Fish-Cap: Starters dictate Marlins-Rockies series


The weekend series between the Marlins and Colorado Rockies was as simple as this: whoever had the best starting pitcher won the game. In Game 1 of Saturday’s double-header, Ricky Nolasco dominated and the Marlins cruised 5-1, while in Games 2 and 3 of the series, the Rockies sent out superior starters and the Fish were shellacked. Let’s look at those games and search for some points of interest.

Series Hero: Ricky Nolasco (0.404 WPA)
Series Goat: Chris Volstad (-0.274 WPA)
Impressed By: Ricky Nolasco (8 IP, 9 K, 0 BB, 0 HR, 0 R, 7 H,)
Depressed By: Chris Volstad (4 1/3 IP, 1 K, 2 BB, 2 HR, 7 R, 7 H)

The Good: Ricky Nolasco looks like his old self

Just this Saturday, I was discussing how Nolasco’s numbers up to his start against Colorado were more reminiscent of Nate Robertson than Johan Santana, pointing out low strikeout totals combined with merely league average walk rates. Nolasco then turned around and shut me up by putting up his best performance of this young season. Ricky threw 105 pitches, with 20 resulting in balls in play. Those BIP were spread out in terms of batted ball type, with seven grounders and either six or seven of both fly balls and line drives.

What was more important is what Nolasco did with the pitches that were not put into play. On Saturday, I mentioned Ricky’s lack of whiffs so far this year, but in this game he had no issue inducing them; Ricky got batters to miss on 26.5% of their swings taken. Among the pitches that were not swung at, 24 were taken for strikes while 32 went for balls, meaning that he was sticking very closely (and likely effectively) in the zone. Ricky also got the Rockies to chase on 18.8% (nine out of 48) pitches out of the zone. All in all, the numbers and scouting data from Pitch f/x speak for themselves: Ricky Nolasco was dominant in the Marlins’ lone win in the series.

The Bad: Robertson and Volstad flop

For all the good that Nolasco did, Robertson and Chris Volstad did just as much bad with their performance. Here is their combined line:

8 1/3 IP, 12 R, 4 K, 6 BB, 3 HR, 12 H

That is one ugly set of innings. Particularly disappointing was Volstad, who once again succumbed to his issue of 2009: the home run. Now, it cannot be blamed entirely on Volstad, as the team was playing in the thin air of Colorado. He did induce 11 grounders, which is absolutely a good thing. However, one only needs to see how Volstad did in getting strikes to recognize part of the problem. Volstad got 18 called strikes as opposed to 29 balls, but the utter lack of swing-and-miss stuff was appalling; he only induced one swinging strike, and that was to the pitcher Jorge De La Rosa. Colorado hitters were not the least bit fooled by anything Volstad was throwing. The Rockies were able to successfully lay off of 30 of 34 pitches outside of the zone thrown by Volstad as well.

Robertson was worse than Volstad. Think Volstad’s performance minus the ground balls. Robertson induced only two grounders and got very similar strikeout and walk results as Volstad. This shouldn’t surprise anyone because Robertson had to face a lineup with a lot of quality right-handed hitters, exactly the type of guys he cannot handle effectively. It will be interesting to see whether the team will continue to go to him at his regularly scheduled rotation spots. He’s looked OK twice and gotten shellacked twice, despite acceptable (for him) K% and BB%. He will end up going again on Wednesday on short rest this week.