The Miami Marlins haven’t gotten a lot of production out of their starting rotation this season. On Monday, the Chicago Cubs beat them to the punch.
Don Mattingly has handled the Miami Marlins staff as best as he can this season. A combination of poor starts and protecting his pitchers has led the Marlins staff to be pulled early in games. He has been among the fastest to pull his starters of any manager this season.
On Monday, the Marlins opened their series against the Chicago Cubs. Cubs manager Joe Maddon is among the foremost managers integrating statistical data into his game decisions. Last night, he beat Mattingly at his own game.
Despite leading 3-1 at the time, Maddon wasted no time in asking starting pitcher Eddie Butler for the ball.
The decision ended up working out for Maddon and the Cubs. Despite giving his starter the early hook, lefty Mike Montgomery worked 3.1 innings and took the team the rest of the way. The Cubs took the win, and avoided taxing their bullpen heavily.
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It marked a curiosity in the season for the Miami Marlins. Mattingly has been as quick on the trigger as anybody else when it comes to getting his starting pitchers out of the game. Marlins starters are currently averaging 5.2 innings per start, the second lowest in the Major Leagues.
Only the Phillies are averaging a lower number of innings per start on average with 5 innings. The Cubs are hovering around the league average with 5.5 innings per start. On Monday, they stuck to their game plan, while Mattingly deviated.
Breaking from the trend
On Monday, Mattingly allowed starter Dan Straily to go seven innings in a losing effort. Straily pitched well, with his only earned runs coming on mistakes that were launched over the wall. Kris Bryant connected for a two-run home run, and Albert Almora Jr. added a solo homer.
The Marlins fell 3-1.
The seven inning performance tied Straily with his previous mark this season, and stands as the second longest start by any Marlins pitcher this season. The only start that has gone longer was the no-hitter tossed by Edinson Volquez against the Diamondbacks this weekend.
This season has seen the average innings pitched by a starter decrease across the league. Currently, the San Francisco Giants are averaging the longest start by a pitcher with only 6.2.
The reason for Mattingly allowing Straily to go longer in the game is one of two reasons:
- To protect the bullpen following a start where Vance Worley pitched only 3.2 innings, or
- He is starting to handle his starters on a case-by-case basis.
In this case, it was likely both. Vance Worley surrendered five runs to the Diamondbacks on Sunday and was pulled very early. The bullpen managed to hold the DBacks from adding any more and delivered the win for Marlins, but they were heavily taxed.
Given the circumstances, Mattingly likely entered the game knowing Straily would pitch deeper if he could.
It will be interesting to see how he decides to use Jeff Locke on Tuesday. If Locke struggles, Mattingly will undoubtedly be quick with the hook. But if he is pitching well beyond the sixth inning, he might let him go longer.