The Nationals Review Podcast Episode 4

April 22, 2012

On the Nationals Review Episode 4 (click to download or get it on iTunes), this week Charlie and Colm talk :

  • The pitching staff’s success
  • The bullpen – closer situation (Lidge vs Rodriguez), etc
  • What’s wrong with the hitting? (OBP vs SLG)
  • Whats going on in LF?
  • Date of Harper debut – our best guesses

The High OBP, Don’t Score Nationals

April 19, 2012

While the Nats keep winning, and their pitching has been spectacular, they are winning close games. It doesn’t take Bill James to figure out if your pitching is great and you’re winning close games, your hitting is sub-par. Starting out as the statistical voice of reason here, it’s important to note that their hitting actually has been good. They have the 7th best OBP in all of baseball, 3rd best in the NL. Getting on base is the most important step in scoring a run, so you know that this will eventually translate in to runs.

They haven’t hit that well when guys have been on base, but unless you believe that this team is a bunch of nervous nellies who are decidedly “un-clutch”, that should be more luck dependent than anything else. Eventually, the numbers even out, and these hits and walks will come with more people on base, and everything will be fine, right? Well, not so fast. I did a quick check of some OBP ranks versus runs per game ranks over the last 3 years, and teams have wide variations. In the 3 seasons prior to this one, there were 30 teams that had a differential between where their OBP ranks and their R/G over 3 (if they were #1 in OBP and #3 in runs/game, their differential would be 3-1=2).

That seemed like poor correlation, so I checked another very easy stat to find, OPS. The differential in OPS to R/G greater than 3 spots was a much more reasonable 16 teams over 3 seasons. And it’s not just the count that’s different, it’s the amount of differential. In 2009, only 3 teams had a OPS-R/G diff higher than 3, and two of them had it at 4, while one had it had 9. Whereas, the 11 teams with an OBP-R/G diff higher than 3 had a 14, a 12, two 10s and three 7s. Similar outcomes happened in 2010 and 2011.

This isn’t exactly robust statistical analysis – 3 years is a short time frame to look at team numbers in MLB, and I’m doing simple arithmetic not real regressions or anything to find correlation. But it hopefully gives us a good indication of what’s going on. And it’s not anything more than what should be obvious – getting on base is nice, but getting on base AND hitting for power is much more important. It’s completely intuitive – walking and singles are helpful, but you have to string a few of those together just to get a run. A couple of hits and a home run, or even a double, gets you more runs.

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A Praiseworthy Start for the Starters

April 18, 2012

The Nats pitching staff has started out very strong this year. They lead the majors in ERA with 1.91, the #2 team is Texas at 2.36. While their bullpen has been excellent, it is the starters that have really impressed. Their starters’ ERA is 1.69, and in that Texas is in a more distant second place at 2.43. As a testament to how well they’ve pitched, they are #2 in IP with 74 2/3 (Oakland’s in first with 75 1/3). But more importantly, they lead the majors in Ks with 70 as a starting staff, with several teams tied for the #2 slot at 64.

After 12 games, you don’t worry too much about the stats. This shouldn’t be thought of as a pattern that will hold up for the year, it still is a pretty remarkable start. So yes, that 1.69 ERA is nice to look at, but it will go away. However, this can be thought of as a very impressive two week run. Even if this occurred in July, while we might not notice the incredible ERA, it would still be thought of as a very impressive two week run. It’s something that could repeat itself, and it is a good indicator of how strong this staff can be.

Here’s a look at these twelve games, start by start, to see just how good they’ve been, with the only starts allowed more than 2 ER highlighted:

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10 Days Worth of Hitting

April 16, 2012

The Nats are sitting pretty at the top of the division after 10 games this season, at a very nice 7-3. And while you may think they’ve had some close games (and you’d be right) their run differential is the best in the division, and their Pythagorean W-L also puts them at 7-3. So they’re right where they should be. As far as stats go, in such a small sample it is still way too early to worry about specific numbers per se. Suffice it to say, we know Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond are hitting the cover off the ball. But there are a couple of other hitters that are doing things you might not have noticed, so let’s start with the good

