Tagged: Nationals

NL East

Note: a “straight
run differential projection” is based on a team’s actual runs scored and
runs allowed.  A “component runs projected” is based on
basic runs created and component ERA without the adjustment to make it an ERA figure (i.e. IP and
the multiplication by 9 not included).  I then applied the
Pythagorean
Formula
with an exponent of
1.83.

As recently as ten days ago, all five teams in this division
were within six games of the lead.  Oh, what an interesting difference a
week can make in the post-Memorial day environment.  With summer now upon
us three teams have winning records and are within 5.5 games of the top, while
a fourth team clings to playoff contention and the fifth is regressing to its
mean, with hopes and dreams for next season dancing in its (collective) head.

 

BRAVES

42-28, .600 winning percentage, 0 GB, 4.91 runs/game (1st in
NL), 3.96 runs allowed per game (6th in NL); straight run differential
projection of 97 wins and a .599 winning percentage; component run projection
of 90 wins and a .554 winning percentage.

Over the past fortnight, the Braves have played the
Diamondbacks, the Twins, the Rays and the Royals.  Atlanta is 9-4 over
these games, winners of five straight, including 2 of 3 from the Twins and the
Rays, and a clean sweep of three games from the Royals.  Over these last
thirteen games, the Braves have scored 67 runs (5.15 per game) while allowing
54 (4.15 per game).  They’ve allowed a few more than they have been giving
up on average, but they continue their league-leading offensive ways.  And
while the D-Back and the Royals aren’t exactly top-flight competition, the
Twins and the Rays are, and the Braves took four of six games from
those two teams.  Bobby Cox’s team is no fluke and figures to be in the
hunt the whole way down the road.

Looking ahead the Braves visit the White Sox starting tonight before returning
home to face the Tigers and Nationals as they end the month of June.  

Calcaterra refutes the “grit” notion, arguing that the Braves’ success stems from
skill rather than an immeasurable intangible.

A possible distraction for this ballclub has been the Chipper
Jones’ saga: will he or won’t he retire.  Chipper himself has played coy, refusing to give a definitive answer.
 The funny part has been that he’s been hitting close to .500 since all the speculation started.

While the Braves’ outfield could use some help, their pitching is likely to improve.  

ATL--Eric Hinske.jpgAn unheralded free agent signee, Eric Hinke is hot at the right time in the right place.

 

MARLINS

33-36, .478 winning percentage, 8.5 GB, 5 GB Wild Card.
 4.70 runs/game (4th in NL), 4.36 runs allowed per game (8th in NL).
 Straight run differential projection of 83 wins and a .510 winning
percentage.  Component run projection for 79 wins and a .490 winning
percentage.

Over the past two weeks, the Marlins have visited the Phillies,
the Rays, and the Rangers, and they have hosted the Rays.  They were 5-5
over that stretch, and while they were swept by the Rangers, Florida did take
four of six games from the Rays in their two weekend series.  The Yankees
thus own the Marlins some thanks or something,  Over their past ten games,
the Marlins have scored 63 runs while allowing 55 (no per game figures for ten
games, just move the decimal point).  Scoring has thus been up in their
games, as they are scoring and allowing more runs per game over the stretch in
question.  

As play progressed, the Marlins visit Baltimore before returning
home to end June, playing the Padres and the Met in two tough series.

Defensive lapses have proved costly to
Florida of late.

Is Ricky Nolasco the new Carl Pavano (in a that’s not
a compliment kind of way)?

While rookie OF Mike Stanton has hit his first MLB home run in “grand
fashion”, he is still making the adjustment to the Show and
striking out a whole, whole lot (44% of his plate
appearances).  As expected, Cameron Maybin has been shipped back to AAA to make
room for Stanton on the Major League roster.

A couple more promotions and demotions have occurred as the
Marlins try to work past their bullpen blahs and improve what has been a weak link outside of Leo
Nunez. 

