The one-run woes continue for the Marlins, who finish off a critical series against the Atlanta Braves by losing three games and taking a sweep in disappointing fashion. The Fish were close in each of the games played, losing each game in the one-run variety. If there was one positive to be had here, it is that the Fish got a great debut from Brad Hand, whose solid start in the opening game was a highlight of an otherwise disappointing series.
Series Hero: Brad Hand (0.183 WPA)
Series Goat: Gaby Sanchez (-0.380 WPA)
Impressed by: Brad Hand (6 IP, 1 R, 6 K, 1 BB, 1 HR)
Depressed by: Gaby Sanchez (13 PA, 1 H, 2 BB, 2 K)
Hand provides impressive debut
The Marlins are hoping they won’t have to turn to Hand often this early in the season, as having capable starters throughout the rotation and a top-five pitcher in Josh Johnson was their initial rotation plan this year. But if Johnson remains on the disabled list for a longer stretch of time than initially expected, the Fish would not mind taking the production Hand provided Tuesday night for the team. He was stellar in his major league debut, striking out six against just one walk and yielding just a solo home run to Alex Gonzalez.
The rate of hits allowed is obviously going to go up, but it was encouraging to see Hand successfully fooling hitters with his stuff. His fastball averaged just about 90 mph, hitting 93 mph on his max offering. Those numbers are above average for a left-handed starter, which is a good sign. He also mixed in his fair share of three other offerings, including a slider, changeup, and curveball. With these tools at his disposal, he induced 11 swinging strikes in 100 total pitches, which is above the league average as well.
His success in the minors has been primarily attributed to decent velocity on his fastball and good overall command, and those are two things he displayed in Tuesday night’s game. One thing he also displayed that has to get the Marlins’ collective blood boiling is a fly ball rate that is far too high. Hand allowed eight fly balls versus just two grounders in that game, which had to contribute in part to his low hit rate. Those fly balls are likely to be more susceptible to the home run, which is a problem at least one other Marlins pitcher seems to constantly have to deal with. Hand is not well known for a being ground ball artist, but he is not a fly ball machine like Rick VandenHurk was either, so this rate is simply unlikely to stick. Still, this is one point of concern in an otherwise excellent debut. With Johnson out at least another week, expect Hand to get one or two more cracks around the rotation.
One-run losses strike again
Remember when we were winning all of those close, one-run games? Well it seems regression is hitting our team hard and fast on those types of games, as evident by the results of the Atlanta series. The Fish could not escape with a victory despite being very close in each game. Sure, in two of the games the team was down for much of the game until mounting a late-game comeback that fell short, but it baffles the mind to see two teams play an evenly matched series, only to see one get swept.
It doesn’t get much more even than that on the offensive end, with the Fish likely outperforming the Braves in terms of hitting. You can imagine that the pitching was fairly even as well.
Once again, the Fish came out ahead in terms of peripheral play, playing even or better in each category against the Brewers. In the end, the Brewers came up with more timely hits in order to drive in runs; the Marlins had -0.20 “clutch” wins for the series, while the Brewers came out with 0.47 clutch wins in the series. That in and of itself was a swing in almost 0.7 wins for the Brew Crew. If the Fish were more fortunate in the clutch, they could have pulled out some of the games in this series, but this sort of play does not always happen, and the team cannot depend on winning the close ones every time. The current losing streak is unfortunate, but the Marlins were playing their opponents evenly during this time period.