July 24, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 99 Review: Strasburg uninspiring in 6-4 loss to Rockies


Despite an exciting ninth inning comeback attempt, the Washington Nationals fell to the Colorado Rockies 6-4 in the finale of the three-game series at Coors Field.

Nats starter Stephen Strasburg struggled again in the first inning en route to another uninspiring performance, as the nominal ace of the rotation gave up four earned runs in just 5 1/3 innings. [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 vs Colorado Rockies Preview

After taking 2-for-3 from the Milwaukee Brewers, the Washington Nationals now head out west for a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 94 Review: Nats Struggle with RISP in Loss to Brewers

The Washington Nationals tallied ten hits against Milwaukee Brewers’ starter Kyle Lohse, but managed to fall 4-2 in the second-half opener at Nationals Park Friday night.

Stephen Strasburg (L, 7-7) was out-pitched, despite the fact he gave up fewer hits than his counterpart. Through seven innings pitched, he allowed seven total hits and four earned runs while walking one and striking out nine. Lohse, on the other hand, allowed 10 hits and managed just three strikeouts, but held the Nats to 1 run through his seven innings of work.

The Brewers earned an early run when, number-2 batter Scooter Gennett hit the first of the Brewers’ two solo homers off Strasburg to make it 1-0.

In the second inning, Khris Davis repeated the feat with a one-out solo shot of his own to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead.

To double their efforts, the Brewers tried small ball in the third. After Lohse struck out to start the inning, Carlos Gomez grounded to short for the second out. Then, Strasburg handed Gennett a walk before Ryan Braun doubled and Aramis Ramirez singled to plate Gennett and Braun and double the Brewers’ lead.

The Nats didn’t have an answer until the third, and even then, they put up a small fight.

Ryan Zimmerman led off the inning with a double before Ian Desmond brought him home on a one-out double to make it 4-1 Brewers.

Despite several opportunities for progress – most of which began with a single – the Nats waited until the ninth to post another run.

With Francisco Rodriguez pitching for Milwaukee, Bryce Harper led off with a 389-foot solo shot to trim the Brewers’ lead in half. The deficit remained intact as Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos and Kevin Frandsen went down in order.

THE GOOD: The Nationals tallied 11 total hits on the night – more than the Milwaukee Brewers could produce. While the long ball hurt Stephen Strasburg, he still provided a fairly solid outing – the Brewers merely capitalized on his mishaps. Bryce Harper, who has struggled a bit since returning from his injury, went 3-for-4 on the night with one run and one RBI and the solo homer. Denard Span also tallied three hits and Ryan Zimmerman added two and a run.

THE BAD: The Washington Nationals went 1-for-10 with RISP – only Ian Desmond brought home someone on the left side of the diamond

THE UGLY: The first inning featured a brief delay, courtesy of an obstruction call on a play involving Denard Span and Anthony Rendon. Span led off with a single before Rendon hit a grounder to short. Span outran the throw to second and was called safe but second base umpire Angel Campos called Span out for obstruction because of how he rebounded from his slide just in front of Scooter Gennet

THE STATS: 2 R, 11 H, 6 K, 1 HR (Harper), 1-for-10 with RISP, LOB 7

Nats Nightly: Brewers 4-2 over Nats in nation’s capital

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington and “Doghouse” of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 4-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers and advocate for Robot Umps.

Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

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 Game 88 Review: Nats Crumble in 11th to Open Beltway Series with Loss

The Washington Nationals came back from a two-run deficit to carry Game 1 of the Battle of the Beltway to extras, but Chris Davis sparked a six-run 11th to help the Baltimore Orioles to an 8-2 win.

Stephen Strasburg was solid through seven innings, allowing just two runs on four hits and no walks, while striking out nine. He was nearly matched by Baltimore right-hander Chris Tillman, who gave up just two runs on five hits and a walk, while striking out six.

In the end, it was the often-reliable Craig Stammen who lost control of the game in the 11th in what amounted to one of his worst outings of the season.

To get to that point, the Orioles drove in their first two runs in in the fourth after Manny Machado singled and Nelson Cruz hammered his 28th homer of the season to make it 2-0 Baltimore with Strasburg on the mound.

The Nats answered in the sixth in a similar fashion after Denard Span led off with a single and Anthony Rendon homered – his 13th of the season.

From there, both bullpens held it together, giving up few opportunities for either squad.

Washington had a chance to walk off in the ninth after Ryan Zimmerman hit a one-out double and Orioles’ pitcher Darren O’Day intentionally walked Harper. But, O’Day forced both Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos to chase strike three to end the inning. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals vs Baltimore Orioles Series Preview

The Battle of the Beltway Series will be renewed once again this coming week. Fresh off a series victory over the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals will now face off against the Baltimore Orioles. [Read more...]

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...]

Washington Nationals Game 77 Review: Strasburg, Nats out of gas in 9-2 loss to Brewers

After burning through the bullpen in the 16-inning affair Tuesday night, the Washington Nationals needed starter Stephen Strasburg to play “stopper” and give the pen a needed rest. It didn’t happen.

Strasburg gave up seven earned runs — matching a career-high — and the Nats offense mustered just two hits all day as they fell 9-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

Strasburg (L, 6-6, 3.70) didn’t have very good command if his fastball. He was still throwing strikes (58 0f his 90 pitches were in the zone), but left many of his fastball offerings right over the plate. In 4 2/3 innings, he gave up eight hits and three walks, striking out just two Brewers.

The Nats (41-36) scored a run in the second on a pair of walks and a fielder’s choice by Nate McLouth, but the lead was short-lived.

Strasburg allowed a single to leadoff hitter Mark Reynolds in the bottom of the inning, That was followed by a double by Elian Herrera and a walk to No. 8 hitter Martin Maldonado, the backup catcher. After Brewers starter Marco Estrada struck out, 5’6″ Scooter Gennett turned around a 95-MPH fastball over the wall in center field for a grand slam and a 4-1 Brewers lead.

The Nats cut the lead to two in the fourth, as Ian Desmond’s double — the first hit of the game for the Nats off Estrada — drove in Ryan Zimmerman, who had walked to lead off the inning.

The Brewers answered right back. Khris Davis drilled Strasburg’s first pitch of the bottom of the fourth over the fence in left center to make it 5-2, and any life the Nats had was quashed.

Milwaukee added two more in the fifth off Strasburg, and two more in the sixth off reliever Taylor Hill, making his Major League debut on an emergency basis after the 16 inning game Tuesday night.

The Nats, after taking two of three against first-place Milwaukee, travel to Chicago for a four-game series with the Cubs. Doug Fister (6-2, 2.65) faces Travis Wood (7-6, 4.55) Thursday at 8:10 pm ET.

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