Nationals Baseball: The Marlins problem

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Marlins problem

The Nats have gotten an unexpected nasty surprise this offseason.  They already knew they'd have to contend with the Braves and the Phillies, but now the Marlins are looking like they might be in the thick of things.  Are the Marlins actually a team to be worried about? 

How much better are the Nats than the Marlins really? 
Last year ended with the Nats 8.5 games better than the Marlins, 80 wins to 72.  We all know wins and losses can be a bit skewed so we take a look at Pythag records and...  the Nats are at 78, Marlins right on 72.  Seems ok, but even things like runs scored can be bumped around by things like a off-year by the team with RISP.  What about BP's adjusted win totals?   Here the Marlins leap ahead coming in around 79/80 wins while the Nats are right around 78. Given the likely variance involved you're looking at two teams that are about the same.

This isn't to say I think the Nats and the Marlins were equal teams last year.  I don't.  But if there is a difference in the Nats favor, it's likely to be much closer to a game or two, rather than the 8+ suggested by the standings.

How much better do Reyes and Buehrle make the Marlins?
Worst case scenario (assuming Hanley stops pitching a fit and gets in line) - Reyes replaces Dobbs in the lineup.  If you like WAR... Jose is roughly a 5 WAR type player (6.2 last year but 2.9 the year before, then again around 6 from 2006-08... I like 5 as a rough estimate of the package) , Dobbs maybe is a 1, probably not even that. That would suggest 4 wins or so.   If you don't like WAR, Jose is a much better hitter than Dobbs.  You probably got a sense that Jose doesn't hit for much power or walk alot.  He hits for more power and walks more than Dobbs. (Dobbs is pretty damn mediocre at the plate).   Reyes is a much better baserunner.  Dobbs was not a great fielder and you have to believe Hanley could do better there, and Jose is probably a touch better than Ramirez at short.  All in all that's more than just a win or two difference. 

We can do the same exercize for Mark, but suffice to say Buehrle is probably worth about 3 wins more than whatever dregs the Marlins would have put out in the 5th spot in the rotation.  That doesn't seem like a lot, and it isn't A LOT, but it is still pretty significant.

These two signings along with a change in luck to just average could turn the Marlins from a 72 win team to a 83/84 win team. 

Anything else the Marlins have in their pocket?
Hanley, Hanley, Hanley.  Both Buck and Coghlan played poorly but I don't think there's enough to say they'll definitely bounce back.  Everyone else was right on board* except the mecurial shortstop.   Let's understand this now.  If Hanley Ramirez hits like he can, he is a great hitter at any position.  Let no Boswell type person tell you otherwise. In 2010 he put up a .300 / .378 / .475 line.  That .853 OPS would have been 3rd among NL 3rd basemen last year.  That year was significantly worse than his 2009... or 2008... or 2007.   He can be a .330 30 HR guy.  If he bounces back to 2010 form that's a couple more wins right there.  If he bounces back to his form before that... look out.

*I guess you could say Stanton might be in for a crash but really there isn't enough to go onto be definitive.

On the mound there's Josh Johnson.  He only pitched in 9 games for the Marlins last year but when he's healthy he's one of the best pitchers in the game.  WHIP the last 3 years or 1.158, 1.105, and 0.978.  K/9 over 8, HR/9 well under 1.  The guy is Cy Young candidate, start in the All-Star game good.  If he can come back, then the Marlins have added another bunch of wins.

So you're saying they are going to be pretty good then, huh? 
I think the Marlins are going to be much better than last years record.  No doubt.  Like 10 games better easy.  That's the money bet. That's what adding two All-Stars to positions of weakness can do for you. That in itself is enough to be a thorn in the side of a Nats team that hopes to improve by a few more wins into the fringes of the new wild card race.  If the Nats don't develop like the management is hoping they might be passed by this Miami team.  

Now can they make an even bigger jump?  That depends on the two All-Stars they already have.  If Johnson is healthy and Hanley can put behind him all this and get back to being awesome, it would be like the Marlins added two All-Star position players and a #1 and #2 pitcher in this offseason.  That's crazy.  That's like adding Cliff Lee + Gio Gonzalez + Troy Tulowitski + Starlin Castro. That's gonna get you 10+ more wins, easy. With average luck, that would propel Miami to the upper 80s in wins and right past the Nats. 

The Nats better hope that Johnson is hurt and that Hanley remains a petulant little child.  If not, they could watch themselves "improve" all the way to an 79-83, 4th place finish is an ultra-competitive NL East.


Donald said...

The new park might add a few more wins for the Marlins too. They're going to be tough. But even without any trades, the Nats are going to be better next year too, hopefully. Getting Strasburg back is like getting Johnson back. And if they add Harper, that could be a big boost too. It's definitely going to be a fun division.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about this potential Gio trade: Its going to take Milone or Peacock + Norris + 2 more players...What kind of centerfielder could we get for that? I'd much rather trade those prospects for a legit center fielder and sign a FA next year..or offer the same package to every team with a better starting pitcher that I like better than Gio. Starting with David Price, Pineda or Hellickson.

