These Marlins Weren’t Going To Be Very Good

When the Marlins reorganized their front office not too long ago, one of the hopes was that Jeffrey Loria would no longer so frequently meddle in the team’s operation. In 2015, however, the team has stumbled right out of the gate, and there’s chatter that Loria is getting involved. From a recent report about manager Mike Redmond being on the hot seat:

According to sources who have heard rumblings, Redmond is on the hot seat and the the organization is already bouncing around possible replacements. One possibility: Wally Backman, the Mets’ Triple A manager.

You can take this for whatever it’s worth:

If you want to play semantics, now the Marlins are off to a 3-11 start. So Redmond could be fired right now and the official wouldn’t technically have been a liar. The thing about votes of confidence is that you can never really know what they mean. They’re either one thing or the exact opposite, and we don’t know what the Marlins are going to do off the field, because we don’t know what the Marlins are going to do on the field.

But we can step back from manager speculation. The Marlins will make whatever decisions they make, and as easy as it is to pin these things on Loria, maybe there’s more of a consensus. Maybe Redmond deserves to be fired; I have no idea. Analysts can seldom add value to the subject of managerial job security. I have one point, though, that I feel like ought to matter: these Marlins probably weren’t going to be very good. While the start has been disappointing, it needs to be compared against what would’ve been a reasonable expectation.

No one expects to start 3-11. The Phillies wouldn’t expect to start 3-11, even if they were fully and objectively self-aware. That would project out to a full-season record of 35-127, which would be several games worse than replacement-level. So, the Marlins are right to be displeased. We had them projected to be about a .500 ballclub. They currently rank 12th in the National League in wOBA, and 14th in rotation ERA, and 15th in bullpen ERA. It’s been a mess; that’s how you get a record like their record.

First, though, let’s take a bit of the edge off. The Marlins’ actual record is 3-11, but their BaseRuns record is 5-9. It’s actually more like 5.5-8.5, if you want to get even deeper. That’s sixth-worst in baseball — that’s not good — but it’s less disastrous. And out of the Marlins’ 14 games played, they’ve had a lead at some point in eight of them. Every team blows leads, but for the most part the Marlins have been competitive, if not for a full nine innings.

And there’s still more to it. The Marlins, for example, haven’t yet had Jose Fernandez. Henderson Alvarez got injured. There’s a difference between what the Marlins have been, and what the Marlins could be eventually. Before the year, and through much of the offseason, the Marlins looked like a team that would win about as many games as it would lose. But how about these early Marlins?

I tried something. We have projections for all the players. We also have up-to-the-day information for all the players. So I gathered all the 2015 Marlins playing time so far, and calculated a team projection based on that playing-time distribution. So, instead of seeing a team projection based on what we expect the team to look like, this is more like a team projection based on what the team has looked like. Not much Alvarez. No Fernandez. And so on.

The end result: the Marlins, as used so far, would project to be the sixth-worst team in baseball (by WAR). They’d be right in between the Rockies and Diamondbacks, also a hair below the Brewers and above the Braves. So, to re-state two things: the Marlins so far would project to be the sixth-worst team in baseball. By BaseRuns, the Marlins have performed like the sixth-worst team in baseball. You can be only so disappointed when your team hasn’t been positioned for immediate success.

It’s still a team that’s underachieved. The record makes that obvious. Certain players aren’t pulling their weight. Christian Yelich is hitting .200. Marcell Ozuna has zero home runs. Mat Latos has more runs allowed than innings pitched. The bullpen is still without a successful save. But there’s nothing that could’ve been done about Fernandez’s injury. There’s nothing that could’ve been done about Alvarez’s injury. There’s nothing that could be done about Yelich’s wonky back, and it’s definitely not Redmond’s fault that the Marlins acquired Latos despite a velocity drop. The Marlins were built without much depth, and especially on the pitching side, they’ve needed to dig into it. There’s plenty here that’s already gone wrong.

Everyone can share in the blame. And maybe it’s not too disruptive to let a manager go. Never been in a clubhouse. But continuity is one of those things good teams tend to have, and cycling through coaching staffs seems like a great way for a team to receive inconsistent messages. It runs counter to progress, and last year, Redmond came perhaps an injury or two away from winning the Manager of the Year award. He was a good fit for the team in September, and the Marlins won four more games than they were projected to before the year despite losing Fernandez early in May. Last year with Redmond, the Marlins overachieved. Everyone got along. This year with Redmond, they’ve underachieved, and Giancarlo Stanton says the team isn’t playing with enough fire, but teams look sluggish when they lose. Plenty of reason here to be disappointed, but it still doesn’t seem like a man should lose a job so quickly. Especially when the man’s previous season was a relative success.

Loria has a long memory, and he’ll probably never forget what they were able to accomplish in 2003. After firing Jeff Torborg at 16-22, the Marlins hired Jack McKeon, and that team won the World Series. You can’t blame Loria for wanting to recapture that magic, nor can you blame him for thinking it could work. But when the Marlins fired their manager in 2010, they didn’t get any better. When they fired their manager in 2011 and went back to McKeon a second time, they didn’t get any better. When Loria hired the fiery Ozzie Guillen to preside over a Marlins ballclub like none other, it blew up in everyone’s face, and Guillen went away. (He’s still on their payroll.) Guillen was replaced by Redmond, and this is his third season. That’s a long tenure for a Marlin, but that’s not a long tenure for a manager, especially for a manager in his first season having a team possibly built to win something.

What the Marlins put together seemed like a potential wild-card ballclub. A playoff team, with a handful of breaks. But, they knew they wouldn’t have their best pitcher for the first few months. Another good pitcher has gotten hurt. The on-field Marlins, as we’ve seen them, haven’t been a playoff-caliber roster, and they haven’t played like a playoff-caliber roster. Some players are well below their averages, and maybe Redmond is playing some role in this, I don’t know. But, the Marlins are disappointed by the team’s bad start. I don’t think this team was going to have a good one.





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.

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Anthony Desclafani
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Anthony Desclafani

I actually really liked the Latos deal.

francis
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francis

And Prado.

I think that if they put Ozuna back in front of Stanton in the lineup, this team will turn around fast. Ozuna is wasted that far down in the lineup.

Busta
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Busta

Liked the Latos deal? Have you seen Desclafani’s line in Cincy. I like Latos five years ago but he is way past his best years at this point. Desclafani has a lot of value going forward.