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A Saber-Slanted Baseball Community



Updated: 2018-04-18T09:00:02-04:00

 



Garrett Richards has the stuff

2018-04-18T09:00:02-04:00

What stuff? Ace stuff, probably. His arsenal is incredible. There are two very obvious reasons to watch the Los Angeles Angels right now. In Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Halos have the best player in MLB and the most fascinating player (who is also truly incredible), and it’s awesome. They’re also in first place in the AL West and off to a franchise-best 13-4 start. The Angels are more than just those two players, though. Amid all the Ohtani excitement, no one is talking about the potential impact of a healthy and effective Garrett Richards. It’s been two years since we’ve seen Richards at peak capability. Admittedlym he’s thrown less this year than in either of the previous two injury-shortened campaigns, so one could be blamed for jumping the gun on this. But bad luck can only haunt you so much, and after a stem cell injection to repair a partial UCL tear in 2016 and more right arm trouble in 2017, Richards — and most baseball fans* — hopes those troubles are behind him. *Well, outside the AL West. Richards has dazzling talent. This year, his fastball is averaging 96.2 miles per hour, third-highest among all starters, which is good enough to catch anyone’s eye on its own. Even better, it also has the fourth-highest spin rate of any four-seamer thrown this year, at 2617 RPM on average. Above him on that list are Justin Verlander (2619 — basically tied), and two relievers in Carl Edwards, Jr. and Luke Bard. The fastball alone is lethal, but as Richards diced up the Royals on Saturday — before suddenly imploding in the fifth inning — he paired it with quite the slider: src="https://gfycat.com/ifr/UnlinedSimplisticKissingbug" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="100%" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;" allowfullscreen=""> In case you were confused by the suddenly shifting hitter, yes, that is two different at-bats. The individual hitter is immaterial here, though — we’re only talking about Richards’ arsenal. This pairing is a good example of what Richards can do with that slider when paired with his fastball. Since the heater has that high spin rate, it drops less than an average four-seamer, meaning to a hitter it seems to almost “rise.” Hitters have seen fastballs their entire lives, and their brains are programmed to expect it to drop at a certain rate; high-spin fastballs refute that. Richards has also shown steadily increasing velocity on his slider. In 2015, when he started 32 games and threw 207 innings, it clocked in at 87.4 mph. This year, it’s at 90.2 mph, about six miles per hour harder than league average. It’s still early, and the velo might be sample size, but the movement is real, and it’s spectacular. When his spinning fastball is paired with his hard-biting slider, it’s downright unfair. Richards has another pitch, a slower curve that he uses sparingly yet judiciously to cripple hitters. Paired again with that fastball, it’s quite the hammer: src="https://gfycat.com/ifr/EvenPowerfulFlyinglemur" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="100%" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;" allowfullscreen=""> Unlike with Clayton Kershaw or Trevor Bauer curves, which drop seemingly seven or eight feet when they break, this hard, snapping curve is actually quite akin to Richards’ slider. It has less lateral movement, though, as it simply tumbles straight down. With the curveball in his arsenal, he has a range of 12-16 mph that can just mess with hitters as he works up and down in the zone with pitches that defy physics. While that one was at the top of the zone, he has the ability to bury one, too: src="https://gfycat.com/ifr/VibrantPleasedHeterodontosaurus" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="100%" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;" allowfullscreen=""> This is more what you expect with a curveball, and regularly paired with a four-seamer in the lower half of the zone, it’s just as good a weapon of batter embarrassment as that breaker from heaven seen earlier. Richards was excellent in 2015, an[...]



