August 1, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 98 Review: Zimmerman injured, Nationals power past Rockies

RYAN ZIMMERMAN INJURED IN SIXTH AS NATIONALS RALLY PAST ROCKIES

A mile above sea level at Coors Field on Tuesday night, the Washington Nationals came back to defeat the Colorado Rockies 7-4. The victory didn’t come without a cost, however, as Ryan Zimmerman was pulled from the game in the sixth inning with a right leg injury.

The Nationals’ other Zimmerman(n), Jordan Zimmermann, took the mound for his first start since his early exit on July 11th due to a strained right biceps. On Tuesday, he just wasn’t his best and Washington fell into an early hole because of it. [Read more...]

Statistically Speaking: Batting Expectations

From an offensive standpoint, the first half of the Washington Nationals’ 2014 has been fair to middling. Ranking sixth, seventh, and tenth in weighted on base average, weighted runs created plus, and wins above replacement, respectively, in the National League, the team thus far as produced runs at a slightly disappointing level, given the level and depth of hitting and run producing talent the lineup carries. Despite this mildly disappointing aspect of the Nationals’ 2014 season, the team has remained within shouting distance of first place in the NL East, making the expected unfulfilled, at least, as of yet.

A statistic that can be used to gauge the variation between expected and observed tendencies in hitting and help discern whether a spike or a slump in production is a product of skill or some other variable is batting average on balls in play, otherwise known as BABIP. Simply put, it measures how often a ball put in play by a hitter ends up a hit by taking their batted ball profile into account. As a rule of thumb, BABIP sits around .300, but can vary greatly between players and even between individual player seasons. From BABIP, additional calculations can be performed to derive a hitter’s expected BABIP (xBABIP), which can further refine the ramifications of a batted ball profile. While there are a number a methods to calculate xBABIP, the following is felt to be the most accurate:

xBABIP = 0.392 + (LD% x 0.287709436) + ((GB% – (GB% * IFH%)) x -0.152 ) + ((FB% – (FB% x HR/FB%) – (FB% x IFFB%)) x -0.188) + ((IFFB% * FB%) x -0.835) + ((IFH% * GB%) x 0.500)

…where LD% is line drive rate, GB% is ground ball rate, IFH% is infield hit rate, FB% is fly ball rate, HR/FB% is home runs per fly ball rate, and IFFB% is infield fly ball rate.

With the combination of BABIP and xBABIP, some of the more finicky aspects of a player’s season can be parsed out and determined as something that is indicative of a player’s skill, or something outside of his control and is one way to take stock of player performance at the halfway point and determine whether a streak or a slump will carry on into the summer months. Below, I have provided the career (cBABIP), 2013 (BABIP 2013), and 2014 (2014 BABIP) BABIPs as well as the projected 2014 BABIP based on 2013 numbers and the expected BABIP for the rest of the season (xBABIP 2014) based on this year’s performance thus far for the eleven Nats hitters who have had at last 100 plate appearances this year. With these values, we can identify Nats hitters who might be due for an uptick or drop in production based on their batted ball rates thus far; this can also be compared to last year’s numbers as well as career values to find help determine whether the waxing or waning of their 2014 BABIP is something that could be indicative of skill, or perhaps other variables, such as an injury, a change in hitting approach, a change in pitcher approach, or how a defense plays a hitter in terms of alignment or shifting:

red=decrease greater than 5 points in BABIP; yellow=increase or decrease of 0-5 BABIP points; green= increase in BABIP greater than 5 points.

cBABIP = career BABIP; xBABIP_proj = xBABIP using 2013 end of season stats. Red = decrease greater than 5 points in BABIP; yellow = increase or decrease of 0-5 BABIP points; green = increase in BABIP greater than 5 points. Difference in BABIP points measured based on previous column.

With the help of the color coding, we see that Ryan Zimmerman’s BABIP is pretty resistant to change, with the respective BABIP values over his career, 2013, and throughout this year staying within a couple of points of one another. On the other hand, Jayson Werth’s fantastic start to this year hasn’t fulfilled expectations that were in place using his final 2013 batted ball values, but is still in line with his career BABIP, which is encouraging. However, using up-to-date values and calculating his 2014 xBABIP, it appears he will possibly suffer a light drop in productivity. Adam LaRoche’s season has been a positive across the board in comparison to both last year and his career averages and appears to have the potential to get even better. We can also hope to see a over-correction in Denard Span’s BABIP later this season, eclipsing both his current and career BABIP.

