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April 22, 2009 On the BeatReeling in the Marlins
The Marlins were considered an afterthought in the National League East when the season began. No one doubted that the Marlins would do what they normally do, scrapping and overachieving despite tightfisted owner Jeffrey Loria saddling them with the lowest payroll in the major leagues at $36 million, and it seemed somewhat farfetched to think that the Marlins could contend in a division that includes the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Mets with their revamped bullpen, and the Atlanta Braves with their newlook starting rotation. While just over two weeks of action represents a meaninglessly small sample from a single season, it's large enough for the Marlins, who believe that they can win their first division title in franchise history. (Such is the oddity of modern baseball: the Marlins have won two World Series titles since making their debut as an expansion team in 1993, but both came after they had qualified for the postseason as the Wild Card.) The Marlins don't think that there is nothing unusual about their 113 record, the best in the major leagues. The fast start has given them reason to believe they coud be playing meaningful games deep into September. "We respect the Phillies and the Mets and the Braves," Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida said. "They deserve to be mentioned as the favorites in this division, because they've done it before and we haven't. That being said, we believe we can play with anyone in our division. We feel like we can contend. You don't expect to start off the way we did, I don't think anybody thinks you're going to go 111 to start a season [before losing to the Pirates on Monday and Tuesday]. At the same time, it's not a total surprise. We believe we have a good team, and that we're going to show over the course of the season and not just for a couple of weeks. We're not some kind of fluke." The Marlins are fifth in the majors in runs scored per game with an average of 5.9, and sixth in runs allowed with a 4.1 average. "What I like about the way we've played is that everybody has shared the duty," Hermida said. "It hasn't been one guy carrying us, or the just the offense, or the pitching staff. It's everybody doing their part, and that's what we have to do. We don't have many superstars, so we all need to pitch in." Even if the Marlins did have a batch of superstars, who would notice? No one goes to their games in South Florida, which is understandable since they play in a football stadium and rarely make a national television appearance. While shortstop Hanley Ramirez finished second in the major leagues in VORP last season behind Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, the highestranking Marlins player on that list so far in 2009 is first baseman Jorge Cantu, whose 4.9 is 61^{st}. While the Marlins feel that their offense will generate enough runs, they also realize that their chances of remaining atop the NL East rests with their young starting rotation, with righthander Ricky Nolasco being the elder statesman at 26 in a unit stocked with such talents as Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, and Anibal Sanchez. Johnson had Tommy John surgery on his elbow, and Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery during the 2007 season and did not return until last July. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez believes that this year's fast start actually began with the return of both pitchers. "Having those guys come back last season and prove they were healthy gave both of them a big lift coming into this season," Gonzalez said "They are both on top of their games now. When you add them to the pitchers we already had, it makes for a good rotation. We're an organization that prides ourselves on developing or acquiring good young pitching, and ultimately how well we do this season is going to be determined in large part by how our starters do. I have a lot of faith in our rotation. They may be young, but they're good pitchers, and I feel we have a good chance to win every night because of them." While some sabermetricians might downplay the concept of karma helping a team to win, the Marlins can't help but wonder if perhaps this is their year just based on what happened last weekend against the Nationals in Washington; they became the first team in major league history to sweep a threegame series in which they trailed in the final atbat of each game. "I think you put something like that away, and count on it when times get tough," Gonzalez said. "As well as we've played early this season, there is going to be that stretch where we lose five or six games in a row. It's inevitable. It happens to even the best of teams. When we hit that streak, though, we can think back to the weekend in Washington, and that will give everybody a little boost of confidence. We'll know that, regardless of how bad things might become, they can always change for the better very quickly."  