I've been playing loads of SSF4.
Veritable loads. Almost dropped SC2 entirely. I don't think I want to invest my time in two separate games at the same time. SC2 might help me learn to think a lot more about what I do, though, so it might be a good idea just as a mental exercise.
I would update on the Marlins, but I'm taking a wait-and-see approach to how everything plays out. Pitching is necessary; Beinfest (and/or Loria) is keen on not paying for it. So, we have nothing.
Cantú is gone. This makes me sad.
FIU Football is going to start soon. I might write something up about it, but then again I might not. I'm not as knowledgeable about football as I am about baseball. I have a good firm understanding of the core concepts of baseball and I can give a much better analysis there than I can on football. Still, there's a lot to be excited about this year if you're one of the few FIU fans out there, so I suppose I should cater to the (admittedly small) crowd.
As for Street Fighter? I've been practicing my Ryu. The footsies are developing. I am starting to learn things. I mainly see what I'm losing to, and soon I'll be able to adapt in a way that will let me get past it. I'm very ready in that aspect; with time, practice and experience, I should find myself winning more games.
Let me preface with something here: I've just had the most miserable weekend of my life.
Without getting into the details of the 7 good hours of my life that the Marlins stole from me that I can never get back, this weekend was a complete tragedy of errors and disappointment in so many ways that coming to work on Monday seemed like a great way to get away from it all.
While I'd love to start the day talking about soccer, I think I'm going to vent a little bit about the Marlins first. They took up most of my weekend anyway, so might as well take a good chunk of my Monday morning, too.
Let me get started then by pointing out the most obvious fact: the Marlins are lost.
Absolutely, completely and utterly lost. The Marlins are currently playing with a listlessness that I thought I could only find from employees at an international conglomerate making minimum wage for horrifying work. Here we have people that are making serious bank for swinging a bat at a small white ball, and they are completely cocking everything up. And it's disturbing.
What's worse is that now what seemed like what was to be a quick change between managers (Fredi to Valentine) is now up in the air. Now we don't know when and even if Bobby Valentine is going to come and manage the Marlins. We're sending Edwin Rodríguez out to manage the games in Puerto Rico. The players may tell you anything they want about how firing Fredi hasn't had a negative effect on the ball club, but I'd say the opposite is true. And it shows. The only players that are still putting any significant effort into things are the ones you've come to expect this kind of hustle from now. Cantú. Gaby. Uggla. Stanton's bat has only been loud in the amount of air it's pushing back into the outfield. Loria still hasn't committed to his team's victory by really trying to put together a bullpen.
All of these things are just going to sink the team in the end, and for someone who says he's "completely committed" to winning, Loria just isn't holding up his end of the bargain. As long as this bullpen remains and this uncertainty sits above the ball club, my weekends watching the Marlins will continue to be colossal wastes of time, and I will continue to be monumentally angry every time I have to attend those absurdly boring games.
But what can Loria do? There aren't really any pitchers available in the market right now and everyone commands a huge price. Well, Loria, here's what I think you should do. First off, Logan Morrison is a tremendous bat, but he's supposed to not have Mike Stanton's upside and we're clogged in the outfield anyways. You have a choice to make: either expedite Logan's arrival to the Marlins and essentially give up on the season by piecing away our other free-market / arbitration-eligible production (Uggla, Cody, Cantú), or "mortgage the future" as they say and trade away Logan for relief help. But look for real relief help.
That isn't quite up your alley? Then get a little creative with your selection. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Pat Venditte. He's thrown 41 innings of 1.98 ERA in the minors this year. His WHIP is .902, his HR/9 is .9, and he's only given up a single home run in that entire time. Yes, so it's A+, but he's doing really well for A+ and the Yankees seem adamant about not giving the kid a shot. Guess what we need? Again, we need relievers, and this guy comes with two arms that he can pitch with. Bring him over, move him up to AA then to AAA as fast as you can manage, and see how he holds up. If he's for real, you just got a sudden great injection of bullpen help. If it isn't, then whatever, you likely did not have to give up a lot for him in the first place.
Looking more inside for help? Well how creative do you want to get? It can be said that our bullpen isn't really helping us, so maybe we just need to eliminate the factor of the bullpen coming out as much as we can. Let's go Japanese here. Bring up Sean West. Make him the 6th man in the rotation. This sound crazy to you?
It's not as crazy as you think. Japanese pitchers typically pitch once every week in 6-men rotations, and since the Japanese baseball league always guarantees a day off every week, you end up having an entire week off between starts every start. While this won't happen in the majors, that's still a whole extra day of time off for each starter that might let them pitch deeper into games. Alternatively, you can still take them out, but you will effectively allow all of your starters to be a "pinch reliever" in certain games by having the time they take between starts to replace their bullpen with a relief appearance (which they will have more time to recover from). If all else fails and radical change is too out there for you, just bring up Sean West and move Robertson to the pen. He's good, he's left-handed and he will be able to gobble up tons and tons of innings.
Badenhop, by the way, looks like he's been righting the ship down in AAA. He may be ready to get called up. So, do it already. Why is Veras on the team? Why is Veras even an option? Why do you insist on using guys like Veras, Houser and Pinto when they're absolute garbage? You already got rid of Pinto, get rid of the rest of the trash. You want to win, don't you?
And while we're at it, please throw Mike Lamb back into whatever dumpster you found him in. There has to be someone out there in AA or AAA that has a hot bat that you can bring up to replace him that is slightly more interesting. Maybe you can find a bench-riding clutchy dude somewhere in the AL that just really wants more at bats; with all the pinch-hitting opportunities he'll get with us (apparently plenty), you might as well give someone else a shot. Mike Lamb is old, washed up and can't hit to save his life -- or ours. I feel more confident with Bonifacio or Anibal at the plate than Lamb, and that's depressing.
And let's just finish all of this up by saying that I would love to be a scouting assistant and an assistant to the general manager for the Marlins. I will pore over all of these ridiculous minor league kids for you. Give me pseudo-free reign with an airline (I hear Jetblue might like that) and pay me and I'll fly around and look everywhere I can think of to find relief help. I'll even scout Eri Yoshida for you if you even have the mildest interest in her. At this point we need all the help we can get, so we might as well look.
Yes, I'm writing something about the USA and Mexico teams' performance in the World Cup thus far. Yes, you can read it soon. No, I can't write it right now. Yes, it will be like a preview to this weekend's games. Yes, I think it'll be pretty good. Yes, Fredi González was fired as Marlins manager. No, I don't know why either.
With all that out of the way, I'd like to note to you that Pinchoman is now offering a new menu item over in his majestic white truck: the Turkey Burger. If it sounds pretty straightforward, it's because it is: it's a turkey patty stuck between burger buns and generously doused in the classic Pinchoman sauces, including a bit of cheese sauce, barbecue sauce and the by-now-standard shoestring potatoes.