Jayson Werth

A few games into the season, Werth looks very comfortable. He’s already got two doubles and a triple, which is good to see. In case you remembered him starting out strong last year as well, you are correct. But last year’s strong start only lasted 4 games before he had issues. A slight mid-May surge brought him back up to an .800 OPS, but an awful 2 month stint from the end of May through the beginning of July did him in. To add some perspective on how easily these numbers can change, he’s hitting .350/.447/.450 right now. If he goes 0 for 5 tonight, he’ll be hitting .311/.404/.400, a .093 OPS drop in one night. Then again, if he goes 2 for 5 with a HR, he’s hitting .356/.462/.511, a .076 rise. So let’s take all these numbers with a grain of salt…

Steve Lombardozzi

…except for when we talk about Steve Lombardozzi. Not because I think his .286/.500/.286 will hold up, I certainly don’t expect that OBP to finish even in  that vicinity. But, for a guy who has no power, a couple of singles early on in the year is a good sign, and a couple of walks from major league pitching shows that he hasn’t lost his patience. I think, though, his 10 PAs is a troubling number. I know Davey likes him and wants to use him, but if he’s getting the equivalent of a start per week, he needs to be sent back down to the minors. At 23 years old, daily ABs are the most important thing, and he’s clearly not getting them. Either Davey’s use of him needs to change, or they need to demote him.

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Don’t Count Innings for Strasburg

April 12, 2012

We all know Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals best pitcher. We also know that he will be shut down at some point this season, which is unfortunate for the team’s playoff chances. And while we don’t know what date it will happen, we do know that he’ll be finished for the year whatever start he reaches 160 innings pitched. Right? Well, not really.

According to this thoroughly interesting Baseball Prospectus article about the recent history (ups and downs) of the Washington Nationals, Mike Rizzo says that the 160 IP limit is bunk:

“Look, the media put (the 160-innings limit) out there, not me. It probably comes from what Jordan Zimmermann pitched last year.

“I don’t have a specific pitch count in my mind, a specific innings count in my mind. I am going to refer to my experience as a farm director, as a player development guy, and knowing his body. In conjunction with Davey Johnson and Steve McCatty, when we feel he’s had enough, we’re going to shut him down.

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The Nationals Review Podcast Episode 3

April 11, 2012

On the Nationals Review Episode 3 (click to download or get it on iTunes), this week Charlie and Colm talk :

  • Preseason playoff and awards predictions
  • Nats predictions
    • Best hitter? Best pitcher?
    • Surprises for the year
  • Detwiler as the 5th starter over Lannan
    • Detwiler vs Lannan
    • Lannan’s trade demand
  • Almost made it in the Washington Post
  • Nats and Local Streaming

Adam LaRoche Must Think It’s August

April 10, 2012

When the Nats signed Adam LaRoche in January of 2011, nobody knew what kind of hitter to expect. That’s because, despite 4 strong seasons from 2006-2009 where he hit .276/.349/.500 and managed HR totals of 32, 21, 25 and 25, his 2010 was much worse. Hitting only .261/.320/.468 in Arizona that year, it could have certainly been an indicator that his best days were behind him. As a slick fielding first baseman, having a slightly above average OPS with some power might get you years on a bench, but it isn’t starter material.

Then, of course, came the injury last year. And it was an injury after a terrible start – he hit .172/.288/.258 in 43 games, about a quarter of a season. Many Nationals fans had him written off, and why not? After two years without performing, it would have been a stretch to think he could just turn it on. A 2011 spring training without any power hinted that maybe one of his redeeming qualities – the thought that no matter how bad he hit, he could still probably manage 20+ HRs, was in danger, too.

But he’s shot right out of the gate in these first 4 games. It’s way to early to talk about AVG/OBP/SLG for this year, but his 2 HRs have him one shy of what he did in close to two months last season. He’s hitting the ball hard – both were screaming line drives down the foul line – and he’s been the Nats best hitter in the very short season. After three strikeouts on Opening Day, he’s had a 4 for 5 day and a 2 for 3 day with a walk. So far, so good.

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