The Miami Marlins are back in action tonight, attempting to recover from two straight ugly losses at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. Tonight, they take on the Reds in the second game of a three-game set, and it may be the toughest matchup the Fish have faced yet. The Marlins take the field tonight against one of the newest Reds on the team and probably the best pitcher the Reds have. On our side, the Marlins will send Ricky Nolasco in his first attempt at redeeming years of underachieving his peripherals.
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The Marlins are sending out Nolasco for his first start of the season. Throughout the offseason, we discussed Nolasco's disturbing trend of underperforming his peripherals, as his strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed just did not match his ERA numbers over the past three seasons. Today, he faces one of the better offenses in the National League in the Reds, and his particular issue with home runs (for his career, he has allowed home runs at above the league average rate) should be amplified within the confines of the Great American Ballpark. The park has a five-year home run park factor as calculated by Patriot of 1.10, meaning that on average it allows home runs at a ten percent greater rate than the league average.
The Reds throw Mat Latos at the Marlins tonight, and he too has questions to face despite his superior status. Over the last two years, he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, with a career 3.37 ERA and 3.28 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). But he did play half of his games at Petco Park in San Diego, and we know that the home park does help him in that regard. He does have a 3.11 ERA at San Diego versus a 3.57 mark elsewhere, though his FIP at home and on the road are almost identical. However, he is not a particularly strong ground ball pitcher (career 43 percent rate) and he is moving to an hitter's park, so it should be interesting to see how he transitions.
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Presumably the Marlins will return to their classic lineup and work with that rather than the one they used on Thursday. Morrison did sit out the second game because of his sore knee, presumably because the Marlins did not want to work the knee too hard on an early start following a night game and a road trip. After a day of rest, there is a good chance we see Morrison once more tonight.
The Fish are going to need all the help they can get, because in the last two outings, their offense has looked putrid. The Marlins scored just one run in their first two games, and a variety of poor decisions and hitting really hampered what could have otherwise been competitive games. The Marlins are looking to get their offensive swagger in line in 2012, and hopefully it starts tonight.
- In case you had not heard, Reds first baseman Joey Votto had just received a mammoth ten-year, $225 million extension tacked onto his currently active two-year, $26 million deal. The Reds just committed a boatload of cash to one of the best hitters in baseball over the past five seasons (career .313/.403/.550 hitter with a .407 wOBA). We have seen similar extensions of this type with players like Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins, and Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies. These four guys all received monster extensions with a few years (in Mauer's case, just one year remaining) left until free agency, ensuring that they would stay with their home teams forever. One day, I suspect the Marlins may be able to give such an extension to Giancarlo Stanton.
Bold Prediction: Reds def. Marlins 3-1