Sorry for the extended absence, loyal reader(s). I’ve just completed my move to my new place over the weekend and I have had difficulty accessing the Internet. This has prevented me from not only reviewing the excellent Cubs series but even watching it (I don’t plan on getting cable and the MLB.TV package I just purchased does not allow me to watch the Marlins live as they are local blackout)! Anyway, I have some time right now and I wanted to rant more than statistically discuss things that occurred over the weekend with the Marlins and Cubs.
Drama levels high all weekend
Every game was a close one in this series. Even the Marlins’ 5-2 win in the series opener was close until the Fish blew it open in the eighth with a nice three-run rally. The drama that unfolded on Saturday night and late Sunday afternoon was certainly nerve-racking on either side. Kevin Gregg blows two saves in a row against the Marlins, one of them being of the three-run variety, and you know how rare those are. Emilio Bonifacio, fresh off of a rightful demotion to pinch-runner, subs in for Hanley Ramirez after a leg contusion knocks him out of the lineup. Bonifacio then promptly goes 2-for-2 with a walk and game tying triple in the ninth! Dan Uggla and Cody Ross go back-to-back home runs in ninth of the Sunday game with the Marlins down one against Gregg, inducing walk-off madness. It was truly a sight to behold; watching the highlights made me all goosebumpy.
As an aside, I knew there was a reason we traded Gregg. He’s been OK, but as a reliever you’ve got to be better than that, and if the Cubs are going to toss difficult situations at him all year long, I suggest Cubs fans settle in for a crazy ride. It’s never an easy ninth with Gregg.
Good early returns from Nick Johnson
Nick Johnson got his first two games in with the Marlins and did not disappoint. Though he struggled to an 0-for-3 night in Sunday’s big win, Johnson still eked out a walk in the process, which is more than I can say for most Bonifacio evenings. In the heartbreaking 9-8 loss on Saturday, Johnson shined, going 2-for-3 with a double, two walks, and a ninth inning single that preceded Bonifacio’s huge line drive triple to center field. In just two games and nine plate appearances, Johnson has drawn about a tenth of the walks Bonifacio has drawn all season. There are definite signs that he’s lost a good deal of power, and he certainly isn’t pretty out there running when he’s on base, but I’d much rather have him clogging the basepaths than have Bonifacio clogging the bench after a weak groundout. Let’s hope Johnson can keep up this type of production.
Chris Volstad looked good.
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that I enjoyed watching Chris Volstad’s start. Though I shuddered when he gave up the game-tying Jake Fox home run just as I thought about his home run problem, in general Chris pitched a good game. Here’s a look at some charts, as always from Brooks Baseball.
Immediately I spotted him hanging up curveballs, which is never a good thing. It seems he got quite a few pauses on those pitches, likely meaning that the hitters had a hard time recognizing curveball out of his hands. The curves he was burying low in the strikezone simply weren’t hittable, inducing a couple foul balls and groundouts along with a few poor calls. The best part about it, however, was that the curve, along with the rest of pitches, stayed in the strikezone. Volstad hit 62.5% of his curves in the zone, impressive given the pitch’s heavy dip.
Check out these awesome flight paths.
Look at that movement is right, Maniac! According to the flight path chart, Chris was getting a half-foot difference in vertical and horizontal break in his fastball and changeup! Combine that with the an approximate nine MPH difference between the pitches and the mostly identical release point, you’re going to get hitters flailing at pitches and being off-guard a lot. Tack on the fact that Volstad kept both pitches in the zone (73% on his 52 classified four-seamers and 92% on his 14 changeups) and you’ve got a three-pitch arsenal between his fastball, big curveball, and changeup that can induce some uncomfortable at-bats. Sure enough, while Volstad only induced five swinging strikes, he picked up five strikeouts while not recording a walk. If Volstad can be this strong with his strikezone and get the ball down in the zone even more, he might be able to alleviate his home run problems and continue this type of success.