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July 1, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ June in review: Not the way we planned it for sure

June began with the Nats sitting six games over .500, in first place, a half game ahead of the Mets. Although May had been a very successful month, it had ended on on a sour note with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Reds. The Nats battled injuries all month in June, at times fielding what seemed like a spring training roster, as they continued to slide during the first half of the month. In the month’s last half, the Nats turned things around behind resurgent starting pitching and finished 15–12 for the full month,with an overall 43–34 record, 3.5 games ahead in the NL East race. Their odds of winning the division, according to FanGraphs, stood at 92.3% at the end of the month, up from 88.2% at the end of May.

The Nats month began at home facing the Blue Jays. They lost the series 2 games to 1, scoring only 5 runs. The next visitors were the Cubs, and Anthony Rendon rejoined the team, coming off the disabled list for the first time this season. The Cubs took the series 3 games to 1, as the pitchers continued to struggle, and the Nats slipped into second place.

Their next road trip began with a 2-game series in New York against the Yankees, which the Nats were able to split with an 11-inning, come-from-behind win in the second game.  Ryan Zimmerman, who had been slumping as he battled with plantar fasciitis, was sent to the DL, as was relief pitcher Aaron Barrett. A 4-game series against the Brewers followed, which the Nats were able to split. In the final game of the series, Max Scherzer took a perfect game into the 7th inning and finished with a 1-hit, 16-strikeout shutout of the Brewers. To top it off, the Nats also regained first place from the Mets.

The road trip ended with a two-game set against the Rays. After losing the first, they clobbered the Rays 16 to 4 in the second game, which ended with two Rays position players pitching an inning each, with each of them giving up a home run to Wilson Ramos.

The Rays then came to Washington to kick off the next home stand and swept the two game set, with Doug Fister returning to the rotation from the DL. Next, the Nats hosted the Pirates. In the opener, rookie Joe Ross, who had been called up to start while Stephen Strasburg was on the disabled list, pitched excellently, striking out 11 and giving up only 1 run in 7-1/3 innings, as the Nats won 4 to 1. That run would be the last given up by a Nats starter for their next 48 innings, as the rotation dominated opposing batters.

In the second game against the Pirates, Scherzer pitched his second consecutive gem—this time a no hitter that was one strike away from a perfect game. With two outs in the ninth inning, Pirate pinch hitter Jose Tabata leaned into an inside pitch and was awarded first base on a hit-by-pitch. The series concluded with a sweep, as the Nats scored nine runs in the first inning off Charlie Morton.

The home stand concluded against the Braves, with Strasburg rejoining the rotation from the DL. The Nats swept the three-game series, with the Braves picking up only two runs, both given up by Nats relievers. The series concluded, however, with Rendon going back on the DL with a quad strain; Bryce Harper and Yunel Escobar also each suffered minor injuries that kept them out of the lineup for a day or two.

The month ended with another road trip. The Nats took two of three against the Phillies. In the series opener, Scherzer faced expectations for another dominant performance, including the hope that he might tie Vander Meer’s record of two consecutive no hitters. Although he was able to retire the first 16 batters he faced, he ultimately gave up two runs, ending the staff’s scoreless streak, and had to settle for a 5 to 2 win. The month ended with the Nats in Atlanta, where the won the opening game of a series against the Braves behind a dominant pitching performance by Jordan Zimmermann.

For June, the Nats batters were just average. Their .271/.325/.403 batting line resulted in a weighted runs created (wRC+) index of 100, or MLB average, though it ranked 4th in the National League. Their defense, as rated by FanGraphs, ranked 11th in the NL.

The starters ranked 4th in the NL in ERA (3.63), though their fielding-independent pitching (FIP) ranked 2nd at 2.84, barely behind the Cardinals. Their relievers, however, were only average, with an RE24 of 1.34, which ranked 7th in the NL. The relief staff’s FIP (3.27) ranked 6th. Although the relief staff managed to avoid many high-leverage innings in the last half of the month, their weaknesses were apparent in the first half of the month as they experienced a number of meltdowns.

Record:

15–12 (.556)

Pythagorean Record:

16–11 (4.22 R/G – 3.56 RA/G)

June MVP:

Bryce Harper (.370/.452/.691, 22 G, 6 HR, 11 R, 15 RBI, 1.5 fWAR). He’s won this award all three months so far this season.

Most valuable starting pitcher:

Max Scherzer (3–2, 2.33 RA/9, 5 G, 38-2/3 IP, 10.5 K/9, .175 opp OBP, 1.4 RA9-WAR). Again, a three-time consecutive award winner. His consecutive gems—the one-hitter against the Brewers and the no-hitter against the Pirates—were regarded as among the most dominant consecutive games pitched in baseball history.

