Fish Cap: Marlins bullpen falters, offense roars against Reds


The Marlins put on an offensive display this past weekend against the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ballpark. Outside of a strong pitching duel in the second game of the series, the Marlins put up quite a few runs and picked up two wins in three games. The only defeat came at the hands of a disappointing bullpen performance, one of many in the series.

Series Hero: Josh Johnson (0.505 WPA)
Series Goat: Ryan Webb (-0.212 WPA)
Impressed by: Emilio Bonifacio (13 PA, 4 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 3 K)
Depressed by: The entire bullpen (7 1/3 IP, 8 R, 7 K, 6 BB, 0 HR)

Bonifacio flashes power

This was perhaps the most confusing thing that I have ever seen.

This was an actual Emilio Bonifacio home run, just the second of his career and the first that actually left the ballpark. Bonifacio hit a line drive to right field that barely cleared the Great American Ballpark. Hit Tracker Online had the shot measured at a true distance of 370 feet, which is about 25 feet below the league average but well above some of the weakest homers of the season (the weakest of the year? This shot by the Legend of Sam Fuld). Still, it was obviously a well hit ball and yielded a surprising result.

This capped an excellent series for Boni, who got a chance to head leadoff on Friday evening and responded with a double and a triple in five plate appearances. He also surprisingly drew a walk prior to the home run, finishing the series with the two results we’d least likely expect to see from him. Sadly, it doesn’t mean much of anything in terms of long-run performance expectations. Bonifacio’s success is still based on a .389 BABIP that is unlikely to continue. He hasn’t cut down on his strikeouts enough (18.2 percent versus a career 20.0 percent rate) or improved on his walks (6.5 percent versus a career 7.4 percent rate). Three of his six extra-base hits came from this series, and that pace from this series won’t continue either. He is still Boni, a batless speedster. He may, however, have some promise on defense.

Bullpen regresses quickly

Remember when the Marlins had “the best bullpen in baseball” with an ERA south of 2.00? The Fish pen made quick work of that reputation with an awful set of games in this series. In terms of WPA, the Marlins pen cost the team 0.470 wins, almost half a win over the course of the series. Much of that impact came from the second game of the series, in which the pen blew a 3-0 lead spotted by the Marlins offense and another terrific performance by Josh Johnson. Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb combined to toss the lead out the window in the eighth, surrendering five straight hits and upping the Reds’ chances of winning from a meager 6.1 percent to 59 percent in the process. Mujica was charged with getting only one out after Randy Choate finished off lefties Jay Bruce and Joey Votto via strikeouts, but instead Mujica allowed a double to Brandon Phillips (0.019 WPA) followed by consecutive singles by Johnny Gomes (0.062 WPA) and Miguel Cairo (0.106 WPA). After a third straight single put runners on second and third, Webb was brought in, only to allow another single, this time to Paul Janish, delivering the tying run (0.302 WPA).

Instead of being able to bring in Leo Nunez to save the game as expected, Edwin Rodriguez turned to Mike Dunn to go two innings, but after cruising through the ninth inning, Dunn and the Marlins struggled in the tenth, allowing a single and letting an error on a sacrifice bunt lead to the winning run crossing home plate. That series of plays gave the Reds the remaining 36 percent odds of winning that they needed to close the game out.

That wasn’t the only problem the Marlins bullpen displayed. Twice the team made easy victories appear more difficult in the ninth. In the first game, the Fish held a 7-4 lead and a 95.7 percent chance of victory when Leo Nunez stepped in. However, Nunez gave up two doubles and a single and allowed two runs to come home, upping the chances of a Reds come-from-behind victory to 10 percent before shutting down Jay Bruce with a strikeout. In the third game, Brian Sanches came in with an extremely comfortable 9-3 lead and recorded an out before giving up two singles, a walk, and a two-RBI double to Chris Heisey, giving the Reds a 6.1 percent chance of winning. Nunez was brought in and recorded a save after some difficulty, but neither ninth inning victory was pretty in the least bit.

Offensive output

Going into the series, the Fish were hitting just ,253/.325/.392 as a team, scoring only 4.3 runs per game. The Fish turned it on in this past series, batting .257/.342/.486 for the series and tacking on 19 runs along the way. Obviously, the big difference was in terms of power; the Marlins had 11 extra-base hits, including six home runs. Five of those home runs came in the series finale and included Bonifacio’s homer, Hanley Ramirez‘s first home run of the season, John Buck‘s second of the series, Greg Dobbs‘s second of the year, and yet another monstrous blast by Mike Stanton.

The Marlins were facing an ailing rotation in the Reds’ crew. Edinson Volquez has been having significant problems throughout the season, and Bronson Arroyo is known for giving up the home run, as he is a fly ball pitcher. It was surprising to see the Fish jump all over a good strater like Travis Wood, however, but I will take that any day.