FLA--Josh Johnson.jpgWhile Ubaldo Jiminez and Roy Halladay have generated a lot of
justifiable hoopla, Josh Johnson’s awesomeness has been kind of lost in the
shuffle.  J. J., who faced Halladay the night Roy threw his perfect game
in Florida and picked up a tough luck loss in a game in which he allowed only
one unearned run, has been masterful this season.  He
outpitched Halladay twelve days after the perfect game completely shutting the
Phillies down over eight innings.  Johnson’s game log is impressive, with a bunch more
performances that include two or fewer runs allowed over seven or more innings.
 Johnson is sporting a career-high K rate, a career-low walk rater, which
of course translates into a career-best K/BB ratio; along with that he has a
career-best HR/9 rate, a career-low batting average against, a career-low BABIP
against, a career-high strand rate, and while his groundball-to-flyball rate is
slightly down, his home run to flyball rate is also at a career low.  All
this career-best stuff leads to two conclusions: (1) he’s having a career
season and has pretty much a dominant starting pitcher; and (2) he probably
won’t sustain his current level of statistical dominance, but,
then again, he doesn’t need to do so to remain one of the three best starting
pitchers in the National League, and even if his numbers slide some he’ll still
be
 among the best starting pitchers in baseball.

 

METS

30-30, .565 winning percentage, 2.5 GB, 0 GB wild card.
 4.51 runs per game (9th in NL), 3.91 runs allowed per game (5th in NL).
 Straight run differential projection at 91 wins and a .565 winning
percentage; component run projection for 79 wins and a .490 winning percentage.

Note the wild disparity between the straight run differential
projection and the component run projection.  I checked the data three
times and it’s all correct and the spreadsheet is calculating things the right
way.  The Mets are one of the following: (a) really lucky, (b) really
efficient, or (c) some combination of lucky and efficient.  Their actual
run differential is 311 runs scored and 270 runs allowed, but their component
run differential–what we’d expect them to have scored and allowed–is 300 runs
scored versus 346 runs allowed.  So, where my projection is really screwing
up and misreading reality is on the runs allowed question.  It’s been
pretty accurate with other teams, so I’m wondering if someone else who runs
projections and calculates run projections is getting the same strange reading
of the Mets.  I suppose I should be happy for the guys in Queens, but I’m
more concerned that the Mets are wrecking my statistical model.
 (Actually, it’s probably that I’m running a less-that-optimal runs
allowed projection, which is referred to in the “introduction” to
this post.)

Over the past two weeks, the Mets have played the Padres, the Orioles,
the Indians, and the Yankees.  They beat the crap out of who they should
have beaten and dropped two of three to the Yankees in the Bronx.  The
finished the stretch of games 9-3, having scored 57 runs (4.75 per game) and
having allowed 34 (2.83 per game)  That the Padres and Orioles aren’t
exactly offensive powerhouses, the Yankees are, so the Mets have
pitched and fielded pretty darn well over this stretch, and they have been hot
since the beginning of the month, with a 13-4 record in June.  They are
playing a lot better than I thought they would this season, for I had them
pegged as the Cubs of the East, and they are doing this despite three potential
points of weakness: (1) Jason Bay’s underperformance; (2) Jeff
Francouer’s near-total lack of production; and (3) Johan Satnana’s declining velocity.

NYM--Johan Santan 0620.jpg  

The main problem I have with the Mets outperforming expectations
is that it virtually guarantees that GM Omar Minaya will continue to hold his
position and that the Mets’ front office will remain shielded from the
intensive scrutiny that they should be receiving for their previous follies.
 Oh, who am I kidding?  Not living in New York, I am not exposed to
the constant scrutiny the Mets receive, so I’m not aware of it.  But I do
wish to encourage the New York sports media to go nuts figuring out how the Mets’
front office has managed to disappoint repeatedly in the last few years.

