(Note: The Marlin Maniac will be out the rest of the day today and the morning tomorrow while tending to his semester finals. I’ll be back Tuesday afternoon with a series preview for the upcoming three-game tilt versus the Pittsburgh Pirates, then I’ll return in full force Wednesday once my finals are complete. -MJ)
The Marlins’ series with the Philadelphia Phillies ended in a rain-shortened draw, as both clubs played an evenly-matched set of two games and came out with a series split. Among the two games, there were some good and some bad signs to look out for, and Marlin Maniac is here to take a look at those signs.
Vazquez disappoints in third outing
Once again, Javier Vazquez failed to impress in his start despite the seemingly acceptable numbers. Sure, he only gave up three runs on five hits in five innings, but the picture looked a lot worse when looking at his peripherals. The immediate problem that sticks out like a sore thumb is his utter lack of stuff; he recorded just one strikeout versus four walks and his velocity was down even worse than usual. While Vazquez was able to average in the high-80′s with his fastball in Houston, against Philadelphia he averaged a pathetic 85.7 mph according to Pitch f/x. Part of that could have been a weak radar gun, as his other pitches outside of his curveball also fell in average velocity compared to usual. However, it would not surprise me to see that his stuff was falling further in velocity given what we’ve seen of his game in the last year or so.
That fall in velocity and lack of swing-and-miss stuff (he only recorded three whiffs in the start) have to be contributing to his control problems. He just hasn’t been able to pound the strikezone as he did in season’s past, likely because of the weakening of his fastball; without that effective fastball, he has had to depend on nibbling around the strikezone. When he ventures with the fastball into the zone, hitters are simply taking advantage, as evidenced by the fact that hitters are whacking his fastball at a rate of four runs above average per 100 pitches so far this season. Just in this start, Vazquez’s fastball was worth 0.18 runs above average for hitters, while the rest of his pitches were in his favor. It seems that decreased velocity is slowly withering away at Vazquez’s prime gameplan, and he may very well not recover.
Infante the fall man in the finale
Omar Infante had a bad game in terms of clutch on Sunday. Among all of the starting players, Infante saw the second highest average Leverage Index (LI) on his plate appearances; his average plate appearance was worth almost two and half times the league average in terms of wins. In particular, Infante had two plate appearances that were worth 3.3 and 6.8 times the usual plate appearance in Sunday’s game, and in both situations he failed to deliver. With runners on first and second with one out in the seventh inning, Infante was tasked with finding a way to get a hit and move Emilio Bonifacio and Chris Coghlan around the diamond. Many of you who have read my Twitter account know that I am not fond of Infante’s weak fly balls, but at least a weak fly ball out here would not have ended the inning. Instead, Infante manages to hit a ground ball right to Placido Polanco, hand-delivering him an inning-ending double play. That sapped 0.206 WPA from the Marlins, meaning that double play knocked the Marlins’ chances of winning down 20 percent.
The other important plate appearance was the last one of the game, with two outs in the top of the ninth. Closer Jose Contreras was not looking terribly sharp, having walked John Buck and Chris Coghlan during the inning. Infante came up with runners on second and third with two outs and needed once again to deliver a single to possibly bring in the go-ahead run. Instead, he manufactures another routine ground ball out to end the game, taking away the remaining 20 percent chance of victory that the Marlins had. In just two plate appearances and two ground balls, Infante’s poor timing took away 40 percent of the Marlins’ odds of winning. Not a good day.
Evenly matched series
Other than those isolated problems, this series has been mostly evenly matched. Check it out:
The two teams were pretty evenly matched in every aspect other than FIP and its components, meaning the Marlins depended perhaps a bit more on their defense. Nevertheless, the team has to feel pretty good that it came out so even with a Philadelphia Phillies team two of its better starters (though not its best). At this point, I think we would take an even performance against the Phils.