The calculations for BABIP/xBABIP are based on batted ball data and as such, the swings in these values across and within a season can be caused by changed in one or many of these stats. Research has found that while BABIP itself does not correlate strongly year to year, metrics like GB% and HR/FB% can, thus providing additional layers of complexity when looking at the above table. With that in mind, provided below are each player’s change in the batted ball rates inherent to xBABIP, to help identify what is truly at the root of any egregious disparities in BABIP or xBABIP. First, differences between 2014 and 2013 data:

 

Player dLD% dGB% dFB% dIFFB% dHR/FB% dIFH%
Adam LaRoche 3.20% -2.10% -1.10% 1.30% 2.80% -8.10%
Anthony Rendon -5.50% -1.30% 6.80% -2.20% 3.50% -0.70%
Jayson Werth -7.80% 3.80% 3.90% 1.00% -10.60% -11.20%
Ryan Zimmerman -2.30% 0.10% 2.20% -4.10% -10.90% -12.20%
Wilson Ramos 5.70% -5.40% -0.30% 0.80% -19.30% -23.80%
Ian Desmond -6.70% 4.80% 1.90% 4.40% 5.40% -4.70%
Bryce Harper 0.10% -1.00% 0.90% -2.10% -13.80% -11.70%
Denard Span 0.30% -10.80% 10.50% -1.40% -2.40% 2.20%
Danny Espinosa 12.00% -8.80% -3.20% 7.50% 5.40% -1.90%
Kevin Frandsen 2.40% -5.50% 3.00% 10.10% -6.00% -7.40%
Nate McLouth -17.00% 15.80% 1.20% 1.90% -4.50% -3.30%
Jose Lobaton -1.40% 3.30% -1.90% -7.20% -3.20% -5.70%

…and here, differences in 2014 data compared to career averages:

Player dcLD% dcGB% dcFB% dcIFFB% dcHR/FB% dcIFH%
Adam LaRoche 3.90% -3.00% -0.90% -1.50% 0.50% 1.50%
Anthony Rendon -2.80% -0.60% 3.40% -1.00% 1.60% 0.70%
Jayson Werth -2.60% 1.30% 1.30% 2.60% -6.80% -0.30%
Ryan Zimmerman 0.10% 0.60% -0.70% -2.80% -6.70% -2.60%
Wilson Ramos 7.90% -1.50% -6.30% -2.20% -7.40% -0.50%
Ian Desmond -2.20% -0.70% 2.90% 4.20% 5.90% 1.00%
Bryce Harper -1.20% 0.20% 1.00% -2.80% -11.70% 0.60%
Denard Span 2.20% -9.40% 7.30% 2.70% -2.80% -1.80%
Danny Espinosa 5.30% -3.20% -2.10% 1.50% -0.30% 0.10%
Kevin Frandsen 1.70% -2.70% 1.00% 6.40% -2.40% -3.30%
Nate McLouth -11.30% 14.90% -3.60% -0.50% -6.50% -2.50%
Jose Lobaton 0.80% 1.30% -2.10% -5.20% -0.30% -1.60%

 

With both of these tables, positive numbers indicate 2014 data being an improvement over either 2013 or career averages. Overall, we see the volatility in year-to-year BABIP values reflected in the batted ball data, consistent with the effects of injury and game-to-game changes in hitting approach and defensive alignments being played out over a small period of time. Looking at the 2014 compared to career averages, we do see some significant changes in Denard Span’s ground ball rates, as well as with Bryce Harper’s HR/FB%; however, given the comparative lack of games played by Harper due to both MLB service time and injury, these values can be expected to swing a wildly as his year-to-year values for the moment. Other changes of interest include the career decline reflected in Nate McLouth’s numbers and the change in line drive and homer run rates for Wilson Ramos, possibly a reflection of an injury-marred career more so than a change in hitting philosophy.

Converting expectations into actual results is a precarious endeavor and can take unexpected turns during the course of a season; slumps, injuries, even the fashion in which opposing defenses line up for a given hitter can all make the most obvious and conservative of projections worthless, or at the least, frivolous.  However, with xBABIP, we are provided a more refined and data-driven approach to prognosticating what’s in store for Nats hitter come the second half of the season.

***

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs; current as of July 7th.

