August 20, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 89 Review: Kershaw and the Dodgers Beat the Nats

The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 on Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 41,426  as the result of a dominant performance by All-Star starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw struck out 14 batters — a season high for him and the most strike outs at Nats Park by an opposing team since 2005 — to give the Dodgers the win. He threw 101 pitches and 73 strikes in eight scoreless innings pitched and gave up three hits.

The pitching dominance exhibited by the Dodgers along with their productive offense left the Nats bats mostly dormant and Nats starting pitcher Doug Fister in a rough place.

Fister threw 91 pitches and 58 strikes in five innings of work. He gave up nine hits and four runs while striking out one, walking two (one intentionally), and hitting a batter.  [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 53 Review: Buehrle Tosses A Complete Game Shutout, Washington’s Jordan Struggles Early

The Washington Nationals fell to the Toronto Blue Jays 8-0 on Wednesday night in D.C. after a dominant starting performance by left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle and a rough opening tossed by Nats starter Taylor Jordan. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 48 Review: Nats Bats Not Clutch, Strasburg Hurt

STRASBURG LEAVES EARLY, NATS DROP SERIES OPENER

The Washington Nationals, riding high on nine straight series victories, rolled in to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati to face the Reds Friday night. They wouldn’t stay that way. Leaving 12 runners aboard and going 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position, the Nats fell to the Reds, 5-2.

Stephen Strasburg started the evening on the bump for the Nationals, but wouldn’t make it out of the second inning, Not because he was getting shelled, but rather because he appeared to be struggling with command and a potential physical problem. An already hobbled Nationals team, missing Jayson Werth (broken wrist), Anthony Rendon (strained oblique, sprained knee), and Doug Fister (strained flexor), was dealt a blow when Strasburg began to struggle in the second. After just one batter in the second, and sixteen pitches on the night, trainer Lee Kuntz walked Strasburg back to the clubhouse. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training Preview: The Starters

This week, District Sports Page will review the players currently on the Washington Nationals 40-man roster and their potential contributions to the Major League roster this season.

Monday: Catchers
Tuesday: Infielders
Wednesday: Outfielders
Thursday: Starters
Friday: Bullpen

Max Scherzer
2014 AL: 33 games, 220.1 IP, 18-5, 3.15 ERA, 1.175 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 (6.0 WAR) [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:

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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.
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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.

 

 

 

Statistically Speaking: Catcher Effects on Pitching Pace

The job responsibilities of catching position can be very nuanced and many of the things that make a good backstop are attributes that rarely get noticed by fans. As an example, a recent ‘Fancy Stats‘ article by Neil Greenberg discussed the effect that Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton has on getting his pitchers extra strikes due to his pitch framing ability, a very subtle skill that is near intangible in contrast to abilities like hitting prowess or handling an opponent’s running game with your throwing arm.

A similar skill that can also often go unnoticed  from a pitcher’s perspective is pace—how quickly you are able to make a pitch, collect yourself, get the sign, and throw the next pitch. Given the effects of timing on the ultimate success of an at bat for a hitter and the need for a pitcher to disrupt this timing in order to get outs, pace can play an unheralded role in a pitcher’s performance.

Pace goes beyond a pitcher’s internal clock, with many factors based on the rapport a pitcher and catcher have with one another playing a role in the outcome and whether a pitcher’s pace is quick or slow; ultimately, there is a particular level of comfort that a pitcher has with a catcher with respect to pitch calling that can affect pace.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how the Nats starting rotation’s pace stats look, with the trio of catchers used so far in 2014—Sandy Leon, Jose Lobaton, and Wilson Ramos—taken into consideration. First, let me briefly discuss the data. PITCHf/x data from Nats games through May 5th was collected to calculate pace between pitches, with careful curation of the data done in order to remove outliers.

Ultimately, curation involved removing data points that were longer than 60 seconds and less than 10 seconds. This was done to remove first pitches of an inning, pitches after a home run (in order to counter the various lengths of time it took for hitters to jog around the bases), pitches where replay was involved, and other data that was felt to be physically impossible, with the hope that this pruning would give us the best picture possible of the effects of catcher on pitching pace. With these considerations in mind, let’s look at some pace results:

Pitcher Catcher Pace (secs)
Gio Gonzalez Jose Lobaton 25.068
Gio Gonzalez Sandy Leon 24.174
Jordan Zimmermann Jose Lobaton 26.310
Jordan Zimmermann Sandy Leon 25.927
Stephen Strasburg Jose Lobaton 26.349
Stephen Strasburg Sandy Leon 25.975
Stephen Strasburg Wilson Ramos 27.075
Tanner Roark Jose Lobaton 25.621
Tanner Roark Sandy Leon 24.483
Taylor Jordan Jose Lobaton 27.286
Taylor Jordan Sandy Leon 26.603

For reference, here are each player’s average pace—note that these averages were calculated using the aforementioned criteria, for those who use FanGraphs’ pace statistic and find a roughly four second shift in the pitcher’s averages:

Pos Name Pace (secs)
C Jose Lobaton 25.841
C Sandy Leon 25.664
C Wilson Ramos 27.075
P Gio Gonzalez 24.906
P Jordan Zimmermann 26.077
P Stephen Strasburg 26.360
P Tanner Roark 25.259
P Taylor Jordan 26.898

Across the board, pitchers are a little quicker when Sandy Leon is behind the dish. With the pitchers, Taylor Jordan appears to be the slow poke, even slowing down Leon’s typically quicker pace with the staff by roughly a second. Overall, we do see some effects of the catcher on a pitcher’s pace.

