Saturday, April 18, 2009

Scouting Report: Marlins at Nationals (4/18/09)

As a fan, you gotta worry about the late night soul-crushing blown save, followed by the day game Scott Olsen start. This is where things could start to get really ugly. But it's also where Manny has tended to shine--his teams do seem to have a short memory and avoid sulking.

Check out my preview of the series here for breakdowns on the Florida hitters and bullpen. Here's my look at the Marlins' starter for game 2 and prediction.

On the Mound
Josh Johnson: Johnson's ERA in two starts is 0.57. But he's obviously been excessively lucky, as his fielding-independent ERA is way up at 1.58. Um... yeah.

Johnson, a victim in 2007 of the Joe Girardi school of young pitcher abuse, is back with a shiny new ligament in his elbow and a couple more miles per hour on his fastball (94.7).
He throws a two-seam sinking fastball, a classic four-seam heater, a slider and a change. This year shaved a couple miles per hour off his slider (84.2), giving him a hell of a deadly combination of out pitches, especially against righties. (Note: if Nick isn't in the line-up today, after sitting against lefty-vulnerable Jair Jurrjens, you know that Manny's just not thinking very hard about to how to optimize the Johnson/Willingham/Kearns rotation). He can pound the zone and get quick outs with the sinker, but he can also blow you away with his heat or make you look silly chasing the slider.

In his two starts against the Scats and the New York Metropolitans, Johnson has posted a sick 15:1 strikeout to walk ratio and a silly 65.9% groundball rate. Those stats represent small sample size craziness, no doubt, but the bottom line is clear: no pitcher in baseball has been more dominant in his first two starts. If he can do it again today, it's not too soon to start the Josh Johnson Cy Young talk.

Fearless Prediction
Season record: 7-2
You won't find a greater mismatch of #2 starters than Josh Johnson vs. Scott Olsen, who is terrible.

After he gets massacred again today, I look for the chatter to start about sending Olsen down to AAA to "work on things." Nevermind that what we're seeing now is that utterly predictable result of a pitcher who's seen his velocity and K-rates steadily tumble over 3 seasons. The only reason Scott Olsen is still in MLB is because of the paucity of other options in Florida last year and a statistical fluke that was 200+ innings with a .266 BABIP. In the past, he at least had passable command. This year he's walking 6.75 per 9 innings (yeah, I know he hasn't gone 9 inning yet, but you get my drift).

One last thing: those of you who are so appalled by Lastings Milledge's supposed lack of dedication... how is it that Scott Olsen gets a free pass. The dude SMOKES CIGARETTES! What greater sign of a lack of commitment to success as a professional athlete do you need than that?

Almost forgot my prediction: Marlins, 9-3.


Elan said...

I admit I am a relatively new comer to this site; I only started reading it during this off season. But your hostility seems to be affecting an early-season open mind. Olsen started out with a horrendous start, then a very sub-par start, and now a superb start. Might he be improving? As should always be the case in April, the jury is still out. Your argument that we must give Milledge a chance to prove himself in April does not square with your argument that there is no hope left for Olsen. I'll conclude with: I love this blog. Seriously, keep it up. I just thought I would offer a disagreement.

Steven said...

My pessimism has nothing to do with his bad start early on. It's his declining velocity and strikeout rate, which has been a 3-year trend.

Steven said...

Since you're new, I'll refer you to past posts on Olsen, going
back to his time as a Marlin:

Elan said...

I admit you've been remarkably consistent.

An Briosca Mor said...

Olsen's pitching coach smokes cigarettes too. Fire him?

John O'Connor said...

So does his first baseman (at least as I have been told).

Trapper John said...

Steven, you can't deny that Olsen's velocity is up and that he turned in a quality start yesterday. As for the smoking - he's a pitcher, not a sprinter.

Might be time to stop beating this resurrected horse.

Steven said...

He touched 90 a couple times, which I guess is up a bit, but he was at 86 more often than he was at 90. Remember, the only time he's had a fielding independent ERA below 5 he was averaging 90.9. His fastball average is 87.3. Last year it was 87.8.

The reason he was more successful yesterday was a) he was right on the black from innings 3-6, and if there was any indication from his career that he could maintain that kind of Moyer-esque command consistently then that would be something else. Also, you have to remember that even if you're throwing batting practice fastballs, guys are going to make some outs. It'd be pretty hard for even the very worst starting pitcher in MLB (which Olsen may well be) to maintain an ERA in double-digits.

Trapper John said...

Olsen isn't the worst starter on this team, much less the worst pitcher in MLB. He's had a bad start, an iffy start, and a quality start so far this year. As you point out, he was hitting his spots yesterday, and the fastball has touched 90-91 over the past couple starts. If his command is at 80% of where it was yesterday, and he keeps the fastball in the 88-91 region (so that his change actually, you know, represents a change), he'll be a serviceable starter for a last place club. Not the highest praise, but more than I'd be willing to grant Cabrera or recent Nats starters like Mike O'Connor.

Steven said...

He hasn't touched 91 once according to pitch fx. He hit 90 twice yesterday, and his fastball was at 85 more times than it was at 90

Hey, if you like your SPs with a 9.00 ERA, Scott Olsen's your man.

And yes, he's the worst starter on the team.

But we'll see. If he finishes the year above replacement level, I'll eat my hat.

Trapper John said...

I will bet 50 American dollars, payable to the charity/campaign of your choice (you have sensible politics, so I'm not worried that I'll be funding Tea Parties or the like), that Olsen has a better WHIP than Cabrera by the end of 2009.

Of course, the point here isn't that Olsen's any good - it's that you're completely, JayB-on-Milledge over the top with the Olsen hate. He sucks, but he's not on the road to AAA today, as you predicted he would be.

Love the blog because it's a generally a rational take on the team. Hate the irrational hating. It's like BPG takes control of your consciousness whenever Olsen comes up. He sucks, but he's not the walking abortion that you've decided he is.