September 23, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 154 Review: 3-run seventh gives Nationals comeback win over the Marlins

The Washington Nationals continued their run toward their goal of securing home-field advantage throughout the postseason with a 3-2 come-from-behind road win over the Miami Marlins on Saturday night.

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Washington Nationals Game 150 Review: Nats Clinch NL East with Commanding Win over Braves

EARN SECOND DIVISION CROWN IN THREE YEARS

For the second time in three years, the Washington Nationals are kings of the National League East and, come October, there will be baseball in the nation’s capital.

With a 3-0 win over the second-place division rival Atlanta Braves, the Nats clinched their spot atop an NL East that struggled to play catch-up through the bulk of the 2014 season.

As if to demonstrate how far the Nationals have progressed since April, the very team that struggled to top Atlanta even once through the first half of the season shut out the Braves to secure their ticket to October.

Even more, the starter who so many claimed would come back down to earth following the 2013 season, recorded his 14th win of 2014 after allowing just five hits over seven innings pitched. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 143 Review: Nationals Strike Early, Hold Off Braves Late

NATIONALS CUT MAGIC NUMBER TO 11 WITH WIN OVER BRAVES

After a dramatic win for the home team on Monday night, the Washington Nationals defeated Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Tuesday night in Game 2 of their three-game series at Nationals Park.

Much like they did on Monday night in Game 1 of the series, the Washington Nationals got off to a hot start, lighting up the scoreboard early and giving their starter, Jordan Zimmermann, an early lead. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 142 Review: Nationals Out-Duel Braves in Victory

DOUG FISTER PITCHES SEVEN STRONG AS NATS TOP BRAVES

In front of 25,000-plus fans filled with “Natitude,” the Washington Nationals defeated the Atlanta Braves 2-1 to reduce their magic number to 12.

The Nationals gave Doug Fister an early run, and in return he gave them a seven-inning gem that earned him his 13th win of the year. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals vs Seattle Mariners Series Preview

After being swept out of Philadelphia by the Phillies, the Washington Nationals are now on the west coast for a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners. [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 124 Review: Nats Shut Down Diamondbacks to Extend Win Streak to Eight

With their current win streak numbering eight games, the Washington Nationals would likely invite the Arizona Diamondbacks to stay in town if given the option.

Tuesday night brought their largest margin of victory of the Arizona squad thus far as Ian Desmond and Asdrubal Cabrera together batted in seven of the Nats’ runs en route to an 8-1 win.

The heavy hitting likely helped starter Stephen Strasburg (W, 10-10) find his comfort zone as he allowed just one earned run – a homer by David Peralta – on three hits and one walk through 8.0 innings pitched. He also threw 61 of 95 pitches for strikes, and struck out four batters.

Arizona pitching didn’t fare so well.

Starter Chase Anderson (L, 7-5) lasted just two innings, during which he gave up six runs on six hits and three walks. Perhaps surprisingly yet, all six of Anderson’s runs allowed occurred in the third inning – before an out was recorded.

It was actually the Diamondbacks who struck first – the only time in which they posted a run on the board.

After Strasburg retired the first two batters of the game, Peralta worked him to a 2-2 count on five pitches before powering a four-seam fastball over the right-center field wall.

Following two fairly quiet innings, the Nats answered. Oh, did they. [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 116 Review: Gio shaky, offense absent in Sunday night loss to Braves

After the marathon game Saturday night, including a nearly four-hour rain delay then extra innings, the Washington Nationals could have used a crisp, clean outing from starter Gio Gonzalez.

They didn’t get it.

Gonzalez was shaky and the offense was almost non-existant, as the Nats fell to the Atlanta Braves 3-1 at Turner Field. The loss drops the Nats lead over the Braves to 3 1/2 games in the N.L. East.

Gonzalez allowed just two runs, but gave up six hits and four walk in just 4 2/3 innings. He needed 111 pitches to record the 14 outs, though eight of those came via strikeout.

The Nats got on the board first, as Ian Desmond socked his 18th homer of the season to right center field. But that’s all they got.

Atlanta drew even in the bottom of the inning. Justin Upton clubbed a 3-2 changeup to straight-away left field for his 21st homer of the year. It also marked Upton’s 1000th hit and 500th RBI of his career.

Gonzalez (L, 6-9, 4.00) then proceeded to allow two home base runners in the inning, but escaped unscathed — except for his elevated pitch count.

That high pitch count finally got to him in the fifth.

Emilio Bonifacio lead off with a bunt single and Gonzalez walked Tommy LaStella, though the rookie second baseman tried to sacrifice. Freddie Freeman grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and it looked like Gonzalez might escape danger again.

But he issued another walk, this time to Upton. Jason Heyward then hit a grounder to Danny Espinosa, playing in short right field on an extreme shift, but Adam LaRoche also tried for the grounder and Gonzalez failed to cover first base. Heyward was safe and Bonifacio scored on the play without a throw.

Braves starter Alex Wood cruised. Over 7 1/3 innings, he gave up just the Desmond homer, four other hits, and three walks, striking out 12 along the way.

Atlanta picked up another run in the eighth off Jerry Blevins in his second inning of work. He sandwiched a walk to Chris Johnson between strikeouts of Heyward and Gerald Laird. But consecutive hits by Ramiro Pena and pinch-hitter Evan Gattis — both right-handed hitters – pushed the Braves’ third run across.

Blevins is allowing a .321/.400/.449 slash line to right-handed hitters this season.

The Nationals have a much-needed day off Monday before starting a three-game series with the New York Mets on Tuesday at Citifield. Doug Fister (11-3, 2.49) pitches for the Nats. The Mets have not announced their starter.

NATS NOTES: The Nats recalled OF Michael Taylor from AAA-Syracuse and placed OF Steven Souza on the 15-day D.L. with a “left shoulder contusion” sustained when he slammed into the right field wall chasing a home run in Friday night’s game.

  • Denard Span went 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to 14 games and on-base streak to 36 games.
  • LaRoche had a rough night, striking out all four times at bat, stranding five runners.
  • Jayson Werth, nursing a litany of injuries, went 0-for-1 but walked three times.

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.

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