The thing that surprised me the most here (well, not so surprising in retrospect now that I think about it) is that it is actually delicious. The one I got was probably way too over-sauced (which is Ricky's way of sometimes compensating for flavor), but the thing is that the turkey meat's flavor works a lot better in a patty than it does in meatballs, so it doesn't need all that sauce to help it. It's delightfully soft and moist as it is, and I think the over-saucing actually kind of mutes some of the flavor that's in the turkey itself. Just toning down the sauce would be upgrade enough as it were.
Anyway, expect a nice little piece on the impact the USA have have on the beautiful game today or tomorrow with a Mexico and USA preview for the knockout stages, and then another one with my thoughts on the Marlins' firing of Fredi González (which still makes virtually no sense to me right now).
What a decidedly ho-hum month.
The Marlins weren't really in much of a slump, but May was not the Marlins' month by far. While there was very minor improvement over April (15-14 instead of April's 11-12), the Marlins are still not quite playing up to the front office's expectations. Or anyone's really.
What's weird is that, as far as the NL East goes, that's completely okay. You may be looking at me going, "What are you talking about? Being 26-26 is hardly good for the team any way you slice it -- they're playing mediocre baseball." Normally I would completely agree with you, but right now you have to look at the state of the NL East to properly appreciate what the hell is going on.
See that right there? The NL East is a huge train wreck of epic proportions. Three teams are tied for third place (or last place, depending on how you look at it), with Atlanta for now in the lead by only half a game over Philadelphia. Philadelphia themselves are only two games ahead of the rest of the NL East. And the eerie part is that everyone is at most 4 games behind in the Wild Card, which means that every single team in the NL East right now is in the race.
Where it gets interesting is in the projected future for each of these teams. The Marlins historically tend to heat up in June, probably due to the strength of some of the kids they call up. Right now there are three names you need to think when you think of "June and forward" when it comes to the Florida Marlins.
This first name you've heard time and time again, and is pretty much a guarantee. Michael Stanton (who from now on will be referred to here as Clutch Money) leads professional baseball in home runs (from the time I started writing this to when I actually finished, he increased his count to 20 on the season). It's been often said that while he has a pretty keen eye at the plate, he still swings at a lot of things that he shouldn't be swinging at. The prediction is that in half a season of baseball, he will still manage to mash another 20 or so home runs, hit maybe .270 and strike out a lot. However, all those homers and all that power is going to translate into great slugging despite what might be an average on-base percentage, which means he'll probably post .900+ OPS in his first season as a major leaguer and give Jason Heyward a run for his money in the Rookie of the Year department.
Right now in AA, playing mostly in a very pitcher-friendly park (in a league full of those), he is putting up a slash line of .307/.436/.722, good for 1.158 OPS. That will probably not carry over to the majors, but I expect a respectable (and very good) .270/.350/.570 as an entry point. You can probably expect this to be much higher. It's pretty easy to say at this point that Cameron Maybin should be afraid for his job with Mike Stanton looming in the background, since he may find himself losing his starting position or returning to the minors for another frustrating year.
The next two names are slightly more difficult to envision, but you should be envisioning them anyways, just in case. The second name in this list you've already seen. Sean West, currently recovering from an injury but apparently back in the rotation now in AAA New Orleans. Sean West was surprisingly decent last year, although his initial success seemed to slowly fade out as he began to struggle later into the season. Still a very capable lefty with a smooth, effortless delivery and a great fastball, if Sean West starts to dominate at AAA you can expect to see him called up to the majors very soon, with Nate Robertson either being used as trade bait for more relief help, or finding a future in the bullpen himself. In his most recent relief appearance after being hurt, he gave up no earned runs on 3 hits, 2 walks and 4 strike outs. Nothing really dominating, but he should be back up to speed in no time.
The third name in this list is a bit of a stretch, but I would not be surprised if it came up very soon: Logan Morrison. You may know Logan Morrison as the guy who was going to give Gaby Sanchez a run for his money for the first base job, and then performed absolutely terribly at Spring Training. Well, you'd be right, but there's more to LoMo than that. In 21 games at AAA he's been putting up a surprisingly decent slash of .284/.393/.527, good for an OPS of .920. He's been playing most of his time at first base, but its been very often reported and we're often reminded that he is also very capable of playing left field, which is the position of one of our currently slumping outfielders, Chris Coghlan. Don't be surprised if you hear Morrison's name in a call up if Chris can't turn it around in June.
Now let's go back to look at our team. There's still a bunch of relatively bright spots, so let's address our hitters.
Cogz seems to have begun to snap out of it now by the end of May. He's getting into a hot streak that is more reminiscent of his rookie season, beginning to hit line drives and sharper ground balls that are avoiding infielders altogether. He also has put a bit more power into his swing, as evidenced by the couple of homers that he put up in May. Still, he hasn't really caught on fire yet, and for the Marlins to really be able to distinguish themselves from the rest of the cluttered NL East, they're going to need some production for CC if he's going to stay at the top of the order.
Gaby had a pretty average May. All in all there's not really a lot to say about Gaby except the fact that he has a good bit of upside and is just generally an above-average producer. He hits plenty of doubles, has a great (albeit violent) swing that puts balls in play, and good enough power to smack a few dingers out into the seats every so often. He makes a great second batter because he finds himself on base more often than not. Right now his triple slash is at .269/.350/.423, good only for a .773 OPS, but a lot of that has to do with the recent team-wide slump that left everyone with low production in late May (which culminated in the Marlins being perfected by Halladay).
I wrote a whole huge piece about Hanley Ramirez's spat and fiasco with Fredi Gonzalez. The truth of the matter though is that we've gone through 1/3 of the season already and his numbers are still a completely uninspiring .296/.377/.480 for an .856 OPS. This is not the quality of play I expect from a man that we normally call the best baseball player not named Albert Pujols, and it's actually somewhat surprising that he's so close in line to win voting at the All-Star ballot with how flagging his performance is. The Dead Weekend (last weekend's Marlins v Phillies games) is also probably not helping him at all in terms of his performance. Does he have an injury we don't know about?
So much for being a proven 100 RBI guy. I love Cantú to bits, but the recent team-wide slump means that the man who went with Dan Uggla to carry the team through April has quieted down drastically in May. He's still hitting well enough to collect RBI in his position, and occasionally comes up with big clutch hits, but he is nowhere near the force he was at the beginning of the season. He will hopefully not take too much longer to adjust, because we need those proven 100 RBIs. I wouldn't be surprised to eventually see him moved either up or down in the line up to put Stanton in the 4 spot, though.
The most surprising spot in the line up's limelight belongs to Dan Uggla. Still producing well enough through May, we didn't really expect him to hit for average for as long as he did during April. He's obviously regressed quite a bit from having a .300 average in late April, but not so much that he's forgotten to get on base: his triple slash is a pretty good .268/.365/.516, good for an .881 OPS. His OPS would probably be higher if not for the Dead Weekend, so I see no reason for him to get to interleague play sporting a .950 OPS or better, particularly with how well he's been swinging the bat.
