August 23, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 126 Review: Giants End Nationals’ Win Streak

SAN FRANCISCO’S TWO OUT HITS DOOM NATIONALS

With a franchise record on the line at home, the Washington Nationals faltered to a 10-3 defeat at the hands of San Francisco Giants, bringing their winning streak to an end just a game short of the franchise mark.

The Giants sent Tim Hudson, who boasts a now 18-5 record all time against Washington, to the mound take on the now 12-4 Doug Fister. Early on, it was a pitchers dual that the Nationals held the early advantage in. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 125 Review: Nats Walk off Yet Again to Extend Win Streak to Nine

ANTHONY RENDON’S PINCH-HIT SINGLE HELPS NATS EDGE DIAMONDBACKS

For the fourth time in five games, the Washington Nationals won in walk-off fashion – this time, to record a 3-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday night at Nationals Park.

Anthony Rendon started the day on the bench, but with one out and two on – and the game on the line – Nationals manager Matt Williams opted to insert Rendon into the order. And, in return, the Nats earned their ninth consecutive “Curly W,” improving their record to a National League-best 72-53 and extending their lead over the Atlanta Braves to seven games in the NL East.

Starter Tanner Roark was sharp as he allowed no runs on five hits and one walk through seven innings pitched.

The Nats provided Roark with a 1-0 lead in the second inning when, with runners on first and third, Wilson Ramos hit into an RBI fielder’s choice off the Diamondbacks’ Trevor Cahill. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 117 Review: Fister strong, Taylor homers in debut as Nats pound Mets

MICHAEL TAYLOR WITH FIRST MLB HIT, HOMER IN ROUT

The Washington Nationals needed a game like this.

After a disappointing weekend series with the Atlanta Braves, the Nats broke out in a big way against the New York Mets, slugging four home runs — including three in one inning — and Doug Fister tossed seven shutout innings as the Nats dumped the Mets 7-1 at Citifield in Queens.

The win, coupled with the Braves loss to the Dodgers, gives the Nats a five-game lead in the N.L. East.

One of the three homers hit in the sixth inning came from Michael Taylor, making his first start in the Major Leagues. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 114 Review: Strasburg rocked; Nats comeback falls short against Braves

Stephen Strasburg has had better nights — but not any worse.

For the first time in his career, the Washington Nationals starter gave up four home runs in one start and dug the Nats a deep hole. Despite clawing back to within one run before the seventh inning stretch, the Nats never did tie and lost to the Atlanta Braves, 7-6, at Turner Field.

The Braves snapped an eight-game losing streak in the process and cut the Nats lead in the division to 3 1/2 games.

In 15 starts against the Braves, Strasburg is 3-6 with a 4.62 ERA.

Strasburg (L, 8-10, 3.68) surrendered homers to Justin Upton (20) in the first inning, his brother B.J. (8) and Freddie Freeman (16) in the second, and Tommy LaStella in the fifth inning. LaStella’s homer in the fifth — the first of his career – ended up being the difference in the game.

B.J. Upton had not homered in over 130 at bats.

Strasburg’s final line was ugly. He gave up seven runs on seven hits and two walks, though he did strike out nine in five innings. But the home runs were the killer.

The Nats trailed 7-0 entering the middle innings but made a game of it. The rally started in the sixth. Scott Hairston pinch-hit for Strasburg and was hit by Braves starter Ervin Santana. Denard Span ( 3-for-4, .304) singled to put runners at the corners. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a  single to center that plated Hariston, then Anthony Rendon connected for his 15th home run of the season to cut the deficit to 7-4.

Washington pulled within two in the seventh. Wilson Ramos led off the inning with a no-doubt-about-it shot for his fifth homer of the season. Later, Kevin Frandsen reached on an error, went to third on Span’s single and scored on Cabrera’s sacrifice fly to left.

But the comeback stalled in the late innings, as Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel pitched clean slates in the eighth and ninth innings.

The second of the three-game series is Saturday at 7:10 pm ET. Tanner Roark (11-7, 2.94) faces Aaron Harang (9-6, 3.41).

NATS NOTES: Steven Souza Jr. made his first start since his recall in right field for Jayson Werth, but he didn’t last long. Chasing Freeman’s homer to right, he crashed full-speed into the outfield fence. He stayed in the game for another at bat, but after watching the video, it’s hard to imagine how. The Nats said he was day-to-day after the game, but then again, aren’t we all.

