Blogservations 06/23/09, Marlins 7, Orioles 6

I was more than happy to see the Marlins take the win over the Orioles tonight, but let’s face it, wins like these are so gutwrenching and agonizing that it makes me sick just reminscing about it. Nevertheless, a win’s a win, and the Marlins pull into .500 with some self-inflicted drama. Let’s get into some analysis.

The Marlins pen exploded.

Just a few days ago I was talking about the Marlins and how their bullpen was deceptively good. The previous 20 innings of relief prior to Matt Lindstrom’s implosion versus the Yankees signaled troubling times ahead. The club couldn’t miss bats and walked more than their fair share, compiling a 14/12 K/BB. The home runs had been absent, and to the Fish’s credit they’ve kept most of the balls in play in the ground ball territory, but their luck was bound to run out.

Sure enough, everything came tumbling down tonight, as the bullpen gave up eight hits and five runs in just two innings of work. Most of the blame will fall on Lindstrom, who suffered his second straight terrible outing in failing to nurse a three-run lead, the exact lead he almost threw away to the Yankees. Lindstrom recorded two quick outs before surrendering four singles that resulted in the three runs that tied the game. Watching the hits however, one can tell that two things are afoot: 1) location issues, and 2) luck.

For Part 1, as always I give you some Pitch f/x love from Brooks Baseball.

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Don’t know if much else needs to be pointed out here. In the game he attempted three breaking balls, none of which did much in the way of breaking, at least not to the correct location. His fastballs were populating the middle and high end of the strikezone and, even at 97+ MPH, major leaguers can and will hit those pitches. His velocity was able to keep the swings to hard-hit ground balls, but it could only help Lindstrom’s case so much. He as lucky to see that hanging breaking ball in the middle of the zone go for a single up the middle rather than a long ball.

Still, with all those balls on the ground, he was unable to have one find a Marlins infielder, and that has really been a big part of the story of Lindstrom’s struggles. He isn’t the most consistent pitcher in the game, but tonight is an example of the types of innings that get out of hand against him. The balls were all hit fairly well, but they were choppers on the ground and not potential long balls; only one hit was anything like a line drive. Lindstrom needs to locate better, and maybe some of this will be remedied, but it can’t all be his fault.

While Lindstrom deserves to get much of the heat he’ll receive in the local news tomorrow morning, Leo Nunez should not be seen as a savior for this pen. Nunez has been very lucky this season, holding a .241 BABIP that should have regression on its mind. This is especially true with his increasing ground ball rate; he’s upped the GB% to 44% while lowering his FB% to 40%. This decreased fly ball rate has helped him tame his now average HR/FB, but the increased grounder rate should lead to spike in BABIP. Rest assured Marlins fans won’t want to see this happening while Nunez is closing.

With him, you get what you see. He has plus stuff, good velocity, middling control, and some susceptibility to the long ball. I mentioned earlier that these two are likely the same, and I stick to that. Tonight Nunez gave up a home run and a single before he tweaked his ankle, so he isn’t really lighting the world on fire either.

Andrew Miller was sharp once again.

Tonight Miller flashed the sort of potential the Detroit Tigers saw in him when they drafted him 6th overall in 2006. He looked sharp, getting efficient, quick outs and scoring average in the peripherals, striking out four and walking two. I’d like to see him get more in the way of strikeouts, as he won’t be as lucky to get easy ground balls as he was tonight.

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As you can see, Miller wasn’t fooling anyone with swinging misses, recording four that I could tell from the strikezone plot. He spattered his pitches throughout the zone, but worked too much in the middle and was the beneficiary of some rare good defense by the Marlins infielders. Miller was able to get strikes with this approach, throwing 62% of his pitches for strikes, but many were foul balls that might have turned into base hits with a little downturn of luck. That being said, he made his fair share of hitters look silly on some pitches and was able to deliver a fair amount of those strikes down in the zone like the previous game, so I’ll savor the one hit “gem” he threw out tonight and hope to see some more whiffs in his next start.

Brett Carroll should be starting immediately.

If it wasn’t obvious by now to Fredi, it should be. Carroll should be team’s right fielder at least five games a week. Tonight, in about three innings of defensive work, he made two excellent defensive plays, one with his arm and one with his plus range, that Jeremy Hermida could never make. The throw to second to nab Ty Wigginton in the 11th inning was marvelous and a potential game saver, and the grab he made on the run to end the ninth inning was subtly impressive. Carroll so far this season has posted a 4.1 UZR in 82 innings of work in right field. I don’t particularly care that he doesn’t hit, because someone in the lineup already doesn’t do that, and Carroll would be replacing that man. Even if Carroll and Bonifacio both carried equally limp noodles as bats to the plate, Carroll’s defensive worth in right field would blow away Bonifacio’s liability at third base. The added bonus is to move Chris Coghlan, who has struggled a bit in left field at the onset, back into the infield where he is more familiar. It just makes logical sense; can someone tell me why it hasn’t happened yet?

Fredi Gonzalez is a typical example of a meddling NL manager.

Long ago I thought things like the hit-and-run and the sacrifice bunt were critical to the game. I always thought in the mold of the National League manager rather than the “strategy-less” American League counterpart. After learning a good deal about WPA and the ridiculous importance of outs in the game of baseball (they are, after all, your most limited and thus precious commodity), I realized giving up outs for bases seems ridiculous unless the hitter in question was a complete dunce at the plate, i.e. pitchers.

Fredi Gonzalez is a National League manager through and through. He dislikes the DH and he loves “insider baseball.” He doesn’t pull the trigger too much on the hit-and-run, but boy does he love sacrificing! Remember when Hanley Ramirez laid a sacrifice down against the Nationals earlier this year? Fredi did it again, asking John Baker to sacrifice Cody Ross to second in the seventh inning. Baker failed to do so, forcing Ross out at second. Of course, Fredi naturally pinch hit for the pitcher afterwards and the inning got huge after a pair of singles and Hanley’s grand slam. Still, when the pitcher slot is due next, and your starter is cruising, why force a decent hitter to sacrifice AND pinch hit for the pitcher? Why not let Baker hit and have Miller bunt? If Baker moves the runner, you can still pinch hit, but if you bunt with Baker, you pretty much have to pinch hit for Miller to get the most out of the wasted out. This type of baseball is antiquated and National League managers need to stop doing it. Bunting is hardly ever, if at all, beneficial. We can’t be having anyone other than pitchers do it.

Marlins bats continue to wake up.

Good to see the Fish swinging the lumber better. They racked up 13 hits against Baltimore tonight, including two home runs by our offensive double team duo of Ramirez and Dan Uggla; the team tallied four extra-base hits in total. However, the work isn’t done yet. The Marlins walked just twice the entire game, both walks coming in the 12th inning and one of them intentional. The club also failed to string the hits together to force home some extra runs. Bonifacio in particular was at fault. Bonifacio’s high chopper to second base with the bags loaded to drive in a run only slightly diminshed the raging frustration I had when I watched him, after declaring it out loud while watching the game, ground into a double play involving a short throw home from the pitcher’s mound. The club once again couldn’t deliver the runs in the clutch, and such things need to come to an end if the team wants to compete for the NL East.

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Tags: Andrew Miller Baltimore Orioles Brett Carroll Cody Ross Dan Uggla Emilio Bonifacio Fredi Gonzalez Hanley Ramirez John Baker Leo Nunez Matt Lindstrom Miami Marlins

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