Is this a significant effect? Let’s run an analysis of variance (ANOVA) to see if it is—for those numbers averse, feel free to skip to the pretty picture further down the page.

Using pace as our dependent variable and pitcher and catcher as our independent variables, the ANOVA results are as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 11.12.04 AM

Cutting to the chase, we find that catcher does not have a significant effect on pace, but (no surprise here) the pitcher toeing the rubber does (p=0.022). Briefly, a Tukey’s test to look at the average differences between catchers:

Difference Lower Upper p adj
Sandy Leon-Jose Lobaton -0.176 -1.262 0.908 0.923
Wilson Ramos-Jose Lobaton 1.234 -1.588 4.056 0.561
Wilson Ramos-Sandy Leon 1.411 -1.457 4.278 0.481

Regarding the statistically significant results between pitchers, this stat was driven by the differences in pace between Gio Gonzlaez and Taylro Jordan, the quickest and slowest members of the rotation, with a difference of roughly two seconds in average notching a p-value of 0.04, which is just satisfies the criteria for significance of a p-value at or below 0.05. Additional ANOVA modeling including pitch type and inning did not show any statistically significant differences in average pace.

For the numbers averse crowd, welcome back! Overall, we did not find any statistically significant effects of catcher on average pace (or inning or pitch type), but did with pitcher. For those who a little more visual, the scatterplots below show show pace across inning, broken down by both pitcher and catcher, confirming the first table of results showing Leon getting pitchers to work quicker than Lobaton or Ramos:

Pace Across Pitcher and Catcher

While we don’t see any statistically significant results, pace is nonetheless an important aspect of the pitcher-catcher battery, and while again not a significant result, the quicker a starter works, the more success he tends to have, using RE24 as our marker of success:

Data courtesy of FanGraphs

Data courtesy of FanGraphs

While statistically these results aren’t terribly robust, the effects of pace (and the catcher) on the game are innately important, not only in its potential to disrupt hitter timing and rhythm, but also on a pitcher’s teammates. The longer a pitcher takes to decide what to throw, the longer his defense sits in their crouches, awaiting the ball to be put in play. The longer they wait, the greater potential to lose focus on the game and become distracted.

Pace also plays a role in length of game. In a recent interview, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell discussed how starting pitcher pace can negatively affect game length. Like many things related to the position, the catcher’s role on pitcher pace will remain a potentially critical piece in a game’s outcome, despite its statistically small effects.

Washington Nationals Game 21 Review: Pujols homers into record books and win column

Albert Pujols homered twice, including his 500th career homer — becoming just the 26th player in Major League history to reach the mark — to lead the Los Angeles Angels over the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Tuesday before 21,915 at Nationals Park.

The loss drops the Nats to 11-10 on the season.

Nats starter Taylor Jordan just didn’t have it from the start. J.B. Shuck doubled down the left field line leading off, and Mike Trout reached on an error by Anthony Rendon. Rendon bobbled the sharply hit ball, then recovered but threw wide of first. Albert Pujols then destroyed a belt high 90-MPH sinker that didn’t sink into the 10th row to straightaway left to put the Angels up 3-0 before most had settled into their seats. It was Pujols’ 499th homer of his career.

Jordan coaxed a lazy fly ball from Raul Ibanez for the first out, but Howie Kendrick smoked a double to the right field gap. Kendrick then went to third on Erick Aybar’s ground out to first. Jordan plunked David Freese, and Chris Ianetta made him pay, depositing a line drive single in front of Bryce Harper in left to plate the Angles fourth run of the inning.

The four runs represented the fifth time already this season the Nats have allowed at least three runs in the first inning and the ninth time they’ve given up two runs or more.

The Nats started chipping away at the deficit in the third. Sandy Leon doubled down the left field line and went to third on Jordan’s bunt single. Denard Span walked to load ‘em up with no outs. Skaggs uncorked a wild pitch on his first offering to Danny Espinosa and Leon chugged home with the Nats first run. Jordan then hit Espinosa in the front leg to load the bases once again. Jayson Werth then grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, but Jordan jogged home with the second run of the inning.

In the fifth inning, everyone at Nats Park got to witness history. With Trout aboard on a single, Albert Pujols crushed a fastball to the Red Porch, becoming the 26th player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs. Pujols hit his 400th at Nats Park as well, off Jordan Zimmermann on August 26, 2010. The most recent player to join the 500 Home Run Club previously was Gary Sheffield, who accomplished the feat April 17, 2009.