The Mets have a catcher problem

2018-04-17T09:00:02-04:00

The team with the best record in baseball just suffered a catastrophe at catcher. Thankfully, they have options. The Mets went into the season with some solid depth at catcher. That is a good thing, because Travis d’Arnaud’s career has been plagued with injury. Kevin Plawecki is the backup, and as with d’Arnaud, he has yet to fulfill scouts’ expectations of a bat-first catcher. To be fair, the same can be said for d’Arnaud, but Plawecki has a career line of .219/.309/.305 with only seven home runs. His career .272 wOBA is 36 points lower than d’Arnaud’s. Both catchers have similar defensive profiles as well. Neither one of them are especially good defensively in a classical sense. Where they do is excel, however, is their pitch-framing. With d’Arnaud especially, this led to him putting up pretty good numbers per Baseball Prospectus’s advanced defensive metric, FRAA. This depth recently blew up quickly. d’Arnaud was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL in his elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery. Position players do not require the extensive rehab that pitchers do, but d’Arnaud will still need to miss the rest of the season. When it looked like it would be Plawecki’s time to shine, he took a 98-MPH fastball off of his left hand. He was diagnosed with a hairline fracture and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. So the Mets needed both an everyday catcher and a back-up. They decided to promote from within to fill these roles, calling up Tomás Nido and José Lobatón. I was unfamiliar with Nido until recently — which surprised me, because I’m a Mets fan — but his profile is interesting. While you won’t find him on any list of top 100 prospects, he is considered to be one of the better prospects in the Mets’ system. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him 16th in the system. Baseball Prospectus was more optimistic, putting him at sixth. They both agree that he is a strong defensive backstop with some pop in his swing, but his hit tool limits his ceiling. There is nothing wrong with projecting as a solid back-up catcher, but the Mets need more than that. Lobatón is the veteran catcher in his ninth season of major league baseball. He is more or less a career back-up who has never hit, with a career line of .219/.295/.325 and a 72 wRC+. He was especially bad last year, hitting just .170/.248/.277 over 158 PA. His 36 wRC+ was one of the worst in baseball among hitters with at least 150 PA. Nido might surprise, but neither one of these guys are a good choice for regular playing time for a team that can contend. Plawecki should be back in mid to late May, but he might not be the best choice for an everyday role either. So where should the Mets go from here? Their farm system is not especially strong at the moment, so that limits what they can do. They do have options, though. J.T. Realmuto would be a great option, and in fact, there are reports that the Mets have spoken to the Marlins about him. Reportedly it would take a “haul” to get him, but the Mets can’t offer that kind of return. It’s odd to see the new Marlins ownership suddenly appear to care about the baseball team, since they’ve made it very clear that they care more about money than the product on the field or their fans. The Mets have a bad reputation for being cheap as well, so perhaps “haul” means lots of money in the form of “cash considerations.” Realmuto has made it abundantly clear that he is unhappy with the Marlins’ most recent fire sale, so perhaps that can lighten the leverage that the Marlins have. I am sincerely surprised that the team is not willing to accept any paltry return just so that they can get out of the millions of dollars that they will owe Realmuto in arbitration through 2020. Unlike d’Arnaud, Realmuto has a good history of durability. He is a career .280/.322/.428 hitter, which is quite good for a catcher, and his defense has improved the past couple of years. He also has two more years of team control after this one. His fit with the Mets makes so much s[...]



