One of the series’ that I’ve been dying to whip out since I started this blog was a look back into 2003, the Florida Marlins’ second world championship, and view it through my recently acquired sabermetric lenses. Now that the offseason is underway and there are naturally fewer baseball topics to discuss, I’d like to finally be able to introduce the series to you all.
Welcome to Revisiting ’03: A Sabermetric View of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins
Introduction and Overview
Back in 2003, I was a huge Marlins fan, as I am now. But back then, I didn’t have the knowledge that I do now. This isn’t to take anything away from my enjoyment of 2003, as it was as memorable a season and year as I ever had in terms of sports. But when I was in the moment, it was easy to fall in love. I fell in love with all the Marlins greats of that year. I fell in love with Dontrelle Willis and his high leg kicks, with Josh Beckett and his fierce mentality, with Jeff Conine and his veteran presence. It was all too easy to accept the good of that season.
It was just as easy vilify those who were “bad,” like trade deadline acquisition Ugeth Urbina during the World Series, Braden Looper at around the halfway point, Mike Lowell and his late season struggles. It was easy to do, because all I saw were three numbers for hitters and pitchers, and from there I could point out who was good and who was bad. I could tell you the team’s best pitcher that year was Beckett, because of his 3.06 ERA, a number which also includes the Marlins’ defensive activity behind Beckett. I could tell you that Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre were pretty good that year because they both batted over .300 and Pierre stole 65 bases! I knew that Derrek Lee had a nice year because of those 31 home runs, but he didn’t get to 100 RBIs like Lowell did, and that hurt him. I knew and trusted Ivan Rodriguez to be the man to bat third in the lineup for our team; after all, he had a great batting average.
All that stuff was wrong, or at least not founded on good baseball principles as I see them now. With all the stats that we have available to us from various sources, and with all the knowledge about the game that I’ve garnered since starting the look into sabermetrics last year, I have a strong feeling my perception of 2003 was off by a pretty significant margin. And in this series, I’m going to look back on a few of my gut feelings and perceptions throughout that season and, using stats from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference, determine whether or not I was right about those things.
For today, we’ll go light. The Marlins won 90 games that season, but what about their Pythagorean and component WAR estimates? The Marlins scored 751 runs that year and allowed 692. Pythagenpat gives us a win% of .538, or 87 wins. According to FanGraphs, the Marlins compiled 22.4 WAR with their position players and 19.9 WAR with their pitching, totaling 42.3 WAR. Call it 42 wins and tack it onto the 48 replacement level wins, and you get 90 wins, meaning the team was more or less playing right to their talent level, which is great to see.
Next time, we investigate one of the easier questions we can look at: who was the best player on the team? Expect a lot of WAR.