The Marlins miss J.T. Realmuto in the worst way.
Without a competent backup in the organization, they’ve opted to carry three players with catching experience on the active roster to share the burden. Not only does that limit the flexibility for in-game maneuvers at other positions, but their production has been embarrassing. Through eight games, Miami catchers have combined for a .229 on-base percentage and .161 slugging percentage—both worst in the National League—while striking out in 40 percent of their opportunities.
Bryan Holaday, Tomás Telis and Chad Wallach must distinguish themselves from each other over the next couple weeks to stick in the majors once Realmuto returns. All three participated in Saturday’s 20-1 ass whooping to the Phillies. Holaday was clearly the star, but not for anything he did at the plate or behind it.
Manager Don Mattingly had to burn through a handful of pitchers just to complete a game that was decided early. Thankfully, Holaday’s efficiency on the mound in the eighth inning allowed Mattingly to avoid leaning too heavily on his usual bullpen options.
The 30-year-old journeyman faced backup infielder Pedro Florimón, NL Rookie of the Year candidate Scott Kingery and dominant slugger Rhys Hoskins. The Phillies entered that inning with a .512 team batting average (20-for-39) on the night, and Holaday retired the side with ease, anyway—eight pitches, six strikes, one broken bat, no baserunners.
Right out of the chute, Holaday gets some nice sinking action to send Florimón strolling for a new piece of wood. The Marlins had already delivered 192 pitches in the game, with only one Peters curveball registering at a lower velocity than this (72.5 mph).
There would be more funkiness from there.
Very next offering retires Florimón. Pitch comes in at 68.3 mph and goes to right field at 82.1 mph off the bat. But at such a steep launch angle (45 degrees), Braxton Lee has plenty of time to settle under it.
Holaday locates near the low-outside corner of the plate, exactly where Telis was set up.
Not at all where Holaday wanted to pitch Kingery here, but like Florimón on the broken bat, he wasn’t calibrated to do damage against such unconventional velocity. A routine pop-up for any MLB infield (except for the Padres).
Holaday demonstrates some variety. This pitch literally leaves his hand at batting practice speed (61.6 mph). Minimizing spin creates a knuckleball-like effect, as Hoskins awkwardly and uncharacteristically flails at a ball outside the strike zone.
After the game, Holaday described it as a palm ball (via Joe Frisaro, MLB.com). “That’s my go-to,” he said only half-jokingly.
During the perfect outing, Holaday didn’t even need to use his full repertoire. That includes a high-70s four-seam fastball which helped him get through a relief outing for the Rangers in 2016.
With much of the Marlins pitching staff lacking skill or experience (or both), it’s possible that Mattingly may face similar garbage time situations later this season. And he sees legitimate value in having somebody like Holaday step up:
“You don’t want to make a farce out of the game, but it is a situation where he really saves us, as far as having to use another guy,” Mattingly said. “You basically want him to be able to protect himself, but not make a farce. You want him to be able to throw the ball over the plate, that’s basically the concern I have with that.”
No reason to overcomplicate things: he looks about as comfortable in an emergency role as any position player in recent memory.
Pitch details provided by Statcast and Brooks Baseball.