As we'd been told, his velocity was indeed up. According to Pitch FX, his four-seam fastball averaged 89.2 mph and topped out at 91.6. For the season, his 'heater' is averaging 87.4 mph. Last year he was at 87.8. So he's up almost 2 full ticks on the radar gun--that's enough to make a difference.
(The season-long numbers I'm citing are from Baseball Info Solutions, not Pitch FX, and it's possible there's a discrepancy in their metrics, but let's assume for now that there isn't).
However, for all the hoopla about Olsen's velocity being 'back,' he's still down considerably from where he was the last time he was any good. His rookie year 2006 was the only year that he's put up a fielding independent ERA under 5.00, and that year his fastball averaged 90.9, almost two more full ticks from where he was last night.
Still, he was pretty much lights out, right?
Yes, but let's not forget who he was facing. The Marlins have pummelled the Nationals, but they are in fact one of the hackiest, swing-from-the-heels-iest team of free-swingers in the league. This is the classic boom-or-bust offense full of guys who swing as hard as they can in case they hit something. The downside of that approach is that they chase a ton of bad pitches and strike out a ton. They hit a lot of homers, but when they slump, they really slump, because they don't string together hits or advance runners.
Here's the K-rates and walk rates of the line-up Olsen faced last night. Keep in mind, an average K-rate is usually around 16% and walk rate is usually 8%:
Coughlan: 20.6% / 12.7%When the hackarific Jorge Cantu is your best contact hitter, you've got a line-up that's going to make a lot of bad pitchers look good.
Bonifacio: 21.3% / 6.8%
Ramirez: 16.3% / 9.3%
Cantu: 14.9% / 5.2%
Uggla: 24.2% / 14.0%
Ross: 21.8% / 5.6%
Paulino: 22.3% / 9.0%
Carroll: 22.6% / 7.5%
Please don't get me wrong. Olsen had a very nice outing, and I would love for it to be true that he's going to give the Nationals 7 innings and keep them in the game every 5 days from here on out.
But color me (still) a skeptic. I want to see him do it against a team that knows how to take a pitch once in a while.