Marty’s musings: three winning streaks make their mark

2018-04-16T11:00:05-04:00

Amidst a cold and wet spring, baseball gives us much to look forward to in the coming months. Welcome to ‘Marty’s Musings’, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the happenings in the baseball world. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the news and notes throughout baseball, and highlighting this week’s key pitching matchups. This week the Red Sox continue to mow-down divisional foes as tempers flare against the Yankees, Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer continue to dominate, and a pair of impressive winning streaks come to an end. It’s all in this week’s Musings. News and Notes 20 — Postponed games this year that have caused frustration throughout baseball. The cold, wet, and (in the upper midwest) snowy spring, have been a challenge throughout the game. On Sunday, the entire AL Central were forced to reschedule, and we’re already up to 20 postponements in comparison to 25 all of 2017. While MLB typically figures out how to maximize revenue and travel logistics, wet springs damage minor league ball much more. 10:0 — Strikeouts to walks in Max Scherzer’s start against Atlanta last Monday night. Scherzer tossed a complete game shutout, and put up a game score of 93. He followed up the impressive performance with seven strong innings of two-run ball against the Rockies. 27 — Runs put up by the Red Sox in a three-game set against the Yankees last week. Boston trounced New York `14-1 in the series opener and beat the Yanks 6-3 in the finale. The middle game was a 10-7 slugfest that also featured a bench-clearing brawl after a Tyler Austin slide clipped Brock Holt’s ankle. 9 — Wins in a row for both the Mets and the Red Sox; both streaks were snapped last week. The Mets’ winning streak was ended by the Brewers on Saturday, and the Yankees halted the Red Sox’ on Wednesday. Both teams are off to impressive starts behind some excellent starting pitching. 7 — Current winning streak for the Angels, who sit atop the AL West with a 13-3 record. The Angels play host to Boston this upcoming week. More on that in the must-watch section below. 2000 — Career hits by Twins veteran Joe Mauer. Mauer is not the All-Star backstop he used to be, as he’s made the full transition to first base and DH, but he still holds a special place in Twins history since he’s spent his entire 14-year-career in the Twin Cities. 21 — Consecutive starts for Orioles strater Chris Tillman in which he did not earn the win. The win stat is convoluted and in many ways an absurd way to measure a pitcher, but even so, 21 games without managing to fall into one is pretty darn impressive (in a bad way!). The Red Sox roughed up Tillman in two innings of work on Friday night, amassing six runs on seven hits and two walks. Despite starting over 20 games, his last win was in May of last year. 0 — Games won by the Kansas City Royals in which they have given up at least one run. The Royals’ only three wins have come in shutouts, and they are trying to rectify a current five-game losing streak coming into Monday’s matchup against Toronto. 2 — Pitchers in the history of baseball who have struck out at least 11 batters in each of their first three games with a new team: Gerrit Cole and Nolan Ryan. Cole has been unreal in his Houston debut and on the season has 36 strikeouts to just four walks. He’s given up only thee runs in 21 innings of work. 11 — Straight regular-season wins the Diamondbacks had delivered to the Dodgers until Sunday afternoon’s 7-2 loss. The Dodgers are not used to being any team’s doormat, and the streak was the longest against any single opponent since the team moved out of Brooklyn. Matchups to Watch Tuesday, April 17 Corey Kluber (CLE) v. Jake Odorizzi (MIN), 7:10 ET Kluber’s been so dominant for so long that it’s a dominating start is almost becoming the expectation. Of the 81 batters faced, Kluber has K’d 27 of them. He has given up only four runs in 23 innings. David Price (BOS) v. Shohei Ohtani (LAA), [...]