Most valuable relief pitcher:

Casey Janssen (0–0, 0.00 RA/9, 10 G, 9-1/3 IP, 3.9 K/9, .229 opp OBP, 4.35 RE24, 0.4 RA9-WAR). I have to admit I haven’t been a fan of Janssen and was a bit surprised by these numbers, but I really can’t poke any holes in his his performance this month.

Worst month:

Ian Desmond (.161/.194/.269, 25 G, –0.6 fWAR).

Best start this month:

Max Scherzer – he had two of the best starts in Nationals history, so I’m going to list both of them:

  • June 14, 4–0 win over the Brewers in Milwaukee, gave up 1 hit and 1 walk in a 9-inning complete game shutout, striking out 16, for a game score of 100.
  • June 20, 6–0 win over the Pirates at home, a no hitter with one hit batter and 10 strikeouts, for a game score of 97.

Worst start:

Tanner Roark (June 28, 8–5 loss to the Phillies in Philadelphia) gave up 8 runs on 12 hits and 1 walk in 3-1/3 innings, while not getting any strikeouts. His game score was 3.

Tough losses:

  • Gio Gonzalez (June 4, 2–1 loss to the Cubs at home) gave up 2 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks in 6 innings with 6 strikeouts (game score 57).
  • Jordan Zimmermann (June 17, 5–0 loss to the Rays at home) gave up 3 runs on 8 hits and 1 walk in 7 innings with 8 strikeouts (game score 56).

Cheap win: 

  • Tanner Roark (June 5, 7–5 win over the Cubs at home) gave up 4 runs on 6 hits (though no walks) in 5-2/3 innings with 6 strikeouts (game score 47).

Best shutdown: 

Blake Treinen (June 10, 5–4 win over the Yankees in New York). He pitched the scoreless 9th and 10th innings of a game that was tied 4–4, allowing only 1 hit and striking out 3 (win probability added .248). The Nats scored in the top of the 11th, and Drew Storen pitched one more scoreless inning for the save.

Worst meltdown:

Aaron Barrett (June 10—the same game— 5–4 win over the Yankees in New York). Barrett entered in the 7th with the game tied 2–2, with two outs and a runner on second. He game up an RBI double, a hit-by-pitch, and an RBI single before getting the final out, and left the game with the Nats trailing 4–2. (WPA –.319)

Clutch hit:

Denard Span (June 10—yes, the same game!— 5–4 win over the Yankees in New York). In the top of the 11th, with the game tied 4–4, two outs, and Tyler Moore on third base, Span singled and drove in the go-ahead run. (WPA .347)

Choke:

Clint Robinson (June 4, 2–1 loss to the Cubs at home). In the bottom of the ninth with two outs, the Nats trailing 2 to 1, Anthony Rendon at bat, and Robinson at first base and Michael A. Taylor at second, Robinson was picked off first base by Cubs catcher David Ross, ending the game. (WPA –.159) The last time a game had ended with a catcher-to-first base pick off was in 2009 to the Nats’ Nyjer Morgan.

June 28, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

Two Nats starters on my 2015 NL All-Star team

The deadline for all-star voting is Thursday, and the teams will be announced soon. To figure out which Nationals deserve to be on the all-star team, each year I put together an NL all-star team. For the last two years, I’ve used a systematic methodology based on statistics.

I won’t go through all the details of the methodology here (you can read the other article if you’re interested), but the main idea is that I give quite a bit of weight to both this season and last season’s performance, plus a little bit of weight to career performance. I want to avoid selecting players who just hit a hot streak for half a season. My method does allow for a few exceptional players to make the team based on a single season of play (Joc Pederson makes my team), but generally I’m looking for those who’ve played very well for at least a year and a half.

Here’s my 2014 all-star team. For position players, I show their weighted runs created (wRC+) over the last season and a half in parentheses; for pitchers I show their ERA– and FIP–:

National League – Starters

C – Buster Posey – Giants (143)

1B – Paul Goldschmidt – Diamondbacks (171)

2B – Dee Gordon – Marlins (108)

3B – Todd Frazier – Reds (136)

SS – Jhonny Peralta – Cardinals (125)

LF – Giancarlo Stanton – Marlins (157) – on DL, replaced by:

LF – Joc Pederson – Dodgers (146)

CF – Andrew McCutchen – Pirates (160)

RF – Bryce Harper – Nationals (159)

DH –Anthony Rizzo – Cubs (159)

SP – Max Scherzer – Nationals (69; 69)

Reserves

C – Jonathan Lucroy – Brewers (118)

C – Derek Norris – Padres (114)

1B – Adrian Gonzalez – Dodgers (134)

2B – Joe Panik – Giants (125)

