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Are the Fish Fried?

I want to apologize all day long for the horrible title to this post. Seriously, I am sorry. The Florida Marlins had more turnover than any other team in the majors this offseason, trading away Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Guillermo Mota, Paul Lo Duca, Juan Pierre, and Carlos Delgado while letting Juan Encarnacion, A.J. Burnett and others walk via free agency. They replaced basically all of these players with prospects or cheap free agent signings, with the exception of a few positions where they have prospects or farmhands to fill in. Let's take a look at the production they received in 2005 from each position in the lineup, and then compare that to the projected figures of the newcomers using PECOTA's projected AVG/OBP/SLG as well as two new statistics I've been working on. The first of these is pNRAA, or positional Net Runs Above Average. I finally made the positional adjustment that some people have been asking for, with help from Richard Wade, and it should certainly help to make NRAA more accurate. I of course will be keeping track of raw NRAA as well, beause that certainly has its own uses and I would be crazy not to. The second really is not a new statistic at all, but I figured out how to calculate NRAA based off of PECOTA projections once an extra formula or two were figured out to translate certain stats. This will be useful in determining the projected NRAA of minor leaguers, which the Marlins are certainly full of in 2006. The first line is 2005's production, and the second line is the PECOTA projection. I will use the pNRAA/Games Played version of NRAA in order to assess cumulative value from that position. On to the rosters...

2005 Catcher: Paul Lo Duca .284/.334/.380; 1.02 pNRAA/GP
2006 Catcher: Josh Willingham .257/.361/.439; 13.87 pNRAA/GP

This is a position where I think the Marlins actually improved, thanks to Willingham's bat. His glove is a liability according to Rate2, as he is projected to land somewhere around 94, which is -6 runs above average per 100 games played defensively. Lo Duca does not have the bat of Young Joshua though, so glove or no, this is an upgrade. If he can't handle defensive duties behind the plate, there is a gaping hole in left field for the Marlins he can fill, although that certainly diminishes his accomplishments somewhat. Catcher's average EqA in 2005 was .244, while average EqA in left was .272; a large difference which Willingham's .289 projected EqA would better work with behind the plate.

2005 First Base: Carlos Delgado .301/.399/.582; 18.35 pNRAA/GP
2006 First Base: Mike Jacobs .265/.324/.491; -14.10 pNRAA/GP

I think it was obvious there would be some decline moving from Delgado to Mike Jacobs, but this is a serious hit if the projection rings true. The good news is that Jacobs may platoon with Wes Helms, who is a lefty masher, which Jacobs is not. A straight switch from Delgado to Jacobs would not be something to look forward to, but the addition of say, Mike Helms or Wes Jacobs is much more appealing, although still not Delgado. Then again, how many Delgado's are there in the league?

2005 Second Base: Luis Castillo .301/.391/.374; 19.0 pNRAA/GP
2006 Second Base: Pokey Reese .214/.277/.294; -1.64 pNRAA/GP

You might be asking yourself, "How is it possible that he is only a run and a half below average if he can't slug over .300? Well, as always with Reese, he is expected to have superior defense, better than Luis Castillo. Two issues: in many fewer games (Reese...injured? Noooooooo!) and with that above batting line, which I will retype simply because it bears repeating: .214/.277/.294. The dropoff in production at second base is substantial thanks to Castillo have more positionally adjusted value than Carlos Delgado. Something tells me the Twins problems at second base are over for a few years.

2005 Third Base: Mike Lowell .236/.298/.360; -1.09 pNRAA/GP
2006 Third Base: Miguel Cabrera .305/.378/.553; 37.0 pNRAA/GP

With Cabrera returning to his natural position, and Mike Lowell leaving the team, the Marlins improve at third base drastically, installing a legitimate MVP candidate at a somewhat average position in baseball. Of course, Cabrera moving to third base means that left field will be patrolled by Eric Reed, but we'll get there soon enough.

