April 16, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 13 Review: Rendon, Leon Lead Nats Past Marlins

The power the Washington Nationals lacked Sunday against the Atlanta Braves returned, swing after swing, in the team’s 9-2 win over the Miami Marlins Monday.

Anthony Rendon and Sandy Leon each homered and combined for a total five RBIs to fuel the Nats’ offense against a Marlins squad that has now lost eight straight.

In a seemingly no-pressure situation, Jordan Zimmermann looked sharp, striking out seven and allowing two runs on six hits and one walk. And, he too, built on the Nats’ momentum at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two singles and a sacrifice bunt.

Left-hander Brad Hand (L, 0-1) lost control of the game quickly. In the first, Jayson Werth doubled with two outs and came home on a triple from Bryce Harper that put Washington on top 1-0 before the Fish came to bat.

In the second inning, Tyler Moore’s inexplicable luck in Miami produced once again as the outfielder led off the inning with a homer to right.

Danny Espinosa followed up with a double before advancing to third on a single by Leon. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 12 Review: Nats blasted by Braves 10-2

The Washington Nationals would just as soon forget about the past weekend and get the heck out of Atlanta.

For the third day in a row, the Atlanta Braves took charge early and knocked off the visiting Nats. On Sunday, the Braves scored six run off Gio Gonzalez in the first two innings and cruised to a 10-2 win.

Gonzalez (L, 2-1, 3.50) gave up six earned runs on nine hits and four walks, striking out six. Atlanta scored three runs in both the first and second innings, including Justin Upton’s fourth home run of the season in the first inning, and Freddie Freeman’s fourth of the season in the second. Upton went 8-for-10 with two homers and five RBIs in the three-game sweep.

Gonzalez gutted out another four innings, going six total. Ross Detwiler took over in the seventh, and promptly allowed four more runs — through just two were earned — on two hits and a walk, and Andrelton Simmons’ first homer of the season.

The Nats got a run in the fifth inning. Kevin Frandsen doubled to lead off, took third on Danny Espinosa’s bunt single, and scored on Jose Lobaton’s ground out.

Adam LaRoche homered in the ninth inning off reliever Gus Schlosser.

The Nats move to Miami to face the Marlins on Monday. Jordan Zimmermann (0-0, 8.10) takes on Brad Hand (0-0, 3.24) at 7:10 pm.

Statistically Speaking: Rafael Soriano’s Work Up In Zone

This week’s Statistically Speaking is less math and more heatmap interpretation. Sometimes, a picture can tell us more than a swarm of tabled numbers could ever start to, and for Rafael Soriano and his approach, it’s something that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Perhaps appreciated isn’t the best choice of word; for Rafa during his Washington tenure, his approach has been a bit of a tightrope walk, as his fastball/cutter and slider mix show some declines as he ages. For his fastball, we already see a precipitous drop in velocity this season compared to last, with his slider velocity beginning to match the fastball’s, commencing in a disappearing velocity difference that potentially makes both pitches less effective:

Brooksbaseball-Chart

Tracking back to a previous Statistically Speaking article on the declines in velocity seen in some Washington Nationals pitchers, Soriano would been included, had he met the innings pitched criteria; however, the above picture tells us all we need to know about the fading heat from the Nats closer.

Watching yesterday’s appearance brought to my attention another red flag with regards to Soriano—his propensity to pepper the top of the strike zone:

numlocation.php

Let’s take a look at this trend between his two 2014 appearances and 2013; here, we have a plot of the vertical component of Soriano’s pitches with respect to the strike zone. Again, we see the trend of his fourseamer and slider creeping up in the zone, especially the slider, starting last season:

Brooksbaseball-Chart(1)

Let’s now shift attention back to this year, looking at where Soriano’s fastball and slider end up:

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 3.35.48 PM

Now, compare to where they ended up in the strike zone last season; again, fastballs are on the left, sliders are on the right:

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 3.39.55 PM

…and let’s also take a look at Soriano’s 2013 whiffs on each pitch last year:

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 4.11.47 PM

What we can gather from these heatmaps is that Soriano’s approach with the fastball really hasn’t changed—he still uses it up in the zone, using the late cutting action to bore into lefty hitters and to dart away from righties enough to prevent them from making solid contact with the pitch, or missing altogether, as the whiffs attest.

