/b]. Replacements:

    Gaby Sanchez: Above Average 1B
    Dallas McPherson: Roughly average 3B
    Emilio Bonifacio: Elite defensive player.

    If the Marlins go with Cantu at 1st and Bonifacio at 3rd, they could very well finish the season with the highest plus/minus in all of baseball. If they go with Gaby Sanchez/Jorge Cantu, which probably finishes the year at +/- 0, that’s still increase the plus/minus by 28.

    The defense is grossly underestimate because of the 2007 mishaps. With the OF shift and getting rid of Jacobs, and especially if Cantu’s at first base, we’re looking at 15-30 run increase on defense.

    The starting rotation:

    This is the krux. If the starting rotation does not stay injury free, there will be issues. Here is a list of starting pitchers last season

    Andrew Miller – 20gs (5.63)
    Mark Hendrickson – 19gs (6.24)
    Anibal Sanchez – 10gs (5.57)
    Burke Badenhop – 8gs (6.75)
    Ryan Tucker – 6gs (8.38)
    Rick VandenHurk – 4gs (7.71)
    Frankie De La Cruz – 1gs (6.00)

    That makes up 68 starts. That is 42% of the season. FOURTY TWO PERCENT of the season we had SHITTY starters. 6.22 combined ERA.

    Out of that list, only Anibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller come back to the starting rotation. And Andrew Miller actually had a fantasic FIP (4.00), and Anibal Sanchez was rusty with control but showed major promise with K’s, and all the FIP projections have him at around 4.30.

    If the starting rotation stays healthy, THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE HUGE UPGRADE. I’m talking MAMMOTH. No, Volstad is not going to put up a sub-3 ERA again. He’ll likely be around what other GB pitchers are, mid-3 ERA in lucky years and low to mid 4 in unlucky years, settling around a 4 ERA total. But that’s one pitcher. Look at all the trash getting dumped. 42% of the starts! FOURTY TWO! That’s almost HALF OBVIOUS OBVIOUS OBVIOUS.

    Offensively:

    For all your “John Baker was lucky” last year thing, have you actually seen how much time he played?

    The Marlins had a combined C OPS of .664. SIX SIX FOUR DUDE. One thing the projections ignore is a platoon. Baker will probably OPS around .750 against RHP. That’s all that’s important. We have Paulino to hit against LHP. Who has a career ops of over .900 against them. Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt though. He also only OPSs in the mid to upper 700′s against them. THIS IS STILL A .100 OPS INCREASE AT THE POSITION. Ok? Ok? Ok?

    Uggla (2B) will likely regress yes. Ok, oh well. Hanley (SS) and Cantu (3B) and Cody’s (RF) peripherals show now droppage. We’re basically looking at a push there. Maybin will probably not meet the lofty expectation of the fans and will likely be around the projections, which could be anywhere from ~.720 to ~.800. However, Hermida (LF) should be a huge upgrade aswell.

    1st base remains a question, as we can just lump Gaby, Dallas, and Emilio all in there. However, we’re talking about replacing a guy with a sub-.300 OBP. sub-.300 OBP. Sub-.300 OBP. Even if Gaby puts up, like, .340/.430/.770 line, that’s still more valueable than Jake’s because OBP is more important.

    The offense should stay around the same. It could increase depending on just what guys like Gaby and Maybin do.

    Do you actually look at the projections you take as gospel? Pecota has them at around the same runs scored as last year.

    So our defense improves.
    Our starting pitching improves
    Our offense, at worst, is even.

    So, yeah, what?

    The only questionmark is the bullpen. But with how volatile bullpens are, well, yeah.

    And also, as said before, if we sustain massive injuries to our starting pitching. But hey, guess what: That fucks up EVERY team.

    But I know I’m not going to get a response to this, unless it’s a snark comment.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nny says:

      Also, for your love of the projections:

      Chone has the starting 5 as only making 3/5ths of the starts in a season. The only one he has getting significant starts is volstad, which is hard on him.

      It has TB’s starting four, not five, starting four (Shields, Kazmir, Garza, Sonnanstine) as getting more starts than Florida’s starting 5 combined.

      In other words, it either is seeing injuries or is faulty because of lack of previous playingtime the previous two years.

      It has nothing to do with SKILL. How about actually LOOKING at how they get to the projections rather than just staring at games won and pointing WITCH WITCH WITCH.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nny says:

        And serious question: Do projections take defense into account? Or just do a strait pitching projection?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivaelpujols says:

        PECOTA doesn’t include defense, by I would be very surprised if CHONE and THT don’t.

        Also, while I pretty much agreed with most of the points you made, you’re whole dick-ish attitude won’t fly well here. In fact it will just give Dave and excuse to call you an f-wad instead of actually addressing your points. So in a way you are being very counterproductive there. But you’re points about the catcher, corner defense and innings pitched for the starting rotation are noted. Although I think that it is disingenuous to call Cantu near average. His career UZR/150 over worse than -10 and he isn’t getting any younger.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nny says:

        One of the things to look at with Cantu is errors (Yes, errors. They might not be the full picture, but they help paint a picture). He committed a LOT of errors at the start of the season, and went down drastically as the season progressed. On June 9th, he commited his 14th error. He’d only commit 6 more the rest of the year. A .913 fielding percentage up to june 9th, .962 after. He finished with .937.