3B – Nolan Arenado – Rockies (121)

3B – Matt Carpenter – Cardinals (122)

SS – Troy Tulowitzki – Rockies (146)

SS – Brandon Crawford – Giants (112)

OF – A.J. Pollock – Diamondbacks (126)

OF – Jason Heyward – Cardinals (110)

OF – Justin Upton – Padres (133)

OF – Carlos Gomez – Brewers (125)

DH – Freddie Freeman – Braves (141)– on DL, replaced by:

DH – Joey Votto – Reds (139)

SP – Clayton Kershaw – Dodgers (63; 56)

SP – Zack Greinke – Dodgers (67; 80)

SP – Johnny Cueto – Reds (65; 87)

SP – Cole Hamels – Phillies (73; 85)

SP – Jacob deGrom – Mets (70; 71)

SP – Shelby Miller – Braves (86; 111)

RP – Aroldis Chapman – Reds (53; 34)

RP – Trevor Rosenthal – Cardinals (65; 76)

RP – Jonathan Papelbon – Phillies (54; 69)

RP – Kenley Jansen – Dodgers (67; 46)

RP – Francisco Rodriguez – Brewers (65; 100)

Shelby Miller and Jacob deGrom made my team because of the requirement that every team be represented; they’ve been good, but my statistical system would have picked A.J. Burnett and Jake Arrieta ahead of them.

So there are only two Nationals on my team—the best overall player (Bryce Harper) and the best pitcher (Max Scherzer). Several others came close—Jordan Zimmermann and Drew Storen (and Anthony Rendon if he hadn’t been on the disabled list), but Harper and Scherzer were the only Nats to make the cut this time.

June 20, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

Let’s keep Ross up for a while

Joe Ross pitched his third major league start, an 11-K, 1-run gem against the Pirates. His first three starts have been quite impressive. Among starting pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched, here are the leaders in strikeout-to-walk ratio:

Name Team IP K% BB% K/BB
Joe Ross Nationals 20.1 28.8% 2.5% 11.50
Max Scherzer Nationals 93.1 30.9% 3.8% 8.07
Michael Pineda Yankees 81.1 25.8% 3.3% 7.91
Bartolo Colon Mets 86.0 18.7% 2.5% 7.56
Brandon McCarthy Dodgers 23.0 30.9% 4.3% 7.25

 

And here are the leaders in fielding-independent pitching (FIP):

Name Team IP ERA xFIP FIP
Joe Ross Nationals 20.1 2.66 2.10 1.14
Adam Wainwright Cardinals 25.0 1.44 2.92 2.03
Max Scherzer Nationals 93.1 1.93 2.76 2.04
Chris Archer Rays 95.0 2.18 2.35 2.14
Chris Sale White Sox 88.2 2.74 2.42 2.23

 

Well, we all know we shouldn’t rely too much on statistics for pitchers who’ve only faced 80 major league batters (though pitcher strikeout rates do stabilize with pretty small samples). But going as much by what my eyes tell me as the statistics, I think there’s a good chance that Ross may prove to be a better pitcher than either Gio Gonzalez or Doug Fister over the remainder of this season. I think the team has its best chance of winning if they let him stay on the team, rather than sending him back to Harrisburg. Let him stay; if it turns out that these last three starts have been a fluke, we can always send him down later. But give him a chance to pitch for us now and prove the doubters wrong.

How would we use him? Although he could be sent to the bullpen, my own preference is to use him as a starter. While that might mean sending Fister to the bullpen, I think a better option would be to use him in a modified 6-man rotation.

How would that work? Assign Ross to pitch once a week—for example, he starts every Saturday. The other pitchers would pitch on their regular rotation, but they’d get an extra day’s rest when it’s Ross’s turn to pitch. Why do that rather than just plug him into a 5-man rotation? It comes down to work load and innings limits.

Ross has never pitched more than 122 innings or faced more than 524 batters in a season. Most teams don’t want to increase that work load more than about 30 innings (or 25%) in a season. He’s faced 286 batters so far this season. If we want to limit him to about 650 batters over the rest of the season, that would work out to about 15 more starts at about 24 batters per start. I proposed a similar once-a-week schedule for Stephen Strasburg the year of his shutdown; Tango Tiger proposed a similar schedule on his blog.

Maybe Ross will be great; maybe just good; or maybe he’ll need more time in the minors. But given the disappointing state of the Nationals rotation other than Max Scherzer, let’s give him a chance.

June 14, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

Matt Williams costs Scherzer a no-hitter

Today Matt Scherzer pitched a complete game one-hitter. The only hit he gave up was a 7th-inning bloop single by Carlos Gomez into shallow right field, just out of the reach of second baseman Anthony Rendon. I think that if Danny Espinosa had been playing second, he would have caught it. I’ve seen Danny chase down quite a few soft fly balls out there, and he’s just a touch quicker than Anthony—quick enough to make up that half step by which Anthony missed it.