He then uses the slider down in the zone as a way to change the hitter’s eye level and keep them against the high fastball, preventing them from sitting on the high fastball. It’s a precarious approach, but one that has served Soriano well over his career. Yet, we do see the slider creeping up in the zone in 2014, which, thus far, hasn’t hurt him; also to note is the success Soriano has had with the slider in the past with respect to getting hitters to swing and miss with the pitch down in the zone.

Comparing the creeping location of the slider in 2014 to the whiff rates of the pitch in 2013 and we find that it isn’t as effective a pitch in terms of missing bats up in the zone. Include the decreasing velocity and velocity differences on the pitch in comparison to the fastball and we come to a dangerous convergence—more pitches up in the zone at a reduced velocity meeting a reduced potential to miss bats or at least generate poor contact by way of a disparity in velocity.

So far, Soriano has remained unscathed this season by the ominous trends; however, if his high-wire act is to remain an effective one for him and the Nats winning fortunes, Soriano should defy tightrope walking convention and start looking down.

Nats Nightly for April 10: Strasburg Ks 12, Desmond’s slam leads to 7-1 win over Marlins

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 7-1 win over the Miami Marlins, finishing a three-game sweep before they head off for a three-game weekend series with the Atlanta Braves.

Discover Baseball Internet Radio with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

Washington Nationals Game 9 Review: Strasburg dominates, Desmond slams as Nats sweep Marlins 7-1

DESMOND’S SLAM IN THE EIGHTH PROVIDES CUSHION FOR 7TH WIN OF THE SEASON

The Washington Nationals burned through their long-men Wednesday night after starter Jordan Zimmermann managed just five outs. On Thursday afternoon, Stephen Strasburg bailed his beleaguered bullpen out, tossing a masterful 6 2/3 innings as the Nats played a tightly contested game for eight innings until Ian Desmond’s grand slam in the eighth inning opened the flood gates to a 7-1 win for the Nats before 20,869 at Nationals Park.

It was just the performance manager Matt Williams needed from the nominal ace of his rotation. Strasburg finished with 12 strikeouts, the 13th time in his career he has K’d more than 10 batters in a game. He threw 71 of his 98 pitches for strikes and struck out Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton twice, putting his newly developed slider to good use.

The Nats went up 2-0 in the third. With one out, Anthony Rendon drew a walk from Marlins starter Tom Koehler. Jayson Werth then clubbed a 1-0 pitch into the Marlins bullpen for his second home run of the season — and second in as many days.

From there, it was all Strasburg. The big righty plowed through the Miami batting order, generating strikeouts and ground outs with equal ease. Strasburg recorded 13 straight outs, including six Ks, between Derek Dietrich’s fielder’s choice in the first and Ian Desmond’s error on a grounder in the fifth.

Strasburg then struck out six of his last 10 batters faced. But a homer allowed to Marcel Ozuna in the seventh, followed two batters later by a walk to catcher Jeff Mathis, signaled the end of his day. Strasburg struck out 12 total in 6 2/3 innings with one walk and three hits allowed.

Jerry Blevins came on and retired pinch-hitter Reed Johnson following the walk to Mathis. He struck out lefties Christian Yelich and Derek Dietrich to start the eighth inning, and Williams then called upon rookie Aaron Barrett to face Stanton. Barrett fed Stanton slider after slider until the hulking slugger finally swung through for strike three.

The Marlins turned to Arquimedes Caminero in the bottom half of the inning, but the Nats battered the reliever. Rendon led off with a double, followed by a single from Werth. Adam LaRoche grounded out to first with the infield drawn in, but Caminero then walked Kevin Frandsen and Bryce Harper — the second forcing in the Nats third run.

Ian Desmond then delivered the big blow, a clout to the Red Porch for the Nats second Grand Slam of the series to make it 7-1.

