Uh, wow. Second time I’ve said that about the Marlins this year, and the second time also comes due to a giant come-from-behind rally. Let’s talk about some things in this game.
The huge rally
A shot of the rally’s plays from FanGraphs.
This was an odd rally in that it only contained singles and walks the whole way. Hardly is there a time when you load the bases and score four runs and all you can muster is four singles and two walks. To compound that, three of those singles were poorly hit balls; Nick Johnson’s weak line drive to left was followed by a Hanley Ramirez pop up into shallow right into an unoccupied space, and Jorge Cantu’s base hit was an infield single off of a Miguel Tejada bobble. Only John Baker’s line drive was well-struck. All in all, the Marlins picked up four runs and some dinky-dunk base hits, but you won’t see me complaining.
How about John Baker?
He was great last night. I’m unsure as to why Fredi moved Baker up to fifth in the order and dropped Dan Uggla to sixth, not that it made any real difference in the end. Nevertheless, Baker responded nicely and had a very good game with some excellent clutch base hits. On the night, Baker contributed .346 WPA and .011 WPA/LI, meaning that his clutch (leverage-weighted) WPA was .335. That should add a bunch to the FanGraphs total he has on his player page.
All season long Marlins fans have been exposed to weak play in the clutch. While I don’t believe that’s anything more than luck (i.e. the order in which you get hits can determine the difference between a shutout and a seven-run outburst in 10 hits), it’s good to see that the Marlins were able to put guys in with runners in scoring position. More on that and clutch stuff in a moment.
Fredi, bullpen management, yada yada again!
Fredi must have gone to the Trey Hillman school of bullpen management, because he was once again terrible tonight. First off, he forced Tim Wood, who replaced starter Chris Volstad after he struggled mightily, to pitch to the pitcher and take on extra pitches unnecessarily against a hitter any pitcher could reasonably get out. Wood eventually pitched the following inning without an issue, but on principle the move was terrible. Then, Leo Nunez is put into the game in his third straight outing, even though his previous evening’s outing was somewhat unnecessary because it was of the three-run save variety. Nunez promptly gives up the lead to the Astros.
I’m not saying that Nunez wouldn’t have done this anyway. But Nunez already isn’t a good reliever based on his peripherals this season (FIP of 4.56 and xFIP of 4.21), and putting him into a situation where he has to work a third straight game is just begging for trouble.
I’m tired of Fredi’s bullpen management. Somebody stop him.
How about Dan Uggla?
As an objective observer, I know this is exactly what should be happening to Uggla. You expect him to regress to the mean over time. But as a fan, I would be lying if I didn’t admit I wasn’t a Dan Uggla fan (love the name). For both the objective and fan me, it was really vindicating to watch him win the ballgame for the team. There have been a lot of fans who have gotten on his back despite him being just fine at the plate. Fans who complain about batting averages and clutch situations just needed to be patient. Uggla’s production would go back up, and right now it is trending upwards. He’s finally catching some breaks and getting his balls in play to fall. Tonight and in that ninth inning against the Cubs, he’s gotten the clutch hits, which may have shut up some of the complaints.
This doesn’t clear him of all the negativity. Uggla’s still terrible at second base and eventually needs to be moved from the position to preserve any value he might have offensively. But on offense, I trust in Uggla’s approach and power over most of the other hitters on the team.
By the way, side note. If you watched the broadcast (I caught the important innings after the game on MLB.TV), you might have heard Rich Waltz talk about how Nick Johnson’s presence has improved the Marlins plate discipline. Ignore the fact that’s simply ridiculous and listen to the names he lists. Waltz points out that Baker has decent discipline, Coghlan has shown it throughout the year, but guys like Cantu and Uggla have also improved their batting eye. Cantu, maybe. But Uggla? In case Waltz didn’t know, Danny leads the team in walks and walks in 14.4% of his plate appearances. To compare him to Cantu, who walked in 7.1% of his plate appearances this season, is utterly ridiculous. Uggla needed no help recognizing balls from strikes.