Blogservations 06/28/09, Rays 5, Marlins 2
By Michael Jong
A dissapointing end to a Rays sweep of the Marlins at the Trop. Still, other than today’s game, you can make the argument that the Marlins matched toe-to-toe with the team with the best run differential in the American League, so you can’t be too disappointed with the way the team played over the weekend. Luckily, the Marlins start a set at home with their favorite remedy for a losing skid, the Washington Nationals. Let’s get to the game.
The Marlins’s bats struggled again in Tampa.
This was the cumination of a series-wide slump against superior Rays pitching. It was difficult to watch, especially following the herculean performance the team put up with the bat against Baltimore. The series with the Orioles yielded an insane .353/.384/.555 slash line for the offense, headed by Hanley Ramirez’s crazy series. During the Rays series, the team hit at a pedestrian .208/.297/.316, culminating in today’s four-hit outing. To their credit, the Marlins were able to muster out six walks in the process, the majority coming from Rays starter David Price, who was hittable the entire game and walked four. Unfortunately, the Marlins could not capitalize, putting little bat on the ball; all four hits were singles, two coming in a somewhat meaningless ninth inning, and very few balls were laced hard at anyone.
Part of this is a matter of luck. The Marlins matched the Rays in hitting the first two games (18 to 17 in favor of the Rays) but drew just five walks in the first two outings compared to the Rays’ 10. Neither team looked particularly good on offense, however, and many of the Rays’ runs came due to a bunching of base hits. The Marlins, on the other hand, spread out their hits more, an unfortunate but somewhat random event. We can’t get too down about the situational hitting, even as it frustrates us. But if the team’s hitting simply doesn’t improve, then the Marlins have a major problem.
We saw the old Andrew Miller.
Miller did an average job staying in the strike zone, getting around 60% of his pitches in the zone. His peripherals were also acceptable, four strikeouts and only one walk in 6 2/3 innings. The difficulty was once again location within the strike zone. A look at his detailed zone courtesy of Brooks Baseball.
He didn’t have a whole lot of success keeping the ball down in the zone, a critical thing for Miller as it has cost him in the past. Many of the hits you saw were middle or high in the zone, and he had a lot of pitches hit in play for fly balls that were conveniently caught. This is why sabermetricians often focus on strikeouts as vitally important; the blue dots representing balls in play could, with a little random luck shift here or there, end in play as base hits or out of the park as home runs just as often as they can be pop ups. Balls in play cannot generally be considered great outs, with ground outs getting some weight as decent outs because of the minimal risk of the ball in play turning into something more than a single. Today Miller got too many balls in play and the location of those pitches just wasn’t good enough to sustain that sort of out rate.
One thing to note about Miller’s performance was his ability to spot and work the slider. While many of his sliders missed low, he was able to keep the majority down and breaking hard against both righties and lefties. He spotted a good amount of them in the strike zone and picked up four or five whiffs off of the pitch, a decent tally and a sign that, with better location of his fastball, he can get the strikeouts and improve.
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