Usually this would be Ronny Paulino and John Baker's spot, but John Baker is hurt and boy has Ronny come up big to make up for his absence. Brett Hayes being the only alternative to Ronny Paulino when it's time for him to rest, he immediately makes us remember how much we enjoy having Ronny behind the plate. The pitching has seemed slightly better with him calling the signals, and any accusations of "lazy play" coming from Paulino have probably already been dissipated by the fact that he's putting up some numbers that have me completely baffled. Ronny is putting up a heavily impressive .319/.347/.457 line (.904 OPS), and the fact that he isn't walking a hell of a lot is mitigated by the fact that he tends to put the ball in play and move people around the bases. He hasn't really displayed a ton of power (only 3 HR), and he's only had 33 games to do everything he's done, but he's probably the better part of the Paulino / Baker platoon this year. Not just that, but he's been getting his bat around right-handed pitching lately as well, putting a lot of right-handers' pitches into play. As much as I love Baker, I'm not entirely sure I miss him all that much... yet. I suppose once Paulino forgets how to hit righties, I'll go back to wishing Baker was healthy already.
Cody may not be hitting a ton of dingers this year, but he's been doing just fine for himself in hitting anyways. His .295/.346/.456 (.802 OPS) line means he's getting on base plenty and taking his share of walks, which is unusual because when I think of Cody Ross, I think "swing or die" and not "Nick Johnson". That's okay, because he isn't really Nick Johnson at all, but think that without the Dead Weekend, he could possibly be toting around a .310 average, .360 OBP and .470 SLG for a good .830 OPS. A concern is that his power seems to be much more muted this year, but that's not that problematic considering he seems to just be hitting more balls this year than he is normally used to. I suppose one would have to analyze what he's swinging at more to know whether he's just getting lucky on walks, or if his approach at the plate has really improved or not.
Take away the inside the park home run and you're left with a relatively dull hitter with questionable hitting skills but a ton of speed that can't quite make up for either of his deficiencies. In other words, Cameron Maybin is Bonifacio with a little bit more power behind his swing and a lot less speed. This is why I'm perplexed that Maybin is being given every opportunity in the world to play in the majors, while Bonifacio is down in AAA to get some more "seasoning" -- Bonifacio isn't going to get any spicier down there; he will still run like crazy, force defenses to make ridiculous plays or risk him taking free bases from them, and wind up manufacturing a bunch of runs. Sure, he won't get the ball in play as much as you'd like him to, but it's been shown that he's not much of a defensive liability in center field despite his lack of a throwing arm. He doesn't make great reads (and neither does Maybin), but you can be sure that the error that Maybin made in the perfect game that allowed the perfect game to go 1-0 with no earned runs would've been 0-0 through all 9 innings and taken into the extras, simply because Bonifacio has enough jet engine thrust to make the mistake in the read and yet fly back to catch the ball without needing to make a lame attempt at jumping. All in all, if Maybin doesn't fully figure it out before Coghlan does (who is already figuring it out), then you might see a future transaction with Mike Stanton getting called up from AA and Maybin being sent down to AAA.
The master at getting hit by pitching continues to get hit by tons of balls and not getting any good swings at them. He seemed to catch fire earlier in the season when he came back from his injury, but his bat has fallen back into its usual coma again. This is kind of depressing, because my understanding was that he spent a lot of time with CC over the off-season learning the proper approach to hitting, and while this seemed to have improved him early on, he's either forgotten how to use his eyes properly and is hacking away at terrible pitches again, or he's doing CC a favor by being a worse hitter than he is so that CC has a shot at retaining his job once Stanton comes up. Either wall, all of this is probably okay because he still manages to somehow wind up on base in the few plate appearances that he's gotten, and he still manages to play superior defense in any of the outfield spots that they place him in. I just don't think the additional bruises he's getting can be very fun to get. Also, anyone that tells you that he's not getting hit on purpose is not telling you the whole truth: he's obviously trying to get a hit or take a walk, but he's also not making any effort to get out of the way of a potentially free pass to first. That's dedication, ladies and gents.
From blazing hot in April to snorefest in May, Wes Helms is at times the most reliable bat on the bench and at others a free out. This is to be expected, considering he's mainly on the team to pinch hit, but it makes me wonder what exactly is going on with him. I don't think he's too old anymore to play the game, but it'd be great if he could go back to hitting as much as he was in the beginning of the season.
I've got nothing to say about Hayes. He's almost a free out at the plate but he's about average behind it. He doesn't call bad games, he handles pitchers well and gets the job done when Paulino has to rest his big Fred Flintstone frame for a day to recover from the wear and tear of daily catching. In that aspect, he does the job just fine. I just wish someone would take him to the batting cages for a bit and get him going.
He's old. He's come up with some surprisingly clutch hits lately, but before that he was a complete bust as a lefty bat off the bench. Thankfully he seems to have sort of figured out how to swing that bat again, so we might be seeing some improvement from Mr. Lamb in the future. It is telling, however, that he managed to fall through waivers and drop to the minors when the Marlins wanted to make room on their roster; good players don't last long on waivers, ones that aren't worth much manage to make it through every time.
With all of that said and done, here's what I think of our pitching squad, in a much shorter format.
All-star candidate, great pitching, lack of run support. Will win more games as soon as the bats decide to actually back him up. Velocity seems to be down from last year on average, but he seems to find it in him to throw blazing fast strikes in critical situations.
Kind of like a better version of 2009 Ricky, which means he's inconsistent but keeps his team in the game for the most part except for the times where he doesn't. Kind of a drop off from his massively successful Spring Training, which goes to show you that it doesn't matter what you do in Spring if you don't make it count later on.
Somewhat effective, not giving up a whole lot of runs lately, but his ERA is shaky after his last couple of starts. Doesn't seem to get as much support from his defense as he should, and he's thankfully kept his HRs allowed much lower this year than last year. He's not getting many wins because of the anemic offense and the bullpen's inability to keep games winnable after his pitching appearances.
Surprise of the year. Winning lots of games, throwing great pitches, and even gets the job done when he's not getting a lot of run support. He's emerged as the second best pitcher behind JJ and I wouldn't be too surprised if he somehow managed to sneak into the All-Star game, particularly if he keeps up this performance by then. Good health, lower weight and more confidence (and a good bevy of ground ball outs as well as a lucky FB/HR ratio) are making him into a great pitcher for the fish this year.
When he's effective, the offense and defense don't support him or the bullpen blow his games. When he's not, well, nothing the rest of the team does seems to fix his games for him. This is the main reason why I'd like to see Robertson move to the pen to keep him fresher and see Sean West called up to start instead. So far, Nate's luck just needs to improve (and he could use more consistency in his life).
Badenhop had an awesome start to the season where his pitches were alive (to the point that it looked almost like cheating, pitches were darting left and right and noone could do anything with them) and ground balls happened all the time, followed by outs everywhere. Then his pitches flattened out and he started to get tagged for a run a game over a hell of a lot of games. In the end, the Hopper got demoted to AAA to work his kinks out. It sucks because Badenhop is one of my favorite players to watch, but it's probably for the best.
