clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Putting the Marlins’ horrible start in perspective

Miami has started the season 3-7. That’s the best thing you can say about the team.

Boston Red Sox v Miami Marlins
TFW you’re stuck in Miami.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

This offseason’s Marlins fire sale wasn’t the worst we’ve ever seen — that one back in 1997, after a World Series win, was pretty brutal, and so was the 2012 one after a big spending spree the previous year. But the trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and others really stung, because they came under a new ownership group. It turns out Bruce Sherman (no, not Derek Jeter) is just as bad as Wayne Huizenga and Jeffrey Loria.

The season itself started a couple of weeks ago, and at first glance, the Marlins haven’t done that badly. At 3-7, they’re not even the worst team in the NL: The Padres are languishing at 3-8, and the Reds are stuck at 2-7. But dig a little deeper — go beyond the box score, if you will — and you’ll see the sordid result of all those trades. Miami is stumbling out of the gate like few teams in recent history.

Our friends over at Baseball Prospectus have a few different metrics to evaluate how well a team has played. They’re all archived, not only by year, but also by day. Since the Marlins have played 10 games thus far (gotta love those round numbers!), I went back to 1998 — when MLB expanded to 30 teams — and pulled data from the first 10 games of the season for each team I could find.* This gives us a sample of 569 clubs to compare the 2018 Marlins with.

*A couple of caveats here: 2010 isn’t included in the sample, because the game-by-game data for that year begins on April 23, for some reason. The sample also excludes the 1999 Twins, who played their 10th and 11th games in a double-header. Still, 95 percent is pretty good.

We’ll start with first-order record, which uses runs scored and allowed to give a team’s “expected” record. (It’s sort of like Pythagorean record, but a little different.) Here are the worst clubs through 10 games in the 30-team era:

Worst 10-game first-order records — 1998-present

Rank Year Team W L W% RS RA W1 L1 W1%
Rank Year Team W L W% RS RA W1 L1 W1%
1 2003 Tigers 1 9 .100 18 57 1.1 8.9 .114
2 2002 Tigers 0 10 .000 25 66 1.4 8.6 .138
3 2007 Nationals 2 8 .200 23 61 1.4 8.6 .142
4 2004 Expos 2 8 .200 12 37 1.4 8.6 .145
5 2013 Marlins 1 9 .100 17 43 1.7 8.3 .175
6 1998 Diamondbacks 2 8 .200 25 58 1.8 8.2 .176
7 1998 Expos 2 8 .200 25 55 1.9 8.1 .193
8 2015 Brewers 2 8 .200 26 54 2.1 7.9 .210
9 2001 Athletics 2 8 .200 28 57 2.1 7.9 .212
10 2018 Marlins 3 7 .300 32 62 2.2 7.8 .221
Data via Baseball Prospectus

This isn’t really surprising. While the Marlins might not have the worst record in baseball, they do have the worst run differential. They’ve gone 1-0 in one-run games, which means all seven of their defeats have been by two or more. This much red ink is not a recipe for success:

Image via Baseball-Reference

That 20-1 meltdown against the Phillies bears some of the blame for this, but not all of it. Good teams win big and lose small; bad teams, vice versa. You can guess which one the Marlins are in this scenario.

And that run differential isn’t just bad luck, either. By second-order record — which uses peripheral statistics to gauge how many runs a team should have scored and allowed — the Marlins are just as awful:

Worst 10-game second-order records — 1998-present

Rank Year Team W L W% RS2 RA2 W2 L2 W2%
Rank Year Team W L W% RS2 RA2 W2 L2 W2%
1 2003 Tigers 1 9 .100 8.4 59.9 0.4 9.6 .041
2 2004 Expos 2 8 .200 11.3 41.7 1.1 8.9 .108
3 1998 Diamondbacks 2 8 .200 22.1 56.2 1.6 8.4 .157
4 2001 Rays 3 7 .300 23.5 58.9 1.6 8.4 .158
5 2006 Royals 2 8 .200 33.6 71.2 1.9 8.1 .187
6 2015 Twins 4 6 .400 24.7 55.7 1.9 8.1 .188
7 2013 Marlins 1 9 .100 21.1 48.5 1.9 8.1 .189
8 2012 Pirates 3 7 .300 13.3 33.8 1.9 8.1 .190
9 2008 Giants 4 6 .400 24.8 54.1 1.9 8.1 .194
10 2016 Braves 1 9 .100 26.5 56.5 2.0 8.0 .200
11 2002 Angels 3 7 .300 23.8 50.8 2.0 8.0 .205
12 2011 Twins 4 6 .400 22.8 48.7 2.1 7.9 .208
13 2013 Padres 2 8 .200 33.2 64.8 2.2 7.8 .216
14 2015 Brewers 2 8 .200 27.1 55.1 2.2 7.8 .216
15 2013 Pirates 4 6 .400 15.9 35.0 2.2 7.8 .220
16 1998 Expos 2 8 .200 27.4 54.6 2.2 7.8 .220
17 2007 Nationals 2 8 .200 32.9 62.7 2.2 7.8 .225
18 2018 Marlins 3 7 .300 30.6 59.2 2.3 7.7 .226
Data via Baseball Prospectus

Miami’s offense has posted 32 runs over its 10 games, which is pretty dismal. The second-order metrics are actually slightly more pessimistic — they think the team should have scored 30.6 runs. The Fish have the third-lowest wOBA in the majors, at .274, as well as the sixth-lowest BsR, at -1.5, which is bound to lead to a whole bunch of zeroes. A high ERA-FIP gap on the other side of the ball doesn’t compensate for that.

