July 25, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 98 Review: Zimmerman injured, Nationals power 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...]

Washington Nationals Game 90 Review: Nats Fall Short in Beltway Series Finale

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings Thursday night as the Washington Nationals fell 4-3 to the Baltimore Orioles in the Battle of the Beltway finale at Oriole Park.

Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen (W, 9-3) retired the first three Nats in order, Steve Pearce helped the Orioles to an early lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom half of the inning.

Chen pitched a 1-2-3 second and gave up a lone single to Wilson Ramos in the third, but the Orioles’ offense, on the other hand, came to life.

In the bottom of the third, after Gonzalez (L, 6-5) retired the first two batters, Nick Markakis drew a walk and Pearce singled to give Baltimore runners on first and second. Adam Jones then doubled to score Markakis, and Nelson Cruz singled to plate Pearce and Jones. The Orioles received some assistance on the play by way of an Ian Desmond throwing error, and just like that, Baltimore took a 4-0 lead.

The Nats earned back a run in the fourth after Anthony Rendon hit a one-out single and Adam LaRoche was hit by a tailing four-seamer. The next batter, Ryan Zimmerman, lined one to center to plate Rendon, to trim the Orioles’ lead to 4-1. [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 starter Jordan Zimmermann earns All-Star status

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was named to the National League All-Star team Sunday. He was voted to the team as a result of the players’ ballot. Second baseman Anthony Rendon was named one of the “final five” to be voted on by the fans.

Zimmermann will make his second All-Star game appearance, having gone to the game in 2013.

Zimmermann, 28, is 6-4 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.186 WHIP this season. He has struck out 7.9 per nine innings against 1.6 walks per nine and has allowed just six home runs in 103 2/3 innings.

Rendon, 24, is hitting .286/.343/.489 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs in 82 games. The others on the final vote ballot are Anthony Rizzo (CHC), Justin Morneau (COL), Casey McGehee (MIA) and Justin Upton (ATL).


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 78 Review: Defense Prevails as Cubs Beat Nats 5-3

On a foggy Thursday night in Chicago, the Chicago Cubs used defense to take care of the Washington Nationals in their series opener, 5-3. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 76 Review: Zimmerman’s homer in 16th ends longest game in Nats history

Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t have picked a better time to hit his first home run back from injury.

Zimmerman’s two-run shot in the top of the 16th inning propelled the Washington Nationals to a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers — in the longest game innings-wise in Nats history.

With one out in the 16th, Adam LaRoche slammed a one hopper off the right field wall for a single. Zimmerman then watched two in the dirt before crushing the 2-0 offering over the left field fence off Brewers reliever Mike Fiers.

To add to the act, Zimmerman made a spectacular diving catch in the bottom of the inning to help preserve the win, as Rafael Soriano nailed down his 18th save of the season.

The Nats jumped on top of Yovanni Gallardo and the Brewers in the first inning. Denard Span led off with a single, stole second and went to third on Anthony Rendon’s infield single. Span then scored on Jayson Werth’s routine ground out.

Jordan Zimmermann ran into trouble in the fourth but escaped any damage with a big strikeout of Khris Davis to end the inning. But the Brewers took the lead in the fifth, as Ryan Braun delivered a two-out, two-run ground ball single just out of the reach of shortstop Ian Desmond.

Zimmermann grinded out six innings and allowed just the two earned runs on six hits and two walks, striking out nine along the way.

Rendon (3-for-5)  tied it in the eighth with his 12th home run of the year, a blast that narrowly avoided Carlos Gomez’ leap at the fence in right center field.

The teams traded zeros in extras but it was not without some tension.

In the bottom of the 13th, the Brewers got a runner to third with two outs. Manager Matt Williams instructed Ross Detwiler to walk Jonathan Lucroy intentionally to face Carlos Gomez. Detwiler was able to retire Gomez with a  soft line drive to short to end the inning.

Detwiler, much maligned this season, gave the Nats four scoreless innings of relief in extra innings, allowing just two hits and a walk.

In the top of the 14th, back-to-back singles by Zimmerman and Desmond gave the Nats life with one out, but Danny Espinosa and Jose Lobaton couldn’t get the job done.

Then in the bottom of the inning, with Drew Storen on the hill, Denard Span and Jayson Werth both made impressive gave-saving catches with a man on first.

  • Zimmermann, a Wisconsin native, pitched before dozens of friends and family.
  • Bryce Harper hit a mammoth home run in Potomac in his second appearance of his rehab assignment, and proclaimed no problems with his hand after the game. Wilson Ramos caught all nine innings. “I’m ready to rejoin the team and help them win games,” Ramos said after the game. He said he would fly to Chicago Wednesday to be ready to play Thursday.
  • The Nats continued to run against Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Denard Span, Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon all had stolen bases. Span’s steal set up the Nats’ first run of the game in the first inning.
  • Jerry Blevins, Aaron Barrett and Craig Stammen all provided a scoreless inning of relief, though Blevins and Barrett both walked their first batters.
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