I maintain that Clay Hensley is scuffing balls. He is this year's Brendan Donnelly. He must be hacking or something, because that strikeout rate isn't showing any signs of really slowing down and his ERA is amazingly low. He didn't pitch in 2009 at all, and suddenly came back from this year off to a 11.6 SO/9 and 1.57 ERA. I don't think he can honestly keep this up for the rest of the year, but I'm really, really hoping. I suppose he just has to keep using that emery board or whatever the hell he's got on him. If it's just straight skills, then I forever apologize and hope that the Marlins sign this man up again next year if he doesn't show signs of slowing down, because hot damn is he pitching like a monster.
I liked him more when he was gutsy like at the beginning of the season, where he literally planted three change-ups past a man, all for strikes. Right now he seems to be getting himself into more trouble than usual, but thankfully he is otherwise fairly lights out as a closer.
I can't say I cried when I saw him go to the DL, but he was actually not doing completely poorly this year. If someone could find out why he keeps hitting batters, then he might actually turn into a good pitcher. My recommendation would be to put him on the 60-day DL and on a diet regimen with lots of exercise, get that massive weight down and see if his mechanics don't improve just because he isn't a huge tub of fat and sweating profusely all over the ball.
The Chief started with some struggles but he's sort of back to his usual form, which is giving up fly balls that don't seem to make it anywhere. Like I said earlier, he was great last year with Wiley because Wiley told him to throw whatever he felt most comfortable throwing. I'm not sure if St. Claire is trying to get him back to doing something else, but sometimes he doesn't look as comfortable as he'd like on the mound. Something tells me he'll get better as the season goes by.
I don't know. He got a double play in his very first appearance and won a game. I guess that's good. Need more info.
The Tank is everything I want Pinto to be. Pitches quick, throws strikes, blows pitches by lefties in ways that almost seem insulting. And then there's the super-impressive mustache, and that's all I need to know. Welcome back to the Marlins, Tank.
In summary, the Marlins are doing both a lot better and a lot worse than they were in April. The bright spots dimmed (ie. Badenhop), the dim spots lit up (ie. Cody), and everything in general seems to have started to click for the team. This is great, because watching baseball games where your team wins is an exciting thing, and much better than watching them lose. It's even better than watching them lose to the Phillies, and astronomically better than watching a perfect game where your team gets blanked and loses due to an error. On that note, that perfect game should probably be credited to the umpire, and not to Halladay, because some of those pitches that struck people out rank up there in terms of how bad some pitch calling has been lately. What's with umpires sucking lately? First they eject Buehrle, then they hand out free strikes to people who don't need them, and now just recently they ejected Oswalt for taking away his actually good strikes (they must've been the strikes they gave to Halladay). Can someone explain what's going on here?
Also, do you all think Garrett Wittels is available for tutoring? I think Brett Carroll and Brett Hayes (and Chris Coghlan and Cameron Maybin, apparently) are looking for some extra help anywhere they can find it.
I was sitting around this morning after the Marlins' loss yesterday to the Braves wondering what the hell was wrong with our bullpen. The Marlins are notorious for taking interesting (yet cheap) chances on relievers and turning up golden with some completely off the wall picks. We have plenty of examples of this in 2009.
Let's start with Brian Sanches; despite the odd struggles he's seemed to have this year, the Chief managed to compile a 2.56 ERA in 56.1 innings last season. A reason why his effective may have seemed to wander a bit this year is that he's effectively began to throw his not-quite-so-effective curveball much more than he had in previous years. I think this is more of Randy St. Claire's doing, which may have good intentions but is probably unnecessary. As Mark Wiley told the Chief last year, "throw what you think is best" is probably the way to go for Sanches. He's more effective when the curve rarely comes out and the slider is thrown much more often. Even then he's one of the better points of our bullpen, even this year (where he seems to come into mostly hopeless situations anyway).
Then there's Kiko Calero, who came by last year and turned in an impressive year that sort of started breaking apart yesterday. This is almost without a doubt the reason he is no longer on the Marlins' roster this year, and I cannot really blame the Marlins for letting him go once they saw the trouble that was brewing on the horizon.
Let's even look at Burke Badenhop. Sending him down to AAA might be the best option right now, since he's seemed to lose some of that magic touch that he had last year and at the beginning of this season. He may be better served taking some time to readjust and find the movement that's seemed to disappear from his pitches.
Brendan Donnelly was another great example. He turned in probably the best year you could expect out of him last year after we picked him up, being a generally crafty, cheating old man that probably found a lot of benefits to playing for a team that isn't as closely monitored as others. I'm not saying he definitely cheats, but he has before, and we all are well aware that the dude is crafty as hell. That doesn't make him any less of a good pitcher, so despite the weirdness he's undergoing with the Pirates, I can safely say he was one of the brighter spots in the bullpen last year.
Then there's the stuff that has happened now that makes us look odd in retrospect.
Yes, we got rid of Kevin Gregg. Yes, that Kevin Gregg. He sure does suck, doesn't he? Hey look, he's with the Blue Jays now, what a bunch of morons! Hey, is that Kevin Gregg throwing a ton of cutters? No seriously, he is now throwing his cutter a grand total of 31.3% of the time and it's getting him all sorts of outs. I mean, I know he didn't morph into Mo Rivera, but holy crap, he's barely blown any saves now (2 in 14 chances). He has a 3.54 ERA and it's EXACTLY the same as his 3.54 FIP (which is really surprising; his defense is effectively not bailing him out of any of his mistakes). I guess he's healthy again, and I guess that means he's improved... but whatever, at the time (and a year after) it was a good idea, so whatever. Anyway, I feel dirty even defending Gregg after some of his disasters he put together for the Marlins, but he seems to have figured things out, and it's working for him. Missed opportunity? Maybe.
Sure, we got rid of Lindstrom, and he sucked last year. Lo and behold, he has managed to turn it around for his tenure with the Astros, and the kid we got in the Rule 5 Draft bombed in such a colossal way as to insinuate that it was probably not meant to be. Lindstrom is throwing his slider more from last year (from 20% of the time to 31% now), and also some pitch that Fangraphs has trouble identifying that he's apparently just discovered that is getting him some outs (from 2.0% unknown pitches to 14% unknown, which means maybe he's throwing a screwball, for all we know). His fastball still averages 96mph on the radar gun and kisses into the very high 90s every so often. We may have been too quick to pull the trigger here, and I feel kind of like an ass now because I was one of the people hoping he'd make a quick exit from Florida. Oh well, missed opportunity? Probably.
From all of this now, it's clear that we haven't had a whole lot of luck putting together a bullpen this year, or getting any significant amount of performance from it. Just yesterday we called up Jorge Ceda after Dan Meyer turned in a stinker of a game against the Braves where he managed to walk in a run and then just suck for what seemed to be the longest inning ever played in baseball. Jay Buente was surprising in the first inning he pitched, and then he managed to get himself into trouble, but otherwise he looks like a fairly decent pitcher. Taylor Tankersley and his Mustache of the Ages™ were a pleasant surprise as he was able to get the Fish out of any further trouble despite it all. As an aside, let me say that I am a huge fan of the Tank's never-say-die, cocky attitude. We were kind of missing a more lighthearted guy in the bench, and if he keeps that stache on for the year, I think we might have ourselves a new life-of-the-dugout, which is a hell of a void to fill (Amezaga's, to be precise).
