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Money Ball - Literally

The Marlins starting pitchers are in a contest to see who can rack up the highest percentage of first pitch strikes.

''We've been preaching getting ahead [in the count],'' Marlins pitching coach Rick Kranitz said.

Since the All-Star break, the staff has been keeping track of each starter's first-strike percentage. If a pitcher throws a ball on his first pitch, a penalty of $1 is assessed.

The money goes into a collection, which Kranitz said will probably go toward a dinner for pitchers. The goal for each pitcher, Kranitz said, is a 65 percent success rate.

''Right now, it's unbelievably close,'' Kranitz said, adding that all five starters are within a few percentage points of one another.

Sunday was not a successful day for Willis, though. His outing cost him $15, as he threw first-pitch strikes to only 14 of 29 batters.

''They only made that game up so I could take them out to dinner,'' Willis groused.

If you wondering about the percentages for the starters, here they are:

Unofficially through two starts apiece, Dontrelle Willis and Ricky Nolasco are pacing the group with 33 first-pitch strikes each. Nolasco has the far better first-pitch strike percentage (63.5 compared to Willis' 55.9).

Olsen is last in both total first-pitch strikes (29) and percentage (54.7), but not by much. Anibal Sanchez (30, 61.2 percent) and Josh Johnson (32, 62.7 percent) have similar numbers.

After yesterday, Olsen may have relinquished his hold on last place, as measured by percentage.  Though that doesn't really matter, the penalty is assessed on the number of first pitch balls not on percentages.  Dontrelle is probably right, given that he pitches more innings than any other Marlins pitcher, the rules of the game are slanted to him contributing the most money in the contest.  But considering he makes the most, I think he will survive.

I would make this a new Ichthyomancy category but given the time I generally get home from work, there would be no way to keep track of this.

Too bad, it would have been fun.