The Washington Nationals came to town and, despite thier excellent opening game against the Marlins, doled out two much-needed wins to the Fish, once again providing our team some “federal relief” in a sense. The Marlins got away with two blowout victories on the back of strong pitching and a renewed source of power.
Series Hero: Hanley Ramirez (0.251 WPA)
Series Goat: Ricky Nolasco (-0.245 WPA)
Impressed by: Chris Volstad (9 IP, 8 K, 1 BB, 0 HR, 4 H, 1 R)
Depressed by: Cameron Maybin (14 PA, 2 H, 1 2B, 3 BB, 3 K)
Chris Volstad’s Perfect Start
Volstad’s Saturday start against the Nationals may have been the best he has ever looked in the big leagues. A complete game allowing only four hits and walking just one guy is exactly the sort of thing Volstad needs to do. He is not likely to pick up eight strikeouts every time out there, but he is capable of doing that with the stuff he has.
Volstad was able to complete the game in only 114 pitches, cruising at 12.7 pitches per inning (3.4 batters per inning). With the solid pace, you would expect Volstad to be hitting the strike zone consistently, but he did throw 44 balls as opposed to 26 called strikes (1.69 B:CS ratio). He also only induced five swinging strikes, which makes you wonder he got eight strikeouts. Of course, the timing of those strikes was solid, and he certainly helped himself out by inducing the right types of balls in play as well. Volstad got 11 grounders out of 22 balls in play, exactly a 50% GB%. Ideally, you’d like to see more, but it’s a good start.
I was impressed with the numbers on Volstad’s two-seamer/sinker. In total, it appears he threw 62 of those pitches, getting four of his five whiffs off of them. Here was the location of those pitches:
Don’t let the large number of pitches that seem outside fool you; Volstad faced a good deal of lefties on that day, and pitches that seem a bit outside against righties are traditionally called strikes against lefties. Truthfully, the strike zone is widened to that side against lefty batters, while it is generally shrunk vertically. Volstad threw 22 balls and got 19 called strikes with the sinker, an impressive mark. He was averaging the pitch in the low-90′s with decent sink (average vertical break around 7.5 in, while most four-seam fastballs are in the 9.0 range). I would say that this was about the closest to perfect that we could expect from Volstad. This start was his best that I can recall.
Hanley homer power
A few weeks ago, people were disappointed in Hanley Ramirez’ power numbers. By the end of the Colorado series, he had only one home run and five extra-base hits, slumping down to an un-Hanley .288/.395/.384 slash line. That was still good for around a .340-ish wOBA, but nothing like we’d expect to see from Hanley. Was something wrong with him?
Clearly not. Since then, he’s batted .409/.458/1.000 (no lie), hit four home runs (five extra-base hits total), and pushed his wOBA back up over .400 for the season. Here are Hanley’s five homers so far this season according to HitTracker Online:
And linked here are the three homers against Washington, again from HitTracker, with the range rings to show you the distance context. The second one off of Miguel Batista was a cheapie over the Teal Monster, but as you could see by the flight paths of the other two, there was nothing cheap about them. Both were above 400 ft in distance by a good amount. On average, Hanley’s homers have traveled 403 ft, pretty good for a guy who was “struggling” to hit homers. Truthfully, it was all a matter of random fluctuation; there’s nothing wrong with our superstar.
Carroll/Coghlan splitting time
Brett Carroll got the start over Chris Coghlan on Sunday versus John Lannan, and he did pretty well for himself. Carroll went one for two with a walk and a HBP as well. Carroll has a hot bat at the moment, and with Coghlan still struggling at the plate, Fredi Gonzalez may be trying to “ride the hot hand.” Of course, we know that Carroll is not close to as good a hitter as Coghlan, and that in due time both players will regress and get closer to their projections. But it seems the team’s patience with Coghlan is thinning a bit.
The primary concern with CC for me is the strikeouts. After whiffing only 77 times in 565 PA last year (13.6% K%), Coghlan has struck 23 times so far in 92 PA (25.0% K%). As I’ll discuss a little bit later today, strikeouts aren’t so much of a problem if you have other tools, but Coghlan is dependent on contact to get on base and provide value. If he cannot do that, he’s in trouble as a major leaguer.
He showed good signs in this series, getting two hits and two walks in seven PA. Here was how his selectivity looked like in the series (36 pitches total):
Chris didn’t get much to hit, but he did seem to swing at the right stuff, including some borderline high pitches (his strike zone is a little shorter than the one show here) that were probably decent to hit. I only see one really egregious swing there. Hopefully he recovers and gets back to being the Coghlan of old (or at least the Coghlan I expected). We’ll need his offense if we are to make a playoff run.