Opposing Starters This Week

May 10, 2011

The Nats spend the next week playing division foes, which is often not a good thing for this team. They haven’t been hitting, and they will of course be facing strong pitching, as everyone in the NL East does. Here is how the probable starting opponents for the next 6 games have performed against Washington:

Tim Hudson: 1.88 ERA, 134 1/3 IP, 93 K, 29 BB, 11-2 (19 GS)

Tommy Hanson: 3.12 ERA, 43 1/3 IP, 44 K, 8 BB, 2-2 (7 GS)

Brandon Beachy: 3.60 ERA, 5 IP, 9 K, 3 BB, 0-0 (1 GS)

Chris Volstad: 5.25 ERA, 58 1/3 IP, 42 K, 29 BB, 5-2 (11 GS)

Anibel Sanchez: 2.16 ERA, 91 2/3 IP, 73 K, 39 BB, 6-0 (15 GS)

Javier Vazquez: 3.27 ERA, 22 IP, 22 K, 2 BB, 1-1 (3 GS)

So what does all this mean? Well in the case of Beachy and Vazquez, probably not much at all. Javy pitched well, struck out a bunch of guys, but wasn’t unhittable. Beachy struck out a WHOLE lot of guys but was still scored on. So they are hittable. But it’s not over a significant amount of time. As for the other guys, well, let’s assume these stats matter.

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The Team that Couldn’t Hit

May 9, 2011

It’s beyond bad, at this point. After a week in which the Nats broke their team record for striking out the most in one game, they came out Sunday and got no hit for 7 innings. Sanchez pitched a good game, but this team certainly helped. You know the hitting has been bad, but it’s probably worse than you realized. They are last in the league in OBP, and second to last in SLG and OPS. Thanks to the last place team playing in San Diego, a big pitchers park, they are actually ranked last in OPS+ (which factors in park effects). They are just plain bad at hitting.

Looking down the lineup is sickening. Forgive the order, this is just a sample lineup that could go out there:

  1. .221/.321/.389
  2. .217/.250/.383
  3. .227/.324/.387
  4. .196/.300/.313
  5. .319/.377/.493
  6. .241/.275/.325
  7. .220/.297/.317

That’s Espinosa (2B), Desmond (SS), Werth (RF), LaRoche (1B), Ramos (C), Morse (LF) and Hairston (3B). There’s no CF in there, but Ankiel’s .221/.302/.288 ranks 5th in plate appearances on the team, so factor that in the list. Ramos is looking great, even without comparing him to the rest of the team. Unfortunately, his last few weeks haven’t looked great, with a very low OBP, but he’s still slugging, so in comparison, a .250/.275/.500 is still the best hitter on this team. When you put Pudge in the lineup with his .214/.241/.321, he manages to drag down these horrendous averages.

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An Unimportant Milestone

May 6, 2011

Until last night, all but one of the Nats starters had an ERA under 4.00. This was pretty impressive after a month of play, and the last 6+ years of play. Unfortunately, John Lannan faced his nemesis last night, the Philadelphia Phillies. His ERA jumped from 3.78 to 5.09 in the span of two innings, and he’ll be fighting for a while to bring it back down.

But the Nats have a chance to once again have 4 starters under 4.00, with Jordan Zimmermann going tonight. It won’t be easy, heck a bare minimum quality start puts you at a 4.50 ERA. But chances are better tonight that he’ll perform well because A)he’s pitching tonight and B)they’re playing the Marlins not the Phillies. In order to get his ERA under 4.00, he’d have to pitch very well against a strong club, but it’s certainly not impossible.

If he gives up 2 ER, he’ll have to go at least 7 2/3 IP. If he gives up 1 ER he’ll have to go at least 5 IP, and if he doesn’t give up any ER, he’ll have to only pitch 2 2/3 innings. He can’t do it in a regular length game if he gives up 3 or more ER, but he could do it if he went 9 2/3 IP.

It’s not likely that he’d do it, but it’s certainly possible that the team would only have 24 hours without 4 starters under a 4.00 ERA. Not that it matters at all. Is there any way Zimmermann could face that Nats lineup? That might help.

More Important Than That

I just wanted to publish a word of thanks to Gary Williams. He is basically all I know as the coach at Maryland, and before I went to that school I never paid any attention to college basketball. His teams are what made me a Terp zealot, and his contribution to the team cannot be understated. If not for him, I think they would have been an irrelevant basketball school throughout the 90s and early 2000s, and might only be getting their footing now. The fact that he is being praised for running a clean program is a poor reflection on the state of college sports today, but I am proud of how he ran that program. I was able to witness over a dozen NCAA tournament appearance, and I was able to watch my alma mater win the National Championship. I wish him the best, and Maryland is better off for having him coach.


The Benefits of Long Toss

May 4, 2011

Tim Kurkjian has an article up today on the rise of left handed power arms… in the outfield. The Nationals’ own Rick Ankiel headlines the group of today’s rocket armed lefty outfielders. A few highlights

But no left-handed or right-handed outfielder throws better than Ankiel, 31. You know his story. He won 11 games and struck out 194 batters in 175 innings with the Cardinals in 2000, but soon after, he lost all ability to throw the ball over the plate. He had Tommy John surgery in 2003 and finally ditched pitching in 2005 because of acute control issues. Now he’s throwing better than he ever has and has no mental block about throwing from the outfield.

“I just let it fly,” Ankiel said. “And I play a lot of long toss to help preserve my arm.”

There you go, kids – long toss will help you have the best outfield arm. Well, that and the ability to strike out more than a batter an inning. Jason Marquis is also quoted gushing over the grand eloquence of long toss. And with his season so far, who’s to argue to Marquis? Kurkjian sums it up with a nice line for Nats fans to hang their hats on:

And I’ve never seen anything like this. The best-throwing outfielder in the game is left-handed.

He’s referring, of course, to Ankiel. It’s a good article of the inside-baseball outside-the-numbers just-telling-stories mode. It doesn’t change Ankiel’s .590 OPS, but it reminds you that he isn’t ALL bad this year.


Those Starters

May 3, 2011

Last night, the Nats got a great start out of Tom Gorzelanny, 8 innings of shutout ball to go with a complete game shutout pitched by Jason Marquis on Friday night. The starting pitching has probably been the biggest surprise of this early Nationals’ season, and it’s not just good, it’s been great. The Nats starting rotation has a 3.38 ERA, good for 3rd best in the National League, and 5th best in all of baseball. All this while possibly the pitcher with the best stuff, Jordan Zimmermann, has an ERA below league average (ERA+ of 91). Zimmermann hasn’t even been awful, he’s had 1 bad start, 1 hard luck start with bad results, and 4 good games.

Here are the starters, in order of best ERA to worst

  • Jason Marquis – 2.62 ERA, 5 GS, 6.3 K/9, 4.80 K/BB
  • Tom Gorzelanny – 2.93 ERA, 5 GS, 6.8 K/9, 2.56 K/BB
  • Livan Hernandez – 3.23 ERA, 6 GS, 4.6 K/9, 2.00 K/BB
  • John Lannan – 3.78 ERA, 6 GS, 4.9 K/9, 1.29 K/BB
  • Jordan Zimmermann – 4.29 ERA, 6 GS, 4.5 K/9, 2.57 K/BB

Looking at the ERA, you might figure that Marquis is the luckiest, but looking at the ratios, you realize he’s also been the best. Sure, those numbers won’t hold up, but when you strike out close to 5 times as many people than you walk, you’re in great shape. Gorzelanny has looked very good, but didn’t look great – until last night’s game. He’s showing he can strike guys out, and he hasn’t walked too many either.

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