10 Games and then a Break

June 30, 2011

The Nationals have lost three in a row, and while their longest losing streak of the season is 5 games, for some reason this one  seems longer. Probably due to all the winning they’ve done leading up to this. But the team is by no means done winning this year, and keeping in mind 2 of the 3 games they lost were 1 run decisions, they haven’t been playing that poorly. Tuesday’s game was bad, but the others were well played games, if you thought a bunch of their low scoring wins were well played.

The Nationals, despite losing the last 3, are 8-7 in interleague play. That’s pretty impressive considering the last few years of AL matchups. They’re also 13-15 in 1-run games. Hovering around .500 in those contents is about right, most teams don’t win a significantly higher number of those. They’re actually 8-5 in extra inning games. But what intrigued me the most is their home and away record.

The Nats are a measly 18-28 on the road, for a .391 winning percentage. But as bad as they are away, they are much better at home, so far going 22-13, for a .629 winning percentage. If you notice something, they’ve played 46 games on the road, but only 35 at home. That’s the most away games in the entire NL – the Phillies have only played 36 away. The Nationals rank 4th in the NL in home win percentage, and are about to play a 10 game homestand up to the All Star break. If things hold true to form, they might have a few too many 1-run games, and some of those may go the wrong way. But they’ve played so well at home, there’s a not unlikely scenario about to unfold.  They may very well be over .500 going in to the All Star break.


Marquis Best Season

June 27, 2011

Jason Marquis has an impressive line this year. He’s 7-2, with a 3.53 ERA, and his  BB/9 and K/BB are career bests as a full season starter. His K/9 is right on line with his career average. But that low walk rate has made everything else look better, including the Nats themselves. His FIP of 3.59 shows its not all smoke and mirrors, and that his ERA correctly reflects what he’s been doing. He has been very good this year, not just as an effective innings eater, but as a legitimate threat to win each time he goes out on the mound. And his BABIP of .303 is actually one of the highest in his career, suggested this isn’t just luck.

So can the Nationals expect him to do this from now on? Has he turned a corner in his career? Can they be confident that this pitcher will continue to throw the way he’s throwing? Unfortunately, probably not. It is rare for a pitcher to turn 32 and discover stuff that he never had before. Most of Marquis’ success, in fact, might not be totally attributable to a lack of walks. Instead, over his career, his ground ball percentage has been more highly correlated to his season ERA than those BB/9 or K/BB rates.

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People Are Talking About This Team

June 24, 2011

The Riggleman thing is already out of my system, so if it’s basically out of yours, you’ve come to the right place. While everyone else is going to spend the day talking about the former Nationals manager, I’d like to talk about the team. Specifically, how much praise this team is getting right now. As I mentioned yesterday, ESPN.com’s MLB page was co-opted by the resignation news, but for a few minutes at least, their front cover was all about how great the Nats were playing. First up was a story by Tim Kurkjian:

Kurkjian speaks of something that this club has now that it never had before: a winning attitude. And that’s more about having guys that actually care about winning and are upset by losses. Not just guys playing baseball and collecting paychecks. But more importantly, he speaks about the talent that this team has been able to acquire.

He calls Ryan Zimmerman the best playing on an emerging team. About Wilson Ramos, he says, “Ramos, 23, is a very good young player who is only going to improve. He’s proficient at calling a game, he’s a good receiver and he has great power… the Nationals now have their catcher for the next decade.” Then he goes on to praise both (yes, I said both) Espinosa and Desmond:

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So.. Bo Porter? McLaren? Knorr?

June 23, 2011

With the surprise resignation of Jim Riggleman this afternoon, the team is left manager-less on a day when we should be celebrating. The news of the day should be that they’ve gone over .500 after May 28th for the first time since 2005. Take a look at the front page of ESPN/MLB on the left here. A lead story by Tim Kurkjian talks about how the Nats are on the fast track to being a very good team. Jay Jaffe of ESPN Baseball Prospectus insists in an Insider article that the team isn’t a fluke. And there’s an ESPN Stats article on the keys to their recent success, next to an article simply title “Nats win again.” If I can, I’ll get into some of these superlatives tomorrow.