Washington Nationals vs Chicago Cubs Series Preview

Currently riding a season-high five-game winning streak, the Washington Nationals now welcome the Chicago Cubs to town for a three-game set. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals vs Colorado Rockies Series Preview

After splitting their four-game series with the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals now return home for a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 81 Review: Treinen Earns First Career Win, Nats Beat Cubs 7-2

In the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader in Chicago, Blake Treinen pitched through a rain delay for his first career victory as the Washington Nationals beat the Chicago Cubs, 7-2. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 80 Review: Gonzalez Throws Gem, Nats Beat Cubs 3-0

On a sunny Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, the Washington Nationals took Game 1 of their doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs, 3-0. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 79 Review: Baker’s 4 RBI Lead Cubs Past Nats, 7-2

On Friday afternoon in Chicago, the Cubs continued their recent offensive outburst in Game 2 of their series against the Washington Nationals, winning by a score of 7-2. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 75 Review: LaRoche homer powers Nats to 4-0 win

With the Braves now in the rearview mirror, the Washington Nationals headed to Wisconsin for a three-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers. In the opener Monday night, Gio Gonzalez gutted out six innings and Adam LaRoche provided all the fireworks, as the Nats topped the Brewers 3-0.

LaRoche provided all the offense the Nats (40-35) needed — or would get — in the third inning.

With one out in the frame, Anthony Rendon drew a walk and went to third on Jayson Werth’s line drive single to right field. LaRoche worked the count full against Brewers starter Matt Garza, then crushed the payoff pitch — an 84-MPH slider — off the back wall in straightaway center for a three-run homer, his ninth of the season.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, worked himself in and out of trouble during his six innings. He gave up just three hits, but walked four, and threw a lot of pitches in general. Testament to his lack of sharpness, he’d thrown 60 pitches through three innings.

But he settled down after and managed to get through six innings without allowing a run. He struck out five along the way against the hyper-aggressive Brewers order.

After Aaron Barrett and Drew Storen both threw scoreless innings of relief, Tyler Clippard was brought on to pitch the ninth, as Rafael Soriano was unavailable having pitched in the last three games. No worries, though, as Clippard struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth for his first save in two years.

The Nationals continue the three-game series in Milwaukee on Tuesday at 8:10 pm ET with Jordan Zimmermann (5-4, 2.95) facing Yovanni Gallardo (5-4, 3.34).

NATS NOTES: Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos both played on a rehab assignment for High-A Potomac Monday. Harper went 1-for-1 with a walk and played three innings in left field, while Ramos caught a full nine innings and went 3-for-4 with a homer, double and single.

Washington Nationals Game 73 Review: Fister Pitches Gem in Nats’ 3-0 Win Over Braves

In front of a sellout crowd at Nationals Park on Saturday night, Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister tossed his best game of the season to help his team reclaim the NL East lead by beating the Atlanta Braves, 3-0. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 60 Review: Extras unkind to Nats in 4-3 loss to Padres

On the longest — and toughest — road trip of the year, every game is going to be magnified. With a chance to win the series and kick the road trip off to a 2-0 start Saturday night, the Washington Nationals blew a save, then fell in 11 innings to the bottom-feeding San Diego Padres 4-3.

Starters Blake Treinen and Andrew Cashner both threw well, but neither factored in the decision as Yonder Alonso’s homer in the ninth off Rafael Soriano tied it and Cameron Maybin’s bloop single in the 11th was the game-winner.

The only blemish against Treinen’s record came in the fourth inning. Seth Smith singled with one out and scored on Chase Headley’s line drive double to center. Yonder Alonso’s groundout moved Headley up a base, and he came in on Cameron Maybin’s two-out double.

Treinen allowed just the two runs on five hits and no walks. He struck out just one on the evening.

Meanwhile, Cashner was mowing down Nats left and right. Through six shut out innings. Cashner kept the Nats bats quiet, allowing just two hits while striking out five. But the big righty was making his first start off the disabled list and was therefore on a pitch count, so after 70 pitches, his night ended.

The Nats’ collective sigh of relief was almost audible.

In the seventh, against reliever Nick Vincent, the Nats went to work. With one out, Adam LaRoche blooped a double to left field. Ryan Zimmerman followed with a double of his own down the right field line to make it 2-1 game. After Wilson Ramos lined out, Ian Desmond clobbered a 1-1 fastball to dead center which cleared the wall by 15 feet for his 15th homer of the season.

Just like that, the Nats led 3-2 after being completely shut down all night.

The Padres got a runner to third in the eighth against Tyler Clippard, but a nasty changeup to Carlos Quentin ended the inning without incident. It was Clippard’s 19th consecutive scoreless appearance, and 23rd straight without allowing an earned run.

Unfortunately, the ninth inning didn’t go easily for Rafael Soriano. With two outs, he missed his spot and Yonder Alonso punished the mistake, drilling it over the right field fence for his fifth home run of the season to tie it and force extra innings.

In the bottom of the 11th, Craig Stammen got the first two outs with no trouble. But Chase Headley reached on a single to left, then Stammen fed Alonso a steady diet of breaking balls until Alonso drewa base on balls. Cameron Maybin made Stammen pay, blooping a single in front of Jayson Werth that drove in Headley from third with the winning run.

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