Insert generic disclaimer about sample sizes. Remind audience not to read too much into seven games.
Whew. Now that we’re through the disclaimer, let’s reflect on the glory that is one week of baseball. The AL East and AL Central are led by the Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers. Not surprising. Nor is it a shock to find the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates sharing the top spot in the NL Central. Then we notice the Seattle Mariners leading the AL West. Cool. The NL West is back in the hands of the San Francisco Giants – at least for now. And in the NL East, the Miami Marlins raced out to an early lead. Let’s look at how they’ve done it.
You may recall a couple weeks ago when Jeff Sullivan wrote about the Impossibly Possible Marlins Juggernaut. This was shortly after we got done ragging on Miami for summarily losing our Positional Power Rankings. In Jeff’s piece, he examines what could happen if every Marlins player performed at the level of their best month. Baseball fantasy is fun when we’re a week away from real games, but here we are a week into this thing and the Marlins are actually winning.
As we know, the Marlins have a pitiful offense led by Giancarlo Stanton and a bunch of guys who regrettably are not Giancarlo Stanton. So in keeping with their terrible offensive profile, the Fish limped out to…a .367 wOBA and a league best 40 runs through Saturday. That was good for the best combined offensive WAR in baseball, although they may lose the title when things are tabulated this morning. The puffed up wOBA is actually only the third best in baseball, but that’s about 26 or 27 places higher than we expect them to finish. Who is providing the offense?
The above table does not include Sunday’s game. This link does. As expected, there’s Casey McGehee (.534 wOBA) leading the charge. In his glorious return from Japan, McGehee is hitting fourth or fifth for the Marlins. He’s doing this best to carry the team since Stanton (.495 wOBA) isn’t pulling his weight. Also lighting the world on fire is the stout-sticked Adeiny Hechavarria – he of the 53 wRC+ last season. There at the bottom of the list is Christian Yelich. If you were to find me at a bar, I would insist he’s the second best hitter on this team.
Removing tongue from cheek, it is my duty to ask questions like “What is the sustainability of this offense?” So let’s ask that question. If you’ll turn your attention to the BABIP column of the above chart, you’ll probably notice some problems of the BABIPish variety – namely that nobody is getting out on balls in play. Except Yelich.
I could manually adjust for each player’s line to show a luck neutral line, but why don’t we let ZiPS and Steamer do the heavy lifting. Here are our Depth Charts standings. The Marlins are currently +21 runs on the season. As of yesterday, our amalgamation of projection systems call for a -55 run differential over the rest of the season – partly because the club is expected to go from scoring six runs per game to 3.78 runs per game. Regression is a cruel mistress.
On the rubber side of the ledger, somebody named Jose Fernandez is pacing the league with 0.4 WAR and a 0.71 ERA in 12.2 innings. Flamethrower Nate Eovaldi has thrown 13 mostly good innings. The rest of the rotation was, well, I’ll show you.
Tom Koehler was solid so long as you don’t mind a 4.83 xFIP. After all, the two runs over six innings is what actually happened. The xFIP is only predictive of the future (and even then, it’s just one game of data). Henderson Alvarez and Jacob Turner struggled. Unlike with the hitters, it doesn’t appear that the starting pitchers were unusually lucky. Any regression from the top three should be met by tolerable performance from Alvarez and Turner.
The bullpen has been more fortunate. As of yesterday, they had put in 20.1 innings on the season and allowed just one run, good for a 0.44 ERA and 3.85 xFIP. That discrepancy has a way of leveling out over time. Anyone who followed the link may have noticed that Carlos Marmol has only walked one batter in four innings. Don’t worry, he walked seven in 7.1 spring innings. That’s just one place out of many where the Regression Monster will bite.
So it’s April 7th and we have a Marlins juggernaut. To date, they’ve been out-bashing the competition. The rotation should remain reliable, even if it’s not particularly exciting after Fernandez. The entire rest of the team (again, except Yelich) will look worse when we’re looking back on this season. Unfortunately, anyone with a background in intro-level Statistics can see that like winter, regression is coming.
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