Same Old Story

Thursday, May 31, 2012

From Miami Today:
Since opening day, Miami Marlins ticket prices have done a complete reversal, going from highest to lowest in Major League Baseball, data shows.

While some decrease in ticket prices can be expected following the highly-anticipated first game of the season in their new ballpark, sports economists say the steady decline in Marlins ticket prices since then reflects something more.

"They don't have much of a market," said Phil Miller, an associate professor of economics at Minnesota State University and a contributor to The Sport Economist, a website about the business of sports.
This shouldn't surprise readers of this here blog. However, I have to point out one sentence in particular as a red herring: "Meanwhile, secondary market ticket prices for upcoming Marlins home games start at as little as $3 to $6, according to SeatGeek."

A quick scan of TiqIQ identified a Yankees-Rays series at Yankee Stadium next week with tickets starting at $5. Pointing to individual tickets or individual games (the article identified a Marlins-Rockies game for which average ticket price on the secondary market was $15.92) is an exercise in identifying outliers, which are sometimes useful, but often tell us little of significance.

Additionally, looking to secondary markets is bound to reveal falling prices if the Marlins are not selling out their home games. Secondary markets thrive on scarcity, and right now there is no scarcity of Marlins tickets. So I guess the point here is that the Marlins still have empty seats at their home games, but the team is probably happy its average attendance is up to 28,543, from 19,007 in 2011. Such is the vagary of context that a 50% jump in attendance can be spun as a sign of disappointing demand.


This Happened:

The grounds crew thought Jeffrey Loria was crazy when he asked them to pack up the infield tarp at Sun Life Stadium last September so the team could take it with them to Marlins Park. Who's crazy now?

A sudden rainstorm yesterday afternoon soaked the field before the roof at Marlins Park could be closed, forcing the Marlins to cancel batting practice.
It took 15 minutes to start closing the roof due to safety issues, according to Marlins vice president Claude Delomme. "We have to make sure everything has been clear," he said. "But as soon as we saw there was a cell right above us, we covered the infield. As long as we do that, that's all I care about."
The field dried in time for Wednesday's game. The Marlins keep the roof open during the day so the grass can get sunlight. For a full photoset, head over to Fish@Bat.


Surprise: People Like the Yankees

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Via the Miami New Times comes a new Quinnipiac poll showing that the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays have more supporters in the state of Florida than the Miami Marlins.

Click to enlarge

The margin of error on the poll is 2.2%, so this gulf between Marlins and Yankees fans is statistically significant. But is it that surprising? Florida is a big state, and there can't be many Marlins fans in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, or the panhandle. A breakdown by geographic area confirms this:
Click to enlarge
There are still a lot of Yankees fans in South Florida, but they are vastly outnumbered by Marlins fans. Even the pockets of Red Sox and Mets fans (6%, not included in screen grab) are nowhere near the size of the local fan base.

New Times opted for the pageview-generating headline of "Miami Marlins Are Only Floridians' Third Favorite Baseball Team," but that headline only makes sense if you believed the Marlins actually had any statewide popularity to begin with. Though the team spent 19 seasons playing as the Florida Marlins, it has always been a Miami team.

And though I suspect the Miami market has less support for the home team than other markets (I'm willing to bet St. Louis' Cardinals fan percentage is easily greater than 50%, for instance), in general it is like everywhere else in MLB: full of home-team supporters, with large pockets of transplants and frontrunners rooting for the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets.


Easy there, Giancarlo

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sometimes I wonder if Giancarlo Stanton knows exactly how powerful he is. Earlier this week he broke a scoreboard (Roy Hobbs achievement: UNLOCKED). Last night he nearly decapitated Logan Morrison:

Easy there, dude, we actually want LoMo around.

Onto other news I haven't had a chance to mention this week (thanks, school!). The Juan Carlos Coaster is coming back!
A Dominican newspaper has reported that Juan Carlos Oviedo received a U.S. visa on Wednesday, allowing him to return to the country and begin serving an 8-week suspension from Major League Baseball for playing under a false identity.
Oviedo still has to serve an eight-week suspension, and probably play a few minor league games to make sure he remembers how to pitch, so we probably won't see him on the field until August.

Also, Emilio Bonifacio is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing thumb surgery this morning. Now that Heath Bell is on the team, we don't need Boni to be our punching bag, so we wish him a speedy recovery.


