One hell of a way to finish a series, huh? The Marlins take it 6-5 in a nailbiter over the Yankees. At least Matt Lindstrom made it a nailbiter in 9th, but we’ll talk about that in a bit. Let’s get to some observations.
Chris Volstad looked vastly improved tonight.
Volstad showed some improvement in tonight’s performance over his previous start, a beatdown handed out by the Boston Red Sox earlier in the week. His Pitch f/x look, courtesy of Brooks Baseball.
Volstad’s location was far better tonight than it was in his start against the Red Sox. You can see he had a plan of working a particular area of the strike zone, focusing down and away from the Yankee lefties while jamming the righties down and in. Despite a strange strike zone that produced more than a few questionable low called strikes and knee-high pitches called for a ball, Volstad’s better consistency in staying in that zone prevented him from being hit hard. Only Mark Texeira’s double during Volstad’s “big” inning was hit well, with the others coming off of good pitches that landed in soft defensive spots in the infield and shallow outfield. Volstad’s peripherals also looked improved over his last outing. He was able to strike out four while walking one in his six innings, and he didn’t allow any long fly balls in his fly outs, let alone any home runs.
Still, Volstad needs to work on a few more things. His GB/FB ratio was 1.0 (7 GB, 7 FB), and for a pitcher who doesn’t miss bats at a good enough rate, he needs to be able to induce more ground balls. Josh Johnson as able to induce 13 of 16 ground balls from his balls in play, and he has a much better ability to strike out hitters. This has been a season-long problem for Volstad involving his inability to control his pitches and keep it down in the strike zone. He showed better control tonight, but did not get the best results. Volstad also needs to find the strike zone better in general. Odd strike zone as it was, Volstad still got only 59% strikes and 41% first strike percentage, numbers that will eventually come back to bite Volstad. If he’s forced into bad counts early, he doesn’t have the control of his fastball yet to effectively throw in the zone and he has yet to be able to place his curveball consistently for strikes.
The Marlins pen has been deceptively good.
The broadcast on television flashed a graphic that said that the Marlins pen had gone 20 innings and allowed only three earned runs during that span. However, having watched the Marlins throughout that time period (this was from the start of Interleague Play), I knew the Marlins pen was outperforming their peripherals. I went ahead and tracked the numbers and sure enough:
20 innings, 3 ER, 14 K, 12 BB, 1.16 K/BB, 1 HR
That’s no dominant stretch, and it was no more evident than in the previous night’s game, in which the Marlins won 2-1. Leo Nunez and Dan Meyer combined for an ugly scoreless inning, the type of inning that quite often populated this 20 inning streak. Meanwhile, the Yankees themselves had a far more impressive 20-inning set in which they struck out 24 and walked only three.
The Marlins pen has been fragile all year long, with only a few players consistently playing well. Now with Kiko Calero on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, the workload falls into the inconsistent hands of Leo Nunez, Dan Meyer, and the always shaky Renyel Pinto. And it doesn’t help that the guy who is supposed to close your games, Matt Lindstrom, is as shaky as the others. Lindstrom so far has been a wreck in the ninth inning, posting a 1.30 K/BB and allowing too many hits with his poor location. Lindstrom has the ability to strike out major league hitters with his plus-plus stuff, but his location has been so erratic that he’s had no choice but to put up pitches in the zone that are getting hit through the infield. Tonight he had a similar issue, missing on his location and getting hit when he couldn’t spot his pitches. A look at the location chart:
The location of those pitches in the zone can’t populate the thigh-high middle of the plate. It’s not surprising he had a few of those pitches hammered for base hits. Lindstrom has suffered through a good amount of bad luck, having a .350 BABIP despite decreasing his LD% from last year. Still, he needs to stop compounding the luck issue with walks, which he should be able to control.