The Marlins finished off what started as an extremely rocky series against the New York Mets with a relatively smooth finish, winning 3-1 last night against the Mets. After the turmoil with which the series began, Nate Robertson and Burke Badenhop thankfully gave us something to relax about (though Leo Nunez tried to keep us on our toes in the late innings with an almost-HR). Let’s look at the overview of the series.
Series Hero (Most WPA): Jorge Cantu (0.26 WPA)
Series Goat (Least WPA): Josh Johnson and Chris Coghlan (-0.14 WPA)
Impressed by: Gaby Sanchez (4/12, 3 2B, 1 BB)
Depressed by: Cameron Maybin (3/12, 1 2B, 2 BB, some bad defensive misplays in Game 1)
Now for some observations.
Don’t get too excited by Nate Robertson
When I came home from work and found that Robertson had pitched five innings, allowing one run, striking out four and walking none, I admit that I got a bit giddy. After the game, however, I checked BrooksBaseball’s awesome Pitch f/x tool for last night’s game and found a disturbing happenstance.
In Robertson’s five innings of work, he threw 94 pitches. In those 94 pitches, he induced four whiffs (swinging strikes)! For those counting at home, that’s a 4.2% whiff rate. How did he even get four strikeouts while getting only three whiffs? Well, it seems the Mets hitters were more than willing to let Robertson’s pitches get by them; only 33 of 94 pitches thrown were swung at. Of the pitches taken, 21 were called strikes, while the remaining 40 were called balls. In total, only 39 of his 94 pitches were considered in the typically used strike zone, a very poor 41.4%.
The lack of impressive stuff (despite the impressive results) shouldn’t surprise us at all. Rememeber, Robertson was facing a Mets lineup that entirely consisted of righties. We all know that Robertson struggles mightily against right-handers compared to lefties, so even though he looked like he did well last night, it did not seem like he was pitching all that well. I’m not sure how much longer that will last given his history versus righties. I think we may have gotten a bit lucky.
The Hopper looks good
On the other hand, Burke Badenhop did a very impressive job, again unsurprising given his generous platoon splits favoring performance versus righties and the righty-heavy Mets lineup. Hopper picked up two strikeouts and no walks in three innings (10 batters faced). He also executed his typical Hopper gameplan of getting the ball on the ground; Badenhop allowed eight balls in play, five of which were grounders. Because Badenhop was primarily facing same-handed pitchers, he was able to use his slider more effectively, getting his three whiffs from the pitch. His location was solid, as he was on the fringes of the zone for most of his pitches (18 or 19 out 28 pitches in the strike zone).
Tale of two young players
While Cameron Maybin’s last game last redeemed him a bit, it was still a tough series to watch for him. His Opening Day game was terrible. Not only did he make those costly fielding mistakes which led to a run-scoring double and a bloop single, but he looked awful facing Mets ace Johan Santana. In all three strikeouts, Maybin not only swung and missed plenty of times, but he was never all that close. Santana jumped ahead early on two of the K’s and Maybin provided little to no resistance to Santana’s changeup. The awkward, lunging swing Maybin provided looked like something out of a video game, when you swing way too early and your player gets completely off-balanced. Maybin simply was overmatched by Santana and that devastating changeup.
On the other hand, Gaby Sanchez looked solid at the plate for each of the three games. In Game 1, he battled through a nine-pitch at bat with Santana which eventually led to a single, then followed that up with a meaningless but still impressive double down the left field line. He doubled in Games 2 and 3 as well, driving in a run in the process. He also showed his ability to avoid strikeouts, going down only once on strikes. It’s too early to get excited clearly, but I was very impressed with Sanchez’ play in this series. He won’t obviously play at the pace he has so far, but getting to watch him work some major league PA has made me feel a little better about him. Keep an eye out, and hope for a solid offensive season.