The first thing you might notice about that lineup: There isn't a dreadful player in the bunch. It's not like Bonifacio, Buck, and Infante are stars, but they are pretty good bets to be average hitters for their positions. The same would go for Sanchez and Morrison. Ramirez is a great rebound candidate if he's not pouting, Reyes is fantastic, and Mike Stanton is one of the more fascinating players in the league.
The rotation is a similar group. There's a chance that Josh Johnson won't be right, or that Anibal Sanchez's newfound durability is a mirage. Maybe Nolasco's strikeout-to-walk ratio really is just a tease, and maybe Volstad's sinker won't be helped all that much with a new shortstop. But there isn't a dreadful, what's-this-guy-doing-here pitcher in the bunch.
And in the end, even though the Marlins missed out on two free agent targets, they came out of the Winter Meetings as relatively successful. Marlins fans should not fret for the team's more immediate lack of signings or their inability to pry away talent from the Angels' hands. The Fish signed three players in the last week, and two of the deals were solid acquisitions with decent chances to pay off and which will sorely help the team in the next two or three seasons. Sure, one other deal was a likely mistake, but it still is likely to improve the team in 2012, and the Marlins are throwing caution to the wind in order to improve in 2012 and prove to the fan base that they deserve to be watched at the new stadium.
But all of that avoids one critical question as we head into the new year: how good are the Marlins right now? Well, despite the difficulty of prognostication, I will attempt to answer that question with some quick estimated projections.
Note: These projections are back-of-the-envelope deals, so they should be taken as nothing more than estimates with a little calculation behind them. They are reasonable and based on the numbers, but are very rough. Then again, most projections from even the most complicated of systems are like that too, so there's that. Take everything that follows here with a grain of salt.Projections
For projections, I looked at the FanGraphs fans projections (to which I have not yet contributed) for the significant players on the roster so far this season. All PA numbers are from either the Fans or Bill James projections. I assumed the bench would produce zero WAR and the bullpen would produce 1.0 WAR in total outside of Heath Bell, who deserves his own projection. I compared that to my own off-the-cuff projections based on calculations that I have been making for articles over the course of the offseason. I claim that these are nothing more than guesses right now, and I will be doing more thorough projections before the season begins. Let's take a quick glance.
|Player||Fan PA||Fan WAR||My WAR||Avg WAR|
|Player||Fan IP||Fan WAR||My WAR||Avg WAR|
In case you were wondering, that adds up to 24 WAR from position players and 17.5 WAR from pitchers (with 1.0 WAR from the rest of the bullpen). If you take the average WAR component when factoring in some of the fan expectations, you get 25.1 WAR from position players and 17.9 WAR from pitchers, leading to a similar total. Either way, you are looking potentially at a team that could gather 41 or 42 wins above replacement. Even lopping off a nine percent from that total to account for injury and likely fan bias and you're looking at 37 wins above replacement.
What does that add up to in terms of real wins? At this point, I'm not all that certain, as there is some controversy regarding how many wins a replacement team now would earn; in the past, that number for FanGraphs's calculations was always set at 48 wins. If it were still at 48 wins, the Marlins could be right around 85-89 wins at this point, given some of our assumptions. Here is the list of the top teams from 2011 in terms of FanGraphs WAR:
|Team||WAR Bat||WAR Pitch||WAR Tot|
Looking at the total WAR available and dividing it evenly among all thirty teams, the replacement level last season would have been around 42 wins. If that were the case (and that does sound low), we'd be looking a Marlins team that is currently between 79 and 84 wins. The high end sounds far more likely in my opinion. Teams with similar WAR totals from last season include the Angels (86 total wins in 2011), San Francisco Giants (86), Los Angeles Dodgers (82), and Chicago White Sox (79). This set of teams supports the 79 to 84 win range.
So if the Marlins are a true-talent team in the low- to mid-80's in wins, should they be concerned or looking for more? For all intents and purposes, the Marlins sound like they are digging for more in free agency or the trade market, so it seems the team is not content with the product they are currently set to put out. An acquisition like Roy Oswalt may be just the thing the team needs: a pickup that has the potential to put on a four-win season out of the blue and be paid less than his potential contribution on a one-year deal. While that might not put the team over the hump, the club still has time and perhaps a bit of luck to put themselves in fringe contention for a Wild Card spot.