The Miami Marlins and Strength of Schedule

The Miami Marlins have suffered through a terrible month of June thus far, and a good deal of it has been their fault. However, it is not as if the team was facing a bunch of scrubs this month either. While the Marlins' difficulties this month have been unbearable to watch, we knew going into the month that this would be a difficult stretch of games based on the schedule. Facing a series of difficult matchups, it should not surprise us that the Fish would struggle a little, though not as much as they have.

Reader Jane Winston requested that I take a look at the strength of schedule for each of the past few months, including June, to see if we could have foreseen such a decline. How good were the opponents of the month of May when we steamrolled them? How good were they in June when they demolished us? We will use Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA to find out.

Method

PECOTA has updated their Depth Charts based on only playing time changes, but they have not updated the projections themselves, meaning that we still have a glimpse of what the projection system thought of teams before the season began. Some of that has changed with injury, of course, but for our purposes, this is exactly what we want. From before the season started, what would one have expected in terms of the chances of winning each month against the schedule the Marlins faced?

I took the weighted average of the win percentages of each team on the schedule for the Fish each month. I then used the Marlins' projected .531 win percentage to see how often the Fish would win against this schedule each month. Note that these win percentages are based on the games remaining that are shown on the Depth Charts, so while they are close to the true talent estimates of the team, they are limited by the number of games left (ex. a 47-48 record implies essentially a .500 true talent, but it is listed here as .495).

April

Team Games Proj. Win% Marlins Win% Against
St. Louis Cardinals 1 .537 .493
Cincinnati Reds 3 .526 .505
Philadelphia Phillies 3 .532 .500
Houston Astros 3 .385 .644
Chicago Cubs 3 .458 .573
Washington Nationals 3 .500 .531
New York Mets 3 .495 .536
Arizona Diamondbacks 4 .521 .510
Total 22 .514 .517

As you can see, the Marlins had a schedule in April that at least favored a close-to-.500 record for the month. Indeed, a .517 win percentage would more or less translate to 11 wins, and the Marlins eventually fell three short of that goal for the month. But when you consider that the team could have easily won a game or two more among the close contests, you realize that the panic that set in over the 8-14 month was fairly meaningless; a couple of breaks one way or another and the Fish would have come out with a record very close to what was projected of them.

May

Team Games Proj. Win% Marlins Win% Against
San Francisco Giants 7 .526 .505
San Diego Padres 3 .474 .557
Houston Astros 3 .385 .644
New York Mets 3 .495 .536
Pittsburgh Pirates 2 .443 .587
Atlanta Braves 2 .552 .479
Cleveland Indians 3 .505 .526
Colorado Rockies 3 .485 .546
Washington Nationals 3 .500 .531
Total 29 .490 .541

The Marlins did extremely well in the month of May, but to some degree they were also expected to do well. The team's projected .541 win percentage would have yielded 15 or 16 wins, but obviously the club well outperformed that with some timely hitting and a series of close wins. Would the Marlins have won 21 games had they played out that month again? Probably not, but they had a decent chance at a very good record through May nevertheless. We would have expected the Fish to be at a 26-24 or 27-23 record through the end of May, and the Marlins were very close, at a record of 28-22. Despite the odd distribution of wins, the team played approximately up to its projected level at that point.

June

Team Games Proj. Win% Marlins Win% Against
Philadelphia Phillies 5 .532 .500
Atlanta Braves 3 .552 .479
Tampa Bay Rays 6 .531 .500
Boston Red Sox 6 .531 .500
Toronto Blue Jays 3 .479 .552
St. Louis Cardinals 3 .537 .493
Total 26 .540 .491

The month of June is indeed the most challenging month yet for the Fish, with an average projected win percentage of .540 for all of the teams. Only the Blue Jays are projected as a below-.500 team and the rest of the teams were all very strong, including the Fish's two other interleague opponents. Whereas the Marlins would have been expected to split the series with Tampa Bay and Boston, the team has actually been dominated by those teams thus far, winning only two of the nine games played thus far. Tonight, the Fish start the final three-game set against Boston in the hopes of salvaging at least a series win and four victories in 12 tries against the AL East foes.

The Marlins were expected to more or less split this month's games as well, going 13-13. Can such a record still be reached? As amazing as it is to believe, a hot run over the next two weeks can still salvage such a split. The Fish would need to win nine of their last 11 games against some tough foes. The team is expected to go .500 against the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Red Sox over the last 11 games of the month, which would put the Marlins' monthly record at 9-16. At this point, if the Fish manage even that, many fans may take it.

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