Gabe Kapler is learning on the fly as Phillies manager

2018-04-16T09:00:02-04:00

He had a few rough games early, but Kapler has done a better job as of late. Six teams hired a new manager prior to the 2018 MLB season. The Washington Nationals, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers all found new skippers, but none have pushed as unorthodox methods as Philadelphia Phillies new manager Gabe Kapler. Right after the Phillies hired Kapler in November, I wrote an article about him in which I compared him to former Eagles coach Chip Kelly. Certainly, Philadelphia sports fans hope Kapler’s tenure in the city does not end similarly to how Kelly’s did. (Though that is very unlikely to occur, as Kapler would never get the GM duties as Kelly did. Baseball just does not work that way.) Thirteen games in, and Kapler has found himself right in the thick of things already, and not in the most positive of ways. It’s certianly not all bad however; of teams with first-time managers, Kapler’s Phillies do have the third-best record at 9-5. It’s a simplified comparison because all six managers inherited teams with different talent levels, but what I am trying to say is, well, Kapler’s Phillies have not fallen apart...at least not yet. For a bit, it seemed like the team’s direction might go sour. On Opening Day, Kapler pulled starting pitcher Aaron Nola with a 5-0 lead after throwing just 68 pitches. The Phillies went on to lose. Two days later, he brought in left-hander Hoby Milner from the bullpen without warming him up first. And, after dropping two more games to the Mets, the Phillies were 1-4. Kapler was booed in his first game as manager in Philadelphia. It was a less than auspicious beginning. Since then though, the Phillies have rebounded, albeit against bad teams. They took two of three from the Marlins, including a 20-1 thumping on Apr. 7th, then swept both the Reds and the Rays. What has impressed me is how quickly Kapler has been willing to change his methods when necessary. To survive in Major League Baseball requires being able to go off-script, to make the important changes right as things look bleak. Kapler has done just that, and he has done that with success. One thing Kapler has stressed throughout his managerial career is the third-time-through-the-order penalty. That is, a starting pitcher’s numbers significantly decrease when they are facing hitters for the third time, and they should be removed from the game before this happens. Kapler subscribed to that methodology when pulling Nola on Opening Day, yet many pointed out that he lacked the feel for the situation, as the game was pretty well-in-hand, and Nola’s pitch count was only in the 70s. Kapler did not need Nola, or any of his pitchers, to throw a shutout. All he needed was them to allow fewer than five runs. Nola should have been left in that game, even if it was only to just save the bullpen. It would not have been the end of the world had Nola given up one or two runs. Over the course of the season, those types of decisions help save a bullpen. In the first eight games of the Phillies season, the starting pitcher on any given night faced more than 18 hitters (exactly twice through the order) six times. That includes Nola on Opening Day, who faced 20, yet is still thrown in as having been pulled too quickly. So, yes, Kapler would let his pitchers get to face the order for a third time, but it usually wasn’t for long. The most batters that any of his first eight starters faced was 25. Over the last five games, Kapler has let his starters roll. Kapler let Ben Lively pitch up to 100 pitches in the first game of the series against the Reds, and that proved to be a mistake as he gave up the tying run in the top of the sixth. On the next night, Kapler let Nola pitch into the eighth inning (amazing, I know) in the first true Phillies gem of the season. To finish out the series, Kapler went with his gut and with the desire of his player after letting Nick Pivetta throw the seventh inning. After the gam[...]



Trea Turner has fixed his biggest weakness

2018-04-12T11:00:02-04:00

The Nats speedster is much more patient at the plate. Trea Turner is nothing if not aggressive. Every second he’s on the diamond, he plays at 100 percent, and it shows. It’s how he’s able to steal second when the pitcher tries to pick him off: GIF via MLB.com And it’s how he’s able to lay out for line drives on the warning track: GIF via MLB.com But aggression isn’t always a positive. While it’s good for Turner to go hard on the bases or in the field, it can hold him back at the plate. This isn’t the type of pitch you want to be swinging at: GIF via Baseball Savant During his first two years with the Nationals, Turner took a walk in just 5.7 percent of his plate appearances. Despite a superb .309 batting average, his on-base percentage was a more human .351. He was doing well at pretty much everything — he picked up plenty of hits, he sprinkled in some doubles and triples, he was a terror on the basepaths, and he defended his position — except for earning free passes. In 2018, things have changed. Behold, the new Trea Turner! Image via FanGraphs Yeah, you were expecting another GIF, but these are walks we’re talking about. Thus far, Turner has earned nine walks in 55 trips to the dish — that’s a 16.4 percent clip. The sample size is obviously an issue, but consider this: In 2016, Turner didn’t earn his ninth base on balls until his 59th game. In 2017, it took him 49 games. This year, he got there by his 10th game. And even better, that production has been spread out — Turner has taken those nine walks across nine contests. This isn’t a case where he faced a wild starter one time and just kept the bat on his shoulder; this is a real shift in his approach. In his third full season as a big-leaguer, Turner has reined himself in, and he’s all the better for it. This trend started toward the end of 2017. Turner had a 5.7 percent walk rate to start the season, before a pitch to the wrist landed him on the DL in June. After returning to the lineup in late August, he worked a base on balls in 9.1 percent of his plate appearances. That helped him improve his wRC+ from 94 before his injury to 133 afterward. Nine percent is a long way from 16 percent, though. Pitchers haven’t been treating Turner much differently; to get where he is today, he made strides with his plate discipline. He’s laying off pitches outside the strike zone this year, a lot more so than in the past: Image via FanGraphs And that hasn’t stopped him from swinging at a good amount of strikes: Image via FanGraphs This adjustment has been more pronounced in certain situations. During the past two seasons, Turner swung 66.8 percent of the time in three-ball counts; this year, that’s down to 40 percent. He’s not just being patient to work the count in his favor and get a pitch to drive — he’s doing it so he can take walks and get on base. Of course, there’s a fine line between being patient and being passive. In spring training, as Turner tweaked his approach, he expressed some reservations about it: Trea Turner knows the primary criticism with his approach at the plate. And he doesn’t entirely disagree, even if he adds a qualifier to the sentiment. “I think a lot of people made a big deal out of me not walking the last couple years, I guess rightfully so,” the Nationals shortstop said. “But I feel like if they give me pitches to hit, I should put them in play. And if they don’t, I need to walk.” … “I’m trying to take a few more pitches here and there, but at the same time I don’t want to be hitting with two strikes all the time,” he said. “It’s trying to find a happy medium. I don’t want to be 0-2 and miss the pitches I feel like I should’ve swung at.” Even with the extra walks, Turner’s production has declined this season: He’s[...]



