There is not much to say regarding the four-game sweep of the Marlins this past weekend at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew sent out two of their best starters, but aside from the last game of the series, the Marlins hung on throughout in a set of well-contested games. So why should we be upset? Well, despite the fact that the team played well enough to win three games, the Fish came out with no victories, and a lot of that has to do with the very nature of one-run games.
The one-run game rant
This has been stewing in me for a little while now, and I am glad to get a chance to discuss this. Before the season started, this is what Edwin Rodriguez had to say about what he wanted out of the Fish:
“The second thing we’re going to be working on is we’re going to teach them to win those close games,” he said…”You’re not going to see those guys on Philadelphia allowing a three-run home run too often,” Rodriguez said. “So, whenever they give us a chance, we have to make sure we score one or two runs. A big inning for those guys is two runs. So we have to make sure we score that run, stay away from the big inning defensively.”
At the time, I commented on how silly that sounded, and the Diehards did as well. However, the Marlins started off well in terms of winning the one-run games, and I can imagine it only fueled the idea that this thing that Rodriguez wanted them to do was possible. But now that the team has lost four straight one-run games, the team stands at 14-9 in those games with a Pythagorean record of 13-10. That means that we would have expected the Marlins to win one less game having palyed the way they have in one-run affairs.
That difference is small, but the point is important: one-run affairs are often games that are tightly competed and tied for much of the time, meaning that teams will have a 50 percent chance of winning those games the majority of the time. The idea that the Marlins could have done something strategically different to drastically change their outcome on one-run games is ludicrous.
Take this series for example. The Fish lost three games by one run each, yet their performances were not a whole lot different than those of the winning Brewers.
If we looked at wOBA instead of OPS, I would not be surprised if the results were similar as well. The truth is that the Fish and Brewers both played well enough to win those games but in the end, it was the Brewers who came up on top. On Friday evening, Nunez gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun following a bloop single by, of all people, Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt came through the next evening as well, doubling home the eventual winning run off of Chris Volstad despite a game that remained close throughout.
In the final one-run loss, the Fish lost in extra innings (the epitome of a closely competed game) off a home run by Josh Wilson, he of the career .228/.281/.322 slash line. These things happen, and they are mostly random. Is it disappointing? Of course, but in the long run all of that stuff evens itself out and what you end up with is an expectation to split a set of games decided by one run. It just happens to be that the Fish did not split these games, but they played well enough to win, and no amount of coaching about “winning the close ones’ by Rodriguez will help in that department.
Vazquez velocity update
Though Javier Vazquez got roughed up to the tune of eight hits and six runs last night, there were still some excellent signs. In particular, his velocity was once again a positive sign; for the fourth straight start, Vazquez’s fastball velocity is up to the 89.5 mph range, averaging 89.8 mph last night and topping out at almost 94 mph. Again, it was no surprise that Vazquez pitched well in terms of his peripherals in part due to the velocity increase; he struck out six hitters with just one walk, incuding ten whiffs along the way. His velocity was dipping throughout the game, such that his pitches past pitch 60 were getting a bit slower, but this is not surprising, as he has shown this sort of trend in his last few successful starts. Right now, he has a 4.01 FIP and a 4.74 ERA through those last four starts, with a .262 BABIP. Those are numbers the Fish will take any day compared to the Vazquez of old.