Now where is this all leading me to? Well, if you can read (which, if you have gotten this far, you probably can), you would know that this is in some way or another leading me to talking about Pat Venditte (it says so in the title). Congratulations: you're right.
I just finished reading a post on Fangraphs that discussed how Pat Venditte is doing in the minor leagues. The Yankees are reluctant to move him up in the minors because he would be taking up the space of a preferable prospect instead; such are the woes of the backward-thinking. And I think that the Marlins, being a much more forward-thinking organization, may be capable of cashing in on what may just be one of the most interesting pitchers in the leagues altogether.
Pat Venditte, for those of you who do not know, has a rather impressive advantage over every player in the league.
He's a RHP. This is the first half of his advantage.
He's a LHP, too. This is where it gets interesting.
Pat Venditte is the only active switch pitcher in the farm systems that people are readily aware of that is actually allowed to be and takes full advantage of his proficiency with both of his arms. Fangraphs has noted that in A and A+ he has a FIP (fielding-independent pitching, which measures the effectiveness of a pitcher without taking into account the defense around them) of 2.52 in 26.1 innings. It's a small sample size, but he had a 2.24 cumulative FIP last season at A+ Tampa. His HR/9 rate, which refers to how many home runs he gives up every 9 innings, is at a minuscule 0.34 and it comes with a 30:7 K to BB ratio. That's crazy.
What's crazier is that the Yankees still haven't bothered to even move him up to AA. Here's one of the most interesting arms (or pair of arms, if you would) in the minors, and he's stuck throwing to people at A and A+. The Yankees are good on arms right now, and they have no real need for any more.
But the Marlins are starved for arms.
What are the chances and what's the likelihood that the Marlins could snag Venditte for some cheap prospects from the Yankees? I don't know, but I am not entirely sure why there hasn't been more of an attempt to do so. The Marlins need more relievers, and this is almost like getting two of them for the price of one. On top of that, he's clearly got a hell of a work ethic, and is just one of the most interesting players to touch baseball in a long time. With a ground ball rate of 54.5%, he keeps the ball down, and despite his lack of velocity, he has excellent pitch location with both arms -- as well as what you could consider a perpetual platoon advantage against any batter he faces.
While the MLB has effectively made a ruling that makes switch pitchers not really carry an advantage against switch hitters after Venditte faced a switch hitter in the minors and got into a bit of a cat-and-mouse game of switching sides over and over, I still think Venditte is an incredibly attractive option for the Marlins to consider. His growth is being stifled in the Yankees' system, and while he's a fan favorite for the teams he pitches for, it may be time for the Marlins to give a good look in his direction. Give him some time at AA, then try him against AAA, and see what he's capable of. He'll be a cheap experiment that can pay off some great dividends -- and the Marlins could be the talk of the majors, with both the best shortstop in baseball (Hanley), one of the most exciting hitting prospects to come up to the majors since Miguel Cabrera (Stanton), and a potentially flummoxing switch-pitching reliever.
Dear Mr. Ramirez,
Hey there! My name is Andres.
I'm a huge Marlins fan. One of the biggest, you might say, despite how short-lived my "fandom" has been so far. I blame this squarely on my girlfriend, who had both the lack of judgment and huge insight to take me to my first professional baseball game near the tail end of 2008, to go watch your team, the Florida Marlins. And from that moment on, you know what? It reignited an old, almost-dead fire in my heart.
I love baseball. Do you?
I really do. There's tons of things I like about it, both in the physical and mental aspect. To me it's one of the most complete games played at a "high level," with heavy emphasis on teamwork and individual playing talent, as well as on strategy and number-crunching. All sorts of people can find something they like in baseball, whether it's particular players on particular teams, crunching numbers and coming up with crazy theories and statistics about it, writing about it on a daily basis, playing fantasy baseball -- or just actually playing the game itself. It's a game with a ton of history; its own culture and tradition.
I've always loved the game as a kid, although the chances I got to play it were unfortunately very limited when I lived in Villahermosa, Tabasco, México. I didn't develop much of an interest in watching others play it until I grew to be 17, living with my grandfather who absolutely loved the game and would teach me about it. When I was very young, he gave me a baseball which I put my name on. I used to play catch with him with that very same ball. I can still remember playing catch with him to this day. Baseball has grown to be the only tangible thing I have in my life that constantly reminds me of him.
I watched the 2003 World Series with him. He was a huge fan of the Florida Marlins, adopting them as his team once they appeared in Florida -- and despite all sorts of craziness from fire sales, poor performance and whatnot. Unfortunately, I didn't care much to watch baseball even then, having most of my interest tied up in other things that appeared as I grew up. Little did I know then that now I'd love to sit down and have conversations with him about the game. I feel like it's such a wasted opportunity -- I could have had a much deeper connection with him thanks to it, and now it's much too late. He passed away in 2005. I sorely miss him and sometimes think of what could have been ... but that's not what this letter is about.
The thing is that there are probably hundreds of thousands of stories like this. There's a huge multitude of fans out there that have stories like this about their team of choice. Stories that affect how they feel about the game and about their team. Some of these fans are kids, who will likely grow up idolizing and dreaming of one day becoming a big star too, just like you are now. Look at Gaby Sánchez. Here's a kid who loved baseball all his life, grew up with the Florida Marlins and thinking, "one day, I want to play with them." And look at where he's at now; following the example of players like Conine, players like Lowell, people who were integral parts of the Florida Marlins throughout points in their lives.
I don't know what your childhood was like. All I know is that everything so far has seemed... easy for you. You breezed through the minors. You were a child prodigy, you knew what was up. You're one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and you know it. And that's fantastic. Maybe you grew up harboring dreams of playing baseball as a child, and you eventually realized that's really what you were meant to do. Maybe not. I can't pretend to know what kind of a person you are. But I want to believe that you're a decent human being, you know? I want to believe that the concept of hard work isn't lost on you in the way it was lost on me for so long in my life before I had to figure out in a sudden, dramatic and shitty way.
You are living the dream of millions of young men everywhere. You are getting paid to play the game that millions of people in the United States -- no, the world -- love so much. You're a superstar. You're a person that kids will look up to in the future, maybe not quite by your own choice. But the eyes of those same millions are upon you every day as you make your way out onto that field. Your team supports you and plays with you. Your team may be filled with stories like my own, albeit more successful... Kids who chased their dreams and made something out of them. You are likely surrounded by kids with natural talent, and by kids who simply worked hard all their lives to do what they did. You've got cases of that in the big system that is the Florida Marlins. You've got kids on your own bench who have worked hard all their lives to be where they are now. And they continue to give their best on the field at every opportunity they get.
I've looked the other way before when you seemed weren't giving it your all, when it seems to me that you were taking at-bats off in your head and weren't really giving it your best. I've seen you kind of mess up on defensive plays but still put as much effort as you could into them. I can forgive honest mistakes, and momentary lapses of judgment.
