This weekend’s series with the Houston Astros brought up some strange questions for the Marlins. Aside from the first game of the series, the Fish looked ugly even in victory, and the truth is that the team was somewhat lucky to come out of the Houston trip with two wins instead of two ugly losses. These fierce comebacks don’t come very often, and the Marlins needed every bit of these sorts of comebacks to escape with wins this series.
Clutch hitting dominates Marlins offense
Much of the Marlins’ offense came on the back of a few clutch hits in this series. In other words, the Fish used a few situations to tally a good share of their two wins in the series. The fun began in the first game, when Logan Morrison delivered a clutch double with one out and runners on first and second in the eighth inning.
The double plated Greg Dobbs and tied the game at 2-2 at the time, so the situation was quite critical. Going into the plate appearance, the Leverage Index (LI) of the situation was at 4.81, almost five times more important than the average plate appearance. Morrison’s double brought the Marlins’ chances of winning up from 32.8 percent to 68.4 percent, a whopping 0.356 WPA swing in momentum. Donnie Murphy‘s resulting single brought an additional 0.151 WPA and gave the Marlins the lead that Leo Nunez eventually closed out.
The shot tied the game at 4-4 and brought home 0.266 WPA to the Marlins side. In fact, the combination of those two plays that brought the score from 4-1 to 4-4 brought the Marlins all the way back from what was at one point a game that Houston had a 93.2 percent chance of winning. Even within the inning, the Marlins had a less than 10 percent chance of winning after Omar Infante‘s groundout. The team clawed its way back up to a 44.5 percent chance after the Dobbs home run.
An inning later, Chris Coghlan and Infante delivered back-to-back doubles and finished the game off for the Fish, adding 0.313 WPA combined in driving in those two extra runs. In total, these four plays added up to almost a full win for the Marlins. In other words, the team certainly didn’t “chip away” this weekend.
The hard slide
Hanley Ramirez missed two games in the series because of a leg contusion suffered on this play at the hands of Astros second baseman Bill Hall. Opinions on the slide were mixed; some called it dirty and others said it was a legitimate play in an attempt to break up a double play. From watching the replay, it does seem like the slide comes in late and a bit past the bag, but because these plays happen so commonly around baseball, I would not think much of it if Ramirez hadn’t crumpled to the ground and writhed in pain afterwards. In addition, with the Minnesota Twins’ Tsuyoshi Nishioka recently suffering a broken leg as a result of a similar play, this sort of potential injury was fresh in fans’ heads. I doubt that it was a dirty slide, but I can see why people would get up in arms about the play, and it could have had the potential for an even worse outcome.
It seems like both sides basically felt the same way. Ramirez was quoted as saying he was fine with the slide, noting that it was a clean play in an attempt to break up the double play. Hall reaffirmed this opinion as well:
"“I know Hanley’s a great guy,” said Hall. “We’re actually friends. I know that he wasn’t upset by what I’d done. He understands the game and knows I made the right play. Like I said, I’m going to continue to play the game hard and he’s going to continue to play the game hard. I expect him to slide in the same way, or anybody else the same way.”"
Nevertheless, the umpires were careful and http://florida.marlins.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110410&content_id=17634466&vkey=news_fla&c_id=fla for Edward Mujica and Astros reliever Aneury Rodriguez for beanballs that occurred in the final game of the series. Neither team said they were doing things intentionally, and I believe them. I’m glad to see that out of a potentially dangerous situation both sides came out cordial and relatively understanding afterwards. If Nyjer Morgan and the Washington Nationals had done the same thing last season, it would not have resulted in Gaby Sanchez clotheslining Tony Plush into next week. Ramirez should be back Tuesday for the Marlins’ series versus the Atlanta Braves.
Sanchez: shaky or unlucky?
As with most answers in baseball, the question of what to make of Anibal Sanchez‘s start against the Astros in the series finale has a mixed answer. Part of it was him not performing well certainly; it’s rare to allow that many hits and not have some problem with your location. However, it seems like he wasn’t placing his stuff that poorly.
It does look like he served up some meatballs down the middle, but for the most part he stayed away from the middle of the zone. Unfortunately, when he strayed towards the center, he got beat, which doesn’t always happen as consistently as it did to him yesterday. In addition, of those various teal dots representing balls in play that were not converted into outs, many of them were of the blooper or dribbler variety. Of Sanchez’s 20 balls in play, 12 of them were of the ground ball variety, meaning that he did an unusually good job of limiting the power damage that the Astros offense could have delivered. However, of those 12 grounders, seven of them went for hits, including a double down the line to opposing pitcher J.A. Happ. In addition, Sanchez gave up a hit of an astounding six of his eight fly balls and line drives. The harder hit ones were justified as hits, but in watching the game, you could see that Sanchez allowed more than his fair share of bloopers that fell onto green grass instead of brown gloves.
When you try to look at Sanchez’s stuff, you don’t see much to complain about. His fastball was certainly moving, sometimes in very odd directions given his Pitch f/x breakdown. It also averaged 91 mph on the radar gun, which is right around where it should be for him. In addition, he was certainly not lacking in stuff; he induced 10 swings out of the zone and got 12 swinging strikes in total, an impressive feat in 91 pitches. Sanchez wasn’t without his stuff, but the defense and the luck dragon just did not favor him yesterday afternoon.