Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Welcome to the Miami Marlins Season Preview! After this, check out the other previews:
02/27: First base
02/28: Second base
03/01: Third base
03/06: Left Field
03/08: Center Field
03/12: Right Field
03/14: #1 Starter
03/15: #2 Starter
03/19: #3 Starter
03/21: #4 Starter
03/21: #5 Starter
The Miami Marlins Season Preview has finally concluded projecting all of the players of the 2012 team. We have discussed every important piece on the squad, and the only thing left to do is tally up the numbers and see where the Marlins stand next to other teams in the NL East.
If you will recall, the Fish tallied quite a few wins from their players. Let's take a look at an overview:
Catcher: John Buck (1.5 WAR)
First Base: Gaby Sanchez (2.4 WAR)
Second Base: Omar Infante (2.4 WAR)
Third Base: Hanley Ramirez (4.8 WAR)
Shortstop: Jose Reyes (4.5 WAR)
Left Field: Logan Morrison (2.5 WAR)
Center Field: Emilio Bonifacio (2.0 WAR)
Right Field: Giancarlo Stanton (5.4 WAR)
Bench: 1.0 WAR
Heath Bell: 1.4 WAR
Rest of Bullpen: 1.8 WAR
Total Projection (Pitchers): 18.0 WAR
Total Projection: 44.5 WAR
Estimated W-L Record: 87-75
This is based on a replacement level that is lower than usual given the oddity of last year's replacement levels. As we did last time, we can use a comparison point to last season's WAR team totals from FanGraphs. If the Marlins play as well as they project here, they could perform as well as last season's Los Angeles Angels (44.1 fWAR, 86-76) and a few wins worse than teams like the Tampa Bay Rays (46.2, 91-71) and the Arizona Diamondbacks (47.5, 94-68). They might be a few wins better than teams like the San Francisco Giants (41.3, 86-76) and Los Angeles Dodgers (40.8, 82-79).
So as you can see, the range of performance is actually fairly wide. The important thing is that, as the Marlins are constituted, they are projected to be in playoff contention. That is a huge step forward from teams of the past and from last season. The Marlins were perpetually an 81-win team attempting to masquerade as a fringe contender, and last season's injuries really showed that they were a couple of injuries away from being a 70-win team rather than an 80-win team. The Fish are still kind of like that in 2012, but now their baseline is undoubtedly higher; the investments in free agents like Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell have certainly added to the team's mean expectation.
It really is important to note that, of the three additions, Reyes is clearly the primary reason why the Marlins are improving on their 81-win past. Mark Buehrle is a strong addition, but he only adds what Javier Vazquez added last season. This is at best a one-win improvement over Marlins teams of the past, as those clubs did not have four strong starters to depend upon. However, one black hole that the Marlins had not filled for years was third base, and Reyes's signing finally filled it. Since 2009, the Marlins have totaled 0.6 FanGraphs WAR from the third base position; this total represents the third-worst total in all of baseball. Essentially, the Fish have replaced a completely unproductive position with an All-Star caliber player while improving their defense as well by moving Hanley Ramirez to third base. All told, the move could have added almost five wins to the team, and when you look at the total tally, you would not be surprised to see that without those five wins, the Fish would be right back at their familiar .500 true talent mark. Reyes is by far the most significant addition to the team and the biggest reason why the Marlins have moved into possible contention.
How does this affect the team's odds at a playoff berth? Well, the addition of the second Wild Card spot in both leagues really adds to the Marlins' chances, as they will be wading among a sea of teams with high-80's win totals. Within their own division, the club is looking to compete with the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves for the division, with the possibility that the two losers will take the Wild Card spots and compete in the play-in game. Of course, both clubs would also have to contend with the top losers in the NL Central and possibly one other team in the NL West, so the field remains wide open. But even with a 20 percent chance to win the division and at least an even shot at both Wild Cards among the six teams in contention, the Marlins have to have a 30 percent shot at a playoff spot, which is a far cry from what fans expected before the season.