July 26, 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...]

Washington Nationals Game 97 Review: Desmond Leads Nationals Past Rockies

DESMOND GOES 5-FOR-5 AS NATIONALS DEFEAT ROCKIES

At Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies on Monday night to begin their nine game road trip, the Washington Nationals defeated the Rockies 7-2 thanks in large part to a big night from Ian Desmond.

Neither starting pitcher was overpowering, but in 5.2 innings, Doug Fister gave up two runs on nine hits with four strikeouts and two walks. For Colorado, Franklin Morales gave up four runs (three earned) on nine hits with three strikeouts and four walks.

Washington jumped ahead in the fourth inning and didn’t look back. [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 Game 72 Review: Nats’ Comeback Bid Falls Short in 6-4 Loss to Braves

On a beautiful night for baseball at Nationals Park, the Washington Nationals’ dropped a heartbreaking game to the Atlanta Braves in extra innings, 6-4. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 71 Review: Floyd And Co. Shut Down Nats in Braves’ 3-0 win

In front of 32,193 at Nationals Park on Thursday evening, the Atlanta Braves shutdown the Washington Nationals en route to winning Game 1 of the series, 3-0. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 57 Review: Strasburg Continues Run Vs. Phillies in Nats 8-4 Win

Entering Wednesday’s game, Stephen Strasburg had not allowed an earned run in 21 consecutive innings against the Philadelphia Phillies.

And, as good fortune would have it, the rout continued for a bit as the Nats’ right-hander fanned 11 in seven innings pitch to help Washington to an 8-4 win, complete with a nearly two-hour rain delay.

Both Strasburg (W, 5-4) and his opponent, A.J. Burnett (L, 3-5), held the offense to a minimum through the first three innings of play. In the fourth, however, Burnett’s tendency to issue walks proved costly once more.

After Adam LaRoche led off the inning with a double to left, Ryan Zimmerman grounded out to advance LaRoche to third. Then, Burnett walked both Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond before Danny Espinosa doubled in two runs.

Then, Strasburg helped himself to an RBI via a single up the middle before Denard Span hit an RBI grounder to give the Nats an all-too-easy four-run lead. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 38 Review: Four Homers Lead Nats Past Diamondbacks

On a night when neither team’s starting pitcher brought their ace material to the mound, the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks engaged in a nine-inning slugfest in manager Matt Williams’ first trip back to Phoenix, with the Nats getting two homers in the top of the ninth to steal a 6-5 win at Chase Field.

The scoring got started early and came often for both ball clubs. Washington was first to plate a run after Anthony Rendon (1-4, RBI) hit a sac-fly to score lead-off man Denard Span (3-5, R) in the first, who had tripled to lead off the game. Tyler Moore then hit solo-shot to left-center and the Nationals were up 2-0 to heading to the third.

Arizona then made their first counter punch of the night. Thanks to three doubles in the inning by Josh Collmenter, Martin Prado and Paul Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks plated three runs to take the lead.

As quickly as Arizona had taken the lead, they lost it. After Wilson Ramos (0-3, BB) walked to start the inning, Ian Desmond hit his fifth home run of the year to give Washington the lead right back. After that, both pitchers began to settle in.

Over the next two innings, Jordan Zimmermann (5.2 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 4 Ks) sat down six-straight Diamondbacks after allowing the lead-off man to reach base to start the fourth. His opponent, Josh Collmenter (5 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2Ks), then pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning, but those ended up being his final three outs of the night as the game was turned over to the bullpen.

After giving up a two-out, two-run homer to A.J. Pollock in the bottom of the sixth inning, Matt Williams then relieved Zimmermann of his duties and turned that game over to his bullpen. Lefty Jerry Blevins picked up the final out of the inning, which was his only batter of the game.

Down 5-4, the bullpen just needed to keep the Diamondbacks off the scoreboard. Combined, Blevins, Aaron Barrett and Tyler Clippard gave up one hit in 2 1/3 innings of work while striking out three. In the top of ninth, the Nationals still had a chance.

With the 6-7-8 hitters up in the top of the frame, Arizona turned to closer Addison Reed to finish the game. After seeing just one pitch, Danny Espinosa (1-4, RBI, HR) took Reed’s 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall for the game-tying homer. Two batters later, pinch hitter Kevin Frandsen took a 2-0, two-out pitch to deep left to give the Nationals the 6-5.

After blowing his last save attempt, Williams gave Rafael Soriano a chance to redeem himself on Monday night. After giving up a lead-off single, Soriano then got some help from Desmond and Espinosa who turned a clutch double-play on an Eric Chavez grounder. Two batters later with a man on second, Soriano got Chavez to ground out to Desmond to secure his eighth save of the season, and the Nationals their 20th win, 6-5.

For Washington, the night saw them give four souvenirs to the folks sitting in the outfield, their most homers hit in a single game all season long. While Zimmermann didn’t bring his strongest stuff, it’s always a welcomed sight to see the bats back up the pitcher. For what it’s worth, Clippard was awarded his third win of the season.

