The Miami Marlins have not played thus far in 2015, and because it is April and the season has just started, the rumors are already flying. Manager Mike Redmond is at risk of losing his job mere games into the regular season and just months since he received a three-year extension. Christian Yelich struggled for four games and, despite level-headed commentary about his play, there are articles about what he should fix. As always, a team that was expected to play better and did not thus far now has some portion of its fan base claiming the sky is falling.
Well, the sky isn't falling. The 2015 Marlins of right now are not the 2015 Marlins of the future.
Inherently, we all kind of know this. Just as we discussed yesterday with Yelich, the first few games of a season are no more predictive than a 14-game run in the middle of the year. The Marlins had to play horrifically two Junes in a row for anyone to really notice it happening midseason. However, one week of one-win baseball to start the year and fans are already wildly concerned about how bad this team turned out to be.
You know who else said they knew a team was bad this early on? Jeffrey Loria, about the 2012 team.
The truth is that this is a new Marlins team and that we probably know not much more about this team than we did two weeks ago when the season was brand new and full of optimism. We are fairly certain Christian Yelich will not have a back injury all year. We are fairly certain Marcell Ozuna will know how to hit a baseball at some point. We are fairly certain a lot of the guys on the offense will rebound. This is not to say that some amount of the Marlins' current performance is not "real" or concerning. In particular, the pitching staff is down two starters and has missed more than hit thus far this year.
However, as a whole, chances are the Marlins are not a whole lot worse in terms of true talent than what we thought they were two weeks ago. You can look at the projection systems and get a better sense of the impact these disastrous two weeks have had. At the start of the year, Miami was expected to be a .500-win team by FanGraphs, based on Steamer projections and FanGraphs's depth charts. Right now, they are still projected to be a .500 team (that .502 number is probably a rounding error). The difference, if any, in expected performance going forward is minuscule.
However, take a look at the chart from April 5 and the one from today based on the expected end of season win total.
There is an adage that says that you can't win a pennant in April, but you can definitely lose one. The Marlins have not lost their pennant chance, but this bad start has drastically affected their odds. While their expected performance from now to the end of the year remains mostly unchanged, the team has already banked 11 losses. No matter what you think the Marlins will do going forward, those 11 losses are real. They exist in the context of the 2015 season, and they are never going away. So if you think the Marlins are a true-talent .500 or so team, then you would expect them to finish up the season with around 76 or 77 wins by the end of the season.
At that level, the Marlins' chances at the playoffs are a lot lower. At the start of the year, those odds sat at 27 percent, a reasonable chance for an outside contender. Now, based on the same expectations at the beginning of the year but with a 3-11 record to start, those odds stand at 10 percent. Miami lost 17 percent of their chances of earning a postseason bid in two weeks.
That is why April matters for Miami. It does not matter because it tells us that this team, whether it be Yelich or Redmond or anyone else, is deficient or worse than we expected. It is no reason to fire Redmond, just because the odds are that Redmond is the same guy who helped coached this team to a surprise run last year. Likewise, it is no reason to panic and demote any Marlins player. At the same time, those losses did happen, and they have a real effect on the team's playoff chances. While two weeks in April may not tell us much about the future, they can certainly affect the final win total for the team, and the Marlins have indeed dug themselves into a bad hole in which to start.