I couldn’t be happier with the Marlins’ victory last night over the Dodgers. It was a hard-fought win, a close game, and the Marlins did what they needed to do to get the victory. On to the observations.
JJ with another solid outing.
Josh Johnson didn’t produce his best outing again, but it was good enough to get the win and good enough for my sabermetric eyes. While JJ’s pure peripherals weren’t great (four strikeouts, no walks but two HBP), the batted profile was indicative of a good performance. Johnson forced 13 ground balls out of 21 balls in play, a solid 62% GB%. That’s the type of batted ball production that tends to keep hitters in the park and prevent big run swings. So far JJ has only allowed seven home runs this season, with HR/FB and HR/BIA (Balls In Air) rates that are lower than his career totals. Still, these values have regressed since last month and his totals still look excellent. Overall JJ is posting a 2.91 FIP and a 3.32 tRA, good for 10th and 9th in the league respectively.
Let’s look at last night’s pitches, courtesy as always of Brooks Baseball. Thanks Dan!
No surprises looking at this. JJ stuck with his fastball and slider combination, getting good break on both pitches. Check out the flight path.
He had the fastball tailing nicely into the right handers, and it could be seen both in the hit by pitches and the good number of a sawed-off foul balls in on the hands of the hitters (the few seen on Manny Ramirez’s plate appearances were a good example). In addition, he had both the fastball and slider dipping pretty well, and you can see on the path that he had good timing on the downward break of the slider, as it began its heavy drop less than 10 feet away from the plate, meaning the hitters are seeing fastball out of the hands. It doesn’t get too much prettier than that.
The Marlins got a lot of hits, but of the lucky variety.
The Marlins mustered nine hits off of Dodgers starter and recent dominator Clayton Kershaw, who had previously one-hit the Marlins in an earlier series this season. But in the previous outing, Kershaw had allowed five ground balls and three line drives, an unspectacular profile. This time around, the Marlins got nine hits despite only registering one line drive off of him, the first single by Ronny Paulino into left field. The only other well-hit balls off of Kershaw were the sharp groundball single by Brett Carroll and Wes Helms’ RBI double to bring in the Marlins’ first run. A numerous amount of Marlins hits tonight came as bloop singles falling into the gaps between second base and right field. While most people would take such hits, we need to temper our reaction in noting that these were lucky to be hits and had all the profiles of a soft popup. This won’t go on for the series, and the Marlins definitely need to swing the bats better if we expect to win this set. The Fish got by the hardest pitcher the Dodgers are throwing our way, so let’s take care of business and deal with the other two.
Fredi’s management of the bullpen is once again “traditionally” bad.
Bullpen management is one of my pet peeves because so many managers do it in a poor fashion. Fredi Gonzalez is one of those managers. I can’t blame him necessarily, since almost every manager would have done the same thing essentially, but since he’s MY team’s manager, I get to bash him for it. Coming into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Marlins were facing the heart of the Dodgers order, starting with Rafael Furcal and leading into Orlando Hudson and Manny Ramirez
Tommy Hutton made a comment that, given who is scheduled to hit, one might argue that the eight inning was the most important inning for the Marlins to take care of. I agreed, the most dangerous hitters were up, so this was the highest leveraged situation if you included the talent of the hitters involved. Of course, while one would think that that would warrant the best bullpen pitcher coming out to pitch, that certainly wasn’t the case. Instead, we got Brendan Donnelly, far from our best bullpen guy. He walked Furcal before getting the next two hitters out. Fredi rightfully brought in lefty Dan Meyer to face Andre Ethier, but Ethier doubled anyway, leaving runners on second and third with two out and righty Casey Blake due up.
Fredi then decided to go to the bullpen again. Here’s a situation when a good manager would then decide to bring his best bullpen guy onto the mound. If you presume that that is the closer (I don’t in this team’s case), then it would naturally follow that Leo Nunez would come out, as the platoon advantage is there and he would then stay on to close the evening out. Instead, Fredi sends Kiko Calero to the mound to face Blake. In this particular instance, I feel like that’s the right play because I think Calero is our best reliever. Having put out Blake, however, Fredi hands the ninth inning and the THREE-RUN lead to Nunez for the save opportunity.
Something there is inherently wrong. The following are the win percentages in each situation.
Calero enters: Dodgers Win% 8.4%
Nunez enters: Dodgers Win% 1.4%
My guess is that if Fredi didn’t feel that Nunez was the best reliever on the team, he wouldn’t relegate him to the closer role. But if he really was the best reliever on the team, wouldnt’ sending him out in the higher leverage situation make sense? We were up by three runs, so the leverage indexes didn’t get very high. But the situation clearly called for the team’s best reliever to come out. In addition, Fredi unnecessarily spent two bullpen arms instead of one. I’m certain either Calero or Nunez could have pitched the additional 1/3 of an inning that would have been necessary to get out of the jam in the eight. But because Fredi was hung up on handing Nunez a one inning save opportunity (because the NINTH INNING belongs to the closer, and no point earlier than that!), he used the extra arm.
Luckily, there’s an off day Monday before we start an important six-game homestand against the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs, so there should be plenty of time to rest the relievers if they tire. But rest assured these sorts of breaks won’t often happen, and with the way Fredi has managed his pen throughout his tenure as manager of the Marlins, you can expect tiring arms and potentially poor production, especially if he keeps needlessly throwing out closers to “shut the door” on three run leads in the ninth.