Fish Cap: Marlins close, but can’t pull out wins versus Cardinals


The Marlins were not all that far off from competing against the St. Louis Cardinals this past weekend in their four-game series. Unfortunately, while the team did not perform poorly, ultimately wins and losses, close as they may be, are the only things that matter on the final scoreboard. Sadly, despite getting decent pitching performances in two of the games and two decent offensive outputs in the other two, the team was never able to put them together to equate to a victory.

Series Hero: No one in particular
Series Goat: Emilio Bonifacio (-0.551 WPA)
Impressed by: No one in particular
Depressed by: Emilio Bonifacio (20 PA, 2 H, 1 2B, 1 BB, 6 K)

Nolasco not missing bats

Ricky Nolasco‘s most recent start against the Cardinals was an excellent example of the problems he has had all season. Nolasco was again simply unable to induce opposing hitters into missing his pitches, something that he needs in order to be a strikeout-heavy pitcher like he has been for the past three seasons. Nolasco only recorded three strikeouts in the 33 batters he faced, which is a concerning number as his strikeouts continue to trend downwards this season. He was only able to induce two swinging strikes in 112 pitches thrown, a thoroughly poor total given Nolasco’s dependence on strikeouts and his inability to suppress home runs.

One unnerving trend that I only recently noticed was the one MPH drop in his fastball velocity from 2010 to 2011. Nolasco is down to just a 90.4 MPH average on his fastball, down from a three-year average of around 91.3 MPH. As Marlins fans, we are well aware of the strong effect something like fastball velocity can have; here at Marlin Maniac, we have been tracking Javier Vazquez‘s velocity all season for the same reason. Vazquez exhibited a season-and-a-half long loss of velocity and it severely affected his performance, and it seems that perhaps Nolasco’s whiff inducing capabilities may have also been hurt by a lack of velocity. Right now, it does not seem to be a major problem, as indicated by his FIP of 3.38, but time will tell. He certainly has missed fewer bats this season, down to 9.3 percent of his pitches going for swinging strikes versus 10.5 and 10.3 percent in 2010 and 2009 respectively.

Vazquez Velocity Watch

Speak of the devil,  all steady on the Vazquez ship once again.

It has to feel good to see a consistently decent Vazquez. Yesterday afternoon, Vazquez was hurt by the Marlins’ defense, as the Marlins a few defensive mistakes in order to allow baserunners to reach. In the sixth inning, Vazquez allowed a pop fly to Corey Patterson that landed due to miscommunication on the part of Logan Morrison and Emilio Bonifacio on a play that was very close to an ugly collision. That opened up an opportunity for the Cardinals to score on a tiring Vazquez, who gave up two runs in the inning when it should not have happened. Later on, Patterson reached on an error by Bonifacio against Mike Dunn, which eventually led to a few more runs scored.

Still, Vazquez was effective overall, only making a mistake on an Albert Pujols home run. Vazquez struck out six and walked three, inducing a typical nine whiffs in 91 pitches along the way. This is what we have come to expect from the revived Vazquez, so no surprises here once again. Here is the updated season look on Vazquez and his velocity change.

First eight starts39 1/388.27.555.52
Last 14 starts88 1/390.63.774.00

Again, this is exactly what we were expecting before the season began, and he is finally delivering. Vazquez has improved so greatly over the last two months that the Marlins may yet consider an extension at the end of the season.