Speaking of the Mets’ GM, Mets players want him to go get them an ace, so
maybe the players realize that the team’s actual runs allowed are out of line
with what should be going on.  And maybe they, too, realize the
implications of Santana’s declining velocity.

 

NATIONALS

32-39, 10.5 GB, 8 GB Wild Card.  4.15 runs/game (12th in
NL), 4.66 runs allowed per game (12th in NL).  Straight run differential
projection for 73 wins and a .449 winning percentage.  Component run
projection for 71 wins and a .440 winning percentage.

Over the past two weeks the Nationals have been fading
fast
 have played the Pirates, Indians, Tigers, White Sox, and Royalls,
and they are 5-8 in their games during that stretch, including a sweep of
PIttsburgh, dropping two of three in Cleveland, and being swept by both the
 Tigers and the White Sox.  In those 13 games, the Nationals have
scored 44 runs (3.38 per game) while allowing 60 (4.62 per game), a showing of
offensive ineptitude.  Explaining why they’ve lost more than they’ve won
seems a waste of time since allowing 1.24 more runs per game than you’re
scoring is a one-way ticket to the cellar.

In better news, the Royals seem just the sort of tonic the
Nationals are in need of and they are in Washington for two more games.
 The Nationals beat Kansas City behind some strong pitching on
Monday night.

To finish June the Nationals will finish the KC series before
traveling to Baltimore–another tonic–and Atlanta–not so much on the tonic
end of things.

Obligatory Stephen Strasburg link dump to follow.

Are strikeouts a bad thing for Stephen
Strasburg?  Thomas Boswell wants to minimize the stress on SS’s arm and so
would like to see fewer deep counts, fewer pitches, and more weak tappers.
 He’s got a point, sort of.

It turns out that hitters aren’t alone in being overwhelmed by
Strasburg’s stuff: he’s too much for the umpires to handle as well.

Murray Chass has questions
regarding Strasburg’s innings pitched
.  Rob Neyer provides answers.

In other Nationals’ pitching news, John Lannan was sent down to
Double-A, which leads to some questions, but a glance at his peripherals provides some
answers, with Josh Alper of Fanhouse hitting the nail
squarely on the head: 

For his career, he’s struck out just 4.3 batters per nine innings
and walked 3.5, a ratio that makes it very difficult to sustain success over a
long period of time. His groundball rate has dropped since 2008, a further sign
of trouble for a pitcher who simply can’t miss bats often enough.

 

PHILLIES

35-32, .522 winning percentage, 5.5 GB, 3.5 GB Wild Card.
 4.60 runs per game (7th in NL) and 4.28 runs allowed per game (7th in
NL).  Straight Run Differential Projection for 86 wins with a .528 winning
percentage.  Component run projection for 82 wins and a .508 wining
percentage.

Over the last fortnight, the Phillies are 5-7 in their games
versus the Padres, the Marlins, the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Twins.
 That is good competition but it seems as though the Phillies are waiting
for their Godot or their Mojo or something.  In taking two
of three from the Yankees in the Bronx, there were thoughts that the series could turn their season around, but they promptly
returned home and dropped two of three to the Twins.  While lots of teams
have dropped two of three to the Twins, the problem for the Phillies was that
they dropped a game on Saturday in which they led 8-3 at one point, meaning
they had to really subtract some serious Win Probability to
lose that game, and then they lost behind Roy Halladay who was seemingly
outpitched by Carl Pavano (?!) on Sunday afternoon.

Over their past twelve games, the Phillies have scored 56 runs
(4.57 per game) while allowing 72 runs (6.00 per game).  Despite the fact
that two of their losses included back-to-back thumpings by the Red Sox, the
Phillies’ run prevention efforts have been subpar and are a significant
contributor to their recent slide in the standings.  While their offensive
woes have received more attention–and justly so, since their offense has been
highly touted–their inability to compensate for their muffled bats with
tighter defense and better pitching, particularly from the bullpen, has been a
real and perhaps growing problem.

