August 1, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 106 Review: Nats Fall to Phillies off Rough Start by Gio

On a beautiful night in the District, there was little to marvel at in the Washington Nationals’ 10-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies Thursday night.

As opposing starters, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee hardly topped a combined five innings pitched on the night. Lee lasted just 2.2 innings thanks to an elbow strain, and Gonzalez failed to round out a full four innings, having given up five runs on eight hits and 77 total pitches.

Oddly enough, both teams held the game scoreless through the first three innings.

In the fourth inning, Gonzalez fell apart fast, giving up back-to-back singles to Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz to start.

Grady Sizemore followed through with two-run double before Darin Ruf drew a walk. [Read more...]

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...]

Statistically Speaking: Finding the Nats’ pipe shots

Much like last week’s Statistically Speaking article, this week’s will have a bit of an All-Star flavor to it. While this season’s game has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Nationals fans due to the lack of some very deserving players, the team ultimately selected, Nats player or otherwise, appeared to be a reasonable representation of the respective leagues. Adding insult to injury for the National League, however, was this peachy comment from the NL’s starting pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright:

“I was gonna give him a couple pipe shots. He deserved it,” Wainwright said. “I didn’t know he was gonna hit a double or I might have changed my mind.”

The player deserving of said pipe shots—a pitch grooved right down the middle of the plate—was of course soon-to-be-retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Not surprisingly, Jeter did exactly what Wainwright (and everyone else) expected him to do with the gimmie, knocking the 90 mile-per-hour offering into the outfield for a double. Upon realizing the gravity of his ‘pipe shot’ comment, Wainwright about-faced on giving Jeter the mulligan:

“Sometimes my humor gets taken the wrong way,” Wainwright said in a dugout interview in the eighth inning. “I feel terrible about this if anyone is taking any credit away from what Derek Jeter’s done today or off me. It was mis-said. I made a mistake.

Regardless of the ultimate result or intention of the pipe shot, the pitch was exactly as published:


The PITCHf/x data also shows us (courtesy of Brooks Baseball), the pitch’s ‘px’ value was 0.1545 feet and its ‘pz’ value was 2.320 feet, which are the left/right distance of the pitch from the middle of the plate as it crosses the plate and the height of the pitch as it crosses the plate, respectively, while having 0.3206 inches of horizontal movement and 9.667 inches of vertical movement. Add it all up, and it was about as close as a pitcher could get to putting the ball on a tee for a hitter.

For Wainwright, this location and ‘grooving’ was intentional; sometimes, it isn’t quite the case, and pitches end up rolling down that pipe and right into a hitter’s sweet spot; has this been an issue for Nats pitcher this year, as talented as they are? First, let’s look at what Nats pitcher’s have done in terms of pitch location for all fastball types (the pitch of choice when you’re looking to groove a pitch), with Wainwright’s pitch in red for reference:

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 11.10.26 PMThere appears to be quite a few pitches that could fit the bill as a pipe shot, so let’s slim the field down with some additional criteria, with some help from an old Greek. By taking the px and pz information from Wainwright’s pitch and considering that the bulls eye for all pips shots, we can use the following calculation to figure out how close each of the above 8935 fastballs were to being pipe shots:

(x-center_x)^2 + (y - center_y)^2 < radius^2 

where x is a given pitch’s px value, center_x is the Wainwright pitch px, y is a given pitch’s pz value, and center_y is the pz for Wainwright’s pitch. From here, we apply a numeric value to the radius to shrink our sphere of influence for what we will consider pipe shots. To cut to the chase and to keep numbers to a dull roar, I selected a radius of 0.001 for our pipe shot ‘winners’, which are displayed below, with the Wainwright’s pitch again in red and the average strike zone outlined in black for reference:

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 11.09.46 PMHere, we find seven winning pitches, from, surprisingly, seven different pitchers; for those curious the table below provides additional information as to count, velocity, and pitch movement (HMov and VMov):

name pitch_type pitch_result start_speed HMov VMov balls strikes
Clippard, Tyler FF Flyout 90.7 -1.22 11.59 1 1
Fister, Doug FF Groundout 89.2 -7.278 6.27 1 2
Gonzalez, Gio FF Called Strike 92.5 6.475 9.676 0 0
Jordan, Taylor FT Called Strike 88.2 -9.67 6.25 3 0
Roark, Tanner FF Called Strike 92.6 -7.61 8.37 1 0
Stammen, Craig FT Called Strike 91.4 -10.97 4.82 2 1
Strasburg, Stephen FT Called Strike 94.5 -9.03 10.17 0 0

Overall, the pipe shots from the Nats haven’t been terribly egregious, with a pair being first pitch strikes and only one grooved in a hitters count, courtesy of Taylor Jordan. Thankfully for the Nats, all of these grooved pitches ended up without any damage being done in the form of hits balls or runs scored, unlike Wainwright’s cookie to Jeter; despite this sliver of luck with the approach, the infamous pipe shot probably isn’t the best method of garnering strikes and outs, and should be best left to the Home Run Derby.


Data courtesy of Baseball Savant, unless otherwise noted.

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 96 Review: Werth’s walk-off double helps Nats win series vs Brewers


Jayson Werth hit a walk-off RBI double in the ninth inning to lift the Washington Nationals to a 5-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park Sunday afternoon, taking two of three from the Brewers to start the second half of the MLB season on a high note.

The Nats persevered despite a rocky start from Gio Gonzalez, who lasted just 3 ⅓ innings and, in that time, allowed three runs on four hits and tossed 88 pitches.

Washington got off to an early lead in the bottom of the second after Adam LaRoche singled on a grounder to left and, with one out, Bryce Harper singled, advancing LaRoche to third. As the third time’s the charm, Ian Desmond singled home LaRoche to make it 1-0 Nationals.

But Sunday was never meant to be a shining day for Gonzalez, it seemed.

After striking out Rickie Weeks to start the third, Gonzalez gave up back-to-back walks to Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez. Then, Jonathan Lucroy hit a soft grounder, and Gonzalez botched the play by lobbing the ball to first as Braun scored easily. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals vs Milwaukee Brewers Series Preview

As the All-Star break comes to a close, it’s time for the Washington Nationals to get back to work. To open the unofficial second half of the season, they’ll welcome the Milwaukee Brewers to Nationals Park for a three-game homestand. [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...]

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 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 vs Milwaukee Brewers Series Preview

After splitting their four-game series with the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals now hit the road. They open their trip with a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 70 Review: With Gio’s Return, Nats Complete Two-Game Sweep of Astros

A two-game sweep is still a sweep, and a win is a win – even if it comes against the Houston Astros.

And, Wednesday night, the Washington Nationals rallied back to top the 32-41 squad by the score of 6-5 on a sweltering night at Nationals Park. The win marked the Nats’ 12th in their last 13 games against the Astros, and propelled Washington to a 1 ½ game lead in the NL East.

In Gio Gonzalez’s first start since May 17, he ran into his fair share of trouble spots, but held the Astros at bay long enough to keep the Nats alive. In five innings pitched, he allowed four runs on five hits and three walks, and hit a batter.

More importantly, he looked solid in the early innings and reported no soreness in his shoulder.

The Nats slowly rounded up a run here and there to start against Scott Feldman.

In the first, Denard Span walked and, with the help of a challenge call that overturned a ruling on the field, Span successfully stole second. [Read more...]

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