Where the Marlins are One of the Best and Worst Teams in Baseball

A feature that gets a lot of attention here, probably, is our playoff odds page. That page uses updated player projections and manually updated team depth charts to determine playoff probability and expected record. I look at the page probably two or three times a day, and though the numbers mean only so much, there’s no better way to get an idea of where a team truly stands. Current standings tell you about the now; projected standings tell you about the significance of the now.

A feature that gets a lot less attention here, probably, is our playoff odds page based on season-to-date performance. It uses the same depth-chart information, but instead of using player projections, it uses what players have already done. For example, in the former case, the Rockies are projected with a half-decent Charlie Blackmon. In the latter case, the Rockies are projected with a terrific Charlie Blackmon. It’s evident why the former page is preferred, but the latter page can serve a purpose, especially if you’re wondering about potential under- and over-achievers.

I thought it could be interesting to compare the two pages. We’ll leave the playoff odds alone — those get complicated, and they’re not what this is about. Both pages have projected rest-of-season winning percentages. With which teams do we see the greatest differences? Is this as predictable as it seems like it would be?

I made a chart, that I only realized after the fact is pretty unhelpful. Here it is anyway, because I invested literally several minutes:

seasontodate_projections

Note the different axes. On the x-axis, projected win% based on season-to-date numbers. On the y-axis, projected win% based on projected numbers from ZiPS and Steamer. You can see agreement that the Astros suck. You can see agreement that the Tigers and A’s are good. But then, just how good? Let’s examine the same data in table form:

Team Win%, Projections Win%, Season-to-Date Difference
Rangers 0.518 0.438 0.080
Diamondbacks 0.483 0.404 0.079
Dodgers 0.556 0.492 0.064
Indians 0.517 0.460 0.057
Rays 0.518 0.462 0.056
Pirates 0.504 0.461 0.043
Red Sox 0.543 0.501 0.042
Nationals 0.553 0.514 0.039
Phillies 0.474 0.441 0.033
Padres 0.494 0.461 0.033
Astros 0.429 0.411 0.018
Mariners 0.508 0.493 0.015
Braves 0.527 0.513 0.014
Yankees 0.500 0.493 0.007
Blue Jays 0.520 0.516 0.004
Royals 0.502 0.501 0.001
Reds 0.485 0.492 -0.007
Cardinals 0.530 0.537 -0.007
Orioles 0.483 0.494 -0.011
White Sox 0.450 0.468 -0.018
Mets 0.448 0.471 -0.023
Brewers 0.483 0.510 -0.027
Giants 0.515 0.545 -0.030
Angels 0.532 0.565 -0.033
Twins 0.433 0.466 -0.033
Cubs 0.451 0.488 -0.037
Tigers 0.558 0.628 -0.070
Marlins 0.452 0.534 -0.082
Rockies 0.491 0.576 -0.085
Athletics 0.542 0.660 -0.118

In one column, projected win% based on projected numbers. In the next column, projected win% based on season-to-date numbers. In the last column, the latter subtracted from the former. Some large differences show up. Also, you get non-differences, like with the Royals, but the interesting teams aren’t the teams in the middle.

If you evaluated the Rangers only by what they’ve done so far, you’d see a pretty lousy team, particularly after the injury problems. But then, it’s a team with Prince Fielder, whose slugging percentage matches his OBP. It’s a team with Adrian Beltre, who to date has been worth 0.1 WAR. It’s a team where Elvis Andrus has been less valuable than Robinson Chirinos. You can continue on down the line, and you find players who’ve been underachieving.

Right after the Rangers, you see the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks have been known underachievers, and a big chunk of the difference in this table has to do with the Diamondbacks currently having a staff RA9-WAR of -2.0. The issues have mostly been the pitchers and Martin Prado, and the projections still think the team is half-decent. Maybe a third-decent, but, not disastrous.

Then you’ve got a streak of expected contenders, topped by the Dodgers. People have been waiting for the Dodgers to kick it into gear, and through a quarter of the season the outfield hasn’t been great outside of Yasiel Puig. The catchers have yet to do much of anything, with and without A.J. Ellis. You look at that team, though, and you figure it has to win, with that rotation. Note that, in a twist, while the projections like the Dodgers more, the projections also like Dee Gordon less.

At the other end of the table, some 2014 surprises. The Marlins are referred to in the headline. Based on season-to-date, they’re projected for baseball’s seventh-best rest-of-season record. Based on ZiPS and Steamer, they’re projected for baseball’s sixth-worst rest-of-season record. The projection systems are reluctant to buy the offense, while the season-to-date numbers like even a Jose Fernandez-less Marlins roster.

