The projections have been hard on the Marlins. Chone has them going 75-87. THT going 72-90. PECOTA, just 70-92.
So what gives?
Simply: Starting pitching.
Either they view major injuries, or it's flawed due to the lack of pitching all of them have the past two years.
Let's actually look at how many starts these places are projecting. For Chone:
Ricky Nolasco: 25 GS
Josh Johnson: 17 GS
Chris Volstad: 26 GS
Andrew MIller: 22 GS
Anibal Sanchez: 16 GS
In other words, it views every single SP for the Marlins going down with an injury some time during the year.
Chone projects the Marlins starting 5 to only make 3/5ths of their starts this season, 106 games. Chone has Tampa Bay's starting 4, not starting 5, starting 4 (Kazmir, Shields, Garza, Sonnanstine) as finishing with 10 more starts than the Marlins starting five (116).
If that happens, if Josh Johnson only gets 17 starts, Nolasco misses a fourth of this starts, ect, yeah, the Marlins are going to struggle. I doubt anybody will argue otherwise.
So what are the chances that actually happen? Well, it's certainly possible.
Ricky Nolasco is coming off an elbow injury, which held him to only 4 starts in 2007. Yet he pitched a massive 212.1 inn last year, a 191 inning jump.
Josh Johnson is coming off Tommy John Surgery, which had him miss most of 2007 and half of 2008.
Anibal Sanchez is coming off shoulder surgery, which had him most of 2007 and 2008.
Andrew Miller has had chronic tendinitis in his right knee the past couple of years, which held him out two months last season.
So yeah, that doesn't look to bright. Going by Will Carroll's system:
Ricky Nolasco: Red Card
Chris Volstad: Red Card
Josh Johnson: Yellow Card
Andrew Miller: Yellow Card
Anibal Sanchez: Yellow Card
Again, not looking to bright.
The point though is, if you're going to use the projections to say why the Marlins will disappoint in 2009, realize that it's because of injury. Not because of lack of skill.
By giving the marlins starting pitchers 80% of their GS, their projected W/L jumps into the mid to upper 80's. In other words, if things fall the Marlins way (A healthy starting rotation, Maybin and Gaby Sanchez not falling on their faces, ect), they will be serious NL East title contenders.
If the starting rotation suffers those injuries, yeah, they'll lose 90 games. That goes for ANY team.
The team is significantly better than last season though.
Starting with the rotation, since that's what we've been talking about so far. Here is a list of players who started for the Marlins last season while waiting for players to come back from injury and Volstad to pass super 2 status:
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.
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 a 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!
Due to a horrible 2007, the Marlins' defense is greatly underrated. A +25 plus/minus, 6.1 UZR. It finished above average last season, and should improve this season.
Starting in the OF. The Marlins OF finished 4th going by plus/minus, with +36. They finished 13th in UZR, 6.2. And this should get significantly better. Cameron Maybin, who's still a bit rough around the edges but still should be one of the better fielders, is essentially replacing Josh Willingham. Cody Ross, who was one of the best defensive CFers last year, moves to RF. Jeremy Hermida (about average going by Plus/Minus, a bit below average going by UZR) moves to LF, where he'll hopefully be above average.
One of the best upgrades they'll make in the OF is by replacing Luis Gonzalez with Brett Carroll. Last season, Luis Gonzalez finished with a horrible -23.4 UZR. That means that, without Gonzo, the marlins finish with a 29.5 UZR. They replace him with Brett Carroll, who was the second best defensive OFer in the Marlins' Minors last season behind Maybin.
When it comes to the IF
The MI finished 8th in UZR (8.8) and 6th by plus/minus (+17). A lot of this has to do with Alfredo Amezaga and Robert Andino getting 300 IP last year backing up average defensive players in Uggla and Hanley. These numbers will probably fall in '09, unless Uggla and Hanley miss chunks of time again. But again, we're talking about two league average defensive players backed up by a defensive stud in Amezaga.
Now comes another reason why the defense will greatly improve: corner IF.
The marlins finished 4th worst there by plus/minus, with a -28. They finished 5th worse going by UZR, with a -8.9. They're now replacing Cantu's -6.2 UZR with Emilio Bonifacio. They're replacing Mike Jacobs -11.1 UZR. This is a combined -20.
Again, you take this out of their UZR from last year like Gonzalez, we're now talking about a 49.5. This would be third best in all of baseball last season. And this isn't including the OF shift. This isn't including Cantu at 1b (Career 3.8 UZR/150) or Emilio Bonifacio, who projects to be an above average defensive player. And when Gaby Sanchez is up, he projects to be an above average defensive player.
This is going to be a great defense, one of the best in the leagues, and one that greatly improves off of last season.
A lot of people talk down the offense. They got rid of Mike Jacobs, Josh Willingham. Dan Uggla won't be as good. Ect. Ect. However, it's not looking at the big picture, just individual instances.
At catcher, a platoon of John Baker and Ronny Paulino is replacing a .664 combined OPS last season. Even if both of them only perform at a mid to upper .700 OPS against their respective hands (Baker against RHP, Paulino against LHP), we're talking about a 100 point OPS upgrade at the position.
Jeremy Hermida is a year off of a .870 OPS and projections have him at round an .800 OPS, nearly another 100 point upgrade.
At second, yeah, Uggla is likely to regress about 50 OPS points. Hanley, Cantu, Cody, all of their peripherals show no slow down, they're basically a push.
When Gaby comes up, he probably will put up a low OPS. But even if he puts up like a .340/.430/.770 OPS line, that's still better than Mike Jacobs' .299/.514/.812 OPS line of last season due to the importance of OBP. With Emilio starting for the first two months, which wasn't originally projected, it'll be about a .100 OPS drop. But that's likely just until Gaby is past Super 2 status.
Maybin is also a wildcard and is very hard to predict. He could very well put up a low .700 OPS or a low .800 OPS.
So yes, there are drops at some spots, but there are upgrades at others. PECOTA projects us to be just 1 less run than last season. With Emilio starting at third, the offense will probably go down, but still, we'll be somewhere around where we were last year.
So the starting rotation greatly improves
The defense greatly improves
The offense stays roughly the same
The bullpen is certainly a worry, and will likely be below average. But bullpens are also now for their volatile nature. So, we'll see what happens.
Either way, it's very exciting be a Marlins fan at the moment. Read through this post, there is no homer. All of it is fair, statistical facts. It just comes down to a healthy rotation.