The Miami Marlins pull the trigger on an important move for their (admittedly slim) 2014 contention chances. The Fish promoted top prospect Andrew Heaney to the majors and to the rotation, bringing the team the best chance it has to win. Not only did Miami perfect the timing of the promotion to both avoid Super Two status and allow for the right amount of time for Randy Wolf to prove ineffective, but the team has improved its projection going forward by getting the better pitcher for the remainder of the regular season.
The Marlins obviously had a plethora of mediocre starters at the bottom of the rotation behind stalwarts Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez. The Fish were throwing Tom Koehler, Randy Wolf, and Jacob Turner out there every fifth day to little effect, and Heaney projects to be a better pitcher than any of the three men listed. But with the Fish considering a pennant race, we need to know how many wins better we would expect Heaney to be.
When Marlins fans were pushing for Heaney to replace Wolf immediately after Jose Fernandez's injury, I pointed out that the difference between Wolf and Heaney was not worth the arbitration cost. Here is what I mentioned back then:
Think of it this way. Consider that an average team with Randy Wolf on the mound for nine innings would win only 35 percent of their games, a rate a little better than theHouston Astros the last three years. Now consider that Heaney is an average pitcher, meaning that same team would win 50 percent of their games with him on the mound. That means the difference between Wolf and Heaney is about 0.15 wins per nine innings. In 32 innings, that difference is about half a win, and that is if we consider Wolf the pitching equivalent of the Astros. If he holds any value, that difference is smaller.
If you take the projections for Heaney and Wolf from Steamer on FanGraphs, the numbers are not that dissimilar.
|Player, 2014 Proj||ERA||FIP|
If you took it based on just these projected numbers, you could get a projected difference between Wolf and Heaney of 0.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). That is less than a win, and on face value, it's not a great addition, though it would have been worthwhile anyway because Heaney's half-season is essentially free because Miami avoided the Super Two problem.
But consider the above quote. If you thought, through four appearances, that Wolf was probably closer to replacement level, and that Heaney's prospect sheen and great 2014 performance meant he was closer to an average starter (projected by Steamer for 1.8 WAR in 200 innings), then you could say that Wolf is only half a win worse than Heaney through 30 innings. But in the 90 innings we would expect him to pitch, Heaney would be 1.5 wins better than Wolf. Now that addition is something to write home about.
Essentially, the difference between an average ERA pitcher (not an average starter necessarily) and a replacement-level guy is enough to probably add around two percentage points to the Marlins' chances of winning. Earlier today, we estimated Miami needed about 14 more WAR to make it to the 90-win contention line. This addition could make up as much as 10 percent of that ground. If that is the case, Marlins fans have to be ecstatic that they could make such an addition without making any trades or signings. The Marlins are set to improve in one of their weakest Major League points and pay almost no cost for the move. Today's promotion is a win-win proposition for the Fish, and it gets them just a tiny but significant bit closer to the hunt for a playoff spot.