But I saw last year when Dan got mad at you that it might be something more. Even when I saw Monday's mistake, I thought it was costly, and it was perplexing to me that you chose to underperform in that situation, but here I thought you'd handle it properly. You would apologize, man up and that'd be the end of it.
Your reaction was devastating.
I'm not saying you should be Jimmy Rollins, but Hanley... please. Show respect.
Show respect to the game; without it you wouldn't be who or where you are now.
Show respect to your team; without them and the faith they put in you, you wouldn't be able to succeed as much as you have.
Show respect to the fans; they love you, clamor for you and pay what hard-earned money and spend whatever time they have to watch you from their home or at the stadium.
Show respect to your opponents; they show you respect in return and play to the fullest of their ability against you, and I can't help but believe they expect you to respond in turn.
But most importantly, Hanley, show respect for yourself. Are you seriously this prima-donna guy with the holier-than-thou diva complex that's suddenly reared its ugly head since last Monday? Are you too full of yourself to properly address and offer apologies to your own teammates? Do you lack respect for them that much?
As I put to my grandmother today when we went to do the groceries: here you are, a young man with most of your life and career ahead of you, already making much more money than the combined yearly salaries of the entire parking lot of the shopping center we were in combined, living the dreams of people everywhere every day, and you can't even hustle after a ball? And what's worse, you have the gall to attack your manager and teammates -- the latter of which, by the way, are completely innocent in this ordeal, and even go on record in public to speak well of you regardless of what questions are asked by the media -- when they tell you what's up? Do you know the meaning of the word shame? Does humility exist anywhere in that athletic frame of yours?
This is not the kind of behavior I expect out of anyone. How am I supposed to root for you when you act so reprehensibly? I talk trash about how bad Pinto is, but if I were to want to draw something positive out of him, it's that he at least has the cojones to stand up and try again; the cojones to blame no one but himself for his mishaps; the cojones to say, "I fucked up."
You are probably worth millions more as a player than Renyel Pinto will ever be. And yet, I'm not sure whether you've got the cojones to say those words.
And until then, I'm not sure you're worth much at all.
I'll be waiting for you to make things right with the team. I, fortunately, don't really need an apology. I doubt the fans do, either. I think if you make things right with the team, we will feel that you've made things right with us. I definitely know I will.
So do what's right, Hanley. And don't be a lollygagger.
Or is that ribs? Well, whatever, RBIs happen to also suffer from that same condition. The argument?
RBIs, at least in the way that most people who follow baseball traditionally think of them, are a surprisingly pointless statistic for personal player evaluation -- which everyone seems to want to use it for.
Now why would I sit here and preach to you about RBIs when there's clearly a bunch of other articles elsewhere on the internet that will educate you on the subject? The reason is because I recently had a conversation with Joe Frisaro on Twitter where he brought up Mike Stanton's possible location in the batting line up.
Let's look at RBIs for a second. What exactly is an RBI? The official MLB rulebook states in Rule 10.04 that:
(a) The official scorer shall credit the batter with a run batted in for every run that scores:
(1) unaided by an error and as part of a play begun by the batter's safe hit (including the batter's home run), sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, infield out or fielder's choice, unless Rule 10.04(b) applies;
(2) by reason of the batter becoming a runner with the bases full (because of a base on balls, an award of first base for being touched by a pitched ball or for interference or obstruction); or
(3) when, before two are out, an error is made on a play on which a runner from third base ordinarily would score.
(b) The official scorer shall not credit a run batted in
(1) when the batter grounds into a force double play or a reverse-force double play; or
(2) when a fielder is charged with an error because the fielder muffs a throw at first base that would have completed a force double play.
(c) The official scorer's judgment must determine whether a run batted in shall be credited for a run that scores when a fielder holds the ball or throws to a wrong base. Ordinarily, if the runner keeps going, the official scorer should credit a run batted in; if the runner stops and takes off again when the runner notices the misplay, the official scorer should credit the run as scored on a fielder's choice.
So in other words, any time you hit the ball (but not into a double play) and the play does not result in an error, OR you walk with the bases loaded and a run scores as a result, you gain an RBI. Now you and I can both agree that the act of actually obtaining an RBI is pretty important. Any time the team scores a run, the team puts itself in a better position to win the game. So collecting RBIs are a byproduct of essentially playing good baseball.
My problem is when people use how many RBIs someone has collected as a statistic that will predict future performance from a player, or to explain why a player is invaluable. A player isn't invaluable to the offense because he hits RBIs, he's invaluable to the offense because he hits well, hits for power, gets on base or some combination of those factors. The way I see it is this: if you put your best hitter in a position where RBI opportunities are more frequent, that hitter will earn more RBIs. More importantly, if your team puts itself in the position where they create RBI opportunities more often for your best hitter(s), your best hitter(s) will earn more RBIs. This is a consequence of team performance, not an indicator of individual skills.
The most common counter-argument seems to be that players feel different amounts of pressure depending on the at-bat: having men on base gives you more incentive to perform better, pitchers perform differently when men are on base, etc. My main gripe with this line of thinking is that this implies that hitters consciously underperform in situations when there's no men on base. I'm of the mind that if I told a player that they consciously slacked when there was no tasty RBIs on the line, I'd wind up with a black eye. Now, I think I can get behind the thought that the amount of pressure players feel in situations where there are men on base is different to when there aren't any. I also agree that pitchers play differently under pressure as well. However, a good hitter is still a good hitter whether there is pressure on them or not. A good hitter in a position in the line up where RBI opportunities are most plentiful (3/4) will still generate plenty of RBI. That's why, for instance, Hanley moving to 1st in the line up because of his OPS and Stanton batting 3rd isn't a bad idea. That's why Cantú batting 5th or 6th after Stanton and/or Uggla isn't a bad idea. That's why just batting him 2nd isn't a bad idea (well, I haven't looked at his OBP lately, but if it's .380+ then why not).
Anyway, the more I thought about this I realized something: RBIs actually do have an interesting use. When thinking about what's considered traditional baseball theory, RBIs when observed with the rest of your team's statistics actually do provides you with a good idea of how well your line up is performing. A line up where the 3rd and 4th batters are collecting plenty of RBIs tells you that the 1st and 2nd batters in the line up are creating sufficient opportunities for your 3rd and 4th batters to take advantage of. The inefficiency there is that you'd have to stick to your line up for a very long amount of time to actually get a good read of the situation... regardless, RBIs are a decent metric for team production over individual production. The problem with them then is that just counting the total amount of runs scored by the team would produce a better metric altogether for offensive production.
Here's a quote that's important because it clearly explains why RBIs are what they are.
Do the best hitters generally have more RBI? Yes -- because they are in the middle of the lineup and get the most playing time and therefore have more opportunities. Doesn't baseball rely on driving runners in? Yes -- but driving the runner in is an incidental occurrence to more basic skills: a hitter not making an out, the hitter after him not making an out, and the hitter who gets the RBI not making an out. If outs are not made, runs are guaranteed to score.
