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Saturday, October 18, 2003

World Series Preview - Why the Marlins Will Win

Go Fish!

There is the prevailing opinion that the Yankees will overpower the Florida Marlins in the World Series.  Jack McKeon has a few surprises in store for the New Yorkers. 


Since taking the helm, McKeon?s sailfish have posted the best record in baseball.  They bested the team with the best player in baseball.  They have come back from having one foot in the proverbial grave.  Heck, they had two feet in the grave - down three runs with only five outs left against the Cubs.  The Marlins were underdogs to the Giants and underdogs to the Cubs.  They?re underdogs to the Yankees.  The role won?t bother them at all.  In fact, McKeon scoffs at it - he says that when you believe you aren?t supposed to win, you can?t.  So, the Marlins won?t be listening to any of the media.


The payrolls will not mean anything - the Yankees are simply paying an exorbitant amount of cash to several old men.  The Marlins have very good players - just young and inexpensive.


To the layman, the Yankees have a bludgeoning offense, while the Marlins are loaded down with a Punch-and-Judy group who may not score.  While not an extreme power team, the Marlins have speed and six guys who can homer.


The Marlins will have the advantage at half of the position players with respect to offensive output and they will be better defensively at all of them.  Nice doubletake.


Here?s the lineup:




New York






Posada +10

Pudge +5

First Base



Giambi +10

Lee +15

Second Base



Soriano +25

Castillo +25

Third Base



Lowell +35





Jeter +25

Gonzalez +25

Left Field



Matsui +20

Matsui +5

Center Field



Pierre +5

Pierre +10

Right Field



Cabrera +10





Johnson +20




Yankees +60

Marlins +75


The Yankees and their fans should be afraid - very afraid.

Okay, the Marlins only have the edge in five of the defensive slots.  However, in Yankee Stadium, Cabrera will probably be the DH and Encarnacion is a solid +10 defensively above Garcia in RF.


In addition, the Marlins simply mash lefties, and the present probable starters have the Yankees starting Wells and Pettitte, with each getting two starts, Games 1, 3, 5, 7.


The pitching matchups are, interestingly, lefty vs. righty in each game.  The Yankees have a solid advantage in starting pitching and the Marlins have a slight advantage in non-closing bullpen.  Joe Torre showed in Game 7 of the ALCS that he won?t put bad pitchers out there when it comes right down to it, and he will go with Mariano Rivera as long as he has to.  Rivera is only useful in preserving the lead, and the games the Yankees win, they won?t need him.


The first game is Wells (L) versus Penny ( R).  Wells looks to be cuffed around and Penny much the same.  The media talking heads have intimated that the Yanks will have an emotional let down after that great series with the Red Sox and only one day to recover from it.  Should that happen, coupled with the Marlins dominance of LHP, the Fish could easily steal (pun intended) the first game from the Yankees.  Marlins lead the Series, 1-0.


The second game is Mussina ( R) versus Willis (L).  This matchup is terrible for the Marlins.  Willis showed "big game" jitters in his NLCS start against the Cubs, walking three of the first four batters he faced and surrendering a grand slam to Aramis Ramirez.  I was sitting in the stands that night, and Willis looked nervous.  I think starting in Yankee Stadium in the World Series will scare the pants off of Dontrelle.  Maybe the NLCS start got the agog-ness out of him, but from everything I?ve read and heard from major league ballplayers is that the first game at Yankee Stadium is chilling and thrilling, no matter which team you play for.  Maybe McKeon knows what he is doing, but I like the Yankees in a romp here.  Series tied, 1-1.


The third game is Pettitte (L) versus Beckett ( R).  Josh Beckett is simply on fire this postseason, and without a designated hitter, the Yankees lose a serious advantage.  Again the Fish get a lefty, but Pettitte?s pickoff move will neutralize some of that offense.  Beckett will have had plenty of rest, and in his home park, mow the Yankees down.  Marlins lead Series, 2-1.


The fourth game is Clemens ( R) versus Redman (L).  I love Roger Clemens on 6 days rest.  Redman is, as you should have read here before, one of my favorite "unknown" pitchers.  This matchup should be classic, with Clemens putting up numbers like he did in Game 2 of the ALCS, rather than his Game 7 outing.  Redman will be tough, but the Yankees pull one out.  Series tied, 2-2.