Lastly, there’s third-order record, which is pretty much the same thing as second-order, except it adjusts for the quality of a team’s opponents. Adding that context won’t save the Marlins, though:

Worst 10-game third-order records — 1998-present

Rank Year Team W L W% RS3 RA3 W3 L3 W3%
Rank Year Team W L W% RS3 RA3 W3 L3 W3%
1 2003 Detroit Tigers 1 9 .100 11.9 63.6 0.5 9.5 .050
2 1998 Arizona Diamondbacks 2 8 .200 24.7 59.9 1.7 8.3 .168
3 2004 Montreal Expos 2 8 .200 16.7 43.4 1.8 8.2 .176
4 2001 Tampa Bay Rays 3 7 .300 27.3 59.0 2.0 8.0 .197
5 2006 Kansas City Royals 2 8 .200 31.6 63.5 2.0 8.0 .204
6 2008 San Francisco Giants 4 6 .400 26.2 53.3 2.2 7.8 .216
7 2013 Miami Marlins 1 9 .100 23.1 47.8 2.2 7.8 .219
8 2002 Los Angeles Angels 3 7 .300 25.3 50.5 2.3 7.7 .225
9 2011 Minnesota Twins 4 6 .400 23.1 46.4 2.3 7.7 .226
10 2009 San Francisco Giants 3 7 .300 34.5 66.5 2.3 7.7 .229
11 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates 3 7 .300 17.1 36.9 2.3 7.7 .232
12 2015 Minnesota Twins 4 6 .400 26.1 50.4 2.3 7.7 .234
13 2016 San Diego Padres 3 7 .300 24.2 46.7 2.4 7.6 .236
14 2017 Toronto Blue Jays 1 9 .100 24.0 46.7 2.4 7.6 .238
15 2007 Montreal Expos 2 8 .200 34.9 63.9 2.4 7.6 .238
16 2002 Colorado Rockies 4 6 .400 33.5 59.3 2.5 7.5 .248
17 2015 Milwaukee Brewers 2 8 .200 29.4 54.1 2.5 7.5 .248
18 2002 Detroit Tigers 0 10 .000 36.9 64.9 2.5 7.5 .250
19 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks 4 6 .400 35.2 60.5 2.5 7.5 .250
20 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates 4 6 .400 18.5 36.4 2.5 7.5 .252
21 2001 Oakland Athletics 2 8 .200 33.5 59.8 2.6 7.4 .257
22 1998 Montreal Expos 2 8 .200 30.0 53.5 2.6 7.4 .257
23 2011 Tampa Bay Rays 2 8 .200 28.8 50.9 2.6 7.4 .264
24 2013 San Diego Padres 2 8 .200 34.7 59.0 2.6 7.4 .264
25 2003 Arizona Diamondbacks 2 8 .200 32.2 55.7 2.7 7.3 .265
26 2016 Atlanta Braves 1 9 .100 33.2 58.0 2.6 7.4 .265
27 2018 Marlins 3 7 .300 35.3 60.8 2.7 7.3 .266
Data via Baseball Prospectus

The Fish started the season with a tough schedule — they played six games against the Cubs and Red Sox, both of whom PECOTA expects to top 90 wins. Since then, however, they had a three-game set against the Phillies (PECOTA projection: 81-81) and a series opener against the Mets (PECOTA projection: 84-78). Those aren’t exactly world-beaters.

As weird as it may sound, the Marlins are kind of lucky that they’re 3-7. All of their losses have been big (to varying extents), they’ve clustered their hits well to score more runs, and their schedule isn’t all that rough. Not only is Miami’s start the worst in the majors, it’s one of the worst for any year, and that’s saying something.

None of this is groundbreaking information, of course; we all knew going into the year that the Marlins would suck. But seeing this up close — witnessing them crash and burn in such spectacular fashion — feels like poetic justice, given the ruthlessness with which Sherman and company tore the club down. As the Pirates and Mets dominate and the Indians and Dodgers remain in a funk, we can at least take comfort in the fact that Miami is right where it’s supposed to be.


Ryan Romano is the co-managing editor for Beyond the Box Score. Follow him on Twitter if you enjoy angry tweets about Maryland sports.