And there's the unreliability of the statistic itself. Having more RBI than another player in no way guarantees you are better than that player unless the difference is so wide that your superiority will be apparent in nearly every other statistic. (Was Aaron Hill, with 108 RBI last season [and an .829 OPS], better than Ben Zobrist, with 91 and a .948? J.D Drew with 68 and a .914?)
The writer obviously does not account for sacrifice plays, which are also important -- but are a result also of other basic skills in a player. In the end, he is right when he says that RBIs are an incidental occurence that relies more on team performance than on the individual performance of a single player. If you place your best hitter in an "RBI position," and lead into him with people who get on base, you will generate more RBIs.
And that in the long run is why you want Mike Stanton batting 4th, despite Jorge Cantú being a "proven 100 RBI guy," because with how well Stanton is hitting, you can bet on him collecting a lot more RBIs than Cantú will in the same position in the lineup.
Unless, of course, he has less RBI chances (which he will if he comes in later in the season). In which case... well, that tells you a lot about RBIs (and their unreliability) in general.
At any rate, I was told that Cantú thinks it's a very important statistic, and all I can say is if I was a baseball player, I'd say that, too. Guess what front offices in baseball and the MLBPA use as one of their metrics for player performance, as right or as wrong as it may be? You're correct: RBIs are one of them. And if Cantú hits a bunch of RBIs, he'll continue getting a good deal of money. He's a good hitter with decent power that will bat a ton of runs in as long as the people in front of him get on base, and he'll be able to ask for a better check because of it. Why would he disagree whether RBIs are important or not when delicious cash money is on the line? The man's gotta eat, and I can't blame him. He's still one of my favorite baseball players, whether he thinks RBIs are awesome, pointless or somewhere in between. He can hit, he's got skills, he's a good guy and he's my paisano. That's all I have to know. Are his RBIs important? Yes, they were important in 2009 for the team. Are they an important statistic? No, but they're important to get anyways.
The best and most simple way to put it (and yet it seems so paradoxical when read) is that driving in runs is important in baseball, but the RBI statistic is not important.
Of course, whether or not we disagree on the subject, Joe is still the man, providing us great inside coverage of the Marlins every day, so despite what he may or may not now think of me (if he even bothers to at all, the likelihood of which is < .01%), this is definitely not meant as some sort of attack on him. However, I figured my point of view deserved more than a few shots fired across Twitter.
Besides, we both agree that Pinto is the best player on the Marlins. And that's all that matters.
So Renyel Pinto is apparently now into superstition. Joe Capozzi reports for the Palm Beach Post Fish Tank's blog:
Pinto’s good-luck elephant
Yes, that was a stuffed toy elephant — wearing a little jersey with “37? — hanging over Renyel Pinto’s locker.
“It’s for good luck,” he said, explaining that a fan gave it to him yesterday. “You watch, I’m going to have 20 in a row with no runs!”
Pinto has a 6.75 ERA in three appearances.
Renyel Pinto, for your sake, that toy elephant had better work.
On that note, I have seats right behind home plate for today's game against the Reds. Look for a Mexican in a jacket with a Marlins hat and probably still wearing a shirt and tie.
Renyel Pinto is terrible, and statistics prove it.
I've been following the Marlins now for a couple of years, and just watching Renyel Pinto every time he pitches makes me want to get up and stop watching Marlins games. It's really that bad, and if you were present at the Home Opening Game for the Marlins this season, then you can agree with me on this one -- because so did, apparently, half the fans at the stadium.
When Renyel Pinto came out of the bullpen, he was met with a chorus of boos from Fish fans who clearly weren't ready to forget Wednesday's meltdown in New York. In response, Pinto served up a double to James Loney, and (naturally) both of his inherited runners scored. Manny Ramirez singled on a pop-up that Gaby couldn't get to, and put the Dodgers up 7-1 before the inning was over.
Not a good night for Marlins reliever Renyel Pinto. He was greeted by boos during pre-game introductions tonight in the Marlins’ home opener at Sun Life Stadium.
Turns out that was just a warm-up: The boos serenaded him again as he entered the game in the ninth inning and one more time as he walked off the mound after the Dodgers scored three runs.
But the boo birds had better save their voices for more chirping: Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he isn’t ready to give up on Pinto or right-hander Jose Veras, who also struggled tonight in Florida’s 7-3 loss.
Now I know most people don't need something like statistics to tell them just how terrible Renyel Pinto really is, but I'm sick and tired of some people trying to defend him by telling me that he's "consistent" and "always posts a decent ERA every season."
Be that as it may, people aren't properly observing when it is that he manages to accomplish these supposedly excellent feats (they're not excellent at all). Let's take a look at some of the stats available for Renyel Pinto.
According to the graphs for Win Probability, Renyel Pinto historically comes in to pitch in situations of moderate leverage. He leaves the game almost always in a worse situation than when he entered, as can be seen by his Leverage Index when he enters the game (gmLI, 1.17, which means kind of difficult with 1 being a neutral situation) compared to the Leverage Index when he exits the game (exLI, 1.31, which means somewhat more difficult). This all results in him very rarely adding to your Win Probability -- except in 2007 and 2008, where he was apparently not a complete disaster. I don't see it, he still left games in miserable conditions when he pitched then, too.
Looking at his value though is much more telling. The guy is worth a whopping ZERO WAR. That means he gives you absolutely no more wins over a replacement pitcher. If you don't know what WAR is, then there's a whole article on the internet that goes into it at more depth. In a nutshell, it's essentially how many wins an individual player contributes to the team over the course of an entire season. This actually completely and totally indicates that Pinto has no value whatsoever. In fact, there are years where his pitching performances indicate that he owes the Marlins money for letting him pitch. That's right, Pinto is costing the Marlins money. Real money.
Loria, Samson, Beinfest... look. I know you're all the kind of guys who know what kind of value they're getting out of something. We have here pretty much a cold, hard mathematical analysis that says that not only is Pinto not worth the basic, low-end minimum major league salary that you're giving him... but he actually costs you much more money than that. He's not worth the major league salary. As a matter of fact, there are years that he's cost you much more than that and you've seen no return on your investment whatsoever. This is ridiculous. We're the goddamned Marlins. We spend tiny amounts of money compared to other teams, and yet we field a competitive team year in and year out. Why would you even consider using someone whose entire purpose is to bring the win total of your team down?
Pretty much every statistical analysis projects him to have a 4.0 ERA or higher this year. He's a waste of time and money, and Marlins fans have already voiced their opinions on him and showed you how little they'd like to see him... repeatedly. Not only is he now costing you money for not giving you the wins you expect a reliever to give you, but now he's also costing you money because fans don't want to go see games where he's pitching. Fans are actually leaving games when they see Renyel Pinto is coming up to pitch. That's ridiculous, and it's ridiculous that you'd continue to use him despite all of this.
Do the right thing. Can Renyel Pinto.
