August 29, 2014

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 127 Review: No Winning-Streak Hangover for Nats

CABRERA HOMERS AS NATS RALLY PAST GIANTS

Just a day after the Washington Nationals winning streak came to an end, they laid the ground work for a new one by defeating the San Francisco Giants 6-2 in a rain-delayed contest at Nationals Park. [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 122 Review: Nats Top Pirates Again in Walkoff Fashion

For the second straight game, the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in a walkoff scenario, this time in 11 innings by the score of 6-5 at Nationals Park Sunday evening.

Pinch-hitter Scott Hairston came up with the game-winning sacrifice fly that plated Jayson Werth, who reached base on a smoker double off the left-field wall.

Washington starter Doug Firster was solid through seven innings pitched, allowing just two unearned runs on five hits and a walk. Unearned runs proved a menace to both teams’ starters as Pittsburgh’s Edinson Volquez allowed four runs – only one of which were earned – on six hits and two walks through 6.1 innings pitched.

In the top of the sixth, Gregory Polanco reached on a fielding error by Ian Desmond to start things off before Josh Harrison singled to right.

Neil Walker then grounded into an otherwise easy fielder’s choice, but on the play, Anthony Rendon committed a throwing error which allowed Harrison to take third as Polanco came home.

Russell Martin then singled to plate Harrison to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.

The Nationals earned one back in the bottom of the inning, however, after Rendon singled and Adam LaRoche drew a walk, allowing Desmond to bat in Rendon with a single of his own.

In the seventh, the Nats looked positioned to run away with the lead.

Michael Taylor took first with one out on a hit-by-pitch, before Kevin Frandsen and Denard Span hit back-to-back singles. [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 111 Review: Gio’s Shaky Outing No Match for Wheeler

NATIONALS FALL TO NEW YORK METS IN SERIES OPENER

Gio Gonzalez allowed four runs on six hits and two walks through six innings Tuesday night as the Washington Nationals fell to Zack Wheeler and the New York Mets 6-1 at Nationals Park.

Gonzalez was shaky from the start, as he allowed a one-out triple to Daniel Murphy before David Wright brought him home with a single to left.

Wheeler helped himself to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second after Travis d’Arnaud led off with a double. Chris Young went down on strikes and Ruben Tejada grounded out, advancing d’Arnaud to third before Wheeler singled in d’Arnaud off a first-pitch fastball.

The Nats earned one back in the bottom of the inning, not by awakening the offense but by taking advantage of Wheeler’s short loss of control.

Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond started the inning with back-to-back walks before Bryce Harper went down on strikes. Then, Asdrubal Cabrera walked to load the bases, allowing LaRoche to come home on a wild pitch with Jose Lobaton batting.

Lobaton managed to hit a sharp grounder, but the ball hit Cabrera who was running toward third base at the time. Cabrera was called out and Desmond was forced to retreat to third, while Lobaton was awarded the single. Gonzalez came to the plate next, but could not repeat Wheeler’s earlier luck, ending the inning with a fly ball to center fielder Juan Lagares.

The Nats threatened again in the bottom of the third after Denard Span and Anthony Rendon started things off with back-to-back singles. On his own gnome night, however, Jayson Werth grounded into a double play that advanced Span to third. LaRoche drew a walk to keep the inning alive but the struggling Ian Desmond could only manage a ground ball to end the inning.

Gonzalez held on to match Wheeler until the top of the seventh.

In the seventh, however, it quickly became apparent that the Nats’ left-hander had run out of gas.

Young worked Gonzalez for a nine-pitch walk to start things off before Tejada chopped an infield single to short.

At that point, Nationals manager Matt Williams called on Drew Storen to pitch to Wheeler, who advanced Young and Tejada on a sacrifice bunt. Storen managed to hit the next batter, Lagares, with a runaway sinker, before allowing Daniel Murphy to single in Young and Tejada.

Storen did manage to strike out Wright, but Lucas Duda singled to left to add the Mets’ third run of the inning.

In the eighth, the Mets tacked on their sixth run of the night with Blake Treinen on the mound for Washington.

Treinen hit his first batter, d’Arnaud, with a pitch before allowing Young to single. Tejada lined out in the next at-bat, but pinch-hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis singled in d’Arnaud to make it 6-1.

 

THE GOOD: On a night when the Nats’ offense never fully came to life, Adam LaRoche went 2-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. Filling in for catcher Wilson Ramos, who is on paternity leave, Jose Lobaton was the only other Nat to post two hits on the night.

