PECOTA predicts 3rd place finish for Miami Marlins


The PECOTA projection system has the 2015 Miami Marlins landing in 3rd place in the National League East, behind the Washington Nationals and New York Mets.

Despite all the major additions to the club this offseason, at the end of the day the Marlins, at least on paper, have only improved by four wins from their 77-85 record a year ago. The team is projected to finish 81-81, which would mark an end to Miami’s five-year streak of sub-.500 records.

What is PECOTA, you might ask? (or at least I did.)

PECOTA is the Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, provided by Baseball Prospectus. It is widely deemed the most credible projection system, and uses a ton of sabermetric numbers and factors to manufacture its predictions that will blow both my mind and yours, probably.

Understandably, PECOTA puts the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies at the bottom of the division. With both teams on the downswing and rebuilding, that was to be expected.

Here are the projected NL East standings:

1. Washington Nationals, 91-71

2. New York Mets, 82-80, 9 GB

3. Miami Marlins, 81-81, 10 GB

4. Atlanta Braves, 74-88, 17 GB

5. Philadelphia Phillies, 69-93, 22 GB

It’s an improvement for the Marlins, but certainly not what the team is expecting. With the additions of Mat Latos, Dee Gordon, Michael Morse, Martin Prado and Dan Haren, the team is definitely improved. But the metrics still don’t put them on the level of a playoff team; they are still a couple steps behind the likes of the Nationals. (Perhaps they should sign James Shields?)

The biggest surprise to me is the favorable position the Mets are getting from the system. The Mets and Marlins have been said to be very similarly-built teams this season, and I think the teams will be back-and-forth swapping second and third place in the division all season. My Marlins bias aside, I really don’t think the Mets are the second-best team in the NL East, but the system disagrees with me.

According to PECOTA, the Marlins will score fewer runs than last year — 635 compared to 645 — despite the noted improvement in the lineup. Gordon, Morse and Prado all project to regress from the numbers they posted last year, which would be devastating to a team that will rely on its reshaped infield. The team’s infield was a joke last year, and was an area the front office aggressively set out to upgrade.

The system does like the pitching staff to improve. It projects the Marlins to give up 636 runs, a huge improvement over the 674 allowed in 2014.

PECOTA doesn’t like the Marlins defense. It gives them a -13.7 FRAA (Fielding Runs Against Average), which by these projections would be fourth-worst in baseball. That could, again, be largely attributed to the infield; Gordon and Morse posted negative dWAR last year, and Prado was worth 0.7.

The Marlins’ x-factor has to be the $325 million man, Giancarlo Stanton. If he can stay healthy and live up to — or exceed — expectations, that could mean the difference between playing in October, or watching from the couch.

People are always predicting when Stanton will win his first MVP. If he stays healthy and continues to put up career numbers, that could be the difference. He projects to be a five-win player in 2015; some overachieving by Stanton could push the Marlins to the next level. If he puts up a seven-win season, for example, then the team could be over .500 and right in the playoff hunt at the trade deadline, or in September.

But right now, the Marlins are nothing more than an also-ran. Finishing with a better record than last year is a nice start, but likely won’t get the team to the postseason. So what’s the point? The Marlins probably have a very small window in which to compete, and if someone, anyone in the front office is researching these projections, maybe they will surprise us and really go all-in this season.

If not, expect a competitive, fun to watch Marlins club in 2015. But don’t expect to watch them play in October.

Next: Marlins Place 2 in Keith Law's Top 100 Prospects

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