The Phillies finish June by visiting Cleveland, then returning
to Philadelphia to “visit” the Blue Jays before traveling to
Cincinnati.  

Despite their recent struggles, everyone around
Philadelphia insists things are still cool.

The Phillies’ mojo–or at least their shortstop Jimmy Rollins–is due back today.

 

 


Prospect Call-Up Review

Well, Stephen Strasburg sure can pitch.

He passed his first test with flying colors.  Calcaterra comments on what’s in a debut.  However, his performance is comparable to the debuts of some guys whose company he may otherwise wish to avoid.  ‘Zounds!  Those lists give me the willies.  Hopefully we won’t see him lumped in with those names in the future (unless you just really hate the Nationals, which I can’t imagine: they’ve been so mediocre as to be completely inoffensive).
Apparently, Strasburgs 14 strikeouts in 94 pitches (sorry, I reported he threw 95 in a previous post) represents the lowest number of pitches used to strike out 14 batters since they began doing that counting. Wow.
Heck, Strasburg has turned a bunch of heads in the Big League ranks: Joe Girardi was asking reporters questions about the performance.   The Twins were apparently purchasing signed Strasburg jerseys.  Bob Feller was a wet blanket, a mode of behavior he seems stuck in.  (I’m glad Feller was such a stud in ’36, but after reading his comments about Jackie Robinson as well as about some other more modern baseball-related issues, I’m pretty much sick of the guy. Go back to Van Meter, Bob, or at least let that nasty wound under your nose heal up for good.)
Strasburg, however, wasn’t the only rookie doing cool Major League things for his team Tuesday night.
Mike Stanton, another super-stud prospect, played for the Marlins Tuesday night.  He had three hits against the Phillies.  Unfortunately, as a right fielder he didn’t pitch in relief as the Marlins’ bullpen gave up the lead late and Florida dropped the ballgame.  Tyler Tankersley, who did pitch in relief for the Marlins, “contributed” a WPA of -.505, -.500 of that coming on Ben Francisco’s 8th inning single which scored both Placido Polanco and Chase Utley and put the Phillies in front for good.
Mets’ rookie first baseman Ike Davis hit an absolute BOMB to end the Mets’ game with the Padres in spectacular fashion as he accumulated .367 WPA on the shot, which traveled 444 feet, according to Hit Tracker Online.
The Pirates, victimized by Strasburg’s debut Tuesday night, attempted some fair play turnabout by summoning two prospects, outfielder Jose Tabata and pitcher Brad Lincoln, from AAA to play on Wednesday night.  Well, things didn’t work out as well for the Pirates on Wednesday as they had for the Nationals on Tuesday, with Washington winning 7-5 and kind of abusing Lincoln, who was roughed up for seven earned runs in six innings pitched, surrendering seven hits and two walks.  Adam Dunn mashed a two-run bomb in Lincoln’s first inning.  
For his part, Tabata went 2 for 4 and drew a walk.  For the Pirates, his promotion improves their outfield defense, as they are able to move Jones to first, while Tabata plays left and Milledge moves to right.
With all these stud prospects getting promoted, and with Buster Posey coming up last week for the Giants, I just have one question: Where the heck is Carlos Santana?  No, not the guitar guy, the other one, the Indians’ catcher of the future, one of the pieces they acquired from the Red Sox in the Victor Martinez deal (another of those pieces, Justin Masterson pitched a two-hit shutout against the Sox today in the Indians’ 11-0 whitewashing of Boston.)  Dodgers in the Casey Blake deal.  Santana has been insane at AAA: .307/.440/.568 and a wOBA of .433 and 6 (six) stolen bases [!].  
Jeez, free Carlos Santana.  
Cleveland is playing Lou Marson (.249 wOBA) and Mike Redmond (.241 wOBA) over this guy?  
I used to think Mark Shapiro was bright–thanks to Terry Pluto–but this is making me reconsider.  I get that they’re traumatized by Grady Sizemore in two ways–(1) his season-ending injury and/or (b) his 2010 performance–but come on guys!  Get Carlos in the Show post-haste!  