The Angels got another in the eighth against lefty Jerry Blevins. With one out, Erick Aybar doubled to the left field corner and stole third, though Matt Williams challenged the play and lost. Aybar then scored on David Freese’s sacrifice fly to right field.

The Nats failed to record a base hit after Jordan’s infield single in the third inning.

The two clubs face each other in the third game of the series Wednesday at 7:05 pm, with Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 2.88) hosting Jared Weaver (1-2, 4.74).

Washington Nationals Game 6 Review: Jordan Solid as Nats Top Braves to Avoid Sweep

DESMOND HOMER LIFTS NATS, BLEVINS RECORDS FIRST WIN AS A NATIONAL

With Bryce Harper out of the lineup Sunday afternoon, the Washington Nationals tallied just four hits to top the Atlanta Braves 2-1 by the skin of their teeth.

Taylor Jordan (ND, 1.42 ERA) allowed one run, six hits and two walks over 6.1 innings pitched, but he kept the Nats in contention despite their slow-to-produce offense.

Manager Matt Williams gave Bryce Harper the day off after the 21-year-old outfielder went 0-for-4 Saturday in the Nats’ 6-2 loss to the Braves. Harper, who is 3-for-21 with 10 strikeouts, has shown visible frustration over the past few days, throwing down his helmet and stomping back to the dugout in dismay.

The Nats also sat Ryan Zimmerman for the start of Sunday’s matchup due to shoulder soreness, but he pinch-hit for reliever Tyler Clippard in the eighth, alleviating some fears for now.

Testing yet another new lineup, the Nats took an early lead in the first off left-hander Alex Wood (L, 1-1).

Leading off for the first time in his MLB career, Anthony Rendon reached on a bunt single and advanced to second on a single by Kevin Frandsen. Jayson Werth hit an infield single, allowing Rendon to come home on a throwing error by second baseman Dan Uggla. To bring the Nationals to a halt, however, Wood retired the next three batters.

In fact, Washington failed to send another runner to base until Sandy Leon reached first on an error by Chris Johnson in the fifth.

Before that point, Jordan found himself in a bit of a jam in the fourth after walking Johnson and Justin Upton with one out. The situation went from bad to worse on a throwing error by Danny Espinosa, which allowed Dan Uggla to reach first to load the bases. But, Jordan pitched himself out of the inning, retiring Gerald Laird and Andrelton Simmons to end the inning.

And, in the top of the sixth, the Braves seemed to figure out Jordan’s repertoire. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats fall to Braves 8-4

For the Washington Nationals, spring training isn’t about winning games or even necessarily finding competition for the precious few spots that might be available for the last bench of bullpen spot. It’s primarily about getting their starting pitching ready, lined up and healthy for opening day.

Another step in that task was taken Tuesday, as Stephen Strasburg made his spring debut. Strasburg pitched two innings, allowing one hit and no walks, striking out one. He was followed by fifth spot candidate Taylor Jordan, who did not fare as well.

Jordan gave up two earned runs on five hits in two innings, He did not walk a batter and struck out three. A.J. Cole was next, and the prospect threw two perfect frames, striking out two.

Drew Storen, coming off an up-and-down 2013, had a rough go of it in his first appearance, allowing two earned runs on a hit and two walks — to the first two batters he faced.

On the other side of the ball, Ian Desmond went 3-for-3, including his first homer of the spring, with two runs and an RBI.

The Nats host the Mets Wednesday at 1:05 from Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

NATS NOTES: The Nats signed LHP Mike Gonzalez to a minor league deal to compete for a spot in the bullpen.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Nats drop Mets 5-4 in Grapefruit League opener

Taylor Jordan looked good in his two innings of work as the Washington Nationals dropped the New York Mets 5-4, scoring the winning run in the top of the ninth, in Friday’s Grapefruit League opener.

Jordan, in a battle for the fifth spot in the Nats opening day rotation, threw 21 pitches, 16 for strikes, to seven batters in two innings. He gave up one hit and struck out two. He got one groundout and two flyouts in the outing.

A.J. Cole, one of the Nats’ top prospects, followed and struck out two in his two innings of scoreless work, though he did give up three hits in the process.

The Nats got on the board in the fourth inning, when Wilson Ramos doubled in Ian Desmond, who reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second base to get into scoring position.

In the bottom of the inning, the Mets put four up on Christian Garcia. Cesar Puello doubled down the left field line to drive in Juan Lagares and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, then Ike Davis clubbed a homer to right to clear the bases.

The Nats put up two in the seventh. Zach Walters scored on a Koyie Hill double, and Hill came home on a single by Steven Souza.

The Nats added a run in the eighth, as Walters doubled home Matt Skole.

In the ninth, Jeff Kobernus reached and Michael Taylor tripled to bring in the winning run.

The Nationals host the Atlanta Braves Saturday at 1:00 pm at Space Coast Stadium.

 

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