Having taken two of three at the overly-friendly confines of Wrigley Field, the Boston Red Sox (33-33) return to Fenway Park to begin a nine-game homestand with a three-game set against the Miami Marlins (33-33). Many of the Marlins’ hitting stars are ice cold, as are many of the Red Sox’s. The Marlins short relievers are pitching very well but their closer gets unlucky, just like the Red Sox. Is it any wonder that both teams are .500?
Mark Buehrle (against Clay Buchholz in Tuesday’s opener) keeps rolling along. Buehrle reminds me of those old baseball films of Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson, who would get the ball and throw it to the plate almost instantly. As far as the numbers go, Buehrle’s right where he has been for the past few years, with the exception that he is walking fewer batters this year (a career low 1.34 per 9 innings). His BABIP of .267 is on the low side. His SIERA of 4.25 and xFIP of 4.18 are higher than his ERA of 3.41, but they’re not so far off to be that significant.
Ricky Nolasco (versus Felix Doubront on Wednesday) has become a slightly below average pitcher. Nolasco’s ERA- and FIP- (baseline 100 for an average pitcher) both sit at 109 and his xFIP- is 113. With an ERA of 4.36, an FIP of 4.26, an xFIP of 4.36 and a SIERA of 4.29, the phrase “it is what it is” seems to encapsulate Nolasco’s 2012 performance. He’s pitching exactly as his numbers indicate he should be pitching.
Carlos Zambrano (facing Daisuke Matsuzaka in Thursday night’s finale) is pitching better in 2012 than in 2011, if you haven’t noticed. This may be attributed to his reliance on a sinker in 2012, throwing it 63.3% of the time between two variations, throwing his cutter sparingly (4.9% in 2012 vs. 22.5% in 2011) and eliminating the use of a changeup. Predictably, the heavy reliance on a sinker has increased Zambrano’s ground ball rate to 50.0% in 2012, versus 42.4% in 2011. Zambrano’s stats have gotten better across the board: 3.92 ERA/4.09 FIP/4.23 xFIP/4.35 SIERA in 2012 vs. 4.82 ERA/4.59 FIP/4.34 xFIP/4.46 SIERA in 2011. On the worrying side, Zambrano’s walks have increased to 4.28 per 9 innings and his BABIP of .251 is on the lucky side, but I attribute that to remaking himself as a sinkerballer.
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
The Marlins aren’t hitting well, and their 2-8 record in their last 10 games reflects that. In the last two weeks Donovan Solano (.286/.360/.381, .336 wOBA, 109 wRC) and Justin Ruggiano (.286/.400/.619, .410 wOBA, 159wRC) are hitting well, but Giancarlo Stanton (.174/.240/.304, .242 wOBA, 45 wRC), Hanley Ramirez (.146/.271/.171, .219 wOBA, 29 wRC) and Omar Infante (.159/.178/.182, .161 wOBA, -10 wRC) are below the Mendoza line.
In the bullpen, Randy Choate (2.18 ERA/2.66 FIP/3.43 xFIP) and Steve Cishek (1.91 ERA/3.23 FIP/3.98 xFIP) continue their excellent pitching, although Cishek’s FIP is over a run higher than his ERA and Choate’s BABIP is a definitely lucky .214, while Heath Bell (5.68 ERA/3.60 FIP/4.51 xFIP, .363 BABIP) seems to have run into bad luck.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
The Red Sox have improved to one step forward and one step back, so that’s something. Leading the hitters in the last two weeks are David Ortiz (.289/.417/.605, .417 wOBA, 163 wRC), Scott Podsednik (.400/.436/.429, .387 wOBA, 142 wRC), Daniel Nava (.350/.409/.450, .389 wOBA, 143 wRC) and Darnell McDonald (.316/.381/.474, .371 wOBA, 131 WRC). However, Adrian Gonzalez (.214/.277/.333, .269 wOBA, 61 wRC), Will Middlebrooks (.192/.290/.192, .232 wOBA, 35 wRC), Dustin Pedroia (.160/.232/.200, .192 wOBA, 8 wRC) and Kevin Youkilis (.121/.237/.152, .194 wOBA, 9 wRC) are not hitting well at all in the past fortnight. Unless they get hot, and soon, this may be a lost season.
On the mound, Clay Buchholz has had a nice two weeks, with two wins and stats of 0.56 ERA/2.93 FIP/3.37 xFIP. His BABIP was a lucky .216, but using BABIP with a small sample size may be misleading. Even if Buchholz’s ERA was 2.93 as his FIP is, that would still be a good stretch. Felix Doubront was a bit unlucky in the last fortnight, going 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA, but a 3.51 FIP and a 2.71 xFIP. and Josh Beckett was very unlucky in his last two starts, going 0-2 but having a decent 3.60 ERA, and excellent 1.92 FIP, and a good 3.26 xFIP.
The bullpen continues to be the strong point for the Red Sox. In the past two weeks, an incredible five relievers have a Blutarsky ERA: Franklin Morales (0.00 ERA/1.05 FIP/2.96 xFIP), Vicente Padilla (0.00 ERA/0.38 FIP/1.82 xFIP), Rich Hill (0.00 ERA/1.05 FIP/2.49 xFIP), Mark Melancon (0.00 ERA/4.77 FIP/5.38 xFIP) and Andrew Miller (0.00 ERA/6.05 FIP/7.28 xFIP). However, note that Melancon and Miller may have been a bit lucky, as their FIP and xFIP belied their ERA. However, closer Alfredo Aceves had incredible bad luck in the last two weeks, with a 5.14 ERA, but an excellent 1.62 FIP and a very good 2.65 xFIP.
With an anemic .237 batting average and 239 runs scored (both 14th in the National League), the Marlins are dropping in the National League East race. If they don’t start hitting they will be out of the running. However, they are still only six games behind, but they need to get it going. Here’s hoping they wait until Friday to do so.