Don’t be fooled, Marlins are not in playoff race


After last night’s 11-4 victory over the New York Mets, the official Marlins website headlined the game recap with the following title:

Marlins refuse to fade, gain ground in races.”

The site then followed with this front-page teaser about the upcoming series between the Marlins and Atlanta Braves:

“Making headway in the standings, the Marlins head to Atlanta for the opener of a three-game set vs. the first-place Braves. Chris Volstad starts for Florida, with first pitch at 7:35 ET.”

Clearly, both these statements are coming from the official Florida Marlins website, so it would be difficult to expect them to be anything less than pretty darn optimistic. But if we put aside our optimism, it would be difficult to imagine the 2010 Florida Marlins making the playoffs. The reasons go beyond the number of games behind the Fish are compared to the NL East and Wild Card leaders.

Games and Teams Back

The Marlins are six games back of the Wild Card-leading San Francisco Giants with 36 games remaining. The team is also 8.5 games back of the Braves. While the Braves lead seems mostly insurmountable, the lead in the Wild Card does seem palatable. There is an extra problem, however, with the Wild Card lead. The Marlins do not simply trail the leader by six games, but also are behind six other teams in the race. In addition to Wild Card leader San Francisco, the Marlins are also behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, and potentially two division leaders in the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves.

What does that mean? Well, unlike trailing only the leader in some race, the Marlins will also have to contend with the performance of potentially six other teams as well. If the Giants struggle but one of the other four non-division leaders improve ahead of the Fish, they will diminish the extent to which the Marlins can gain ground. Furthermore, if two of the division races remain close and boast strong performances, the former division leaders will interfere and fall into the Wild Card race as well, continuing to block the Fish.

Baseball-Reference has a stat called “Summed Games Back,” which attempts to simulate the difficulty of makng up ground in a multi-team race. Summed Games Back is defined as it sounds; it sums the total games back of the team and each team in front of it in the race. As of yesterday’s game, the Marlins are 19 summed games back in the Wild Card race. This method estimates that the Marlins have to make up some 19 games total, spread out between the Wild Card competitors, in order to catch up in the Wild Card race. The task now seems quite daunting. The Fish are an equally harrowing 14 summed games back in the NL East race.

Playoff Odds

I like using Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA-adjusted playoff odds, which project future performance by using up-to-date PECOTA projections. The Marlins hold a minute 0.52% chance of the playoffs according to that method, projecting an average win total of just about 82 games. This has not changed since I essentially wrote the same thing a month or so ago in the Trade Deadline Primer. The Fish have a minute shot at the playoffs. At this point, only about seven teams in the NL have a chance at the playoffs, with the Dodgers and Marlins on the outside looking in and the Rockies with only about a 10% shot.

Now consider the Marlins’ remaining schedule as well. The Fish have nine games remaining with the Atlanta Braves and seven games against the Phillies, peppered in between supposed gimme games against the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates. That sort of schedule may not be conducive towards a 10-game winning streak, the sort of streak the Marlins would need in order to pull close enough to compete. Call me a pessimist if you must, but expecting the Marlisn to be in contention seems more like a pipe dream at this point. The club should focus on the continuing development of players like Cameron Maybin, Logan Morrison, and Mike Stanton rather than hoping for a miraculous playoff spot (for what it’s worth, Larry Beinfest’s comments on the Cody Ross waiver claim seem indicative of that sort of sentiment). While I won’t complain if such a miraculous comeback occurs, I know that it’s called “miraculous” for a reason.