Even if Santana’s wOBA declines by .100 points he still wouldn’t be much worse than the guys playing catcher for the Indians right now, and he’d be picking up valuable Major League experience.  I think he’d actually hit better than that.  And he’d be getting even better for next season, when even the Indians have a reason to think that their prospects might improve.

Strasburg’s Debut: An Observation and a Link Dump

Well, Strasburg has sure been impressive in his first seven innings.  He did surrender a 2-run home run to Delwyn Young, but he also struck out 14 (count ’em, fourteen!) over 7 IP, including striking out the side in his last inning of work.  He had 4 H allowed–none over his last three innings of work–and no walks.  

In a word: Impressive.  
He was touching 97-100 on the fastball, consistently at 97 and 98.  His changeup–changeup!–was in at 88-90, for goodness’ sake!  And what a curveball!  

Like I said: Most impressive.  95 pitches, 65 of them for strikes (so 68% for strikes vs. the Major League average of 58-60% strikes).  Most Impressive.
Jay Mariotti discusses how much pressure Strasburg faces from media scrutiny, asking that he be given some “room to breathe”:
Forgive me if I don’t envy the kid. When he pitches Tuesday evening in front of a rare home sellout crowd, it will be the most scrutinized debut in the sport’s history, given the intensity and magnitude of media in the 21st century. There have been ballyhooed breakout parties for pitching phenoms, from Mark Prior to Roger Clemens to David Clyde way back when, but no one has had to carry a larger burden for a franchise, a city and his own future. Basically, Strasburg is expected to kick-start and rescue a dead franchise, popularize baseball in D.C. and coax the man in the Oval Office to attend Nationals games, something President Obama has been reluctant to do in his Chicago White Sox cap and jacket. In due time, Strasburg will have help in the hype department from Bryce Harper, the No, 1 pick in Monday’s draft, who is projected as a prodigious slugger in Washington if he can overcome his immaturity and ample ego. For now, it’s all on Strasburg.

Can we give him some room to breathe and grow, please?
The Sporting News wonders if Strasburg is the next Mark Prior (Ye Baseball Gods Above!  I sure hope not: I want to see this guy pitch for a while!)
The Daily Pitch at USA Today kind of summarizes the baseball Zeitgeist without adding anything particularly unique (kind of like me and I work for free); oh fine: the post informs us that Nationals fans are lapping up tickets and merchandise:

A StubHub spokesman said the average ticket was selling for $67.


Based on advance sales of not only tickets
but Strasburg merchandise
, the good people of Washington are
obviously convinced that Strasburg is not a 21st century version of Pete Broberg or
David Clyde
.

The New York Times pitches in with another “Strasburg Era Begins” thing (I know, I know, puns are the lowest form of humor except when they’re not).  Author Tyler Kepner emphasizes Strasburg’s non-cockiness:
From a look at him in April, this much seems certain: Strasburg himself will be unimpressed. And that, as much as his physical tools, should give Nationals fans hope. By all accounts, Strasburg is a pitcher who is not easily satisfied.
And Dave Cameron writes about the rookie’s debut at FanGraphs.  For the record, Strasburg’s Game Score calculates out to 75.
Professional Nationals-watcher Mark Zuckerman is/was at the game and says that the stadium has been buzzing since mid-afternoon.
Oh, game over, Capps saves it, and the National win.  Strasburg gets a win in his Major League debut, putting on a pretty dominating performance.  Nice way to start your career, kid.