Hayes Won't Give Marlins Relief

Thursday, May 24, 2012

So apparently there's this groundswell of support on Twitter for replacing John Buck with Brett Hayes in the starting lineup. This is normally something I'd favor (I'm all for pointing out the sunk-cost-fallacy thinking that often governs the Marlins' decisions - cough, Heath Bell, cough), but it just doesn't pass the smell test, so I went to the stats.

On the surface, it is pretty clear why everyone is clamoring for Hayes. He is slashing .295/.326/.386, compared  to Buck's slash line of .173/.306/.327. But once you look past those stats, it starts looking really ugly for Hayes.

First, consider that Hayes is striking out 28.3% of the tie and walking just 4.3% of the time. We could forgive that if he is hitting home runs at a Stantonian pace, but that ain't happening, ever. Buck strikes out a lot too (25.0%), but he can at least draw a walk with regularity (16.1% walk rate). 

Then there's our old war horse, BABIP. This tells you exactly why Hayes is raking and Buck is struggling:

Hayes: .419 BABIP (~.288 previous two seasons)
Buck: .203 BABIP (.283 career BABIP)

In his scant 46 plate appearances in 2012, Hayes has been excessively lucky. Maybe he can keep that BABIP high, but I wouldn't bet on it. Unless there is an injury slowing down Buck, I would expect his BABIP (and overall batting average) to improve as the season moves on. Replacing him with Buck might not be the prudent course of action here. 

Ozzie Guillen said this week "I'm not going to take the job from Buck. Hopefully, Buck will get out of his slump soon." Not that I think he looked at advanced stats to make this decision, but at least I agree with him.


Someone Can Expect a Bill From Mr. Loria...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Giancarlo Stanton is doing his best to convince us that he is not a man, but a superhuman baseball-crushing machine sent from the future. On Monday night, he absolutely crushed a Jamie Moyer pitch with the bases loaded, giving him his second grand slam of the year (and his 9th home run of the season).

Here is the video:

Carlos Zambrano's reaction in the dugout might be the best part. At least Moyer can rest assured knowing he looks dope in his old-fashioned stirrups...

It wasn't enough that Stanton gave every male Marlins fan on the planet an baseball boner with that shot, though. He also broke the Marlins Park video board (photo below via Joe Capozzi). That's how legends are made.

Pretty easy to see in this pic where Stanton damaged the video board

Stanton's slam led blog-friend SCWS to ask for Giancarlo-related haikus via Twitter. We responded with a pair:

Grand slam? I'm having
trouble hiding my Stanton
boner on the bus
One day #Monsterdongs
will be FDA-approved
treatments for ED


Misadventures of the Tangerine Troops: Vol VI

Monday, May 21, 2012

Can't believe we missed this play from Wednesday:

That gif is just too beautiful for words.

h/t: Jonah Keri


Week in Review

Orange hat = end of JJ's slump... 
It's a quick one this week, we're busy.

Overview: The Marlins split two-game sets with Pittsburgh and Atlanta, then took two of three in Cleveland.
Line of the Week: Josh Johnson gets the nod for his second quality start of the week on Sunday:

7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 104 pitches, .361 WPA

Highlight of the Week: Jose Reyes stole home on a double steal with Omar Infante on Wednesday. That will win highlight of the week every time.

Looking Ahead: The Marlins return home for a three-game series against the Rockies, then a four-game set versus the Giants.


Say it ain't so...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ozzie Guillen has quit Twitter:

Our reaction:

Why did he do it? Mostly because of haterz:
"People out there are nasty, nasty," he said Thursday. "I don't need the aggravation."
Also, he doesn't get paid for it:
"I never made money on that... I'm not Kim Kardashian. I don't sell anything in my life to have Twitter."
So that's a bummer. Guillen said he'd keep blogging, since he gets paid for it. Guillen seems to have done a better job figuring out Web 2.0 than we have. But no one ever picketed our workplace demanding we be fired for something we said about a decrepit despot, so we've got that going for us, which is nice.


Home Run Blues

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Marlins are hitting fewer home runs at home than on the road, but despite speculation that the team should move in the home run fences at Marlins Park, the team is standing pat:
"We want it to be pitcher friendly, but fair to hitters who get all of it," [David] Samson said. "No cheapies. If you get it, we want it to go."
Here are the numbers. The Marlins have hit 13 home runs at home, compared to 19 on the road. Accounting for the fact that Miami has played more road games than home games thus far, that stat is no good. Home run percentages and the rate at which fly balls leave the park are the stats to examine.

