Blogservations, Marlins-Nationals series


I know I wasn’t able to get a Blogservations piece for the first two games of the series, but I figured I’ll put up some quick analysis for the series in general in this installment of Blogservations. If I miss out on a series game or two, expect a series recap Blogservations piece from now on, given my busier schedule.

Ricky Nolasco = Hit

Ricky was a hit once again, striking out eight and walking none in eight solid innings of work to pick up the win in the first game of the series. Nolasco could not have chosen a better time to regress back to the mean for the Marlins. Ricky posted a ridiculous month of June, striking out a batter per inning while walking fewer than two per nine, to the tune of a 2.29 FIP and a 1.93 ERA. With Nolasco’s hot month, the team hopes that he’s once again regained 2008 form. The thing is he’s never really lost it, being the scapegoat of an upper-.300 BABIP and a sub 50% strand rate. These numbers are now regressing, as Nolasco is getting less balls to fall in for hits and less of these hits in bunches. As a result, the peripherals shined, and he outdueld Josh Johnson for the month. This week’s outing is yet another in the line of outings that say Nolasco’s ace capabilities are still present and accounted for.

Josh Johnson = Miss

JJ struggled for his second outing in a row, but as opposed to the Rays start, in which he was merely less impressive, against the Nationals he legitimately struggled. This afternoon JJ labored through 41 pitches in a gruesome second inning that only luckily ended in a run allowed. He gave up eight hits in 3 1/3 innings, striking only three Nationals out while surrendering four runs. A look at his Pitch f/x data, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

Johnson threw about 24% of his pitches as sliders, and the slider worked effectively enough, eliciting a 62% strike percentage and eliciting three whiffs by the Nationals. But his fastball was not locating well, to the tune of only 56% strikes. The location of his pitches overall seemed solid enough, with no hanging sliders and only a few poorly located fastballs that happened to be hit well. Johnson’s main issue today was simply missing the zone, and the rare four walk-outing shows that. There should be no worries heading into the future, but I think the Marlins would be well served to rest Johnson for a start and maybe be cautious about his use in the All-Star Game. His last two outings were uncharateristically flatter than usual, and in this one he seemed to be laboring way too early in the ball game. The rest and the weekend break could be of great use to him, as he’s carried the tenth highest inning load in baseball so far this season.

Renyel Pinto = Won’t be missed

Pinto helped this game get into the late innings with extra drama with his wonderful 1/3 inning, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks while missing nothing but the strike zone. For about a full season now, Pinto has been absolutely atrocious out of the bullpen, and the only reason why he should still have work is because the Marlins don’t have any alterior options. The worst parts about his performance in this season:

1) Pinto is allowing a career low in HR/FB while allowing a career high in FB%.
2) Pinto’s BABIP has remained significantly below .300 all of his career for no real reason. This season, he’s allowing far more fly balls than in previous years, but his BABIP is actually at its highest value yet.
3) He walks almost six guys per nine innings and has been staying afloat on the back of an unsustainable 83.8% strand rate. Most major leaguers get rates around 65-68%, but even for Pinto’s numbers (career strand rate of 78.9%) it seems high.

All of it makes me believe he’s been ridiculously lucky to have the sort of success he has at times obtained. He strikes out a lot more men than you’d expect with his kind of stuff, but the walks have lead to a huge number of baserunners in his outings and that strand rate simply can’t continue without him showing more control. I understand that Fredi is handcuffed and has to use him, but I think starting Pinto in low-leverage situations may be the best way to keep him from hurting the team and rebuilding his approach on the mound. At the very least, in such a case he’ll only be manufacturing a high leverage situation for the next guy, not compounding an existing problem.