August 29, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 129 Review: Phillies Defeat Nats in Pitchers Duel

ROARK, BURNETT ENGAGE IN PITCHERS DUEL IN PHILLY

Playing in Citizens Bank Park in the City of Brotherly Love, the Washington Nationals suffered their second defeat in their last 14 games, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-2. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals vs Philadelphia Phillies Series Preview

After dramatically taking two-of-three from the San Francisco Giants, the Washington Nationals now head north for a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 128 Review: Nats Blow Past Giants, Win Series

BEHIND A SIX-RUN SIXTH, NATIONALS TAKE 2-OF-3 FROM SAN FRANCISCO

In front of 35,000-plus at Nationals Park on a beautiful Sunday afternoon for baseball, the Washington Nationals defeated the San Francisco Giants by a score of 14-6 to end their 10-game homestand. [Read more...]

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 120 Review: Nats Hang on to Top Pirates in Series Opener

WIN MARKS WASHINGTON’S FOURTH STRAIGHT

Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche drove in two runs apiece to help Tanner Roark and the Washington Nationals to a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park Friday night.

Having scored all five runs within the first three innings against Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton, the Nats nearly let their 67th win of the season slide through the cracks.

Morton gave up nothing but singles and walks to account for the Nats’ first three earned runs. Denard Span started the bottom of the first with a single, before Asdrubal Cabrera walked and Anthony Rendon and LaRoche hit back-to-back singles to put the first run on the board.

Ian Desmond then walked on four pitches before Harper hit a two-RBI single.

In the bottom of the third, the Nats kept with the strategy that worked.

Cabrera led off with a single, Rendon walked, and LaRoche hit an RBI-single to make it 4-0 Washington.

After Desmond grounded into a force out and Harper struck out swinging, Wilson Ramos batted in the run that would later round out the Nats’ win with a single on a sharp grounder up the middle.

In the top of the fourth, however, Roark nearly lost his footing.

After getting Russell Martin to fly out, Roark allowed a double to Neil Walker and a two-run homer to Starling Marte to cut the Nats’ lead to 5-2.

Then, Roark walked Travis Snider before getting Ike Davis to fly out without advancing the runner. But, Pedro Alvarez doubled in Snider to make it 5-3.

Roark lasted for just 5.2 innings pitched to earn the win, allowing three runs on just five hits, two walks, four strikeouts and a homer.

The win was all but in the bag until closer Rafael Soriano cut things pretty close in the ninth.

Soriano allowed a leadoff single to Marte who advanced on Snider’s grounder. Soriano then got Gaby Sanchez to fly out, but Alvarez answered with an RBI single.

The Pirates then opted for pinch-hitter Chris Stewart who singled to right, advancing the tying run to third.

But, Soriano lucked out with a 93 MPH fastball that jammed up Josh Harrison, who popped out to Ramos in foul territory.

With the win, the Nats remain six games up on the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East.

Washington Nationals Game 119 Review: Strasburg cruises, Harper homers in win over Mets

LAROCHE, HARPER HOMER AS NATS EXTEND DIVISION LEAD TO SIX

Last time out against the Atlanta Braves, Stephen Strasburg wasn’t himself, allowing a career-high four home runs and seven total, driving his road ERA to 5.25.

Thursday night, Strasburg conquered those demons, pitching seven innings without giving up an earned run to lead the Washington Nationals to a 4-1 win over the New York Mets, sweeping their division rival at Citifield.

Washington moves to 66-53. Coupled with the Braves loss to Los Angeles earlier in the evening, the Nats now hold a six-game lead in the N.L. East. [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 vs Atlanta Braves Series Preview

After taking two-of-three from the New York Mets and moving 4.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals now head south to Atlanta for a three-game series with their division rivals. [Read more...]

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 101 Review: Cueto makes short work of Nats

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez was good in his start on Saturday. Very good. But Cincinnati Reds starter Johnny Cueto was just a bit better, as he outdueled Gonzalez and the Nats, 1-0, at Great American Ballpark.

Gonzalez allowed one run on four hits and two walk over seven innings. But Cueto, a 2014 N.L. All-Star, gave up no runs on four hits and three walks over the same seven innings, en route to his 11th win of the season against six losses. [Read more...]

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