NATS NOTES: Rendon’s eighth inning double extended his hitting streak to nine games, the longest such streak to begin a season for the Washington Nationals.

 

 

Nats Nightly for April 9: Werth’s slam caps crazy 10-7 win over Marlins

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals crazy 10-7 win over the Miami Marlins.

Listen To Baseball Internet Radio Stations with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

Washington Nationals Game 8 Review: Werth’s slam in eighth wins crazy game with Marlins, 10-7

Crazy game.

The Washington Nationals fell behind 5-0 after a stalwart starter got lit up. They clawed back to take the lead in the middle innings. A former 40-save closer gave up a mammoth homer in the seventh to fall behind again. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, the Nats hairy guru made the Miami Marlins pay for intentionally loading the bases.

Jayson Werth clubbed a 1-0 pitch into the visitor’s bullpen in left center for his first home run of the season, a grand slam that delivered the Nats a 10-7 win in one of the craziest games we’ll see all season long.

For starters it wasn’t Jordan Zimmermann’s night. The righty struggled with location and pitch count all night long. He gave up a single to leadoff hitter Christian Yelich and walked second baseman Derek Dietrich. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a run-scoring single and Dietrich moved up to third. Garrett Jones brought Dietrich home with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-0 before most folks had settled into their seats.

The second inning was worse. Adeiny Hechavarria lead off with a triple to the left center gap and scored on Yelich’s single. Dietrich then sent a ball that landed in the first row of bleachers above the out-of-town scoreboard in right center before falling back to the field of play. It was ruled a triple on the field, but after review Dietrich was sent home, correctly having been awarded his first home run of the season.

After singles by Jones and Casey McGehee, Zimmermann was done. He was yanked after 1 2/3 innings — his shortest stint as a big league starter. He allowed five runs, all earned, on seven hits and two walks, striking out one.

Marlins’ starter Brad Hand cruised until the fourth inning. Adam LaRoche continued his hot streak, singling to lead off, and Ryan Zimmerman followed with a single. After Ian Desmond struck out, Bryce Harper battled through a 10-pitch at bat, culminating in an absolute moonshot – three rows back in the upper tank in straight-away right field. It was Harper’s first home run of the year.

The Nats clawed their way back to one in the fifth. Anthony Rendon tripled to right field with one out and scored a batter later on Werth’s ground out. Washington completed the comeback in the next frame. Zimmerman doubled to the right field corner over Stanton’s head. The big right fielder bobbled the ball in the corner, allowing Zimmerman to move up to third. Ian Desmond’s swinging bunt brought Zimmerman home and all hands were safe.

Harper followed with a single the other way off lefty Dan Jennings to put runners at the corners, still with no outs. Jose Lobaton tapped a comebacker to Jennings, but the reliever fumbled the ball — Desmond scored to make it 6-5 and Lobaton rumbled safely to first on the E-1. Span singled to load the bass with one out, but Arquimedes Caminero came on to get Rendon and Werth to fly out to end the rally.

Drew Storen came on for the seventh and was rudely greeted, as Jerrod Saltalamacchia blasted a shot to dead center to tie it that was every bit as impressive as Harper’s was earlier.

But this game was far from over. The Marlins called upon Carlos Marmol for the eighth inning, and the Nats made them pay for that decision.

Pinch-hitter Nate McLouth was hit with a one-out fastball and went to third on Denard Span’s bunt single and error on the throw by Derek Dietrich, playing his first MLB game at third base. The Marlins walked Rendon intentionally to set up force plays everywhere with bases loaded, but Jayson Werth wouldn’t have any of it. Werth ripped a 1-0 pitch into the visitor’s bullpen for his first homer of the season, a Grand Slam that gave the Nats a comfortable 10-7 lead.

It STILL wasn’t over. Rafael Soriano put two runners on in the ninth to make sure any fingernails left did not go unchewed, but struck out two to eventually nail down one of the nuttiest wins we’re going to witness in 2014.

