2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Florida Marlins

The tour continues, I believe to stop #20 in Miami.  I still harbor (pun?) a certain amount of irrational resentment toward the Marlins for the following offenses: 1) wearing teal after the 90’s ended, 2) the 1997 World Series.  Seeing that the Marlins have torn down and re-built about 15 times since then, maybe I need to get over it. 
Record: 71-91, 5th in NL East
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula): 71.51 wins (790 runs scored,  891 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs
MVN Blog:
Marlins Today
More Marlins Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status (this is actually worth reading.  I’m serious)
Trade Rumors
Overview: In his book, The Baseball Economist, which is a fantastic read, J.C. Bradbury, the guy who writes Sabernomics,  picks the Marlins (and the Indians!) as a team that will have success in the future because they don’t over-spend for the talent that they put on the field.  I suppose when your payroll is only 35 bucks (an exaggeration… here’s a real statement… I suppose when A-Rod made more than your whole team last year) it’s hard to overpay for anything.  The Marlins have perfected the idea of “replacement player” or at least “replacement salary” and extended it to the team level.
What went right: Trivia question. Name the player who finished 2nd (to A-Rod) in the majors in VORP last year, at least among position players, yet somehow didn’t win the MVP.  If you said Hanley Ramirez, you win a cookie (note: no actual cookies will be awarded).  Now, Ramirez was an absolute butcher in the field (worse than Derek Jeter!), but the boy can hit.  It’s odd that Jimmy Rollins won the NL MVP.  Even taking into account defense, where Rollins was 16 runs better, Ramirez still wins.  He was 17 runs better than Rollins on offense.  Ramirez got robbed.  But, he’s put up back-to-back years at ages 22 and 23 with an OPS over .800.  This kid is scary good.  How long until he becomes the next Miguel Cabrera, as in he gets shipped out of Florida?
What went wrong: And now the winner of the worst starting pitcher award in baseball.  Scott Olsen started 33 games for the Fish and had a VORP of -23.1.  Yeah, he got lit up in his BABIP to the tune of .350, but he’s only got two pitches (a fastball and a changeup which is just a slower version of his fastball), and walked more than 4 guys per nine innings.  Hard to do anything constructive with that working against you.  But somehow, Olsen won 10 games, which made him look like…
Dontrelle Willis somehow has the reputation as one of the game’s pretty good pitchers (he’s never been elite, but he did start for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic in 2006).  Last year, he was barely above replacement level.  Yeah, his luck indicators were down, but his walk rate has been creeping up in recent years, and his strikeout rate has stayed flat.  Willis is a head-scratcher.  In 2005, 34.8% of his pitches went for balls.  In 2007, it was 39.3%.  Is he simply losing his control?  Is that weird delivery taking its toll on him?  In good news, he did put up a .856 OPS at the plate.  Too bad that in the AL, he can’t do the one part of the game that he still appears to be pretty good at.
Yeah, that about sums it up: While we’re on the subject of the Marlins rotation, the Marlins’ top seven(!) pitchers by VORP were all relievers.  VORP for pitchers is a stat that is very heavily dependent on how many innings are pitched.  Sergio Mitre led all Marlins starters with a 7.9 VORP rating.  I didn’t know that Sergio Mitre was a Major Leaguer until I started writing this piece.
Dan Uggla: Aren’t those the boots with the fur?  Uggla has a pretty low OBP (.326), but hit 31 HR.  He struck out more than a quarter of the time.  And he plays second base.  Uggla’s secret is that he hits more than half of his balls into the air.  Some of them are bound to leave the yard.  The thing about living by the fly ball is that you will hit home runs, but you will also make a lot of outs, and the line between the two is very thin.  Uggla is the sort of player who could “suddenly” drop to 10 HR this year.  Caveat pisces.
Alfredo Amezaga, the second coming of Denny Hocking: A round of applause for Alfredo Amezaga.  Despite having few identifiable skills on the baseball diamond (dig that 79 OPS+) and somehow being 29 on a team that appears allergic to anyone over 26, Amezaga holds down a regular major league job.  Why?  Because he’s willing to stand anywhere the manager instructs him to.  Amezaga, for the second straight year, played all seven non-battery positions at one time or another this year.  He was also the 22nd fastest player in baseball last year.  When you do a year in review on the Marlins, this is what you’re reduced to talking about.
Outlook: The Marlins finished last in the National League.  Last in attendance that is.  Can’t say that I blame the residents of Miami.  The Marlins seem content with crushing everyone in the dollars per win derby, which is great as a mental exercise, but an awful way to build an actual team.  The Marlins are like the last bidder on the Price is Right who bids $1 on whatever piece of junk Bob Barker Drew Carey is giving away that day.  But like the $1 bidder, sometimes, inexplicably, the Marlins win.

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6 Responses to 2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Florida Marlins

  1. Olsen finished dead last in the NL in my Effectiveness Pts System and the only MLB’er worse was Robinson Tejeda of the Rangers.
    Surprisingly, though, Dontrelle had an Adjusted W-L of 15-10 (regular was 10-15). His bad starts were very bad that they overshadowed his good ones, even though he had 20 AQS out of his 35 starts. It’s just that the other 15, how do we say this, blew donkeyballs.
    Hanley was the better offensive player but not the MVP.

  2. Pizza Cutter says:

    I agree with Hanley not being the MVP (my vote would have gone to Prince Fielder), but he was the better SS over Rollins. I still scratch my head over the Rollins thing.

  3. Mike Fast says:

    Pizza, it looks to me from Josh’s PITCHf/x graph that Scott Olsen has a fastball, slider, and changeup. The slider gets lumped in with the changeup in Josh’s graph, but it’s the pitch that runs 80-85 mph, and has horizontal movement of -4 to +1 inches, whereas the changeup runs 81-87 mph, and has horizontal movement of +1 to +11 inches.
    The scouting reports seem to back that up.
    Breakout Lefties
    “Olsen’s fastball-slider combination – and rapidly progressing changeup – brought significant success.”
    Olsen draws comparison to Willis
    “The lanky 6-foot-4, 170-pounder has a smooth delivery, a lively fastball, a quality slider and a changeup that is not quite big-league ready.”
    Top Prospects
    “His fastball is now in the mid 90’s, with a slider and a changeup that are improving.”
    Without looking deeper into his numbers, I don’t know what happened to his strikeouts between 2006 and 2007 or why his line drive percentage went through the roof.

  4. Pizza, it’s pretty simple, whether deserved or not – the team suffered significant injuries to Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Shane Victorino – they were carried by Jimmy Rollins – and they made a miraculous run to the playoffs.

  5. RollingWave says:

    if we want miracles though, wouldn’t Matt Holliday be a pretty good candidate too?
    As for the Marlins, how in the world do you pitch with Cabrera / Ramirez / Uggla behind you i’ll never know.
    And I would consider D-trains 2005 season pretty damn elite. but something is wrong with him no doubt. and his BR top age comp now is Steve Avery.. OUCH.
    Jeff Loria should be trialed for treason really.

  6. Of course he would – but the question asked was with regards to how Rollins could have won.

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