Statistically Speaking: Measuring Ryan Zimmerman’s value

Ryan Zimmerman has been a catalyst for the Washington Nationals offense from what seems to be time immemorial. Boasting a career .357 weighted on-base average (wOBA), which ranks second amongst third baseman and ninth in the National League since 2005 (minimum 5000 plate appearances), Zimmerman has been a consistent, potent offensive weapon for a team that has endured its share of toothless lineups. To the chagrin of the team and fans, this offense has sputtered in recent years, primarily due to a number of injuries that have forced him to miss significant time out of the lineup.

It’s been felt by many this season that when Zimmerman’s not penciled in the lineup card, the chances of runs being scored drop precipitously; the numbers confirm this to a certain extent, with the Nationals averaging 4.66 runs per game with Zimmerman in the lineup and 3.77 runs a game with him out. Compare this to the team’s overall scoring average—4.19 runs per game, fourth in the NL—and to the NL’s average runs scored per game—3.96 runs per game—and we pull back the curtain a little more as to how important Zimmerman’s bat is to the Nats; with him, they’re league beaters, but without him, they’re not even league average when it comes to plating runs.

Let’s keep pulling said curtain back and go back to wOBA to get a better grasp of the importance of Zimmerman in (and out of) the lineup, now, from a teammate’s perspective. With wOBA, we can better measure and apply a player’s offensive value and what exactly they contribute to the run scoring environment. It does require a little math in order to accurately weight each offensive contribution (singles, walks, and so on) for the current run environment, but thankfully, FanGraphs helps us with this process.

The wOBA formula for the 2014 season is:

wOBA = (0.691×uBB + 0.723×HBP + 0.892×1B + 1.280×2B + 1.630×3B + 2.126×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP)

…and after plugging and chugging and some shuffling of stats into two ‘bins’—stats with Zimmerman (‘Zim’) and stats without him (‘no Zim’), we get the following numbers for the ‘Big 8′ of Nats players who get the lion’s share of starts: Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Wilson Ramos, Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth:

Name wOBA Zim wOBA, no Zim PA, Zim PA, no Zim
Desmond 0.363 0.282 212 236
Espinosa 0.314 0.278 123 184
Harper 0.340 0.319 102 95
LaRoche 0.347 0.377 228 157
Ramos 0.357 0.293 97 106
Rendon 0.397 0.316 223 249
Span 0.325 0.338 224 235
Werth 0.399 0.318 220 237

*PA: plate appearances

Using the following Rule of Thumb courtesy again of FanGraphs:

Rules of Thumb

Rating wOBA
Excellent .400
Great .370
Above Average .340
Average .320
Below Average .310
Poor .300
Awful .290

…we see that Zimmerman’s presence in the lineup makes Rendon and Werth borderline excellent and the others above average, except for Espinosa, who enjoys league average wOBA with him in the lineup. However, without him in the lineup, things change and for some of Zimmerman’s teammates, quite drastically.

Without Zimmerman, Ian Desmond’s offense takes a huge nosedive, going from above average, to worse than awful, per our rule of thumb; Espinosa suffers similar production drops, as does Ramos, Werth, and Rendon. Oddly enough, LaRoche’s and Span’s production actually improve ever so slightly without Zimmerman’s presence, with Span’s offense the least affected overall by Zimmerman’s bat.

Let’s go one further with the numbers and look at weighted runs created plus (wRC+), a stat that is built off of wOBA, but adds additional granularity in the form of park and league-adjustments, allowing the comparison of these stats with respect to the leagues and parks played in to be performed. Again, FanGraphs provides us the formula:

wRC+ = (((wRAA/PA + League R/PA) + (League R/PA – Park Factor* League R/PA))/ (AL or NL wRC/PA excluding pitchers))*100

Here, the calculations are a little hairier than wOBA. Thankfully, the heavy lifting has been done for us, courtesy Neil Weinberg over at New English D, where you can find a very nifty wRC+ calculator that you can use once you have the proper constants for a given metric and season, which you can find in several places over at FanGraphs.

With wRC+, we can again better measure a players worth (like wOBA), both can now look at these results from both a current and historical perspective. 100 is considered league average, with any number above or below 100 providing us the percentage difference better or worse a player is to average. An as example, we can say Zimmerman’s career 121 wRC+ means he has been 21 percent better than the league average hitter.