2005 Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez .264/.319/.368; -10.59 pNRAA/GP
2006 Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez .258/.313/.367; -11.49 pNRAA/GP

Nothing really lost or gained here, especially since I see Hanley Ramirez's projection as somewhat pessimistic. I don't necessarily see him hitting any better than shown in his projection, but I expect him to possibly field better than projected, which could add another point or two into his pNRAA. By the way, a side note on pNRAA here: Since the league average EqA for each position will most likely differ in 2006 from the 2005 figures, I'll adjust these figures later to see how accurate they were when the season is over and I revisit the projections we have done. Back to Hanley and Gonzalez. Without making a trade, these two shortstop switched teams, and I expect Gonzalez to have the better season in 2006. Hanley will most likely be a better player in the future (if the attitude problems he is known to have are adjusted properly) but to be honest, I'd rather have Dustin Pedroia at short than Hanley in the long run. Apparently, so does Boston.

2005 Left Field: Miguel Cabrera .323/.385/.561; 25.0 pNRAA/GP
2006 Left Field: Eric Reed .246/.290/.335; -17.82 pNRAA/GP

This is the one position that does not look that good at all if the projections come true. It is not just PECOTA that thinks poorly of Eric Reed; ZiPS sees him hitting .246/.293/.303, and his high end PECOTA projection is only .278/.326/.394, which would still be a great deal below Cabrera's 2005, coming in at -3.04 pNRAA/GP; still below average. Of course, "replacing" Cabrera's production in the lineup was not going to be easy for anyone, unless Josh Willingham is moved from catcher. Even then, there will still most likely be a difference in value. The good news on Reed is that he seems to be a fine defensive player, better than Cabrera who was basically average, but without the ability to hit the ball well. If he is able to reach his 90th percentile PECOTA projection, which is entirely possible (that is why it is part of the projection) then the Marlins can deal with the transition, given some of the improvement in other areas. If he hits his weighted mean...well, I guess we will see what it is like to have two guys who hit like Pokey on the team.

2005 Center Field: Juan Pierre .276/.326/.354; -4.49 pNRAA/GP
2006 Center Field: Chris Aguila .255/.318/.410; -2.36 pNRAA/GP

Well look at that. The Marlins actually look like they will improve in center in 2006 by playing Chris Aguila. By the way, his 75th percentile projection has him a tad above league average at a .262 EqA, while his 90th percentile stands at .286. If he were able to do either of those, or somewhere in between, it would be a serious boost, considering Pierre was below average as a hitter and a centerfielder last year, both offensively and defensively. I have a good feeling about Aguila; it may be the other projections I have seen:

ZiPS: .272/.333/.433
Bill James: .288/.339/.438

PECOTA seems to think that he will hit for a lower average, which accounts for the difference in On-Base and Slugging as well. If Aguila plays a full season he should amass the value of an average player or possibly better if everything goes well. I seem to have more faith in him than I do Eric Reed...I can't quite put my finger on it yet, but the feeling is there.

2005 Right Field: Juan Encarnacion .287/.349/.447; -3.64 pNRAA/GP
2006 Right Field: Jeremy Hermida .257/.361/.439; 3.10 pNRAA/GP

The reason that Hermida and Encarnacion's pNRAA is so low is due to the fact that the average EqA for 2005 in right field was .274, the second highest among non-DH position players. Finishing at the top was first base, where the average was a whopping .284, or .002 higher than top prosect Jeremy Hermida's projected EqA for 2006. I think we can expect Hermida to perform better than projected in 2006, while we can expect Encarnacion to possibly regress somewhat from his 2005. Encarncion regressing doesn't hurt or help the Marlins in the upcoming season, but I figured I would mention it while I have you here.

Now to be honest, I do not think I can simply add up pNRAA to get a single run value for the team. That said, I'm doing it anyways. The 2005 Marlins positional starters accounted for 43.56 pNRAA total; the 2006 projected lineup comes out to 6.56 pNRAA. If we account for Wes Helms and Mike Jacobs as one player, assuming Jacobs gets, lets say, 75% of the starts at first base, then the new number is most likely closer to 10 pNRAA/GP. That figure is much closer to league average than previous, and with the pitching staff looking to be mostly patchworked together, Florida is in for a long season. The good news is that it is a long season with a long list of prospects to workout. The future is bright in Miami; just not the immediate future.

On Edit: To drill the point home further...