Back to the top of the pitching, with teams trading games until Game 7, when the Marlins win in the same fashion as 1997 (or Arizona in 2001), 4 games to 3, extending the Yankee World Championship drought to three years.


Chris Dial Posted: October 18, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. studes Posted: October 18, 2003 at 02:49 AM (#613520)
Chris, what do the numbers represent? Runs over a season? Is Lee's relative defensive value really worth that much to the team, compared to the other stats? Seems improbable.
   2. LVHCM Posted: October 18, 2003 at 02:49 AM (#613522)
Though the Marlins possess a potent righthanded hitting attack, I think it's foolish to assume both Wells and Pettitte will each drop two starts, especially the games started by Penny. If your "cuffed around" logic holds, first men out of the pen will be Contreras vs Helling, and i'll take the Cuban thank you very much.

Unfortunately, the magic dust has worn off Willis and I agree he'll most likely get shelled.

Yanks in 5.
   3. Chris Dial Posted: October 18, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613529)
Well, you guys are right wrt no labels for my columns. Stupid problem with knowing what you are saying, and thus not thoroughly explaining it.

The +/- is runs better than the other guy on the season (there are no minuses).

So, Posada is 10 runs better at the plate than Pudge and Pudge is 5 runs better behind the plate.

Lee is 10 runs worse than Giambi at the plate (you can look that up) and 15 runs better with the glove. Lee is one of the better fielding first basemen; Giambi is, uh, not.

And so on and so forth.

Of course in a 7-game series Lee won't be 15 runs better defensively than Giambi - but nor will Soriano be 25 runs better than Castillo.

I am at fault for thinking those "runs above other guy" was assumed.

LVHCM - maybe, but the first guy out of the pen is Pavano for the Fish if the game is reasonably close - it's Helling if it isn't. Either way it is Contreras. So no advantage for the Cuban. As for dropping two games from both LHP, maybe - but they could also beat a Clemens that stunk Thursday.

Roger C - they aren't. The Yankee fielders suck. If anything, I have not made the Marlins advantage as large as it is. Alex Gonzalez is probably closer to 30 runs better than Jeter defensively over a season. Pierre is probably much better than Williams. Castillo over Soriano. The RF comparison only matters with who is out there. Rivera hasn't taken a snap, has he? If Garcia is the one out there, it doesn't matter how good the other guys are (and he will be). And Encarnacion is an outstanding RF. Pierre isn't marginally better than Williams - he's much better. And no, Trot Nixon play aside, park familiarity isn't likely to be significant - Yankee Stadium isn't like Fenway.

Caline - the Marlins beat the Giants and the Cubs, didn't they? So, yes, this pans out. It isn't silly, nor wishful thinking. Sheesh.

Nipples - you know, if I pick the Yankees, it's because I'm a NY fan - if I pick the Marlins it's because I hate the Yankees. Lose-lose, huh? And no, it's +/- for kiddies. It was for runs.

Caton - it isn't arbitrary; it is based on run differential between the players. And no, it has never been the position that a run saved is less valuable than a run created. Offense and defense are equally valuable for players - it's just not as easy to save runs as it is to create them for each individual player. But a fielder that saves 25 runs is every bit as valuable as a batter that generates 25.
   4. Alan Shank Posted: October 18, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613532)
Everybody seems to be saying that the Marlins are a lot better defensively than the Yankees, but if you take the offensive stats of Florida's opponents and split out the balls-in-play (except homers) from the pitcher-only, they don't look so good. In fact their Extrapolated Runs/PA on those events is exactly the same as New York's. So if they're so great defensively, "why ain't they rich?" It should show up in the BIP stats. BTW, in the Ultimate Zone Ratings for '99 - '02 on Tangotiger's site, Derek Lee is just +1 to Giambi's 0, and Giambi is not even playing 1B, anyway - Nick Johnson is. Luis Castillo is -5 to Soriano's -8.

The ballparks certainly affect the results on BIP, but I just put Florida's home/away stats into the spreadsheet, and the xR/PA on BIP in their away games was .107, compared to .101 in their home games.