Without further ado, the Nats offense with and without Zimmerman, through the lens of wRC+:

Name wRC+, Zim wRC+, no Zim
Desmond 133 73
Espinosa 95 71
Harper 113 99
LaRoche 118 139
Ramos 125 81
Rendon 153 97
Span 103 103
Werth 154 98
Average 124.25 95.13

It should be no surprise that the numbers trend similar to wOBA, given wRC+ being based on wOBA. In general, the Nats are currently and historically a below average offensive team without Zimmerman in the lineup (95.13 average) and are roughly 25 percent better than average with him healthy and taking his hacks. What’s also interesting is how much the team’s offensive leaders of 2014—Desmond, Rendon, and Werth—rely upon Zim’s contributions. Again, the oddballs are LaRoche, who still shows improved numbers without Zimmerman, and Span, whose numbers are exactly the same with and without the Nat’s elder statesman in the lineup. This all being said, caution should be exercised when interpreting Harper’s and Ramos’s number, simply due to sample size considerations, with both having limited PA’s this year due to their own injuries.

Zimmerman’s presence in the Nationals lineup, while always desired, at times has been one that is often under-appreciated, given the talents of his teammates and his difficulties in staying on the field. The numbers presented reflect this, but should nonetheless be taken with a grain of salt, as other variables, in particular, the effects of where each player hits in the lineup and even where they play defensively, can all play potential roles in these results. While the team-level numbers obviously show his worth in the heart of the order, when parsing out the effect of his presence across each of his teammates, we see a much deeper need and reliance upon his pop and his importance to his teammates’ overall offensive successes.

Data courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs and current as of August 5th.
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Stuart Wallace is a Contributor to District Sports Page. A neuroscientist by day, the Nevada native also moonlights as an Associate Managing Editor for Beyond the Box Score and a contributor at Camden Depot and Gammons Daily. A former pitcher, his brief career is sadly highlighted by giving up a lot of home runs to former National Johnny Estrada. You can follow him on Twitter @TClippardsSpecs.

Washington Nationals Game 108 Review: Rendon’s Four RBIs Help Nats Topple Phils

Anthony Rendon went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs to lead the Washington Nationals to a dazzling 11-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies Saturday night at Nationals Park.

For weeks, the Nats have struggled offensively – having gone nine games without a home run, a streak in which the team’s highest run total was six, in a crushing defeat to the Miami Marlins.

But, on Saturday night against Philadelphia starter A.J. Burnett, the Nats seemingly made up for the slump in a matter of innings.

After Anthony Rendon’s first-inning single knocked in the Nats’ first run of the game, he returned in the second only to power a three-run shot over the center-field wall that made it 5-0 Nationals.

The early push sparked all the momentum needed to help each of the starting Nationals tally at least one hit in Saturday’s contest, including starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who added a run himself to the Nats’ tally by day’s end.

Zimmermann was sharp on the mound as well, backed by Rendon’s early insurance. In seven innings pitched, Zimmermann allowed no runs on five hits and no walks while striking out eight batters through 97 total pitches. The win marked the 50th of his career and just hist first in five starts.

Burnett on the other hand struggled through his short stint, lasting just 1.2 innings.

Due to a fielding error by second baseman Chase Utley to help start the second inning, only one of Burnett’s five runs allowed was considered earned. But, the starter’s three hits and two walks allowed didn’t help matters much.

From there, Philadelphia reliever Phillippe Aumont brought things from bad to orse for the Phillies. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 103 Review: Soriano implodes; Marlins score four in ninth to complete comeback

Before the runs came late, Jordan Zimmermann was the story of the game.

The stoic Wisconsin right-hander, a two-time All-Star, commanded his fastball and dominated the Miami Marlins over seven innings, leading the Washington Nationals to a 6-0 lead into the late innings in Marlins Park in Miami.

But the Marlins didn’t get the script, getting eight hits in the last three innings to overcome the six-run deficit, capped by Jeff Baker’s walkoff double to lift Miami to a stunning, come-from-way-behind 7-6 win.

Zimmermann allowed two earned runs — both in the seven inning — on four hits and one walk, striking out six along the way. He left with the Nats leading comfortably at 6-2. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 102 Review: Fister excellent as Nats down Reds

One of the most head-scratching trades in recent memory continues to pay dividends for the Washington Nationals.

Doug Fister, obtained by the Nats in the offseason for Steve Lombardozzi and Robbie Ray, was excellent yet again, throwing seven stellar innings for the Nationals, leading them to a 4-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark. [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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