On Tuesday night, the Nationals and Diamondbacks will return to the scene of the crime for Game 2 of the series. Stephen Strasburg (3-2, 3.42 ERA) will take on Bronson Arroyo (3-2, 4.89 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 9:40 PM EST.

Washington Nationals Game 36 Review: Nats blow it in ninth, lose 4-3 in 10 to A’s

The Washington Nationals did everything right in this game — until the ninth inning.

Nursing a 3-1 lead into the final frame, Rafael Soriano had his first meltdown in what was previously a perfect season, as the Oakland A’s tied it in the ninth and won it in the tenth off Drew Storen, taking a 4-3 win in Oakland.

The Nats got to A’s starter Sonny Gray in the third. Danny Espinosa crushed a one out, 2-1 fastball into the right center stands for his fifth home run of the season. Zach Walters (making his first start as a pro in left field) and Denard Span singled back-to-back, then Kevin Frandsen smoked a double to the left center gap to put the Nats up 3-0.

In the bottom half of the third, A’s catcher John Jaso clobbered a two out, 90-MPH fastball to about the same spot Espinosa did, to cut the A’s deficit to 3-1.

Other than that blemish, Roark cruised. After Jaso’s long ball, he retired then next 13 in a row until Josh Reddick’s single to lead off the eighth. Roark pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed one run on just two hits and no walks, striking out five. He threw 62 of his 95 pitches for strikes.

Unfortunately, Roark had nothing to show for it at the end of the night.

Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth to protect a 3-1 lead and immediately gave it away. Jaso led off with a broken bat single to left and scored on Jed Lowrie’s double to center. Josh Donaldson then singled to left and Walters made a strong throw to the plate, but for some reason, Soriano cut the ball instead of being behind the play to back up, and Lowrie slid in safely with the tying run.

Soriano managed to keep the game tied at the end of the inning, but the damage was done. The runs were his first given up this season and breaks a 25 inning scoreless streak.

The A’s won it in the bottom of the tenth off Drew Storen. Alberto Callaspo singled to right field and two outs later, Jaso’s double to the right field scoreboard brought pinch-runner Nick Punto home with the game-winner.

Washington Nationals Game 32 Review: Nats survive rain, Greinke to beat Dodgers 4-0

It took over six hours to pull off, but the Washington Nationals finally beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-0 to start a short three-game homestand.

The Nats got a pair of two-run home runs and five innings of shut out relief to run their record to 18-14 and move past the Atlanta Braves into first place in the N.L. East with the Braves 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday evening.

Dodgers starter Zach Greinke entered the game with a modern-day MLB-record 18 consecutive starts allowing two earned runs or fewer and for awhile that looked to be in serious jeopardy.

The Nats immediately got to work against Greinke, as Denard Span led off with a  opposite field double, then Anthony Rendon smacked a 1-2 slider from Greinke to the stands in center, giving the Nats a 2-0 lead after two batters.

Then the rains came. The teams played through it until the bottom of the fourth, when the umpires could no longer justify playing on the wet and unstable surface.

After a 3:17 delay, they actually got back to it, even though it was still drizzling.

Both Greinke and Nats starter Jordan Zimmermann were understandably done for the night. Zimmermann gave up five hits and no walks with three strikeouts in his four innings of work.

That left it to the bullpen, and they lived up to their end of the bargain. First, Aaron Barrett came out for the fifth inning after the delay and struck out two in a perfect inning. Jerry Blevins followed and gave up a single, but also struck out two. Drew Storen took over for the seventh and gave up Matt Kemp’s leadoff double, but stranded him and struck out one.

Tyler Clippard pitched the eighth inning and gave up a hit and stuck out one, but also got some help from his left fielder, Nate McLouth. With one out, Juan Uribe sliced a ball down the left field line that ended up in the thin stretch of foul territory in fornt of the short wall in left. McLouth made a sliding catch, slamming into the wall as he slid.

McLouth appeared to cut his right hand on the slide as he collided with the wall and was replaced by Kevin Frandsen.

Then, in the bottom of the frame, Ian Desmond led off with a single and Danny Espinosa provided the insurance, clobbering a Pedro Baez fastball into the Nats bullpen for his fourth home run of the season.

NATS: Happy Birthday, Danny Espinosa

HAPPY 27th BIRTHDAY DANNY ESPINOSA!

Washington Nationals switch-hitting second baseman was born on 04/25/1987 in Santa Ana, California.

Its great to see Danny off to a great start this season.

Happy birthday, #8.

1B Coach Tony Tarasco congratulates Danny Espinosa after a hit - Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals, 4/8/2014

1B Coach Tony Tarasco congratulates Danny Espinosa after a hit – Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals, 4/8/2014 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Danny Espinosa during his MLB Network interview - Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 1, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Danny Espinosa during his MLB Network interview after Nats clinched – Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 1, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Danny Espinosa turning a double play (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Danny Espinosa turning a double play (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals 2B Danny Espinosa scores on Bryce Harper's triple in 3rd inning, May 20, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals 2B Danny Espinosa scores on Bryce Harper’s triple in 3rd inning, May 20, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

 

 

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