A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Sixteen: Florida Marlins
Another team like Oakland and Minnesota that was mostly dismissed at the beginning of the season due to the trading of their best player, Florida also surprised many with how long they stayed competitive in the NL East. Florida was a balanced team, 16th in run scoring and 14th in run prevention per BaseRuns.
Florida’s defense may be the biggest story as their pitching staff had their BABIP drop from an astounding .330 last season to a more pedestrian .301 this year. That 29 point difference comes out to roughly equal 130 plays over a full season, or 100 runs using Tango’s 0.8 runs per play constant. 100 runs saved! Makes you wonder just how bad at defense Miguel Cabrera really was/is.
Speaking of Cabrera, that was certainly the thought that his being traded away would hamper the Marlins, sending them into a tailspin so bad as to compete with the Nationals for worst team in the NL. In retrospect, that was pretty silly. Yes, Cabrera is a fantastic offensive talent, but just like with Manny Ramirez, his abhorrent defense seriously deflates his value and mitigates his departure. The hitting got worse of course, but it really wasn’t all that much worse. Jorge Cantu helped provide some relief and this season there was no Miguel Olivo around to soak up 450-odd at bats with a .263 OBP.
The bullpen took a step back however as 2007 standouts Justin Miller and Matt Lindstrom both reverted more toward the league average and nobody, aside from Arthur Rhodes in limited duty after being acquired midseason from Seattle, really stepped up to provide a dominant performance.
You could say the same about the rotation in a ways, that nobody truly stood out, and while that would be true, it would gloss over just how much of an improvement that represented over 2007. Last season saw around 500 innings go to Daniel Barone, Scott Olsen, Rick Vanden Hurk and Dontrelle Willis who combined to post awful ratios. 2008 saw a superficial improvement from Olsen (his ratios remained poor), but getting rid of Willis was a blessing and Ricky Nolasco stepped up along with some supporting cast in Andrew Miller (though where are his groundballs?), Chris Volstad and the return of Josh Johnson.
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