Nats Nightly for April 8: Nats fry Fish 5-0 behind Gio, LaRoche, Rendon

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 5-0 win over the Miami Marlins.

New Baseball Podcasts with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

Washington Nationals Game 7 Review: Nats blank Miami in series opener 5-0

The Miami Marlins came into this three-game series with the Washington Nationals in unfamiliar territory of late: first place. The Marlins 5-2 record to start the season was surprising, but the Nats showed Miami that there’s more to the season than two series, as Gio Gonzalez dominated for six innings, Adam LaRoche went 3-for-3 with a walk and two runs, Anthony Rendon drove in three, and the Nats cruised to a 5-0 win before 21,728 at Nationals Park.

The Nats got to Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Jayson Werth doubled to the left center gap and scored on LaRoche’s single. LaRoche forced the cutoff, allowing Werth to score, and was thrown out 7-5-3.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez was busy retiring Marlins, but having to work for it. In the second, he gave up a bunt single to Garrett Jones against a heavy shift, and walked Marcell Ozuna with one out. Gonzalez buckled down ad retired Reed Johnson and Alvarez to get out of the trouble. Gonzalez needed 59 pitches to get through three scoreless innings.

While Gonzalez was sitting down Marlins, Alvarez matched him out for out. After Danny Espinosa’s bunt single in the second, Alvarez retired 11 of the next 12 Nats batters, allowing a walk to LaRoche in the fourth, but nothing else.

But with one out in the sixth, Bryce Harper singled the other way and went to third on LaRoche’s single. Alvarez uncorked a wild pitch, allowing LaRoche to move up to second (barely) and after second baseman Jeff Baker bobbled the throw, Harper sprinted home with the Nats second run of the night.

LaRoche moved up to third on a wild pitch — which was ball four to Ian Desmond — and Anthony Rendon followed with a single as LaRoche walked home with run No. 3, chasing Alvarez.

Jerry Blevins and Drew Storen combined for a scoreless seventh and Tyler Clippard dominated with two strikeouts in the eighth, including a splitter that Giancarlo Stanton swung right over.

Rendon’s two-run double in the bottom of the eighth with Werth and LaRoche aboard iced it.

Aaron Barrett got the last three outs to send everyone home happy with the shutout.

 

 

Washington Nationals Pregame: Matt Williams describes Zimmerman’s shoulder as “degenerative”

In his pregame press conference before Tuesday’s game with the Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams clarified his remarks about Ryan Zimmerman’s ailing right shoulder. Saying he misspoke, Williams said Zimmerman’s shoulder is “degenerative” as opposed to “arthritic” as he described following Sunday’s win over Atlanta.

Williams stopped short of calling the inflammation Zimmerman continues to experience — even after surgical repair — as chronic. But the team is working with Zimmerman to alter his throwing motion — once again — to an even lower arm slot to alleviate the discomfort Zimmerman continues to experience.

The Nats new skipper said that cortisone is not an option for Zimmerman at this point, though he did not rule it out in the future. Zimmerman went though an exhaustive cortisone regimen in 2012 to help him get through the season as the Nats were playing for their first chance at the MLB postseason.

Asked where Zimmerman would play looking forward, Williams said during interleague play Zimmerman would DH. He also indicated Zimmerman would start to see some playing time at first base in an effort to reduce the wear and tear on his throwing shoulder, as the discomfort is not present when he swings a bat. Williams also offered that the team would limit Zimmerman’s between game and pregame throwing. But Williams also maintained that “as long as he’s feeling good” Zimmerman would be the Nats third baseman.

What was not asked was: what if Zimmerman is feeling “good” but still not performing up to his — or MLB standards — at third base.

Just how long will the Nats allow the situation to play out? It seems, at least at this point, the answer to that question is “as long as it takes.” But the obvious situation is that a comprised Zimmerman in the field affects this team with a negative impact. They need to get this sorted out, and quickly. How many errors is acceptable? What level of reduced range at third is acceptable. Zimmerman’s sinking defensive contribution will continue to bear watching as the season unfolds.

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