It should be no surprise to anyone by now that I'm a pretty big baseball fan. The complexities as to how this came to pass are rather vast, stemming from a love for the game since I was a child that I never really got to explore (LOL Mexico), my grandfather's own appreciation for the game, my watching the 2003 World Series (I still clearly remember the Steve Bartman Incident, and how it helped the Marlins to rally over the Cubs), and most recently finding the love of my life, who I can only describe as the biggest Miami sports fan in existence.
The first thing that I found the easiest to get into with her was baseball. I've always really liked baseball, I just never had the patience to sit down and watch it -- or anyone to appreciate it with. Now that I can essentially sit down with my girlfriend and watch the whole game, the tables have turned. The game has changed. Everything is /different/ if you get what I mean. Now I can obsessively watch baseball in the same way I obsessively do another large number of things, like play and watch Street Fighter, or get obsessed with a random MMO. And boy, do I obsess.
Anyways, after watching a limited amount of games in 2008, and really following the entire Marlins season in 2009 (and being present for some of the greatest moments, like Dan Uggla and Cody Ross lifting back-to-back home runs to win 3-2 against former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg, who everyone in Miami simultaneously hated for being terrible at pitching and now everyone in Miami loves for giving us free wins), I was totally ready for the 2010 season. I was expecting something similar to 2009, where the Marlins got off to a great start and then sort of flagged a bit after leaving the gates.
I wasn't expecting what I saw in Opening Day.
Josh Johnson threw a complete dud of a game. It seems to me like he was still recovering from that flu that he had late in Spring Training and we just threw him out there to do the job anyways. His control was off, pitches were way too high or way too low... Just a mediocre performance overall. It didn't help that our relievers were all apparently in the same boat, USS Let's Play Like Shit. Dan Meyer and Clay Hensley both had a throwing error to first trying to pick a man off, and Gaby Sánchez (who incidentally is the childhood friend of my friend Michael, the one designing his own RPG) had both an awesome day on offense by working the counts on Johan Santana and seeing upwards of 25 pitches in his plate appearances against him... and a completely unflattering day on defense, not stretching out for balls at first, putting in his own error at first on a throw to first base and just generally being a surprisingly inflexible first baseman (I've seen Uggla stretch farther than he has at second when he's had to pretend he's a first baseman to get to a ball). I'm sure all of this will wear off, but I don't like losing to the Mets. I definitely hate losing to them 7-1.
And then there's yesterday.
The offense put on a hell of a show. Lots of hits left and right, good performances. Cody Ross goes 4/5 for the night. Hanley, Uggla and Jorge Cantú all go yard in the same night. We're showing some great offense. Cameron Maybin finally looks more like a good batter in the two-hole. He's playing competent defense out in center field, getting better jumps on balls. Chris Coghlan plays some suspect defense tonight (a throw of his was hysterically bad), but all in all we look like a real team offensively and defensively. Wes Helms double-clutches once for a double play, but all in all the game looks pretty normal, if you only look at offense, defense and starting pitching.
Yesterday, Ricky Nolasco took the mound and generally made mincemeat of the Mets up until the middle of the seventh, where he's begun to walk people. He's been throwing massive amounts of strikes all night but he was kind of gassed in the 7th, so he got pulled for...
Renyel Pinto. Oh God, no.
Marlins fans have a huge love/hate relationship with Renyel Pinto. Usually, Pinto starts off the season by being fairly lights out, giving you a bunch of 1-2-3 innings -- or at the very least making games more uncomfortably close than they should be, but getting out of any trouble he got himself into and handing off the inning to the next reliever without too much additional trouble. His stuff is kind of mediocre and I think he just gets by on being left-handed.
I'd rather have Pat Venditte, honestly. His stuff is slightly less mediocre, and he's essentially two relievers in one (a left-handed one, AND a right-handed one). I don't care that he can't hit 90mph. I don't care that his left-handed throwing is 82 to 85mph. You can help him work on his velocity, and he already has pretty decent control even if he only has two pitches per arm. He's a two-sided reliever. He can fight out matchups. Get him, and can Pinto. If you want someone who just gets people out because he throws from a certain side of the plate, you might as well get someone who can always force a shitty matchup.
Anyways, Pinto shows us how he's relatively mediocre and hits Cora and loads up the bases, giving up a run in the process. His control is completely absent and he sucks today. Big fucking surprise. He's pulled from the game very quickly, pitching 0.0 innings but walking out with a 0.00 ERA because none of the runners on base came from him.
Next up is... Jose Veras. This is some guy we picked up in the offseason who looked great during Spring Training. He inherited all 3 of the men Pinto left on base. Very first pitch?
In some magical fucking dance of ridiculousness, John Baker runs off, gets the ball and throws it back to Veras who covers home perfectly, getting the out. Veras manages to get himself out of the rest of the jam. And that should be the end of the Marlins' troubles, right?
Veras comes in next inning and essentially refuses to throw strikes, throwing a million low pitches and throwing 25 pitches in 2/3rds of an inning, only 14 of them for strikes. He gets mauled and puts men everywhere on base, and they pull him for Leo Nuñez. Man, what a mistake that was. Nuñez balks in a run, generally sucks and lets two of Veras' runs in, blowing the save. He eventually gets himself out of trouble with a pitch that harmlessly pops up and we go into the 10th. We're tied, 6-6, because our bullpen decided that, being the strength of our team last year, they can't possibly want to repeat that feat.
I miss Brendan Donnelly. I miss Kiko Calero. I wish Brian Sanches (the Chief) wasn't hurt. I can't wait for Brian to get healthy again. It's like our team is filled right now with Luis Ayalas. I don't want any more performances reminiscent of Luis Ayala, please. Not ever again. I cursed our team by saying "we should pick up Luis Ayala, he's a free agent and I bet we can fix him" last season. I am never ever again giving my vote of confidence for a pitcher just because he's part of la raza. Luis Ayala, if you ever read this, you're not ever welcome in my house in Miami unless you bring me a refund for the tickets to every game I went to that you pitched in. The total comes around to $120. Let me know.
Wes Helms immediately reminds us why he's the man, gets himself on 1st. Coghlan bunts him over to 2nd, and then Ronny Paulino laces a single out (well, for him it's a single, Ronny is the slowest man on Earth and you can feel him running by the massive earthquakes he causes with each lumbering step) to center, Helms runs and just barely sneaks a tag in safe under the throw to the plate. Marlins are ahead again, 7-6.
And then we have here an unlikely hero story.
Tim Wood comes out. This is a kid who was about to start the season in the Minors, but Sanches got hurt and he got called up instead. I think Wood must've been half-asleep because he looked the least nervous out of any pitcher we sent up besides Ricky. He just walked out and looked like he wanted to end the night already. And boy, did he end it.
He threw 15 pitches, 10 of them for strikes. That's what I call huevos. I understand his pitches tend to unfortunately attract opposing batters way too much, but I'm glad that things worked out for him today. He even struck the last batter out, and earned himself his first major league save. And he did it with no drama, just three good outs.
After 4 hours of baseball, I can barely believe there's 159 more of these games to go. I've just barely seen two ball games and my heart is already in disarray.
Welcome back, baseball season. Welcome back, Marlins. I missed you, even if you're so abusive towards me.