THE BAD: There were innings in which Gio Gonzalez looked like the Gio Gonzalez of old, and then there moments where he just didn’t seem to have his stuff. Add to that, Drew Storen and Blake Treinen each allowed a run.

THE UGLY: The Nats went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven. On a night when Mets’ pitching worked its way into jams with control issues, the Nats failed to capitalize.

THE STATS: 1 R, 8 H, 4 BB, 7 K, 7 LOB, 2-for-9 RISP

 

Washington Nationals vs Baltimore Orioles Game Preview

After splitting a four-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals now welcome the Baltimore Orioles to town for a make-up game to settle their series from July 7-10. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals vs Philadelphia Phillies Series Preview

The Washington Nationals are 7-5 since the All-Star break and return home to kickoff an eight-game homestand with a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Teams

Washington Nationals (58-47, 1st in NL East) vs Philadelphia Phillies (47-61, 5th in NL East)

Schedule

Game 1: Thursday, July 31 @ 7:05 PM EST

Game 2: Friday, August 1 @ 7:05 PM EST

Game 3: Saturday, August 2 @ 7:05 PM EST

Game 4: Sunday, August 3 @ 1:35 PM EST

Probable Pitchers (Season Stats; Career vs Opponent)

Game 1: Gio Gonzalez (6-6, 3.65; 5-3, 2.48) vs Cliff Lee (4-5, 3.78; 6-4, 2.74)

Game 2: Doug Fister (10-2, 2.69; 2-0, 1.20) vs Roberto Hernandez (5-8, 4.14; 2-1, 1.61)

Game 3: Jordan Zimmermann (6-5, 3.17; 5-6, 3.82) vs A.J. Burnett (6-10, 4.15; 10-4, 3.37)

Game 4: Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 3.55; 3-1, 2.41) vs Cole Hamels (6-5, 2.55; 15-6, 2.63)

Players to Watch

Washington:

  • Denard Span: .288 BA, .348 OBP, 29 doubles, 21 RBI, 20 SB
  • Ian Desmond: .250 BA, .433 SLG, 18 doubles, 17 HR, 64 RBI, 10 SB
  • Bryce Harper: .261 BA, 7 doubles, 2 triples, 3 HR, 13 RBI
  • Tyler Clippard: 45 IP, 1.80 ERA, 59 K, 11.80 K/9

Philadelphia:

  • Ben Revere: .301 BA, 9 doubles, 5 triples, 12 RBI, 29 SB
  • Marlon Byrd: .270 BA, 22 doubles, 20 HR, 60 RBI
  • Ryan Howard: .223 BA, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 11 doubles
  • Chase Utley: .289 BA, .355 OBP, 26 doubles, 3 triples, 9 HR, 54 RBI

Notables on the Injury Report

Washington: 

Ryan Zimmerman is on the 15-day DL with a hamstring strain. There is currently no timetable for a return and Bill Ladson of MLB.com reported that it could possibly be a Grade 3 strain (the worst kind). Jayson Werth is listed as day-to-day after spraining his right ankle agains the Miami Marlins. He played Wednesday and went 1-for-3 with an RBI.

Philadelphia:

Marlon Byrd is currently listed as day-to-day on the injury report for a foot injury. However, he did play on Wednesday and you can expect him to play on Thursday. Relief pitcher Matt Adams is on the 60-day DL for a shoulder injury. With a 2.12 ERA, that’s a significant blow to the bullpen.

Series Notes

This year, the Nationals are 6-3 against the Phillies and have gone 5-1 since dropping 2-of-3 in Philadelphia this May. The last time these two faced off in Washington, the Nationals completed a three-game sweep in June behind Zimmermann, Strasburg and Fister.

Against his former team, Jayson Werth is batting .292 with a .486 on-base percentage. He’s hit seven doubles, a triple, 11 homers and 43 RBI against the Phillies. Two of those 11 homers and 10 of those 43 RBI have come in nine games this season.

In 12 games since the All-Star break, the Nationals have gone 7-5. Last year, the Nationals went 4-8 over that same span. When you consider the hot streak that they ended the season on, this is an encouraging sign that they’re beginning the proverbial second-half of the season well.

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Brian Skinnell is a sports writer born and raised in the Washington, D.C.-metro area and covers the Washington Nationals, Wizards and MiLB for District Sports Page. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!

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...]

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