After two disappointing performances versus the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals, the Marlins were able to eke past the Chicago Cubs in two games out of three, even though all three games were close calls. The wins brought the Marlins back up a game closer to .500, but it certainly left a good feeling for everyone, myself included.
Series Hero: Ronny Paulino (0.388 WPA)
Series Goat: Jorge Cantu (-0.240 WPA)
Impressed By: Ricky Nolasco (7 IP, 1 R, 3 K, 1 BB, 0 HR)
Depressed By: Chris Volstad (6 IP, 4 R, 5 K, 4 BB, 0 HR)
Nolasco gets it done on the ground
Stupid non-baseball link first, since it just popped into my head. Hey, I found it funny. Now, back to Ricky’s start.
Nolasco threw seven innings of one-run baseball in the second game of the series, earning the team a 3-2 win. However, he did not earn that win in the typical Nolasco way, pounding the strike zone and racking up K’s. Sure, Nolasco was in the zone, throwing only 28 of his 90 pitches outside of the zone according to Pitch f/x (thanks to Brooks Baseball for the charts and data). Despite being in the zone 68.9% of the time, however, Nolasco only got three strikeouts to his name. Ricky did get eight swinging strikes, so it was a pretty typical night in terms of whiffs. It seems the Cubbies were putting more balls in play that evening.
Nolasco was able to compensate by getting those balls in play on the ground. Of the 21 balls in play Nolasco forced, 11 of them were on the ground, a GB% over 50%. There were two lefty hitters in the Cubs’ lineup that evening in Kosuke Fukudome, and the lefty did hit three of those ground balls on his own. Since Nolasco is more likely to use his changeup, one of his better GB-inducing pitches, to lefties, having Fukudome in the lineup certainly helped the ground ball rate. Still, one of Nolasco’s issues has always been above average home run rates, and an increased number of ground balls would be beneficial for his game.
Cantu continues to slump in May
In 12 PA this series, Cantu collected two hits and one walk, bringing his May wOBA to a dismal .222. So far this month, Cantu has hit .146/.196/.317, struggling to get anything going on balls in play (.125 BABIP) and posting a more level-headed and expected level of power (.171 ISO). The month of April, much like last year’s April, saw Cantu playing well over his head, so this little stretch is simply bringing him back down to his normal levels. Right now he has a completely acceptable .339 wOBA, off of a .269/.303/.489 slash line. Ironically, such a wOBA was right in line with some of the projections and what they were expecting this season.
Look, slumps happen to everyone, and Cantu of course will be regressing back up to his mean shortly. I found it annoying, however, when the media began crowning him as an All-Star caliber player because the Marlins were getting on base in front of him and he was having a great first month. Just like when players slump during April, guys who excel can too fall back to Earth, and this is what we’re seeing here with Cantu. No reason to panic, of course.