Blogservations 06/24/09, Marlins 5, Orioles 2

Great win tonight by the Marlins over the Orioles. Every aspect of the game went our way and we were witness to a nice, smooth, non-one-run victory, something that seems a long time coming. Let’s take a look at what I saw.

Ricky Nolasco was dealing 2008-style.

Seems like it’s definitely safe to say that he’s back, ladies and gents. Nolasco had his third straight excellent outing, but this one seemed by far the best. Aside from the sixth inning, during which Nolasco gave up the only two runs he allowed, both unearned, he essentially cruised, allowing only five other baserunners in the remaining six innings. Nolasco was hammered for two doubles and a single in the sixth, but he wasn’t helped by Emilio Bonifacio’s error and untimely defense behind him. The Marlins’ defense was able to contribute two double plays and a rare caught stealing off of the lagging runner in a double steal, so Nolasco’s luck might have been evened out overall.

It was his all-important peripherals that showed off the stuff he never lost. He looked dominant again, striking out and walking one while keeping the ball on the ground, forcing 10 of 13 balls in play as grounders. This is important to see from a guy whose line drive percentage has shot up as his ground ball percentage dropped further. Nolasco has given up 24.7% of his balls in play as line drives, a good reason for the drastic increase in BABIP (.380 this season as opposed to .284 last year and .312 career). That can be expected to regress slightly (ZiPS has it heading down to about .342 this season), but with the way he’s pitched the last two or three games, I’d expect to see it go way down, closer to 2008 numbers.

As always, an obligatory check on where he was working tonight, courtesy of Brooks Baseball.

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You see from this that Nolasco littered the strike zone with a variety of excellent pitches, predominantly the fastball. He was able to get whiffs with his good curves down low and mostly stayed away from the middle of the zone. The pitches that did end up near that area were universally hit, but he didn’t make too many mistakes, and was able to stay in the zone effectively, throwing 68% of his pitches for strikes.

There was a bit of concern. Check out the movement chart.

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His fastball was consistent, but he missed badly on some of his curveballs, with one sitting in the slider range for vertical movement. Not surprisingly, you can tell which ones in the strike zone chart were the hangers, and you can see that they were hit hard for base knocks. Nolasco’s curve is his out pitch, and with less-that-lethal slider and only low-mid 90′s heat, he needs the full arsenal to be effective. You’d like to see Nolasco get the same biting movement on not just his curve but all of his auxilary pitches.

Bonifacio showed his skillset, however limited it may be.

I talked already a bit about Emilio Bonifacio on the BoniLine for the game, but there’s definitely some more to his work. Tommy Hutton and Rich Waltz have been asking for Bonifacio to hit more grounders to beat out, and in the last few games it seems the order of the day for him is to slap a high chopper somewhere in the infield for him to get a hit. From there, he displayed his speed by stealing and advancing from second to home on the throwing error by Matt Wieters and the lazy throw by Felix Pie. I’ll admit that that display of speed impressed me, but it remains to be seen whether he can ever get on base at an appreciable clip to make it happen.

It would indeed help if Bonifacio could get the ball on the ground more. He sports a similar LD% as he did last year but has seen hsi GB% drop from 55.4% to 48.8%. However, his BABIP of .303 is around league average, though it’s thirty points below last season’s .333. It’s difficult to say if Bonifacio’s problems could be solved by getting more grounders, but it’s worth a shot if he’s going to be taking up time at the plate for the Fish this year.

Bullpen talk has already risen to the surface.

You might have heard that Matt Lindstrom has been placed on the DL and is likely unavailable for the next six weeks. That combined with Leo Nunez still nursing his tweaked ankle from last night brought Fredi’s pen down in size significantly. With that, rumors swirled around a rare Email Wednesday about trade deadline acquisitions to bolster the pen. This would be one of the best moves the team could make, but at what cost? With two important cogs in the pen downed, the Marlins have only Nunez, Dan Meyer, and Renyel Pinto in there that they can “trust,” and I’m using trust loosely with Nunez and especially Pinto. Tonight, the Marlins got away with a big lead and minimal problems from the Orioles, but they won’t be always be so lucky.

Meyer has posted the best FIP of the three men, yielding a 3.56 so far this year. The 2.10 ERA is sure the bump back up near FIP levels, but he seems to be the best candidate for the ceremonial closer role. You’ve already heard my take on Nunez, and as for Pinto, I wouldn’t trust Pinto with my bag of chips, let alone my high-leverage innings.

Unfortunately, it’s just as likely that the best of the three, Meyer, will be stuck throwing during a three-run lead in the ninth, while Nunez and Pinto have to pitch the close one-run sevenths and eighths. Oh, the topsy-turvy world that is current bullpen management.

Topics: Baltimore Orioles, Brooks Baseball, Dan Meyer, Emilio Bonifacio, Felix Pie, Josh Johnson, Leo Nunez, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Wieters, Miami Marlins, Pitch F/x, Renyel Pinto, Rich Waltz, Ricky Nolasco, Tommy Hutton

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