Twentyone home runs have been hit in the first five games played at the new Yankee Stadium. The House That George Built has looked like a launching pad in the very early going, as no other stadium in major league history has ever had more homers hit in the first five games (Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park yielded 20 in 2003). "It's definitely playing short," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told John Harper of the New York Daily News. "We're trying to get our arms around the reason for it." Accuweather.com meteorologists told the Daily News that home runs are most likely to be hit when the wind is blowing from the west at 10 mph or more, and those conditions usually occur in the Bronx in the spring and fall. It stands to reason that if that projection holds, home runs should begin to tail off around onethird of the way through the season. If that's the case, then Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes that the new Yankee Stadium will play much like Wrigley Field in its winddriven seasonality, the park he called home from 198992 and 200002 as a catcher for the Cubs. "You managed there differently in April and May than you did in July and August," Girardi said. "That's why I think we should wait and see before we determine exactly how this stadium is going to play." Indians reliever Jensen Lewis doesn't need any convincing after serving up the gamewinning home run to Yankees catcher Jorge Posada last Sunday. "I thought it was a routine pop fly," said Lewis. "In any other ballpark in the country it's an out, but here it gets into that jet stream and it's out. I don't think the numbers lie. You see all these balls flying out of here."  Rangers manager Ron Washington's days have seemed to be numbered ever since Nolan Ryan became club president prior to last season, but Ryan made it clear this week that Washington's job is not in danger, and he has not considered switching skippers. "That's only through the media," Ryan told Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth StarTelegram. "That's something you'll have fabricated. There have been no discussions or anything about that among the frontoffice staff. When I hear people come up and ask me about that, it has to come from somewhere." The Rangers are 67 this year after going a combined 154170 in Washington's first two seasons. "I think Ron's fine," said general manager Jon Daniels. "I don't see anything that concerns me. I think he's done a good job. We've had some wellpitched games where we didn't hit and score any runs. Then we had some games where we had a breakdown once we went to the bullpen, or the starting pitching didn't give us what we wanted as far as innings. As a whole, I'm pretty happy with where we are. We're in a good state of mind."  The Cubs/Cardinals rivalry may not generate the same level of attention from the national media that the Yankees and Red Sox do, but it is always contentious, and the heat was turned up a notch when the teams played last weekend. Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee questioned whether Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright had received the benefit of the doubt from umpire Larry Vanover on a called third strike to the Cubs' Milton Bradley, who became so enraged during his argument that he wound up receiving a twogame suspension from Major League Baseball. Lee's suggestion that the Cardinals were getting help from the umpires did not sit well with St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, who said, "I don't how the Cubs get away with the comments they make about umpires." Cubs manager Lou Piniella grew up with La Russa in Tampa, and he laughed off his old pal's remarks. "Tony's a good friend and a heck of a manager, but he is not the commissioner," Piniella told Dave Van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune. "Not yet, anyway."  Major League Rumors and Rumblings: There doesn't appear to be anything to the rumors that the White Sox might bring Aaron Rowand back to play center field in a trade with the Giants, but there is growing sentiment within the organization to move shortstop Alexei Ramirez to center and call up shortstop Gordon Beckham from DoubleA Birmingham. ... The Athletics continue to have interest in freeagent pitcher Mark Mulder, and the Dodgers and Nationals are also considering him. ... The Diamondbacks have offered a frontoffice job to former outfielder Luis Gonzalez, who spent last season with the Marlins, but he has put them on hold because he's still hoping to sign with someone as a free agent. ... Pedro Martinez continues to sit on the freeagent market and wait for a call from a pitchingneedy team.  Three series to watch this weekend, with probable pitching matchups:
John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 36 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments) BP Comment Quick Links HeavyHitter (2240) Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway. Hey philosofool, ever hear of "regression to the mean?" Apr 22, 2009 09:56 AM Dan (14055) philosofool is exactly right. These games that are in the books now may not change the true level of a team, but wins are wins. They don't take them away from you. Apr 22, 2009 10:19 AM Patrick (26006) Actually, if the Marlins are a .444 team, they would play worse than .444 to end up at that number. Think of it like a coin flip. You could flip 11 heads and 3 tails in the first 14 flips, but by the time you get to flip 162, you're likely to be closer to 8181 than 8577. Apr 22, 2009 10:46 AM eighteen (1432) No, no, no, no, no, no. Apr 22, 2009 11:03 AM Patrick (26006) Right, but I'm looking at all 162 flips, not