Not including Tuesday's game (the stats from which had not been incorporated into Fangraphs' season tallies when I looked all this up last night), the Marlins are hitting home runs in 2.4% of their home at bats, compared to 2.8% of road at bats. Miami's home HR/FB% is 8.3%, while on the road 11.0% of fly balls hit by Marlins leave the park.

How does this compare to Sun Life Stadium? In 2011, the Marlins hit home runs in 2.7% of home at bats, and their home HR/FB% was 9.8%.

Clearly, Marlins Park is supressing power numbers. But it also has some other interesting effects. The Marlins have hit 8 triples at home this year (including Emilio Bonifacio's triple on Tuesday night), compared to 3 on the road. The expansive outfield could be one reason speedy hitters like Bonifacio and Jose Reyes are turning more doubles into triples at home.

Beyond that is the simple fact that whatever effect the Marlins are feeling at home will be duplicated by their opponents. The numbers bear this out. Marlins pitchers have posted a HR/FB% of 5.2% at home, versus 8.3% on the road.

I have not tested these numbers for statistical significance (I'll do that at the end of the month when we have a little bit bigger sample size), but suspect these differences are significant. Even so, the Marlins are not a power hitting team per se. Apart from Giancarlo Stanton, this team is full of guys who can hit to the gaps and get extra bases using speed. That's a good lineup to have for this park. Throw in the fact that the cavernous outfield dimensions mean the pitching staff can suppress home runs, and I think the Marlins' home run problem is not a problem at all.

Unless, of course, you consider the fact that we don't get to see our ugly/beautiful home run sculpture light up nearly enough.


Week in Review

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Overview: The Marlins took two of three in Houston, then won two of three against the Mets at home.
Positives: Giancarlo Stanton's walkoff grand slam was the best Mother's Day Gift of all. I hope you all did what I did, and tell your mom Giancarlo did that as a favor to you for the holiday. Carlos Zambrano has turned out to be a steal for the Fish. In two starts this week, he gave up just one earned run (and one unearned) in 16 innings. Michael Jong has an interesting piece about Big Z's turnaround at Fish Stripes.
Negatives: Heath Bell's struggles continue; he gave up two runs in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, allowing the Mets to take a late lead. Remember that Emilio Bonifacio regression we've been warning you about for months? It's happening. As his BABIP is back at career norms this season (.320), he is now slashing .240/.333/.248. Ozzie Guillen has moved him down in the batting order, but the Marlins may need to start looking around for a new centerfielder if this persists.
Line of the Week: Carlos Zambrano threw a complete game on Monday, and it was a gem:

9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 109 pitches, 0.452 WPA

Highlight of the Week: I think we all know who the rightful winner of this award is...

Looking Ahead: The Fish host Pittsburgh for two games, then hit the road. A two-game set in Atlanta is followed by a weekend series in Cleveland, Miami's first interleague set of the season.


The Monsterest of #Monsterdongs

After Heath Bell pooped the bed (again!) in the ninth inning on Sunday, giving up 2 runs as the Marlins fell behind 4-2 against the Mets, his teammates bailed him out in a big way. First, Emilio Bonifacio tripled and scored on a Greg Dobbs single, then Jose Reyes tied the game on a sac fly. A walk to Hanley Ramirez and HBP to Austin Kearns loaded the bases for Stanton, who sent a bomb to the base of the centerfield home run sculpture.

Peep this win probability chart: 

Source: FanGraphs

We'll be back later with the Week in Review.


Punto a los Testículos

Thursday, May 10, 2012

In case you missed it last night, Hanley Ramirez got plunked by Astros reliever Wilton Lopez on Wednesday night in the top of the seventh inning. Hanley gave Lopez the stare-down afterward, and had to be escorted to first by home plate umpire to keep the peace. Astros manager Brad Mills said the HBP was purely unintentional, but Lopez belied that assessment by flashing the Marlins' "lo viste" sign on his way to the dugout after being pulled.

Apparently, the Astros were displeased with Ramirez after he admired his own home run hit against them last month in Miami, and the HBP may have been retaliatory. If they really wanted to get revenge on the Marlins, they could try winning more games. The Fish have gone 4-2 against Houston this season.

This once again proves that baseball beefs are the lamest beefs of all.

Ozzie Guillen, as expected, wins the conflict thanks to his solid logic and reasoning:
"Very immature, that's all I can say. Very immature," Guillen said. "He's lucky I wasn't Hanley. I would have chased his ass all the way to Puerto Rico."
Lopez is from Nicaragua, not Puerto Rico. Never change, Ozzie.

