After the heroics of Omar Infante on Monday for the first game of the series, the Marlins split the remaining games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, completing an excellent homestand with a slightly disappointing loss. In between the first and the last game, the Fish got a surprisingly good performance from Chris Volstad, who put up his first strong start of the season.
Volstad’s strong showing
I don’t often take a look at Chris Volstad’s starts, as they are neither impressive nor poor in any superlative fashion, but the start on Tuesday night was certainly a step in the right direction. As it should be for a ground ball pitcher like Volstad, it all starts with location.
This is likely something that you want to keep seeing from Volstad in terms of his location. With regards to the generic strike zone showed here, he missed no pitches above the zone, meaning he did a strong job of keeping the ball in the strike zone and away from the danger zone. You would still like to see him plant fewer pitches in the center of the strike zone and closer to the bottom of the zone, but he did a decent job of keeping the ball low enough to not get himself in trouble.
The work Volstad put in to keeping the ball low translated on the field, as Volstad was able to induce eight grounders in 17 balls in play. This of course is how Volstad can combat his primary problem, his difficulty with the home run ball. The advantage of him consistently pounding the strike zone is that those additional called strikes helped to make the most of Volstad’s seven swinging strikes. For a guy who lacks premium strikeout stuff, he needs to be around the strike zone in order to build up any strikeouts, and Volstad did just that. The key will be to see if he can repeat that low strike zone location consistently enough to both avoid home runs and keep the walks down, as his strikeouts will never be high.
Edwin’s Fredi-esque management
Manager Edwin Rodriguez has mostly avoided poor decision making so far this season, but in the finale against the Dodgers, he made some strange decisions that seemed fairly questionable at best and Fredi Gonzalez-like at worst. The first puzzling move was later explained adequately, as Chris Coghlan was apparently pulled for injury-related reasons. Coghlan had some discomfort in his shoulder that forced him out of the game after the seventh inning in favor of Scott Cousins.
However the bullpen management was flawed at best. Edwin wisely chose to keep his primary lefty specialist Randy Choate to only one batter, lefty Andre Ethier. But then Edwin inexplicably also pulled Edward Mujica after just one pitch (resulting in a double-play grounder to end the inning) in the eighth. Announcers Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton wondered what went wrong with Mujica in order to force Edwin to pull him despite no apparent need. After having blown through most of the pen due to the early exit of Anibal Sanchez, the Marlins were ill-equipped to enter the extra innings frame that the game eventually required. After putting in Leo Nunez to replace Mujica, the Marlins were forced to pinch hit for Nunez, leaving only Brian Sanches left in the pen to finish the remainder of the game.
The strange management decisions extended into the ninth inning as well, as I watched the Marlins attempt a sacrifice bunt that may indeed not have been necessary. With runners on second and third and no one out, the Fish attempted a sacrifice bunt with catcher Brett Hayes. The bunt itself isn’t much of a problem, I think; contrary to popular belief, proponents of sabermetrics are not wholly against sacrifice bunts. What I had a problem with was the continued attempt at a bunt despite Hayes opening with a 2-0 count. Batters are significantly after a 2-0 count; in 2010, hitters hit .285/.511/.475 after a 2-0 count. Even with a well below average hitter like Hayes, it should be worth taking a hack or two with a fast lead runner on base representing the winning run. If Hayes has even a 40 percent shot of getting on base without an out, why throw away that opportunity by forcing him to continue bunting? It did not work out as the Marlins wanted, as Cousins and John Buck failed to bring the runners in, but I would have brought this up regardless of the result, as I believe the Marlins played suboptimally in that situation.