Instead of doing that today, though, we are stuck contemplating who will be the next manager, or at the very least, interim manager. One candidate that you will probably hear quite a bit about is third base coach Bo Porter. So let’s get into it…

Who is Bo Porter?

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The Defense Really Has Been Great

June 21, 2011

If you notice on the right side of the blog, the Nationals offense and pitching rankings are always  sitting there for you to see. What’s not there is defense, and a quick perusal of the defensive ranking of this team yielded shocking results. The Nats are ranked first or second in the NL in the overall defensive measurements on Baseball Reference. So I decided to investigate further, and here’s what we have:

  • Defensive EfficiencyPercentage of balls in play converted into outs: Nats rank 2nd in the NL with .706. Atlanta’s first at .707, league average is .695.
  • RtotTotal Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average (The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made):  Nats rank 1st in the NL with 27, league total is -56.
  • RdrsBIS Defensive Runs Saved Above Average (The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made):  Nats rank 1st in the NL with 8, next best team is at -1.

What’s the difference between the two last stats above? I believe they measure the same thing, Baseball Reference just gets them from different sources (kind of like how WAR might be different dependent on different sources). They are also normalized differently, the values aren’t the same. But the point isn’t exactly what these stats are, the point is that advanced defensive metric show the Nats have the best or second best defense in the NL. It’s not just the team in general, obviously. You can also look how the individuals rank defensively, and that looks pretty good as well.

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Tom Milone Gets Some Attention

June 20, 2011

By now, you’ve surely heard of Tom Milone, the Nats pitching prospect that is often referred to as “fascinating” or something like that. He’s a 24 year old lefty starter who’s been very impressive the last few years. In 2009, he had a 2.91 ERA in high-A ball, at age 22. Last year, in AA at age 23, he had a 2.85 ERA; but in about 7 more IP than 2009, he had 49 more Ks and 13 fewer BBs. So his K/9 jumped from 6.3 to 8.8, and his K/BB went from 2.94 to 6.74. This year, his ERA has been a little higher, currently sitting at 3.81, and his K/9 has gone up a bit to 9.8. But what’s finally getting people’s attention is his current (and, sure, unsustainable) K/BB rate of 16.40. In 75 2/3 IP, he has issued 5 walks.

That’s where John Sickels comes in. He writes for SBNation (where Rob Neyer now lives) and today put out the first Tom Milone article I’ve ever seen from a nationwide (not a Nationals-focus) source. He goes through some of those stats that I listed above, which I’ve talked about ad nauseum (and will continue to do so), but he does add this little nugget

His ERA is actually misleading; his FIP is much better at 2.25.

So that shows that maybe he’s succeeding even more in AAA than it appears. Of course the reason that people don’t talk more about Milone, as many of you know, is his complete lack of fastball velocity. There isn’t much more than that, nobody would poo poo a guy who strikes out a hitter an inning but doesn’t have a great secondary pitch, it’s all about the fastball. Sickels, though, doesn’t really seem to think that makes him fringy, just a bit risky. Here’s what he says: Read the rest of this entry »

Livo, Some Great Offense, Burgers

June 16, 2011

I was lucky enough to go to the Wednesday night game, and I am not sure I’ve ever attended a Nats game quite like that. Not only did the DC offense shine, Livan Hernandez pitched a simply incredible game. Mark Zuckerman has an article on how historically good it was for Livo. Suffice it to say that it was a complete game 3-hit shutout, the rest is just details I suppose.

You might be able to tell, if my cellphone had a telescoping lens, better focus, and a more skilled user, that picture on the left is the big righty still going strong in the 9th. In fact, at only 105 pitches on the night, I wouldn’t be surprised if he went to throw long toss after the game. I was thinking of going out to The Bullpen bar after the game and see if he was trying to hit 88 on the radar gun. Livan had a great game, but he wasn’t all there was to last night.

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