Strasburg Again Awesome; Likely to Reach the Show June 4th

Strasburg does it again at AAA, prompting Joe Posnanski to write:

There really isn’t much to add
to the
 Stephen Strasburg hype orchestra. He’s obviously too
good to be pitching in Triple A. Working for the Syracuse Chiefs against the
Rochester Red Wings on Wednesday night, he threw 6 1/3 more scoreless innings
(that’s 18 1/3 scoreless at Syracuse). He allowed three hits — only one of
which was well hit — and he struck out nine, and he hit 100 on the radar gun,
though it was his wiffleball change-up that left the sellout crowd in Rochester
gasping.


Yeah. There’s nothing much to
add. He’s too good for this level. He might be too good for the next level too,
but we won’t begin to know that until June 4, when he should make his big
league debut for the Nationals at home against Cincinnati. That figures to be
the closest thing to a playoff baseball atmosphere they have felt in Washington
since the Senators of
 Heinie
Manush
 lost to the Giants in
the ’33 World Series.

I Gotta Quit…(Updated)

writing nice things about teams.  I just gotta’.

I write something nice about the Rangers.  I say their starting pitching has been very good.  The Blue Jays sweep them by repeatedly shelling Rangers pitching.  All weekend.  (What the hell is up with Jose Bautista?)  It was like watching Foreman-Frazier three nights in a row.  Ricky Romero was spectacular.
I write something nice about the Nationals.  The Rockies’ pitching staff decides the Nationals shouldn’t score any runs, taking the bats right out of Nats’ hitters’ hands, and shutting them down, dropping them at least 3 games behind the Phillies into a tie with the Marlins.
I write something nice about the Padres.  The Dodgers came to town and won three ridiculously well-pitched games, further tightening the NL West, a division which seemingly any of its teams could win.  
Now, I am under no delusion that anything I write could conceivably impact anything in the Majors, but it is eerie that my praise immediately preceded these three teams tough weekends. Thus, I am giving serious thought to no writing anything positive about any team whose performance I like.  
Rather, I think I’ll write criticism of why teams should be sucking instead, questioning how it is possible that such a collection so miscreants, pretenders, and stiffs could possibly be winning ball games.  
That’s what I’ll do, or maybe I’ll write about the Tigers and what a great couple of series they’ve had against AL East powerhouses.  The Blue Jays, by the way, have really confounded me so far this year.  I thought the Orioles’ young starting pitching would have them poised to pass the Jays in the standings.  But it’s been the Jays’ young starters that have been getting the job done, that and their lineup’s power (61 HR, leading the Majors by 12).  The scary thing with the Jays is that they acquired Kyle Drabek as the key element in their trade of Roy Halladay to the Phillies, and while he has some command issues, he is also still a highly rated prospect.

A Study in Contrasts: Hernandez vs. Jimenez

Game 1 of Nationals at Rockies features a real contrast between their respective starting pitchers (moundsmen?).

Their stats are way above average, their stuff couldn’t be more different:

Livan Hernandez, Nationals (stats/stuff, with the chart showing % of time a type of pitch is thrown and the number in parentheses the average velocity of those pitches for the pitcher) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies (stats/stuff).
Note, though, that Ubaldo has given up a homerun today, the first he’s allowed all season.  At least he gave it up to a guy who can really hit the heck out of the ball: Adam Dunn.

NL “Wide Open”

Jack Moore provides some food for thought about how competitive the National League is proving to be:

As we enter play on Friday, the entire National League is only separated by nine games – the difference between NL leading San Diego at 22-12 and NL trailing Houston at 13-21. The entire NL Wild card race is occurring within a 6.5 game spread, as Washington currently leads the race at 20-15. The American League, on the other hand, has already started to separate, as Tampa Bay leads Baltimore by 13.5 games and only four other potential Wild Card teams are within eight games of leading New York.

We’ve also seen some surprises emerging in the National League. Washington, as mentioned above, is leading the Wild Card race despite a pitching staff without a single pitcher projected as above average. Cincinnati is four games over .500 despite most projection systems pegging them at .500 or below. San Diego and San Francisco are both surprising in an NL West which was handed to either Los Angeles or Colorado by most projection systems and analysts.