One disclaimer: pitcher-vs-batter stats do not take into account errors on which a batter reaches base instead of being out. This is a hole in MLB's record keeping. So, to the extent that the Yankees made more of this kind of error than the Marlins, their xR/PA on BIP is under-stated (i.e. made to look better), relative to Florida's. Florida did make substantially fewer errors than New York. I am trying to figure out a way to work this into the data, but it is difficult.

On his Web site, Eric Walker has an "Overall Team Defense" page; his methodology is different, using total outs minus strikeouts vs. total balls put in play. It seems to me that this over-counts outs, because it lumps double plays, caught stealing, outs on base, etc., but it does account for errors. In any case, per his method, Florida was 4 runs worse than average, while New York was 29 runs worse, which makes a difference of 25 runs for the season, which is about one run per 7 games.

Alan Shank
   5. Chris Dial Posted: October 18, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613536)
yes and no.

I strongly suspect Giambi will play first base in Florida. I weakly suspect Torre will give him one start in the field n NY to get the rust off.

Giambi' defense - Giambi had one outstanding season with the glove (99 or 00). Giambi is solidly worse than Lee (this year's ZR diff is 65 points). Johnson was even worse this season.

Castillo was 50 pts better than Sori (ZR). Gonzalez 70 pts better than Jeter. CF was closer than I thought - just 22 pts for Pierre.

I still have some research to do, but the DER makes a large assumption of equal BIP distribution, and the team that allow more line drives (as a percentage) will allow more hits. Yes, DER can accurately describe the quality of a team defensively, but then again, it may not (and I do not think it does often enough to use it).

The Marlins are a significantly better defensive team, IMO.
   6. Chris Dial Posted: October 18, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613538)
The methodology is pretty sound and is found here.

As for playing time - I did/do consider that. Defensive Runs is a rate stat converted, rather than an accumulation of raw numbers. Playing time isn't a significant issue here. And while the Yankees might have better defenders - they won't be playing - Garcia is - so Garcia's defense is all that matters. Johnson's defense isn't better than Giambi's (afaict), and Giambi will be playing first in Miami.
   7. Alan Shank Posted: October 18, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613540)
Chris wrote:
"Castillo was 50 pts better than Sori (ZR). Gonzalez 70 pts better than Jeter. CF was closer than I thought - just 22 pts for Pierre. "

I guess those are ZR for this year, right? I think UZR is more meaningful, and Tangotiger's figures are for '99-'02. Over that period, Castillo was just 3 runs better than Soriano.

"I still have some research to do,"

Don't we all!

"but the DER makes a large assumption of equal BIP distribution,"

But so does ZR make a large assumption of equally of chances, which UZR is designed to overcome.

"and the team that allow more line drives (as a percentage) will allow more hits. Yes, DER can accurately describe the quality of a team defensively, but then again, it may not (and I do not think it does often enough to use it)."

There will never be a definitive way of evaluating fielding, IMO, even at the team level.

"The Marlins are a significantly better defensive team, IMO."

I don't see it. I would say "somewhat better."

Yes, I'm sure you're right about Giambi playing 1B in Florida.
Alan Shank
   8. Harris Posted: October 18, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613544)
Dial - you can't be using Marlin and Sailfish interchangably. While they are both billfish (along with swordfish and spearfish), they are different beasts. Kind of like mixing up lions and tigers. shame shame.
   9. Chris Dial Posted: October 19, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613545)
Harris - dang it! I meant billfish. I felt it - it was like going on vacation and being sure you left the stove on.

Alan - okay.

Yankee pitching - yes it is better - but not as much, precisely because Beckett is pitching better than he did when he was being abused by Torborg. And the Yankee hitting will be somewhat neutralized by better defenders - as long as teh Fish pitchers can keep it in the yard.
   10. studes Posted: October 19, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613546)
Chris, thanks for the runs explanation. Figured it was something like that? Have you posted full-year results of your analyses? Would you like to? :)

Alan and others, you may be interested in my team pages. They basically reiterate what is being said here: that the Marlins' DER was relatively poor, but not nearly as poor as the Yankees, once adjusted for ballpark (the Yankees have a good fielding ballpark). And, if you isolate interpreted zone ratings (I referenced David Pinto's work), you can see that the Marlins' relatively poor DER is only somewhat driven by poor fielding, while the Yankees' really, really poor DER is definitely driven by poor fielding.