just 148 with 113 tacked on at the beginning. The 113 start does makes it more likely that your coin flips will end up at 8577, but as you increase the sample size, the ratio of heads to tails will even out, necessitating more tails than heads as you get closer to 162. True, it might not happen, but the ratio will approach 1:1. It doesn't matter how you get there. Apr 22, 2009 13:05 PM Adam Hobson (29493) But you aren't looking at 162 future flips. You are looking at 14 flips that already happened with an 113 outcome. Now there are 148 future flips to come, which are more or less independent of the previous 14 future flips. Apr 22, 2009 13:51 PM Patrick (26006) My point is that if the Marlins truly are a .444 team, as the sample size increases, they will approach .444, which would require them to play worse than that. If they play .444 ball over the rest of the season, wouldn't that make them a .475 team? Apr 22, 2009 15:10 PM Adam Hobson (29493) I think that's kinda the point. .444 is just the projection. Now obviously most teams are not going to hit their projection exactly. But that's kinda the point. If a team is projected as a .444 team and starts the season at 113 it's already beating that projection, and is more likely than not to to beat the final projection as well, since it's already a few games up over the projection. Of course that doesn't mean the team will definitely beat that projection, just that it will be more likely to do so now. Apr 22, 2009 21:58 PM Ben Solow (35415) Patrick, I'm not a statistician, but I am getting my ph.d. in a field that uses a lot of statistics (I'm studying to become an applied econometrician). What you're talking about are asymptotic properties of estimators  how the estimator behaves as we make the sample size very large  and the law of large numbers specifically. The law of large numbers says that as you increase the sample size without bound (mathematically speaking, take the limit as sample size > population), the moments of the sample converge to the moments of the distribution. Moments in statistics are defined as mean, variance, skewness, kurtosis, etc., and you are referring to the mean (winning percentage). Unfortunately, a 162 observation sample is not a very large sample, and maybe not enough for the law of large numbers to hold extremely accurately. Apr 23, 2009 16:14 PM Adam Hobson (29493) "My point is that if the Marlins truly are a .444 team, as the sample size increases, they will approach .444, which would require them to play worse than that." Apr 23, 2009 19:43 PM jlefty (39531) Prior outcomes don't determine future outcomes, nor change probabilities. Apr 22, 2009 14:44 PM Adam Hobson (29493) Ok, that's partially correct. The Marlins don't have a .444 chance of winning an individual game, because obviously the particular opponent and starters will change that probability around a bit. Apr 22, 2009 14:59 PM jlefty (39531) But my point is that BP sees them as a .444 team at the end of 162. So you can't split the season at any arbitrary point (e.g. what has happened so far in real life) and say "they'll go .444 the rest of the way." Apr 22, 2009 15:31 PM R.A.Wagman (32721) It is impossible to correctly predict a season. Absolutely and utterly impossible. It is possible to make a reasonable and educated estimate based on trends  this is what BP does. Apr 22, 2009 18:13 PM jlefty (39531) ...seriously? Apr 22, 2009 21:57 PM Adam Hobson (29493) So first, here's a question to you: how does winning 11 games in the first 14 affect the rest of the season so that the rest of the season their winning percentage would be lower? How does a win in April turn a win into a loss in July? Apr 22, 2009 22:12 PM jlefty (39531) I understand the difference between dependent and independent events just fine, and I know a thing or two about probability, trust me. The key here is to realize that these are BASEBALL GAMES, not coin flips. Each and every flip of a quarter has the same exact odds, and therefor if in the first 14 flips there were 11 heads, we could expect there to be more than 50 heads at the end of 100 flips. But that's dealing with a static, known probability. Apr 23, 2009 06:31 AM Adam Hobson (29493) I think you are putting too much stock in the actual projection. The projection is a guess, a conjecture, it is not a vision into the future. Most projections are wrong, whether than be by a game or more. So I have no problem that a projection projects to be wrong at 14 games into the season, or even just one game. Apr 23, 2009 13:24 PM jlefty (39531) First of all, I don't see what good bringing up chienming wang does, considering we're already working with real world situations. I could just as easily bring up CC last year, who had a 7.88 ERA over his first 32 innings, and then a 1.95 over his next 221. Does this mean he was just off in his first 32 innings and that his true talent level when he is on is a 1.95 era? He's good, but most people would agree, probably not that good. Pitcher's are a whole different animal, lets stick to teams. Apr 23, 2009 14:20 PM Adam Hobson (29493) A projection is a projection, whether that's for a team, a pitcher or a hitter. Their early season stats do still count. Apr 23, 2009 15:02 PM jlefty (39531) I keep dodging the question because its irrelevant. A win in april has nothing to do with july, obviously. But BP's projection