One way analytics is serving the Marlins going into the season’s second half

The Miami Marlins go into the second half the season with a better outlook than Opening Day.

“I think we’ve created an identity for ourselves, who we are, how we play, what kind of games we’re in. But now the second half will be getting into more of that,” manager Don Mattingly said before the All-Star break. “We’re going to be in our own division a lot, teams that are in playoff hunts, so hopefully we can play some good baseball the second half.”

Manager Don Mattingly announced his post All-Star Break starting rotation as Dan Straily, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Richards for the Tampa Bay Rays series, followed by Jose Ureña and WeiYin Chen begin the Marlins’ homestand against the Atlanta Braves.

Mattingly said the purpose of pushing Ureña back to July 23 allowed him to rest, especially after coming back from the disabled list to throw four innings in a 10-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies

“We really wanted Jose to have two starts [since the injury] before the break, he ended up having three,” Mattingly said. “That’s why we wanted to push him back later, give him more time after All-Star. With the shoulder thing he went through, we didn’t want to push that too much.”

What will be demonstrated by the Marlins during the second half of the season will be the role of analytics being applied on the pitching. One example is their highly paid starter.

By moving Chen to the bottom of the rotation, it allows him to pitch home in three of his next four starts. That’s huge for Chen because while he has a 5.75 ERA this season, his splits are at both exterminates. He has a 1.83 ERA in seven starts at home and a 10.47 ERA in eight road starts, which is the worst road ERA in the majors.

“I really can’t explain it,” Chen said. “This is a place I am familiar with. Maybe it’s the weather, the environment, the ballpark. I feel like I can control more stuff that I want to. Maybe on the road, I am trying too hard. Whatever the reason is, there seems to be stuff I am trying to control, but I haven’t been able to on the road.”

The Marlins have only one 10-game road trip left this season, which will prevent back-to-back road starts for Chen.

The next two weeks are going to be heavy on the trade rumors as playoff contenders are all in need of bullpen help. The Marlins have a couple relievers in Brad Ziegler and Kyle Barraclough that are highly targeted. Both of them are on pace to set new career-highs in games and along with Drew Steckenrider, are three of the majors’ 28 most-used pitchers in terms of appearances, ranging from 44-47.

Former Marlins pitcher and Padres closer Brad Hand set the market when the Cleveland Indians acquired him for their top prospect. Similar might be possible for the acquisition of Barraclough. In the likelihood of only Ziegler being moved, the usage of Barraclough and Steckenrider will need to be monitored through the season. 

“We’ll just monitor the number of times they get up and down in the ‘pen,” Mattingly said. “If I get them up and don’t pitch, we monitor that. We monitor the number of times they get in, the number of pitches they throw in any game, in any inning they come in to.”

Another way the Marlins use analytics to monitor pitchers is tracking their release point. From there, they can see the red flags like the arm slot dipping lower. Mattingly said it was discovered with Steckenrider last year.

“We watch velocities,” Mattingly said. “As the season goes, is it going downward. Is the arm angle dropping? It tells you a guy’s getting tired, his arm’s getting down a little lower. Those are the things you get off of Trackman data. That tells you a lot.”

Mattingly said the Marlins were behind in analytics when he joined the team in 2016 and while they were trending upward the first two seasons, it was the new ownership group that brought it to a level that lets them truly benefit from it.

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About: Tony Capobianco

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Sports Kave senior writer

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