The Marlins' page is:

and the Yankees' page is:
   11. Alan Shank Posted: October 19, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613554)
studes wrote:
"Alan and others, you may be interested in my team pages. They basically reiterate what is being said here: that the Marlins' DER was relatively poor, but not nearly as poor as the Yankees, once adjusted for ballpark (the Yankees have a good fielding ballpark)."

Well, I ran the xRuns/PA on BIP for Yankee home games (both teams) vs. road games and they came out .098 in the Stadium, .107 on the road, a somewhat larger difference than Florida's .101 to .107.

New York's GB/FB ratio was 1.20 to Florida's 1.16.

BTW, does anybody know where I can find team fielding data for 2003?
Alan Shank
   12. studes Posted: October 19, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613555)
Alan, you may want to check out Tangotiger's table of BABIP from 1999 through 2002. You can find them on his site at One-year park factors, for anything, are fairly unreliable.

For the four years in question, BABIP in Yankee Stadium was thirteen points lower than on the road (.305 to .292) while Florida's was two points lower.

For more evidence, James Click recently ran a premium article on baseball prospectus, in which he computed DER park factors, based on the last three years. He came up with 1.0027 for Pro Player and 1.0173 for Yankee Stadium, which is not quite as severe a difference as Tango's.

He completed his analysis by computing a normalized DER factor for each team, centered around 0. The Yankees had the second-worst record in the majors at -2.69 and the Marlins were seven places higher at -1.116.

Seems to me this a pretty accurate reflection of the relative DER between the two teams.

The next obvious question: how much is fielding responsible for the DER in each case. I think that the evidence points to lousy fielding by the Yankees, and average fielding by the Marlins. That is, there is more luck (or bad pitching, depending on what you believe) behind the Marlins' low DER than the Yankees' lower DER.

I'd refer to David Pinto's analysis, or even the team zone ratings at, as evidence of the relative fielding strengths of the two teams.
   13. Chris Dial Posted: October 20, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613562)
Uh, Caline, *you* asked if this panned out. If the system says the Fish will win, and they do, what else do you want (to satisfy your question)?
   14. Ned Garvin: Male Prostitute Posted: October 20, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613567)
Of course, unlike the Yankees, the Marlins have never finished in 1st place.
   15. Bill DeSimone Posted: October 20, 2003 at 02:50 AM (#613581)
Here's a "just for fun" reason the Marlins will win. 8 of the last 9 and 10 of the last 13 World Series have been won by the team that had more first round picks on their roster during the season.

The Marlins had 8 first rounders and the Yanks 5 this year.
   16. Chris Dial Posted: October 21, 2003 at 02:51 AM (#613630)
Caline - it's simple Runs Created. That works. Does the team that generates the most RC/saves RC win in the post-season all the time? No. That's because of the game sample we're dealing with. That's why the Yankees don't sweep the Devil Rays every season. What it demonstrates is that the Marlins are the Yankees approximate equal and there is no reason to think the Yanks win in a cakewalk, and a good case can be made that they won't win at all.

Yes, benches count, but not significantly because they won't get significant chances. So the difference will be slightly smaller, but not by more than a run or two.

Tom, yes, Willis did a great job, and I think itwas largely because he didn't start.

DJM, it's a statistical fact that the Marlins bashed lefties this past season. The Marlins hit well against teh Cub RHP - nonetheless, they are good against LHP. No single (or two) game will change that.
   17. LVHCM Posted: October 21, 2003 at 02:51 AM (#613635)
Tom- Yes, Willis sure did look poised out there. Good for him, he seems like a great kid and i'm glad I was wrong.

Chris- With the first two games in the books the series is 1-1 as you predicted. Except that with the rotation changes, the two lefties are out of the way after having acquitted themselves quite nicely and on short rest no less. Now, with the righties on deck, does your Marlin pick still hold? I still feel Florida just doesn't have the arms to take the series.
   18. Chris Dial Posted: October 24, 2003 at 02:52 AM (#613687)

   19. flournoy Posted: October 26, 2003 at 01:53 AM (#613731)
Yankees and their fans are not afraid of the Fish. I am not sure all of the fans respect them, but not knowing them that well is part of the reason. But fear is not an option nor reasonable under the circumstances.

Hahaha! How's that taste?

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