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June 12, 2013

What You Need to Know

Shields Mightier Than Lumber

by Daniel Rathman

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The Tuesday Takeaway
“He’s baaaaaaack.”

After 41 days on the disabled list and a nondescript, 1-for-4 showing on Monday, Giancarlo Stanton officially announced his return to the Marlins last night. With Jim Henderson, also just one outing removed from a stint on the shelf, on the mound for the Brewers, a runner on, and two away in the bottom of the eighth, Stanton unloaded on a hanging slider to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead.

The 405-foot shot to center field was the first long ball authored off of Henderson this season. It dealt the Calgary native his first blown save of the year. And it breathed life into the home run sculpture adjacent to its landing spot—an ornament that has elicited countless jokes, the hilarity of which has been magnified by the Marlins’ incredible power outage during Stanton’s absence.

Before Tuesday’s victory, Marlins not named Giancarlo Stanton had combined to hit six big flies in their home ballpark all season. That’s six home runs in 31 games, or less than one per five contests, a pace that a dozen individual players routinely eclipse every year. Derek Dietrich delivered a two-run bomb in the second inning to raise the tally to seven, some 90 minutes before Stanton connected on his fourth, which brought the team’s season-long count in Miami to a whopping 11.

Without Stanton and Logan Morrison, who turned in a couple of doubles on Tuesday, his fourth time on the field since September surgery to repair the patellar tendon in his right knee, the Marlins have been a team of Brian Doziers and Pete Kozmas. They have the worst record in baseball at 19-45, and their offense—as a group—owns a collective 610 OPS, a mark that would place 13th-worst among qualifying individuals. Even the returns of two of the most powerful bats in the organization may not be enough to help Mike Redmond’s club escape the OPS cellar.

But for a team searching for little victories, things that the 13,110 fans that paid for a ticket to Tuesday’s game can celebrate while waiting for the Marlins’ outlook to brighten, the return of Stanton is Christmas in June.

“It’s a great night when you see that home run statue go off twice,” Redmond said after the game. A great night, because what for more than a month was a statue of limitations on Tuesday became a rare symbol of victory.

The Marlins will send Kevin Slowey to the hill this evening in search of their fourth win in five games, a feat that they have not yet accomplished this season. Alfredo Figaro gets the ball for the Brewers, the only non-Mets team to suffer a defeat at the hands of the Marlins since May 20 (7:10 p.m. ET).

Matchup of the Day
Jhonny Peralta’s introduction to James Shields was a rude one. With one on and two out in the top of the second inning on April 22, 2007, Peralta, then a member of the Indians, smacked a 2-2 pitch over the left-field fence for a two-run homer. They got reacquainted on July 1, 2007—and, with the bases empty and two away in the bottom of the third, Peralta cleared the left-field wall.

Their third meeting came on July 11, 2008, and, with one on and two down in the bottom of the first, Peralta threw Shields a curveball: Instead of going yard, he doubled. Not to worry, two innings later, Peralta snuck a 2-0 offering inside the right-field foul pole for his third home run (and fourth extra-base hit) off of Shields in seven at-bats.

And then, the tide turned.

In 18 plate appearances since the third homer, Peralta has notched five singles and two walks, but no extra-base hits. He is just 1-for-8 with a walk and a sacrifice fly in the most recent 10. And he went 0-for-2 in Shields’ eight-inning, three-run outing against the Tigers on April 25.

Shields has pitched well in his first season in Kansas City, compiling a 2.81 ERA and only twice permitting more than three runs in a start. He has not been knocked out of a game before the end of the sixth inning since July 15, 2012, a span of 27 starts, 14 of which came last year for Tampa Bay.

Peralta, though, is also enjoying an excellent first half. He ranks second in the American League with a .336 average, trailing only teammate Miguel Cabrera, and his 882 OPS is third among all shortstops, behind only Troy Tulowitzki and Jean Segura. The 31-year-old’s .418 BABIP has buoyed those rates, but it is not wholly fluky. Peralta is hitting more line drives (28.1 percent) than he ever has and fewer popups (5.6 percent) than he has at any point since 2010. A regression is in store, but it might not be as severe a slide as you’d normally expect from a player whose BABIP is more than 100 points higher than his career norm (.315).

Peralta has always feasted on pitches left in the middle of the zone, and his 2013 performance has been no different in that regard. His most exploitable weakness has always been breaking balls away, and that hasn’t really changed in 2013, either.

Interestingly, though, Shields—who throws his curveball about 15.4 percent of the time to right-handed hitters as a whole—has used the bender only nine times (11.3 percent) in the 80 offerings logged on the afore-linked matchup page.

It’s hard to argue with the righty’s recent results versus Peralta. But if the Tigers shortstop comes up in a strikeout situation or falls behind in the count, the Royals ace might be wise to test his discipline. For all of Peralta’s success in squaring up the baseball so far this year, he remains unable to lay off of pitches darting down and away.

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • Chris Davis went 1-for-2 with two walks on Tuesday night, but he entered the game in the midst of an 0-for-15 rut, and he has homered only once since May 29. The 27-year-old’s early-season surge was so potent that he still leads all major leaguers in home runs (20) and OPS (1.099), but he’ll need to get back to work soon if he hopes to maintain those leads, because Miguel Cabrera and Domonic Brown are hot on his trail. Davis and the Orioles will be the first team to take the field on Wednesday, with a chance to earn a sweep over the Angels in a matinee at Camden Yards. A pair of right-handers, Jerome Williams for the visitors and Jason Hammel for the home team, are scheduled to toe the slab (12:35 p.m. ET).
  • In his six-plus major-league seasons, Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano has made at least one appearance versus 26 of the 30 teams. The only clubs against which he has never toed the rubber are the Marlins, Nationals, Phillies, and Giants, the organization that signed him as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2000. Tonight, Liriano—who is now with his fourth organization—will square off with his first professional employer for the first time, in a matchup with fellow southpaw Barry Zito.

    The 35-year-old Zito did not strike out a batter in his most recent outing, a defeat at the hands of the Blue Jays, but he has served up only one home run in his last four starts and only two in his last nine. Liriano, the owner of 47 strikeouts in 36 innings this year, has not left a start without at least one punchout since April 24, 2008, and he has not permitted a single long ball this season (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • Speaking of dueling senior-circuit lefties, the night’s most intriguing pairing might come in the series finale between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers in Chavez Ravine. Patrick Corbin, who is still unbeaten and held the Giants to one run over 7 1/3 innings his last time out, gets the ball for the visitors, and he’ll lock horns with Hyun-jin Ryu, whose ERA through 79 1/3 stateside frames stands at an excellent 2.72.

    The 26-year-old Korean import has fared even better than that in his new home yard, posting a 1.50 ERA and a 39-to-8 K:BB over 42 innings. Right-handed batters have done no better (548 OPS) than lefties (566) in their encounters with Ryu, but a certain Diamondbacks first baseman didn’t get the memo when the two last met on April 13. Ryu allowed two hits (including a double) in three at-bats to Paul Goldschmidt, and he will likely need to be more careful with the first baseman to down the D’backs again (10:10 p.m. ET).

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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