Fish Cap: Marlins Deal Twin Comebacks vs. Dodgers

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The Marlins took two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend, though no one would say those wins were of a convincing fashion. The Fish took two close games on clutch comebacks while losing a blowout Game 1. It is these sorts of series that give the Marlins the middling run differentials they always seem to have at the end of the year. Whether they played well enough to earn two out of three wins is for the viewer to decide.

Series Hero: Jorge Cantu (.475 WPA)
Series Zero: Dan Uggla (-.245 WPA)
Impressed By: Gaby Sanchez (12 PA, 2 H, 1 HR, 4 BB)
Depressed By: Dan Uggla (12 PA, 0 H, 0 BB, 4 K)

Game 2 Thoughts

Having been at one game of the series, I can tell you how the fans were riled up after one of those comebacks. If there’s ever a Marlins series to pick and watch live, it would definitely be the season opening series. The stadium packed 25,000+ that night, and that crowd was actually pro-Marlins, though I’d say the ratios of Marlins and Dodgers were actually pretty close. When Ronny Paulino hit that double off the wall, the section I was in went nuts. My throat was hoarse (as well it should have) after the bout of fanatic screaming I bellowed.

Similarly, I was extremely excited to watch Sanchez’ first home run as a Marlins starter. The shot was more of a line drive, but from my vantage point above the Dodgers’ pen, it was a no-doubter. A very exciting moment, and I was very happy to see Sanchez playing up to everyone’s expectations and exceeding my own. So far, color me very impressed.

Other than those moments, the game was a bit of a frustrating watch. Josh Johnson was better that night than in New York, but he still was not at his best. I would like to see him drop those walks, but the increase in strikeouts against a better Dodgers lineup was extremely encouraging. Johnson’s K’s appeared dominant, but his bad PA were clear and almost always resulted in walks or hits. His grounders were mostly finding people, but a couple of errors certainly did not help his cause (including one of his own fielding mistakes). The pen, outside of Burke Badenhop, once again looked bad. Tim Wood was called on in the eighth in part because he had pitched well prior to this game, but he quickly gave way to Dan Meyer and Jose Veras, neither of whom pitched all that well. This was a more acceptable outing from the back of the pen, but it could still use some improvement.

Anibal Sanchez had a weird start

I did not get a chance to listen to Sanchez’ start, but I found his line very odd. He limited his walks, which have always been his primary concern, and did not have a ball leave the park. His strikeouts (five) were excellent. He kept his pitch count down, finishing at 89 pitches (average of 3.29 pitches/PA). However, he gave up a staggering eight hits, which led to five runs. I went to check out his pitches via Brooks Baseball, as always.

Sanchez’ locations according to Pitch f/x were scattered all over the place, with a line of balls in play that run across the middle of the plate horizontally. Of the 68 pitches that were not put into play, Sanchez induced six whiffs. This translates to a 75% contact rate and a 6.7% whiff rate. Of the balls that were taken, however, something pretty telling could be seen; there were only 13 called strikes versus 31 balls. Pitchers did the exact opposite to Sanchez as they did to Nate Robertson against the New York Mets: they were actively swinging at his pitches. Now, Sanchez had better stuff and got more whiffs, but there is still room for improvement. The rate of BIP that go for hits will fluctuate and he should pick up outs at a decent rate, but if Sanchez wants to improve to the next level, he’ll have to increase that whiff rate to help boost his strikeouts.

The Clutch Kings

No discussion of this weekend’s series would be complete without pointing out the clutch hits of the series. Check out Game 2:

and Game 3:

Both matchups featured huge spikes towards the Marlins side. Cantu owned two decent chunks of WPA, as he tacked on both a three-run homer and two-run double, the double giving the Marlins a lead. In addition, Cantu also brought home the winning run in Saturday night’s comeback. Paulino put up an amazing .414 WPA with just one swing of a bat. These high-impact plays came in some pretty intense, high-impact moments. Cantu’s double came in a situation with a leverage index (LI) of 3.97, meaning the PA was close to four times as important or critical as a regular PA. Paulino’s came at a LI of 6.37, more than six times as important as the average PA.

One thing that may get lost in the shuffle of these plays is the work of the guys coming up behind Cantu and Paulino. Take a look at the Game 2 chart. The Marlins started the bottom of the ninth with a 10.4% chance to win if both teams were even. From there, look at the meteoric rise in win probability. The Marlins gained a little less than 90% win probability in a matter of five PA. From Sanchez’ single off George Sherrill to Wes Helms’ HBP and Chris Coghlan’s single, each guy contributed his worth. Kudos to Fredi Gonzalez for making the obvious but still excellent call to also pinch run for Helms with Emilio Bonifacio, utilizing his only major skill. Though these moves seemed obvious, they were executed appropriately and gave the team the best chance to win.

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