        Going by Bill Jame’s Good Play/Misplay: Cantu had 32 GFP (37 average) and 38 DME (33 average). Assuming all things were equal outside of errors, and he plays more as he did the second half than the first half, he could very well commit less DME than the average 3B. That’d still put him at less GFP’s, but if he can minimizing problems that that’s still worth noting.

        Him turning average is completely “best case scenario” though, and like I said, I still expect him to cost a few runs.

        Also I agree the post comes off dickish. It’s just really annoying seeing him completely blast a team in public view when there a lot of people that hold his opinion in high regards, and his reasons are not sound (I.E. using PECOTA projections, then saying the Marlins offense will be significantly worse this coming year, even though PECOTA has us at one less run scored), and his general responses have been quick qupis and nothing of actual defense to his opinion. Not justifying being an ass, because it’s not really justifying, simply stating the reasons.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nny says:

        >>something I meant to add about the whole errors thing was we could default to the fact he was learning a new position, as he has not played 3rd often. Considering he made significant progress from the last time he played 3rd for a significant amount of time (in ’05), I don’t think continued progress is something to just throw out the window. But it’s also breaking up small sample sizes to be in my favor, and I completely understand that.

        And thanks for the defense projection bit.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivaelpujols says:

        I agree about Cameron. He has been rather lazy on some of these organization rankings posts. However, you acting like a dick just gives him justification to dismiss you’re comment, which is a shame because you make some excellent points.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nny says:

        I should hire a copy-editor to make my post RRRRRAAAAGGGEEEE-free haha.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Matt H. says:

        I agree that Dave’s org. ranks are quite a bit more sloppy than his normal analysis, which I consider clearly at or near the top of the industry.

        It is sad that some of the comments are so ignorant, however Dave’s comments discourage me a bit on the idea of intelligent conversation (his responses to critisicm have always rubbed me a little rough). There are legitimate questions that have been adressed here and in this series that have not been answered. I know for a fact a few of the authors that have been published at fangraphs have called for more transperency.

        I love this site, and others like it. I enjoy good analysis, much better than I could do on my own almost always. Sometimes there is tone by writers that brushes off commenters that rubs me the wrong way entirely. I hope not to come of as whiny, but more as a fan with contructive criticism.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Matt H. says:

        /fail typing abilites

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jim says:

        I agree there Matt. There is high-nosedness abound on this site. Even commenters, too.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nacho says:

        Viva,

        “I pretty much agreed with most of the points you made, you’re whole dick-ish attitude won’t fly well here. In fact it will just give Dave and excuse to call you an f-wad instead of actually addressing your points.”

        From what I can tell, there is little to no chance Dave actually adresses his points, dick-ish attitude or not. If anything the dick-ish attitude helps, seeing that Dave responds mostly to comments attacking him in someway. So, if you want a responce, attack Dave, and maybe he’ll actually addresses some of your points while he’s busy calling you an f-wad….

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivaelpujols says:

        Okay fine. I’ll be a dick for now on.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nny says:

        late for response, but I agree with Cameron about +/-’s runs saved. I was justing using strait plus/minus stats.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nacho says:

        The high nosedness seems to be something we should all be careful of.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JH says:

      Dave was pretty clear about his opinion of the Dewan team rankings here:

      http://ussmariner.com/2009/03/13/ms-defense-and-the-fielding-bible/

      Short summary: Dewan’s work is great, but his methodology is off.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. B says:

    I also enjoy this site – but at least with this series in a couple of cases the author has seemed to take a similar “holier-than-thou, I alone hold all knowledge of baseball” attitude that a lot of the sportswriters out there have (which drove me to reading blogs and ignoring most columnists in the first place). Just the fact that so many people have thrown their opinions out there why the Marlins are underrated in this series, while backing it up with some pretty compelling facts, and it’s been completely dismissed by the author is a little discouraging. There’s been enough said about the Marlins chances that it should at least make Dave give his ranking some additional thought, if nothing else, but that doesn’t seem to be the case…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nacho says:

      Yes additional thought would have been great. After all the comments on the Marlin’s entry, almost 3 weeks to think about it, he comes back with the projections (any fool can look those up), some apperently made up 30 run regression from Uggla, Canto, Baker, and blindly claiming Johnson, Vostad and Sanchez won’t be able to replace their respective parts from last year. I’m sorry, but I expect a lot more from Dave. Put in 2-3 sentences explaining that 30 run number, because it damned sure isn’t obvious. And maybe another few explaining why those pitchers mentioned can’t replace the TWO wins the three previous pitchers gave the Marlins. If you can’t do that, you might as well not write the article. Unless the objective was to start a discussion and get the commenters to educate eachother…. I have learned far more about the Marlin’s situation from the comments than from Dave.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

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