The problem I see is that every team knows our weakness (as everyteam knows everyone's weakness) and exploits that. If I were Rizzo I would find out which one is going to take less prospects to trade for A)centerfielder B)Lefty SP Add that information to which is going to cost less to sign.

Is signing Cespedes going to cost less than signing a Hamels. Yes...but it is the package we need. One Centerfielder and One SP.

Sign Cespedes for 30 million and trade prospects for Gio/Price/Etc. or Sign Hamels or the like and trade prospects for Fowler/Upton/Span.

What is the trade mkt for fowler like. I'd enjoy him as a nat.

Anonymous said...

basically, how can we spend the least amount of money and the least amount of prospects to get two players. I think one has to be a trade. I don't think the Learners are ready to shell out cash.

So do we sign a free agent SP and trade for a CF or sign a Cespedes (count me in the group that wants nothing to do with Crisp) and trade for a SP?

Wally said...

Harper - ok, I don't really agree with you on this. I see the Marlins most likely a 78-80 win team with Josh Johnson having the ability to push them higher.

First off, you didn't deduct for losses, notably Javy Vasquez. Here is my short hand:
Bell v Nunez (-)
Buehrle v Vasquez (-)
Reyes v. Dobbs (+4)
2012 Hanley v. 2011 Hanley (+3)
2012 Josh v 2011 Josh (?)

So I add 7 wins to last years 72 win team, assuming some amount of a Hanley bounceback, and see JJ as the wild card. I just don't have a sense of his injury.

Where'd I go wrong? LoMo better by 1-2 WAR? OK maybe, but there are risks too - does Good Face really put up over 3 WAR again? Is Stanton really a 5 WAR player already? Do Sanchez and Nolasco combine for over 7 WAR again? Is Gabby Sanchez really a 3 WAR 1B? That was about equal to Morse, and Morse seems like a far more impactful player (I guess that I am saying 1B might be valued a little too highly in these calculations).

blovy8 said...

It's a bit early, but I didn't think the Nats would actually be contenders this year. If the idea is that they should be a playoff team in 2012, that's different, but if the idea is to win the pennant and World Series, then it's still about acquring talent. The same opportunities to improve will be there next year, if the deals aren't there this year. Also, we assume a progression with all these players; that's not reality, there will be some disappointments. Right now, there's a lot of talent on the club, with some fairly glaring empty spots. It could be that another team is more desperate for a Nats player at a future point, I don't see any hurry to make this a complete team this year, since by all accounts the best pitcher we have will be sitting this year's playoffs out.

Harper said...

Donald - The Nats should be better but how much is open for debate, especially if Bryce spends another year in the minors. So many offensive question marks.

Anon -The least amount of prospects for CF/SP guys you might want to see would obviously be sign Oswalt and Cespedes. I nonw that sound like a cheap answer but it's going to be very hard to get anything in trade right now that's very good. If you have to do it - you trade for a SP, and sign the CF. The Angels (Bourjos), Twins (Span Revere), and Rockies (Fowler) have all committed to keeping their guys. Upton is the only one out there and requires a big package - probably add one more "name" prospect to Norris & Peacock.

I think in the end they sign a SP and wait to see what happens with Bryce/Werth in CF.

Wally - I think we're starting from different bases. I see the Marlins as a high 70s win team that had bad luck last year. I can see that 7 win as being likely but off a normal luck year I see that being 77+7=84, something like that. With JJ and HR return to 2009 form being the potential things getting them to scrape toward 90 wins.

b8 - That's a fine opinion. One most fans would have accepted. It's a shame that Rizzo went ahead and said they are looking for a CF / SP ... Granted if he said nothing he'd be getting bombed for inaction. It's hard on a fan base that's watched a ton of bad baseball to be told to wait, when they potentially don't have to, even if waiting might be the best play.

Anonymous said...

Lets slow down here... Ramirez should see a bounce back year, but he's only hit 30 HR in a season once. Why should we be assuming a career average BA and a career high-ish HR total from a guy that produced Jayson Werth numbers last year? (Werth actually beat Ramirez in OPS by .006!)

Johnson is coming back from shoulder problems. He's not going to be a 200 IP workhorse this year. I get that he doesn't have Wang-level issues, but slotting this guy in as a Cy Young contender when he's never closed out a season on a strong note even when healthy is absurd.

Miami is going to be better, absolutely. But getting to 84-85 wins (which may be enough to win the second wildcard) is tough to get to with their cast in this division. (Yes, you can say the same thing about the Nats.)

Hoo said...

You can't just look at the Marlins offseason though. look at Us. What's the WAR for Mike Cameron? Is it better than Cutter Dykstra's WAR?

I'm unpleasantly surprised by what the Marlins have done. A major, major investment to welcome a new stadium. They're the Anti-Nats.

I also wonder what it does to the Nats big picture. The Marlins will still be a contender in 2013 when the Nats have everything targeted.

Harper said...

Anon - gotta disagree. I think Buehrle, Reyes and a "luck correcttion" should put the Marlins in line for a low-mid 80s win season. (probably just outside the new WC contention and maybe a game or two still below the Nats - depending on how the Nats' young guys develop). That's even if HanRam and JJ only reproduce last years dismal stats.