No Blogservations on the Cardinal’s 6-5 comeback win over the Marlins, as I didn’t catch any of it and saw very little in the way of signs. The only thing I can say is that Leo Nunez’s poor peripherals are starting to catch up to him. He throws it well, but he walks too many guys to be effective. Also, he’s literally missing bats like he hasn’t done before (a 71.6% contact rate, down from the low 80’s he’s put up most of his career), and combining that with the very low .246 BABIP, I’d say his season so far has been more than a bit fluky, and now he’s beginning to regress to what he actually is.
Let’s move on to this game.
Ricky Nolasco looked like his old self.
This start was more indicative of the old Nolasco of last year than any of his previous starts. Maybe the Triple-A demotion worked and he got his act together, though it was doubtful his act was off to begin with. Before the demotion, his K/9 had increased from last year, though it’s come with an increase in BB/9 as well. Today Nolasco posted an impressive nine strikeouts against only one walk. Had he scattered those five hits and walk a bit more, it’s likely he would not have allowed much in the way of runs; that being said, a big issue Nolasco had been facing was the big inning. Outside of the fifth inning last night, the outing was very encouraging.
Nolasco’s biggest problem is likely the .399 BABIP he’s posted so far, which screams “regression to the mean.” Still, a 24% LD% shows he’s being hit harder this season, which hopefully is not a trend. Nolasco’s working well, showing numbers very similar, if not better, than those of last year. The final resutls are finally starting to catch up.
The Marlins finally came up big in the clutch.
The high leverage plays finally started to go the Marlins’ way. With the exception of Jorge Cantu’s bases loaded ground out in the third inning, the Fish were able to deliver the big hits color commentator Tommy Hutton keeps clamoring for. It started with Hanley Ramirez’s single in the seventh (a 3.58 Leverage Index) and culminated of course in the Cody Ross grand slam with the bases juiced (ironically only a 3.10 Leverage Index). I brought up the team’s performance on plate appearances with a Leverage Index (LI) greater 2 in a previous game. Tonight, the club delivered in a big way, going 2 for 3 in 5 PA with LI over 2, with a Dan Uggla walk and a John Baker HBP as well. All in all, the team totaled a 0.391 WPA in those PA’s, a rare “clutch” performance by the team.
Chris Coghlan is looking like a true leadoff man.
Fredi Gonzalez wisened up for last night’s AL home game and batted Emilio Bonifacio, the team’s worst hitter, in the characteristic ninth spot. While he struggled to an uneventful 0 for 4 night, the team’s new leadoff hitter Chris Coghlan flourished, going 4 for 5 with 3 singles and a double. He also stole a base and scored twice, thanks to Hanley Ramirez’s solid game. It was good to see Coghlan set the table against Toronto, a team that has an excellent 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup in Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill. The Marlins’ table-setting duo of Coghlan and Ross Gload combined for seven hits and two doubles in 10 PA, compiling a WPA of 0.171. If the team could get half that production from its leadoff and #2 hitters everyday, our offense would be much improved.
With Coghlan’s ability to draw walks, he seems like a natural fit at the top of the order. Add to that his speed potential on the basepaths and the Fish have likely stumbled on a good choice for leadoff. As for the #2 guy, once the club starts playing NL teams again, it won’t have the luxury of playing Gload at first base and having Cantu DH. Knowing that you’re looking for OBP in your top of the lineup guys, as they get the most PA’s and as a result should be the ones who use their opportunities most efficiently, the team should allow Jeremy Hermida to bat in the 2-hole again. He did this for much of the season last year before John Baker got the nod near the end of the season, but previously didn’t deserve to be taking up that high slot due to an eroding OBP. Now his OBP stands at a robust .374, a number that would certainly hold up for a #2 hitter.
The other option the team should consider is another man who used to hit #2 for the club, Dan Uggla. Uggla hit in the 2-hole most of 2006, but was moved down in the order as a result of his power. At the time he also hadn’t reached base at the clip he is now, and for the last two years he’s shown dramatic improvement in his walks and OBP. In addition, Uggla has had a difficult time getting pitches to hit; a mere 47.1% of the pitches he’s seen have been in the strikezone. Dave Cameron posted an interesting piece regarding a new strategy for #2 hitters, mostly putting players who are better fastball hitters but don’t see fastballs normally into the 2-hole. If this strategy provided any sort of bonus benefit in addition to having Uggla’s increasing plate selectivity, it might be worth a try.