Fish Bites: Dealing With Problems in the Second Half

MIAMI, FL - JULY 15: Heath Bell #21 of the Miami Marlins delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on July 15, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Nationals vs Marlins boxscoreThe Miami Marlins have a number of issues as they enter the second half, and none of those issues have yet to be resolved during the team's 1-2 weekend against the Washington Nationals. Still, tonight, much like the rest of the year, holds the promise of the unknown; the Marlins could come out having split the series against the division leaders and their four best starters and not feel all that bad about their season once more.

- One of the big changes heading into the second half is the closer-by-committee approach of the Miami Marlins. The reason for this change in approach is because Heath Bell has been so ineffective, and he is looking for answers this second half. The author of the linked article, Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald, cited the problem of Bell's lack of whiffs.

According to fangraphs.com, he’s producing swinging strikes just 5.8 percent of the time. His career average is 9.4.

Yes, indeed hitters are making more contact on Bell, which is one of the main problems weighing him down. But, as mentioned later in the piece, hitters are making better contact in part because he has been failing to locate his curveball.

On Sunday in St. Louis, after Bell blew his major-league-leading sixth save of the season, Cardinals hitters admitted they were sitting on Bell’s fastball because they knew he couldn’t throw his other pitchers for strikes.

Funny, because that sounds a lot like something at which I have hinted.

The second potential issue could be that he has just lacked confidence in his curveball. It has been easy to see Bell bury many a curveball without a swing, and the numbers do support a lack of strikes from seasons past .He has thrown it for fewer strikes and more balls, with a 12.6 percent called strike rate and a 4.3 balls to called strike ratio. Compare those numbers to his career 19.7 percent called strike rate and 2.1 balls to called strike ratio, and you can see why he might lack confidence in placing it in the zone, especially when working more even or behind counts.

Truth in the numbers, right?

- Bell has not necessarily helped himself by putting his foot in his mouth pretty consistently. He got mad at Dan Le Batard for being prodded for his poor performance while he was dealing with his father's health issues. He got into a misunderstanding and a bit of a shouting match with Ozzie Guillen after being pulled from a non-save situation early. And now he got into another misunderstanding with John Buck with regards to some of Bell's words implying an issue with pitch calling.

"I’m not going to say anything bad about our catchers, and I’m not going to say anything about our situations calling games. I’m not going to call anybody else out. The thing is I just feel like I have to execute my pitches a little bit more. But I think there’s more to it."

Catcher John Buck said if Bell is insinuating pitch sequence is what is hurting him, the closer can always shake off what he calls.

"It is his game," Buck said. "He’s got a head on his neck, so he can shake. Otherwise, if you’re that good of a pitcher, go ahead and throw a strike when I call it.

Bell and Buck discussed it and patched things up quickly. Still, can a guy endear himself less to the team and its fanbase in a half a season short of off-the-field wrongs?

- Justin Ruggiano has been the polar opposite of Heath Bell this season. He came unheralded in a trade with the Houston Astros and has flourished in a very short time period. Here's hoping for more future success. By the way, if you missed it, a few weeks back Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs did a podcast interview with Justin Ruggiano. Check it out.

- Last week, the first episode of Showtime's "The Franchise" series came out. Each of the next few episodes will be half an hour long and air on Wednesday evenings. Of course, given the unique situation with the Marlins, Deadspin thought they would save you the time and trouble in case you were busy and boil down the first episode (NSFW audio). And given the problems with Heath Bell, it would not surprise you to see the outtakes that Strip Club With Stanton thinks were made during the show.

- The Marlins do have choices in this latest trade deadline, but Larry Beinfest will not reveal the Marlins' likely plan.

"I’d like to think we have the pieces here," Beinfest said. "But it hasn’t happened. We have a bunch of guys who are well below their career averages. You could say there’s plenty of room for improvement. But every day we keep waiting for that to happen. I don’t think [we had] unwarranted expectations. We just haven’t quite got there."

I would agree with that assessment by Beinfest. That usually means that the team should stand pat, and that is probably the club's likely direction.

- Many Marlins players and figures, including team president David Samson and left fielder Logan Morrison, have shaved their heads for Marlins Charity Partner Weekend to benefit the Miami Children's Hospital.

Around the League

- The Pittsburgh Pirates are apparently pursuing Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton, and they would be wiling to part with prospect outfielder Starling Marte. They will not, however, give up Jameson Tallion or Gerrit Cole, so the deal may not happen after all.

- ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that the Philadelphia Phillies are ready to offer a major extension to lefty Cole Hamels.

- Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley seems prepared for the end of the Cole Hamels tour in Philadelphia, as he discussed the legacy of Hamels. Bill has spent more time explaining how good Hamels has been, whether the ERA has been excellent or awful, than anyone I know on the internet, so I'm sure he will have a few more things to say by year's end.

- For what it's worth, it seems like David S. Cohen and the guys at The Good Phight know exactly how a Cole Hamels trade rumor is born.

- Over at Talking Chop, Tony Almeyada discusses Ben Sheets's first start as a Brave, yielding a 6-1 victory.

- Stephen Strasburg beat us yesterday, and he said that, despite striking out seven in his six innings, he was pitching to contact. His pitching coach Steve McCatty agrees, thinking "strikeouts are bulls**t." I think the Nationals starting staff is very good, and I know the Nationals starting staff has a lot of strikeouts, so there's something to that.

At Fish Stripes

- On Friday, I posted five predictions for the Marlins in the second half. Check it out.

- Have you voted on our Fish Stripes Feedback Survey? If not, please do, and help us improve Fish Stripes!

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