Culminating in tonight’s tough loss to the Braves, the Marlins wrap up an overall solid series, taking two of three from Atlanta and continuing their winning ways. There was a lot of drama and interesting stuff going on during the series, so there was plenty of ammunition for Blogservations. Let’s get right to it.
Jeremy Hermida’s baserunning gaff was completely unacceptable.
I sucked in Little League (though in my rookie year, I had a 90% BB% and led my league in OBP from the ninth spot in the order!), so I don’t often talk about the fundamentals of the game. Basically, it’s presumed players of the caliber and level of Major Leaguers would know how to handle themselves given a situation such as the one Jeremy Hermida found himself in in the eighth inning of a tied ballgame in Game 1 of the series. I won’t get on Hermida too much, since he didn’t have a terrible series, but the tag out that he got caught in while lazily making a small turn around first after his single and not watching the ball or his position was simply unacceptable. In any game, let alone a close one like that one, that mistake was frustrating to watch. I screamed at my TV. I don’t think these sorts of plays affect games as much as people make them out to, but it was definitely appalling to see on television.
Ross Gload: Pinch Hit King
Ross Gload’s two-run pinch hit home run got me thinking about pinch hitting and the demands that it brings up. I think people overrate its value, as a player simply doesn’t get enough opportunities over the course of a year to make a significant impact in that department. On the season, Gload has 49 PA’s as a pinch hitter, yielding a .262/.347/.381 slash line and a small-sample-size (SSS) wOBA of .386 (before we get excited and wound up, Gload has reached four times on error in addition to his hits; this makes his slash line not agree with his wOBA, as ROE’s count more than singles in wOBA’s linear weights and, let’s face it, it’s only 49 PA’s). This line has combined well with that of his “gritty ones” partner-in-crime, Wes Helms, who has an equally crazy .418 wOBA in 34 pinch hitting PA’s.
But those are crazy small sample sizes, so we can’t take anything out of that. As a team, in 160 PA’s, the Marlins have a more modest .241/.325/.372 and a .334 wOBA. How’s the league doing? A .221/.312/.351 line and a wOBA of .300. At the amount of plate appearances the Marlins have at pinch hitting, this would translate to a 4.7 wRAA advantage in pinch hitting. That’s half a win above average in pinch hitting situations, which I think is fairly significant in those situations. While a .334 wOBA overall is good, not great, at least there’s one thing the Marlins have been doing pretty well this season.
Josh Johnson was not sharp again.
Anthony Hernandez over at Miami Sports Generation had a recap of that night’s game and pointed out how Josh Johnson is approaching an innings count he’s never seen before, and how that may be a cause for concern. I sort of feel the same way. Though I do not subscribe to the whole Verducci Effect (you can read about that here) and the idea that a young pitcher’s innings count needs to be as closely monitored as the effect seems to want, I am interested in keeping young pitchers healthy and sharp, and JJ having already gone through Tommy John surgery, his health is a big issue.
On Wednesday night Johnson looked weak once again. He struck out just one batter versus one walk while giving up two home runs. I’ve long been saying that JJ’s home run counts were waiting to regress and slowly it seems like they are creeping back up. To his credit, JJ is forcing more groundballs this season than he had in years past, but on Wednesday he allowed eleven groundballs but seven line drives to go along with six fly balls. Overall, in his six starts since his domination of the New York Yankees when the Yankees were in town last month, JJ has struck out a batter less per nine innings while walking more than half a batter more. In addition, using Baseball-References batted ball data, JJ was allowing a mere 4.4% HR/BIA (Balls in Air) in the starts up to that New York start, and 5.5% since.
We shouldn’t be all that surprised, since JJ was on a tear he likely could not have sustained in terms of home runs. Most pitchers allow around 9-11% HR/FB (not including line drives) and JJ should be no exception. What we should worry about more is his diminished strikeout rate. The sample size is too small and a bit cherry-picked admittedly, but let’s keep an eye out as we go forward.
The three-run save bites the Marlins.
So far Fredi Gonzalez has gotten away with his bullpen management, but last night’s game in particular was a good example of the potential pitfalls of traditionalist bullpen thinking. The Marlins had won Wednesday night’s game 6-3, but had used designated closer Leo Nunez in the ninth that evening for the “save opportunity.” As we all know, the odds of winning the game up 6-3 are almost insurmountable. Any reliever could have come in and shut that door, but because Nunez is Fredi’s closer, Nunez got the job. Tonight the Marlins had clawed back to tie the game at 3-3 in the late innings, only to see the game go into extras. Rich Waltz had mentioned that Fredi wanted to stay away from using Renyel Pinto (eliciting a sigh of relief on my part) and Nunez, particularly because they had been worked on multiple days running.
As a result, the late innings instead went to veterans Brendan Donnelly and Luis Ayala. The end result was Ayala allowing the home run to Brian McCann that eventually won the game. Is this is a coincidence? Sure. Ayala could have easily not allowed such a home run. But it doesn’t take away from the main point, just happens to be a result that agrees with the principle of the argument. If Nunez is the best reliever we have, why was he made available for a three-run save in the ninth of a game that was already essentially over and not available for a close ballgame during which his talents could have been useful? Instead we gave the ball to two veteran relievers who were recently signed and thrown into the fire, two guys who were midseason scrap heap pickups, by the way.
I don’t mean to continue to harp on this or bash Donnelly and Ayala for being veterans, but it’s inexcusable for Fredi to mess up the bullpen arrangement for games like this by playing your best relievers at the wrong times.