Hero of the Game: Heath Bell (0.197 WPA)
Hero of the Game (Ichthyomancy): Carlos Zambrano (0.180 WPA)
Goat of the Game: John Buck (-0.087 WPA)
Play of the Game: Hanley Ramirez doubled to left field in the sixth inning, moving Omar Infante to third base (0.140 WPA)
The Miami Marlins defined the phrase "eeking out a win" tonight with their 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians. While the Indians were none too impressive against Carlos Zambrano, he did not show off the type of strong outing to which we have sort of grown accustomed. The Fish did not contirbute the sort of big plays or big innings that have fueled the offense in the team's last few wins; instead, they depended on the overused and overhyped axiom of "manufacturing" their three runs with a series of slight gains and losses. Finally, the club closed out the game with Heath Bell, who did not look or sound impressive other than the fact that he got the save and the Marlins came away with a win.
Doesn't mean I won't take the win. I'll take the win every time. But this was one of the Marlins' least appealing and more difficult to watch wins.Zambrano's Wild Outing
We have gotten used to a much more controlled outburst of Carlos Zambrano thus far in 2012, but tonight was by far one of his worst outings of the season. Yes, he only gave up two runs, and yes, he got his second win of the season. But it does not take any use of sabermetrics to say that you pitched poorly when you strike out just two guys and walk five, including walking Johnny Damon three times within 14 pitches.
The good news, as has been the case all season long, is that Zambrano has kept the ball down and that assuredly has helped him keep it on the ground and away from the cheap seats. The problem tonight is simply that he could not locate it in any other way other than "down." Against a veritable plethora of lefty hitters, Zambrano threw them a healthy dose of pitches away, and when I say away, I mean miles away. His pitches to lefties were as far as one and a half feet away from the traditional strike zone (more like one foot away from the lefty zone that is usually called in the big leagues), and because he was so wild, it was difficult for him to get calls on the borderline.
Out of Zambrano's 109 pitches, an astonishing 58 went for balls. Fifty-three percent of Zambrano's pitches went for balls. In contrast, only 20 went for called strikes, yielding a 2.9 to one ratio of balls to called strikes. No matter how you slice that, that is terrible control. It may not have hurt Zambrano significantly tonight, but he obviously cannot keep pitching like that and getting away with a .174 BABIP.
Heath Bell Escapes Too
On the surface, it may have looked like a clean getaway for Heath Bell, and Marlins fans on Twitter were certainly happy about it. But allow me to be the pessimist on this one:
In other words, Bell's performance may have looked clean, but much like many of his other outings, it was built on a weak foundation.
The good thing about this location is that at least he missed some of those pitches low, as lately he has been unable to keep the ball down and that has been the cause of his demise. But at least five of is 10 pitches in this game were very clear balls in the view of the traditional strike zone, while two more were on the borderline. Only three pitches found their way into the zone, and they were not even in good locations but rather right down the middle of the plate. We keep hearing that Bell's success was founded upon locating down in the zone, but so far the only "down" that we see is strictly out of the strike zone.
The location is one thing, but Bell was also again unable to induce a swinging strike as well. He did not miss a bat and got only one called strike, with the other strikes coming on foul balls. Only one of the pitches looked like an outright bad pitch at which to swing at for the Indians hitters, that being the one that Jose Lopez hacked at to induce the game-ending ground out.
All of this does not mean "don't celebrate Bell saving the game for the Marlins." It really just means "be careful with using this 'clean' outing to predict future good ones for Bell." He may have saved the game this time, but with tonight's pitching profile, he will not be able to repeat this situation.
Marlins Play Small Ball
It was totally ironic that the Marlins were able to play small ball tonight to get all three runs for them when their best small ball tool, the stolen base, was denied to them. The Fish attempted four steals, but three of them were unsuccessful, and in the process of one of those unsuccessful steals, Emilio Bonifacio sprained his left thumb (he is day-to-day). Only Giancarlo Stanton was successful at swiping against Carlos Santana, who before today was just average for his career in catching would-be basestealers.
The rest of the Marlins' day involved a bunch of small ball. The team mustered out six hits, but only one (Ramirez's 10th double of the season and the Play of the Game in terms of Win Probability Added, or WPA) was an extra-base hit. To be fair, that hit was smoked, as Ramirez got all of that Justin Masterson sinker and knocked it hard off the left field wall in Progressive Field.
However, the Marlins delivered each of their runs on "productive outs" rather than real hits to keep rallies going. Omar Infante brought home the first run with a ground ball that almost turned into a double play, scoring Bryan Petersen following a Jose Reyes single that put Petersen at third base. Later in the game, the Fish tied it following Ramirez's double with an immediate sacrifice fly by the unbelievably mediocre Greg Dobbs. Finally, the Fish delivered with a second sacrifice fly by Hanley himself, bringing home Petersen again. No scoring play brought more than a 10 percent chance of winning to the Fish, as they each accompanied outs that were "rally killers" that happened to score runs The Fish only had two hits, Reyes's single that moved Petersen and Ramirez's double, that cracked that 10 percent mark.
In the end, I will take all of that if it means a win for the Marlins. It just was not an impressive game for anyone, either Marlins side or Indians side.