was over a 162 schedule (based on a solitary number representing SoS.) You can't just split it into arbitrary sections and say they will be a .444 team in both sections. Otherwise, I could cut the season into 162 1game sections and say that for each game I expect .444 wins, which rounds to 0, which means a .444 projection = 0162. Apr 23, 2009 15:28 PM Ben Solow (35415) Joe, you have a point in the sense that not all wins are equal, but Adam is fairly right about this  if we assume that BP's projections perfectly represent the team's true ability, then there's not a reason to reject that it would represent our best guess of how a team will perform over a 148 game sample. While I haven't read Joe's article today, I would be absolutely STUNNED if the 14 games that the Marlins have played so far were easy enough in terms of SoS to make their SoSadjusted PECOTAprojected winning percentage drop by a lot relative to the full 162. Apr 23, 2009 16:28 PM jlefty (39531) >>The 72 is rounded at the END of the projection, not on a gamebygame basis. Apr 23, 2009 19:04 PM Adam Hobson (29493) "Let's assume that they are a .444 talent team over the next 148, like you say. That luck is still likely to catch up with them and they may start losing games they should have won." Apr 23, 2009 19:38 PM jlefty (39531) >>But I'm not saying that projection is incorrect right now. There is still a chance that the Marlins finish with a 7290 record. However, what I'm saying is that after an 113 start, that projection is now less likely than a 77 and 85 record., if you still believe the Marlins to posses .444 talent. Apr 23, 2009 19:49 PM Adam Hobson (29493) Why is that absurd? When a projection is made prior to the start of the season, it's made as an educated guess. But once games have actually been played, then we have actual real information to rely on. When the 7290 projection was made, we had no idea how any of the games would turn out. But now at this point of time we know exactly how 14 (actually 15) of the games turned out. We know that the Marlins won 11 of them. We know that they lost 3 (now 4) of them. We know that. Why should we ignore that new knowledge when we look at a projection for the the team's record at this point of time? Apr 23, 2009 20:20 PM jlefty (39531) Honestly, I don't know what the number is. But I do know that it's not 1 game. I shouldn't have to say I was wrong about a projection after 1 game has been played. It's not nearly enough information to determine a talent level. And we still haven't settled the uneven schedule issue Apr 23, 2009 20:50 PM Ben Solow (35415) Maybe we can get Nate to weigh in on this briefly? I mean, speaking as to my personal experience, revising expectations like this is practically the core argument of dynamic programming and the definition of Bayesian statistics. We DO have information now that we didn't have at the beginning of the season. What BP does is calculated one conditional expectation: E(wins  x1, ..., xN) where x1, ..., xN represent the set of information that we have about a team. What we're doing, after 14 games of the season, is calculating a different conditional expectation: E(wins  x1, ..., xN, and 113 in the first 14). There's no reason those two expectations should be the same....if the original projection is good the two conditional expectations should be close, but not the same unless the first conditional expectation had them winning 78.5% of their first 14 games. Apr 23, 2009 22:37 PM Adam Hobson (29493) I'll agree with you that an uneven schedule does complicate things. Obviously if their first 14 games were against weaker competition than their remaining 148, I'd expect them to win a bit more often in their first 14 games. However, I think 113 is significantly better than a bit more often, so I think that 113 record still means they are beating their projection so far. Apr 23, 2009 22:46 PM Adam Hobson (29493) Also, what's the record for the number of descendant comments? And do we eventually get to the point where it won't let us reply anymore, or will the comments eventually just be zero width? Apr 23, 2009 20:24 PM dpbuckle (867) "The Marlins don't think that there is nothing unusual about their 113 record, the best in the major leagues." Apr 22, 2009 10:34 AM Pietaster07 (42249) The Marlins also won 2 of 3 againt the Mets and all three at Atlanta. The Pittsburgh losses seem to be a case of the Marlins not performing in cold weather and nothing worse than than. Apr 22, 2009 11:54 AM Not a subscriber? Sign up today!

Are we sure that the winds in the new Yankee Ballpark aren't a monsoon called ChenMing Wang?
Also, I disagree that "While just over two weeks of action represents a meaninglessly small sample from a single season." Real wins are never meaningless, even if they don't change our estimation of a team's true talent. Suppose you still think that the Marlins are a .444 team. Well, they have 148 games left to play and that means 65.7 wins within those. With 11 wins under their belt, you should think that they will win 77 games, or five more than you thought before. For a team everyone expected to be as bad as the Marlins, this early run isn't enough to make them contenders. But for a team like, say, the Mariners, winning the AL West is now a serious possibility simply because a .480 true talent team that's now probably going to finish above .500.