The Rockies have a slightly bigger difference than the Marlins do. This has little to do with pitching, and almost everything to do with the crop of position players. Troy Tulowitzki has been the best player on the planet. Blackmon’s already exceeded all expectations, and guys like Nolan Arenado, Justin Morneau, and Corey Dickerson have been overshadowed and overachieving. The Rockies have been a position-player juggernaut; projection systems foresee a slow-down.

And then there are the A’s. The A’s, who don’t have Jarrod Parker or A.J. Griffin. The A’s, who’ve found gold in Jesse Chavez. The A’s, who’ve featured an unbelievable catching tandem in Derek Norris and John Jaso. The projections do like the A’s — right now, they have baseball’s second-highest playoff odds. But the other version of the playoff-odds page loves the A’s, who have baseball’s best run differential by 40. The worst pitcher’s been Dan Straily, and he’s been sent to the minors. The general message here: the A’s have been playing probably too well. But they might just be freaks.

It’s a tricky thing to discuss, the difference between projected record and projected record based on season-to-date data. Sometimes, certainly, the projections can lag, because projections need some convincing to change their minds. If you’re a believer in the Marlins’ offense, you might believe more in the alternative playoff-odds page. If you’re a believer in the Rockies’ offense, you might believe more in the alternative playoff-odds page. The regular playoff-odds page is going to be more conservative, but in most cases that tends to be the proper approach. The season-to-date page will more closely reflect how fans do feel about their teams. The projections page will more closely reflect how fans should feel about their teams. We’re all prone to recency bias, but then we do sometimes spot a change before the projections do, so we’re not total idiots.

According to a playoff-odds page, the Marlins are one of the best teams in baseball. According to a playoff-odds page, the Marlins are one of the worst teams in baseball. Those are two facts. It’s up to you how you choose to weight them.




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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


22 Responses to “Where the Marlins are One of the Best and Worst Teams in Baseball”

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  1. St.PaulPaul says:

    The wrong winning percentage is listed for the Twins. They are at .500 presently.

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    • Alex says:

      Those aren’t actual winning percentages. They’re projected winning percentages assuming the team performs as it has to date.

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    • cass says:

      That’s actually not the current winning percentage of the team. It’s the expected winning percentage based on the playing time for the rest of the season estimated by FG writers and production for players based on what they’ve done so far. This is explained at the beginning of the article.

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  2. Helladecimal says:

    The A’s diverse portfolio has been paying cash dividends for sure

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  3. DavidKB says:

    I actually think the graph is pretty informative if you take a minute to look at it. It would be great with a y=x line too. This was a fun read.. I’d love an update at the all-star break.

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    • rr says:

      The data is there, but it’s hard to discern in it’s current form. What you really want to know is the deviation from y=x, which is essentially in the table anyways.

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  4. Phillies Front Office says:

    The Yankees are currently 23-20, a .535 Win%. You listed their season to date Win% at .493.

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  5. slane35 says:

    Regarding the Dodgers outfield, by fangraphs very own Mike Petriello. It’s not as bad as you think.

    http://dodgersdigest.com/2014/05/17/dodger-outfield-is-a-problem-only-if-you-hate-great-production/

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  6. bh192012 says:

    It might help the graph if it’s scaled evenly as well (go to .7 in both directions) Then you could put a dotted diagonal line to show a theoretical team that matches season to date with their projection. (.0,.0 to .7,.7) Then you can see which teams are beating the line (to the lower right) or teams underperforming their projections (to the upper left.)

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    • bh192012 says:

      I guess it’s not “underperforming their projections” but it would show the difference from the 2 different projection techniques better.

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  7. Dave says:

    I prefer the stats that make my team look better. Unfortunately I am a Phillies fan.

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  8. jcxy says:

    age is a statistic!

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  9. Maddog says:

    I posted this on ESPN, too, where this Fangraphs article was referenced. Anyway, just a little reminder about the truly nonsensical thinking behind Ryan’s article (unless the point was to suppress curiosity for the sake of the self-respect of the non-curious) from the great Richard Feynman:

    “I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

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  10. Doug says:

    Do the projections take into account how new team situations affect players? It occurs to me that for players new to teams in general (and Colorado in particular), the projections are less likely to be accurate. Morneau is on track to have his best season ever, and some of that is certainly due to a change of venue.

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