The Miami Marlins made a lot of moves in this most recent offseason with the aim to be a competitive franchise next season. After winning 77 games last year, Jeffrey Loria and the front office were emboldened, and you had to believe that they were even more encouraged after signing Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term contract.
If you look at most of the projection systems, however, they see the tale of a team who is only slightly improved over last season's model. Most of the projection systems, from Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA to FanGraphs' depth charts based on the Steamer projection system, are expecting an 81-win season for the Marlins. A perfectly .500 year for what these systems believe is a perfectly average team.
Las Vegas appears to buy into that. The oddsmakers at Bovada have set their preseason over-unders on win totals, and they have the Marlins smack dab in the middle.
MLB Win Totals (From Highest to Lowest)
Boston Red Sox 86½
Seattle Mariners 86½
San Diego Padres 85½
Detroit Tigers 84½
Chicago Cubs 82½
Miami Marlins 81½
New York Mets 81½
New York Yankees 81½
Tampa Bay Rays 78½
Cincinnati Reds 77½
Texas Rangers 77½
Houston Astros 74½
Atlanta Braves 73½
Colorado Rockies 71½
Minnesota Twins 70½
The Fish are listed as tied for the 15th-best record in the game with the Chicago White Sox and both the New York Mets and Yankees. An 81-win year would leave the Marlins behind seven other National League teams, which is very similar to their standing among the projection systems.
Why so average? The Marlins are not exactly at full strength to begin the year, as they are expected to not have Jose Fernandez until almost the All-Star break, though he may return a little earlier. The prevailing thought around much of baseball is that the Marlins' offseason, aside from the Stanton signing, was high on quantity of transactions and low on impact, as they either shuffled wins around or acquired flawed pieces. The Fish worked on remodeling the infield, but expectations on two of the three players they acquired are not much higher than the players they are replacing.
If that sounds pessimistic, you may be overestimating the capabilities of players like Dee Gordon and Michael Morse. But if you leave the Marlins at a healthy baseline of 81 wins and they get the seasons they expect from those players, then you can see why Loria and the front office believe they are contenders this season. In their minds, they acquired two- to three-win players who should bolster Miami up to closer to 85 or 86 wins. The history of these players say otherwise, but Miami is optimistic about their current roster.
If you had $1000 to bet on this and either side was even money (as one would expect in an over/under), which side would you bet on and why? Let us know in the comments!