July 24, 2014

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

NATS OVERCOME SORIANO’S BLOWN SAVE TO TOP 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 Game 95 Review: Early Jump Powers Nats Past Brewers

After struggling to bring home base runners in Friday night’s loss, the Washington Nationals made applied their lessons learned early in Saturday night’s 8-3 rout of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brewers starter Matt Garza (L, 6-7) lasted just a third of an inning, marking his shortest Major League start.

Denard Span kicked off the Nats five-run first inning with a lead-off single. Of all batters to retire, Matt Garza was able to force Anthony Rendon to strike out swinging. It would be Garza’s only out of the day, as Jayson Werth doubled deep to right, Adam LaRoche walked and Ryan Zimmerman singled home Span and Werth.

From there, Harper walked, Ian Desmond reached first on an infield single and Ramos singled home Zimmerman and Harper before Marco Estrada relieved Garza.

Perhaps eased by his five-run lead, Nats starter Tanner Roark handed back a run in the second by way of a Jonathan Lucroy double and stolen base. On the play, Ramos committed a throwing error that allowed Lucroy to come home to make it 5-1 Nationals.

The Nats tacked on additional runs in the third and fourth with help from Harper’s double in the third and walks to Werth and LaRoche in the fourth. [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 93 Review: Nats Blow Past Phillies 10-3

In the finale of their three-game series at Citizens Bank Park against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals received a great effort on the mound from Tanner Roark — and all through the batting order — en route to an 10-3 victory. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 92 Review: Nats Top Phillies 5-3 in Extras

In an extra inning affair at Citizens Bank Park in the city of brotherly love, the Washington Nationals defeated the Philadelphia Phillies with two runs in the 10th inning for their 50th win of the season by a score of 5-3.

Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI single in the 10th was the difference. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals vs Philadelphia Phillies Series Preview

After dropping 2-of-3 in a rain-shortened series against the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Nationals now head to Philadelphia for a three-game series with the Phillies before the All-Star break. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 89 Review: Three Homers Help Nats Top Orioles in Baltimore

Following a District rainout, the Washington Nationals hit three home runs to start the second leg of the Battle of the Beltway with a 6-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park Wednesday night.

Doug Fister was sharp on an extra day of rest, allowing two runs on seven hits through seven innings pitched to earn his eighth win of the season.

Baltimore right-hander Bud Norris had no such luck, stretching just four innings to allow five runs on six hits and a walk.

The Nats did damage early. With one out in the first, Anthony Rendon hit a ground-rule double, aided by fan interference. Then, Jayson Werth doubled Rendon home before Adam LaRoche singled in Werth to give Washington a 2-0 lead.

The Orioles earned one back in the bottom of the inning after Steve Pearce and Nelson Cruz walked and Chris Davis hit an RBI single.

With a swing of the bat in the top of the second, Wilson Ramos erased the Orioles’ progress on a solo shot to left to make it 3-1 Nationals.

Baltimore threatened in the bottom of the third after Fister lost control of a 74 MPH curveball that tailed into Nick Markakis. Fister left Pearce chasing a sub-90 fastball before Adam Jones singled to give the Orioles runners on first and second.

Fortunately for the Nats, Cruz managed just a soft grounder to second to advance the runners a base, but Chris Davis popped out to end the inning without a run scored.

In the top of the fourth, the Nationals recorded their second of three homers on the night – a solo shot by Ian Desmond to right center.

Machado voiced his disdain in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot of his own, but the Nats remained in front by two runs.

In the top of the fifth, they expanded it to three after Danny Espinosa walked and Span singled.

The Orioles called on Brad Brach to relieve Norris, but he first allowed a walk to Werth and a sacrifice fly to LaRoche before pitching out of the inning.

The Nats’ third and final homer of the night came in the seventh when Werth shot a first-pitch splitter over the left-field wall to make it 6-2.

Baltimore did little to catch their Beltway rivals – Fister pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to end his stint before Drew Storen and Ross Detwiler tossed a 1-2-3 eighth and ninth, respectively.

With the win, the Nationals find themselves in first place in the NL East with a 49-40 record.

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 85 Review: Cubs drop Nats 7-2 on Independence Day

The weather was perfect, the stands were full and everyone was in a mood for celebrating. Unfortunately, the play on the field didn’t live up to the moment.

The Washington Nationals offense sputtered once again, shut down this time by Chicago Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel, as the Nats fell to the Cubbies 7-2 in the Independence Day matinee, before 41,274 red, white and blue clad fans as Nationals Park.

Nats’ starter Tanner Roark gave up single runs in each of the first three innings, while the Nats (46-39) mustered a single safety, on Jayson Werth’s solo home run — his eighth of the year — in the bottom of the first against Hammel, who was traded by the Cubs after the game as part of a mega-deal to the Oakland A’s.

Hammel bested the Nats for six innings, allowing just five hits and two walks, striking out seven. Washington picked up its second run in the seventh inning on a leadoff double by Anthony Rendon and a one-out single from Wilson Ramos, to cut the score to 4-2.

But that’s as close as the Nats got. Chicago added three more runs in the top of the ninth off Ross Detwiler, Aaron Barrett and Jerry Blevins.

The second game of the three-game series is Saturday at 4:05 pm. Gio Gonzalez (5-4, 3.93) hosts Carlos Villaneuva (4-5, 5.91).

 

Washington Nationals Game 83 Review: Strasburg, Nationals Shut Down Rockies with 7-1 Win

In the wake of all the drama surrounding Bryce Harper’s return – and ensuing commentary on how manager Matt Williams should do his job – the Washington Nationals did the only thing they could do to relieve any lingering tensions: they won a ballgame.

For the third night in a row, the Nats posted seven runs, this time topping the Colorado Rockies Tuesday night by a final of 7-1 at Nationals Park.

The win marked a big one for Stephen Strasburg who lasted just 4 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs in his previous start, citing mechanical issues.

Whatever tactic Strasburg (W, 7-6) applied to Tuesday night’s matchup against lefthander Christian Friedrich (L, 0-3) worked as the Nats’ starter allowed just a solo home run to DJ LeMahieu, along with five hits and a walk, in 7 2/3 innings.

The Nats, however, had a field day in the batter’s box as Jayson Werth paved the way, going 2-for-3 with two doubles, three RBI, two runs scored and two walks. Anthony Rendon and Denard Span each crossed home plate twice, while Rendon batted in another two runs on the night. And, Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-3 with an RBI to round out the night.

Washington wasted little time jumping ahead. [Read more...]

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