Photo via Larry Brown Sports


Misadventures of the Tangerine Troops: Vol. V

The Marlins' ninth-inning issues came back to the fore on Wednesday, and for once Heath Bell was not to blame. Replacing him with Steve Cishek couldn't prevent another blown save, but Cishek was not the main culprit. Instead, it was Sr. #MONSTERDONG himself, Giancarlo Stanton. With one out and the Marlins clinging to a 3-2 lead in the ninth, Carlos Lee hit a flare into shallow right field that turned into a triple when Stanton made an ill-conceived attempt at a diving catch. As the video shows, he had no chance at making the out, and should have allowed it to fall so he could field it cleanly and limit Lee to a single.

We are quick to praise Stanton for his spectacular physical gifts, but this looks like a case in which he assumed he would make the play because of those gifts. Even the superhuman among us must learn our limits.

Cishek struck out the next batter, but after a Chris Johnson walk, Brian Bogusevic singled to left and drove in Lee to tie the game. Just like that, Cishek lost his luster, bringing Bell one step closer to regaining his job.

Stanton photo via Yahoo


The Apotheosis of Big Z

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Carlos Zambrano finally picked up his first win as a Miami Marlin, after figuring out that Heath Bell could not give up a lead if he never got a chance to pitch. Even though Big Z knew that Bell is no longer the Marlins closer, he managed to fit in a subtle message upon finishing up a 4-0 victory against the Astros.

Zambrano's line:

9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 0.452 WPA

For the season, he's given up just 9 runs in 41 innings, though he is being helped by a .234 BABIP (career average is .276). Still, his BB/9 is down to 3.07 (compared to 4.05 for his career) and by all accounts he has been a model citizen thus far in his Marlins tenure. By the law of averages, that means he is bound to issue 12 walks and attack Billy the Marlin in his next start.


Week in Review

Monday, May 7, 2012

Overview:  An almost perfect week. After falling to Arizona on Monday, the Marlins swept the Giants and Padres in three games apiece.
Positives: Omar Infante's hot streak continues, he is now slashing .325/.352/.651, and I have no idea how. Giancarlo Stanton's power outage is officially over, as he hit four tater tots in the last six games. The Marlins are now tied with Washington for the most quality starts in MLB (21).
Negatives: It wasn't all perfect. Heath Bell blew two more saves, finally convincing Ozzie Guillen to demote him (albeit temporarily). Josh Johnson continues to struggle, giving up 6 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in his start on Friday. For the season he is sporting an ERA of 6.61. Other than that, though, it's been a good week.
Line of the Week: With the bullpen reeling and in need of rest, Mark Buehrle stepped up with a complete game on Saturday, earning the win in San Diego:

9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 116 pitches, 0.331 WPA

Highlight of the Week: As mentioned above, Giancarlo Stanton hit four home runs this week, including the moon shot in San Diego below. He also made a nice play with his glove on Sunday.

Looking Ahead: The Fish finish their road trip with a three-game set in Houston starting Monday. After a day off on Thursday, the Marlins return home for a three games against the Mets.


¿Como se dice, "Copyright infringement"?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Via Flip Flop Fly Ball:
This is Ramón Arano, the winningest pitcher in Mexican League history. He won 338 games and pitched in six decades. He died yesterday.

In the above photo, he is wearing the uniform of the Marlines de Boca del Río, of the Veracruz Winter League. I've had a root around on the Internet for the last 20 minutes, and can't find any mention of there being a relationship between these Marlines and the Miami Marlins. But the design would suggest that they have a relationship of some sort. Either that or there's some copying going on.
I have no idea whether (or how) fair use applies to sports uniforms. But I'd love to find out, if there are any IP lawyers among our readership...

Craig also found an older photo of the Marlines wearing uniforms that are strikingly similar to the Marlins' old uniforms. He thinks the teams are connected somehow. I do not know of any connection between the two. The Marlines' Wiki page (en español), is not helpful.


Heath Bell Demoted

Heath Bell won't be ruining our evenings in the near future:
Heath Bell was relieved of his closer duties Saturday.

One day after Bell cracked in the ninth for the fifth time, manager Ozzie Guillen stripped him of the closers role, at least for the time being.
That means Steve Cishek will close for now, an answer to the prayers of most Marlins fans (though he will not be available on Sunday). However, this will likely be a temporary fix if Bell can work out his issues. Ozzie Guillen said Saturday, "It's not like I'm removing him from his job. We're going to come up with something positive to resolve the problem."

