Here at Fish Stripes, we have spent a good amount of time reviewing the numbers and projections for your 2015 Miami Marlins. We already reviewed how well the position players are expected to play, and now we also finished up with the pitcher's side. With all of that under our hands, we can add up our Wins Above Replacement projections and come up with an estimate as to how well the Fish will do this season.
The Marlins' individual parts do not impress, but the collective group appears to be worth some merit. In terms of FanGraphs WAR, 16 wins would have been worth a top ten pitching staff finish, alongside teams like the San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals, and Detroit Tigers. Comparatively speaking, this appears to be a three-win improvement for the Marlins over last year's win total according to FanGraphs. This makes intuitive sense, as the Marlins are subtracting significant innings from replacement-level performances (a collective group of starters for the Marlins three 151 2/3 innings of replacement-level play last season) and instead getting expected solid play from guys like Koehler, Hand, and Phelps as injury replacements.
The biggest edge the Marlins have is with the presence of Jose Fernandez's return. Fernandez contributed between one and 1.5 wins to the cause last season before going down to injury, but he should pitch more this year than he did last season. He also is expected to pitch about as well as he has throughout his young career, meaning the Marlins are getting 105 1/3 high-quality, ace-level innings from him. If that is the case, then Miami should get about 1.5 more wins from Fernandez this year than last season.
Finally, the additions to the rotation outweigh the subtractions. Mat Latos and Dan Haren should combine to pitch better than Nathan Eovaldi and the team's fifth starter last season, if only by a little bit. Koehler moving to the pen may even be a better spot for him and allow him to go all out on velocity as well.
If we combine this total with the number of wins from the position players, we can estimate a number of wins for the Marlins this year. The Fish are expected to put up 19 wins from their position players crew. If we add the 16 wins from the pitching staff, that adds up to 35 Wins Above Replacement. Given that replacement level is currently set by FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference at 48 wins, we would be expecting the Marlins to put up 83 wins this season.
When compared to last season's teams, this win total makes sense. Clubs with similar WAR totals got about the same number of wins, including the New York Yankees (34.8 WAR, 84 wins), Toronto Blue Jays (35, 83), and Cleveland Indians (35.8, 85). That would put the Marlins close to the fringes of the Wild Card race, much like the previously listed teams.
What did the Wild Card teams from last year reach in terms of WAR? On the National League side, the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates both tacked on a few more wins, but not that many more. The Giants had just 36.2 WAR to reach their 88-win total, while the Pirates were a bit better with 37.3 WAR for their 88 wins. In other words, the Marlins are in the right range such that, with a bit of luck, that high-80's win total is within reach.
Based on our projections, the Marlins are close to the playoff picture. One breakout year, a couple of positive breaks on balls, and the Fish may be able to squeeze out enough wins for a Wild Card berth. Their chances this season are at least real.