Fish Cap: Sanchez good, Marlins bad in Nationals series


The Marlins went into the series with the Washington Nationals after a disastrous bullpen performance blew two games against the St. Louis Cardinals. Expecting a very winnable series versus the Nationals, the Fish were sorely mistaken, as they were handed two straight losses and only salvaged a decent series thanks to the dominant pitching performance of a certain erratic starter.

Series Hero: John Buck (0.402 WPA)
Series Goat: Chris Coghlan (-0.514 WPA)
Impressed by: Anibal Sanchez (7 IP, 0 R, 11 K, 0 BB, 0 HR)
Depressed by: Chris Coghlan (14 PA, 1 H, 1 2B, 2 BB, 1 K)

Anibal impressive in victory

Remember when I said this in the series preview of this weekend’s three-game set?

"However, you never know which Sanchez you’re going to get, or at least that has been the case this season. He’s mixed in two horrific starts amidst three excellent ones, and hopefully the Fish get the good version of Sanchez this time around."

I think we got the good Anibal yesterday. He was hitting the radar gun at 91.7 mph on his fastball and working high in the zone against a predominantly right-handed Washington lineup.

Sanchez worked within the zone, getting 80 of 117 pitches within the generic strike zone shown here and getting a ratio of 1.8 to 1 on balls versus called strikes.. But none of that mattered because Sanchez’s pitches were pretty unhittable, in particular his slider. Sanchez abused righties with 14 whiffs on his slider and 18 in total, a whiff rate of 29.5 percent. So not only did Sanchez absolutely pound the strike zone, but he made hitters miss early and often. Five of those whiffs came out of the zone as well, which is another excellent sign.

All told, that ridiculous performance added up to a career-high 11 strikeouts and no walks along with yet another no-hit flirtation. Remember, earlier this season Sanchez completed a game with a one-hit performance in which he struck out nine men, an impressive feat but disappointing in that he didn’t complete the no-hitter. Now he has had two such performances this season, with this past one perhaps his best yet. On the season, Sanchez has struck out a career-high 24.0 percent of batters faced, leading to his most consistent ERA / FIP performance of his career. Right now, Sanchez has a 3.46 ERA which matches very strongly with his 3.42 FIP and 3.32 xFIP, indicating that his performance thus far has not been terribly unexpected given his defense-independent statistics. Hopefully, he can continue to shine.

Nolasco not to be outdone

Before we go nuts about Sanchez’s start, Ricky Nolasco would like to let it be known that he will not be outdone. Nolasco also threw seven innings and struck out 11 Nationals as well, though he walked two and allowed six hits. However, from watching the affair from the comfort of my computer screen and among friends, you could tell that Nolasco had his filthy stuff and that the few hits he did surrender were on the lucky side. In the absence of legitimate data from Brooks Baseball (not sure what happened in this game), Marlins fans will just have to take my word for it. Still, Nolasco was no slouch in the extra innings loss versus the Nats.

Strikeouts galore

Speaking of that game, it had to be one of the more interesting games of the season for both teams. In total, the Nationals and Marlins struck out 30 times in the game. It was the most two teams had combined for in one game in the 2011 season, though Cliff Lee‘s unnatural 16-strikeout performance that same night was in contention. The 30 strikeouts accounted for a whopping 55 percent of the outs recorded and 37 percent of the overall plate appearances in that game. Both Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann and reliever Tyler Clippard threw six strikeouts as part of the effort against Florida. In fact, Clippard struck out all six batters he faced!

The strikeouts continued throughout the series. Along with Sanchez’s 11-strikeout performance, the Nationals whiffed 38 times in this series, a whopping 33 percent strikeout rate! The Marlins ended the series at a more respectable 24.5 percent strikeout rate, with the majority of the team’s 27 whiffs coming in the first game of the series. The Fish benefited from facing the beatable Livan Hernandez in the series finale; he could only muster two strikeouts and the Marlins whiffed seven times in total that game.