The Herald's Barry Jackson sums up Heath's issues on the mound:
Heath Bell's velocity is down a mile from last year (to 92.9 mph), but the bigger issue, according to a Marlins official, is he's not throwing his curveball for strikes. Plus, metrics show batters are swinging at a lot less of his non-strikes than last year.
Meanwhile, Mark Buehrle scoffs at the notion that another pitcher needs to finish his games, throwing a complete game on Saturday night for the win.


Issued Without Comment

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Giancarlo Stanton: Stone Cold Assassin

Friday, May 4, 2012

I take photos of all my victims. 
Ozzie Guillen on Sr. #MONSTERDONG:
If this kid puts the ball in play, that ball is going to get hurt. I (never saw) anybody hit line drives like that. I never saw anyone the ball come off his bat like that. That kid will kill one pitcher before the season is over. Or a third baseman. I hope not, but, wow, if this kid hit the ball back to the pitcher the way he hit it to left field yesterday, it's going to be a (medical) helicopter coming down, and hurry up, because that's scary.



Thursday, May 3, 2012

Heath Bell is at it again. On Wednesday, he was called in to pitch the ninth against San Francisco with a 2-0 lead. His outing went thusly:

  1. Brandon Belt doubled to CF
  2. Joaquin Arias singled to RF, Belt scores
  3. Buster Posey singled to RF, Arias to third
No worries! It's not like the Marlins are paying him $27 million over three seasons or anything...

Ozzie Guillen mercifully pulled Bell for Steve Cishek. After striking out Brett Pill, Cishek allowed the tying run to score on a brilliantly executed squeeze bunt by Gregor Blanco. Under the byzantine rules of the save, this means Cishek blew the save, but Bell did all the damage here. Bell's WPA during the inning was -0.556, while Cishek's was 0.111.

Bell had this to say about his troubles after the game:
I just feel really bad because Zambrano pitched a heckuva game. It still hurts, but it's one of those things that, for whatever reason, I'm not having any luck this year. The tide will change for me, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Heath is half-right. So far this year, his BABIP has been .387, a full 84 points above his career average. BABIP is out of his control, and we all know the Marlins defense has been less than stellar this season.

But what Bell can control are his strikeout and walk rates, which have been abysmal. His 2012 BB% is 17.4%, compared to 8.4% for his career. And his K% is a paltry 10.9%, down from a career mark of 24.7%. He is having a hard time fooling hitters, as shown by a decrease in O-Swing% (percentage of swings at pitches outside the strike-zone) to 22.0% from 31.7% last year. Opposing hitters' contact rate has jumped to 88.5% from 81.2%.

What does this all mean? Meet your new Marlins closer: Steve Cishek. Guillen has not publicly said what he plans to do about the closer situation, but the writing is on the wall.


Marlins Can't Keep Their Grass from Dying

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

There's a metaphor in here somewhere...
With the team hitting the road Tuesday for nine games in San Francisco, San Diego and Houston, the grounds crew at Marlins Park is first going to turn its attention to the grass in the outfield — particularly right field — that is turning brown.

"I would say the sod had as difficult an April as the team did," Samson said.

Samson said showers in April caused the retractable roof at Marlins Park to be closed more often than they expected. The lack of sun has led to the decay of the grass.

The Marlins already have replaced the turf in right field once — before opening night. Samson said there's always a chance they might have to replace the sod entirely. He said it has happened at other ballparks with retractable roofs.
It's as if grass has a difficult time growing indoors or something. Who knew? The team is also plugging minor leaks in the roof, but that seems to be a much easier problem to solve.


MDH Exclusive: Photo of Heath Bell's postgame celebration

Here's Heath enjoying the clubhouse spread after notching his first legit save* of 2012:

Who's a good boy?
Enjoy it Heath, you earned it!

*Technically it's his third save, but those first two came with 2- and 3-run leads entering the bottom of the ninth, so I'm not counting them. If you have a problem with that, go start a blog of your own.


Someday Our Former Closer Will Come

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Juan Carlos Oviedo/Leo Nunez is still in the Dominican Republic, but his return to the Marlins' bullpen will be delayed even more, as MLB has extended his ID-theft suspension to eight weeks from six weeks. Now he can return to the Marlins no earlier than late June. Which is too bad, since our new closer is only good at one thing (and it is not getting outs):

Only Heath Bell can make us pine for the glory days of the Leocoaster.



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