Trade Retrospective: Marlins trade Mark Buehrle, José Reyes, Josh Johnson, and others to the Blue Jays in salary dump

2018-04-11T11:35:44-04:00

The year after fleecing taxpayers for a new stadium and pretending to go all-in, the Marlins continued to disgrace themselves and the game. For the third straight offseason, BtBS is looking back on some of the biggest trades from years past. Check out all the entries here. Alright, I'm pissed off!!! Plain & Simple— Giancarlo Stanton (@Giancarlo818) November 13, 2012 That tweet just as easily could have been from this past offseason, but as you can see from the timestamp, Giancarlo Stanton tweeted that out over five years ago when the Marlins executed the biggest move in their latest firesale. After a disastrous first season in the taxpayer funded Marlins Park, the team traded away Mark Buehrle, José Reyes, Josh Johnson, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto. In exchange, the Marlins received Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarría, Henderson Álvarez, and Jeff Mathis. To keep up the appearances that this was not purely a salary dump — because that is exactly what it was — they received prospects in Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Nicolino, and Jake Marisnick from the Blue Jays. In this trade retrospective series, trades will be evaluated based on what was known at the time. That is the only fair, logical way to evaluate trades and strip luck out of the equation: process over results. Having said that, we will still take a look at how the trade worked out for both parties. The Deal The Marlins started off their firesale at the trade deadline. They traded Omar Infante and Aníbal Sánchez to the Tigers, and shortly after, traded Hanley Ramírez to the Dodgers. They sent their high priced reliever in Heath Bell to the Diamondbacks in October 2012. Bell had a 5.37 RA9 in his first and only year with the team, so at least with that trade the Marlins were salvaging a bad signing. In a season that stirred up excitement thanks to some strong acquisitions and a new stadium, the Marlins finished with a dismal record of 69-93. Believe it or not, their half-hearted attempt to deceive fans that they actually cared about them or the baseball team did not work to actually make the team good. The big free agent signings that brought Mark Buehrle, José Reyes, and Heath Bell to Miami did a lot to create buzz, but it was not enough to make a team that had won only 72 games the year before competitive. It was all for show. As mentioned, Bell was a disaster, but Reyes and Buehrle played well, as did incumbent Josh Johnson. Reyes hit .287/.347/.433 with 40 stolen bases against 11 times caught. He was a poor fielder, though, so he only accumulated 3.0 bWAR despite being a shortstop with an above average bat. Buehrle had a 3.91 RA9, 4.8 BB%, and 4.2 bWAR. He has always been an anomalous pitcher, making up for his poor strikeout rates and velocity with his excellent defense and ability to control the run game. Johnson had a 3.95 RA9 and 3.9 bWAR. Bonifacio never really hit other than in 2011 when he had a .372 BABIP. He was a useful utility player who still had two years left on his rookie contract. Buck had one year and $6.5 million left on an ill advised three-year, $18 million deal. He was a subpar catcher both offensively and defensively who got the deal thanks to a flukish career year before hitting free agency. In his two years in Miami he hit only .213/.308/.358, and was worth a total of just 1.1 WARP. The Blue Jays were coming off a fourth place finish for the fifth year in a row. GM Alex Anthopoulos was understandably tired of the lack of success. They had an excellent farm system, ranked second in MLB by Baseball Prospectus, and third by ESPN’s Keith Law. The great thing about this trade is that he accomplished it by minimizing the cost in talent. Marisnick and Nicolino ranked 71st and 73rd, respectively, in Baseball Prospectus’s 2013 prospect rankings. Top-100 prospect talents have significant value, but theses players were not going to make or break the Blue Jays’ f[...]



