The Marlins played well throuhgout much of the series versus the Washington Nationals, but the ugliest game of the three-game set ended in the worst fashion, with the Marlins giving up the walkoff home run to Ryan Zimmerman in the ninth up 4-3. It was a disappointing loss to an otherwise promising series, but it did not ultimately help; with the Colorado Rockies completing a sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend, the Marlins are now once again mired five games back of the Wild Card leader.
Leo Nunez has a Lindstrom-esque ninth inning.
Let’s take a look at that ninth inning, courtesy as always of Brooks Baseball.
It took only five pitches for Nunez to throw the game away, giving up three runs on two home runs. As you can see the location of the first home run to Willie Harris (!) was high and in and was pulled over the right field fence. The location of the single by Christian Guzman was in a similar area. The location of the Zimmerman home run caught way too much of the plate, and that’s how Nunez threw away three runs in five pitches. I’d be willing to give Nunez a break on the pitch to Harris, because Harris has a career HR/FB% of 5.2%, so his power is lacking and that may have been luck. But to throw a pitch over the plate with the dangerous Zimmerman up at the plate was definitely murder.
I’m not exactly sure where the idea that Nunez was “closer material” came from. His stuff is good, but he doesn’t miss as many bats as Kiko Calero, Dan Meyer, or Brian Sanches (as of right now). Nunez’s issue is currently home runs, and undoubtedly a few of those homers would have generally fallen for outs, but even if you take xFIP (which normalizes homers to the league average at that number of fly balls), Nunez is still behind Calero and Meyer in terms of defense independent stats.
The Marlins bullpen has gotten fairly lucky in terms of home runs, a primary reason why they have a decent 3.95 FIP (and ERA as well) as a group. Perhaps none of their relievers are worthwhile to work in high leverage situations; by xFIP, no one reliever is the clear choice. But I think Fredi Gonzalez should at least consider moving someone else into this role given Nunez’s performance. Unfortunately, blown saves are pretty much the only thing that will get a closer ousted, and apparently six blown saves simply isn’t enough for the Marlins to take him out of the role.
It was a mixed starting pitching bag.
The Marlins got up-and-down performances from their starting staff this weekend. To start, Sean West did in the first game what Sean West does in most of his outings; he took the game into the third inning, got unlucky with the balls in play, and got booted from the game. His peripherals so far this year have not been terrible (5.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9, more or less) and he perhaps deserves some more starts, because he appears to finally be commanding his pitches. 43 of West’s 68 pitches went for strikes, and he got seven whiffs along the way, distributed evenly among his fastball and breaking pitches.
Josh Johnson followed in the second game with a mediocre outing. The results were positive, as he only gave up two hits and one run, but he walked three and only struck out one hitter. Johnson was in the strike zone getting 53 out 82 pitches in for strikes. However, of the 53 strikes, a whopping 38 of them were of the foul ball variety. JJ only induced six swinging strikes and nine called strikes, meaning hitters were looking to swing at his pitches and making undue contact. Johnson did get the Nats making poor contact; he induced eight ground balls out of 14 balls in play, with only one line drive in the bunch. Still, the lack of missed bats is alarming.
Finally, the weekend ended in a solid start by Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez had five strikeouts versus two walks, and was decently around the strike zone, with 58 strikes out of 92 pitches. Of those strikes, nine were of the swinging variety. More of these starts from Sanchez are going to be critical as the team continues to piece together its rotation as the playoff run continues.