September 18, 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 vs San Francisco Giants Series Preview

Currently on a 10-game winning streak, tying a franchise record since moving to D.C, the Washington Nationals now welcome the San Francisco Giants to Nationals Park for a three-game series to close out a 10-game homestand. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals vs Atlanta Braves Series Preview

After taking two-of-three from the New York Mets and moving 4.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals now head south to Atlanta for a three-game series with their division rivals. [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 vs New York Mets Series Preview

On Monday, the Washington Nationals lost their make-up series finale with the Baltimore Orioles. Tuesday night, they welcome the New York Mets to town for a three-game series to finish off the homestand. [Read more...]

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...]

Nats get Cabrera upgrade at second; Zimmerman insurance

The Washington Nationals acquired middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and cash considerations from the Cleveland Indians on Thursday in exchange for SS/LF Zach Walters.

Cabrera, 28, is hitting .246/.305/.386 with nine homers and 40 RBIs this season. He is a two-time All-Star with the Indians and is a .270/.331/.410 career hitter in over 900 MLB games.

Cabrera, a switch-hitter, will be a free agent following the 2014 season.

Walters, 24, hit .205/.279/.462 with three homers and five RBIs in 43 plate appearances for the Nats this season.

Cabrera is an instant upgrade over Danny Espinosa at second base. While he isn’t the hitter Ryan Zimmerman is, he provides adequate relief while the Nats miss Zimmerman’s big bat in the lineup. Cabrera is a good fielder that should transition to second base easily, though he hasn’t played the position since 2009.

With reports that Zimmerman sustained a Grade 3 strain of his right hamstring, the timetable for his return to baseball activities is six to eight weeks, meaning he’ll miss most of — if not all — the remainder of the regular season.

Cabrera is a fulltime MLB veteran to replace Zimmerman in the lineup, with Anthony Rendon handling the third base duties, as he has while Zimmerman is on the shelf.

This also allows the Nats to slot Espinosa as a right-handed pinch-hitter and defensive replacement, a position he’s more qualified to fill than everyday second baseman at this point in his career.

Some might lament Walters and the appeal of his Triple-A power, but the Nats obviously didn’t see him as a long-term solution in the Nats infield. His glove and contact skills just don’t play at the Major League level. The Nats tried him at second base in Syracuse this season and just didn’t see him making the necessary adjustments to compete at the big league level.

Consider this: with Ian Desmond eligible for free agency following next season, the Nats didn’t feel the need to retain the 24-year-old Walters as insurance for Desmond departing. That, in itself, should explain what the Nats thought about Walters future in the big leagues.

Overall, this is a big win for GM Mike Rizzo, acquiring an everyday big league veteran with All-Star bona fides, and cash to pay his salary, for a very low-upside minor league hitter.

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 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...]

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