Taking the Statcast path to early season understanding

2018-04-10T14:00:02-04:00

Nobody knows anything when it comes to April stats. But we’re getting closer. The beginning of the season is confusing and tricky. Middling players start off really hot, stars begin the year in prolonged hitless streaks, and numbers are so subject to the whims of a day or two that leader boards change with the tides. When you’re trying to write about it every day, it’s hard to find truth in anything until legitimate sample sizes settle things down. To paraphrase MLB.com’s Mike Petriello on Twitter the other day, we should all just take a vacation until the middle of May. At least thanks to StatCast, we finally have at least a better idea of how players are performing, and whether or not we should believe what we see. Take a look at the top ten hitters by wRC+, as of Sunday night: This is probably vastly out of date already, even with one additional day in the books, but it’s a list of some very good players. Some - Harper, Freeman, Cano - with a longer history of elite type offense than others. It’s interesting, but one look at it tells you that something is off. Didi Gregorious is not the second coming of Barry Bonds, despite what Cleveland Indians fans will tell you after the ALDS last year. This is what a week of baseball where everything is muddled and nothing makes sense looks like. Sample size is the baseball writer and fan’s friend, and it’s absent this time of year. You can’t trust what you see. At least BABIP helps a bit with this, letting us know who is lucky and who isn’t. Here’s that same list, with their BABIP added: So that’s… something. The issue here is, a player with outsize stats early in the season often is in some kind of massive home run binge. Remember Trevor Story’s rookie year? He hit 10 home runs in April, and 17 the rest of the year. But homers aren’t counted in BABIP, neither are walks. hence Bryce Harper’s .125, among other anomalies. My main viewing has been the Indians the last week or so, and it’s incredible how hard they’re hitting the ball, and yet not getting any dividends for it. I’m pretty sure Yonder Alonso hits the ball a million miles an hour at least once a game, and yet he’s posting a .184/.270/.394 line as of Monday. I’m sure he’s doing better than that. In the past, this was simply eye test, a fan or a scout convinced they’re seeing something more than what the box score suggests. Thankfully, Statcast gives numbers to what our eyes see and our ears hear. In the era of the Fly Ball Revolution, we’ve come to the conclusion that hitting the ball in the air is better than not. Obviously not always - if you’re hitting it 50 miles per hour, that’s not an ideal pathway, but how did you get into the majors in the first place? But with solid contact, we can start to make judgments. Consistent fly balls and line drives are what hitters want because that’s the best path towards extra bases. Using Statcast’s search tool, I narrowed down a list of players who had hit the most fly balls and liners with an exit velocity exceeding 95 mph. That seems pretty fast to me, and according to the Hit Probability tool over there, that’s the first place you see a major jump. A ball hit 95 mph led to a .342 batting average last year (.379 wOBA) compared to just .312 on a 94 mph exit velo (.348 wOBA). Basically, the line between pretty darn good and elite. Twenty-one players have done this at least ten times this year, and it’s mostly people you recognize: There’s some surprises on that list. Elvis Andrus is a surprise, perhaps Dixon Machado, the possibly ageless Howie Kendrick. But the basis of being a hitter is hitting balls hard, preferably away from fielders. The majority of players on that list above have a decent history of doing that, and are expected to do it more. It’s not hard and fast - no Harper or Judge or Stanton to be found - but part of that t[...]



Putting the Marlins’ horrible start in perspective

2018-04-10T12:00:04-04:00

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