Why wasn’t Danny playing second? With Ryan Zimmerman on the DL, yesterday and today Matt Williams had Danny playing first base, Anthony playing second, and Yunel Escobar playing third. If those three guys are all playing infield, does it make any sense to play them at those positions? I think it’s pretty obvious that it doesn’t:

  • Espinosa is the best second baseman, with Rendon second best and Escobar third.
  • Rendon is the best third baseman. I haven’t seen Espinosa play enough at third to say who’s second best between him and Escobar.
  • None of the three has had experience at first base.

Knowing that, the logical positioning is to play Escobar at first, Espinosa at second, and Rendon at third. Williams’ failure to use the best positioning is an example of a general tendency I’ve seen with Williams—to try to avoid making his regular players uncomfortable. From my observation, that tendency is not characteristic of championship managers. Winning managers are willing to challenge their players and make them feel uncomfortable in order to help the team win. Yes, it’s possible to over do it, and managers should try to avoid making their players miserable. But just as it didn’t make sense to bat Michael A. Taylor lead off, and he was moved down to 8th, similarly it doesn’t make sense to play Espinosa at first when a better defensive alignment would have him at second and Escobar at first. Good managers should make the smart and tough decisions.

June 1, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ May in review: What we’ve been waiting to see

May began with the Nationals in 4th place with a 10–13 record, 5 games behind the division leading Mets. This was the month when, for the first time, Bryce Harper played like the best player in baseball. The Nats went 18–9 and finished the month in first place in the NL East, with a 28–22 record and a half game ahead of the Mets. FanGraphs show them with a 88.2% chance of winning the division, up from 70.9% at the beginning of the month.

The month opened with the Nats in New York, playing the last three games of a 4 game set with Mets. On the 1st, Max Scherzer faced Matt Harvey and took another tough loss after allowing just one run in 7 innings, as the Nats were shut out. In the next two games, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister took the mound, and the Nats won both games by identical 1 to 0 scores, taking the series 3 games to 1.

Returning home, the Nats faced the Marlins and took two of three. In the third game of that series, May 6, Harper hit three home runs and drove in five in a 7 to 5 win. Harper had begun a remarkable hitting streak. In the next game against the Braves, he hit two home runs. In the following game, he hit his sixth home run in three games, this time a walk-off blast. Over 19 games from May 6 through 27, Harper hit 13 home runs, drove in 28, and hit .460/.570/1.175, while his team went 15–4. The Nats swept their three game set against the Braves to finish their home stand.

The next road trip was against the NL West. The Nats took two of three against the Diamondbacks, then took three of four against the Padres. The series in San Diego proved costly, however, as both Fister and Jayson Werth went down with injuries. When Werth, who hurt his wrist when he was hit by a pitch, failed to recover after a couple of weeks, a CT scan revealed two small fractures, meaning that he will be out for at least three months.

In the next home stand, the Nats played a two-game set against the Yankees, which the Nats swept, allowing them to move into first place in the NL East. This series was followed by a three game set against the Phillies, with the Nats winning two of them.

The month concluded with a road trip against the NL Central. On Memorial Day, they opened a three-game set against the Cubs. Tanner Roark took Fister’s place in the rotation, and the Nats won a tight 2 to 1 game. They lost the second game, then won the third game to win their eighth straight series. The streak ended, however, when they moved on to Cincinnati and were swept by the Reds, as the bullpen imploded in all three games. Stephen Strasburg left the first game in the second inning with tightness in the neck and back and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. The three games the Nats lost to the Reds were the first consecutive losses suffered by the Nats since their 6-game losing streak in April.

In May, the Nats were one of the better hitting teams in baseball. They hit .270/.339/.442 and ranked 2nd in the NL in park-adjusted weighted runs created (wRC+) with 112. It wasn’t all Harper, as Denard Span also hat an excellent month with the bat, and several other players hit well.

The Nats’ rotation was a mixed bag. Scherzer was arguably the best pitcher in baseball in May, and Jordan Zimmermann pitched well. On the other hand, Gonzalez’s performance was more of a mixed bag, and Strasburg pitched poorly in all but one of his starts. The starters were 7th in the NL in ERA– with 98 (or 2% better than the average team)—this is a measure of ERA that is park-adjusted and measured relative to the league. They ranked better in fielding independent metrics, ranking 2rd in the league in FIP–, or park-adjusted fielding independent pitching with 92.

For relief pitching, my preferred metric is  RE24, which takes account of game situations, such as inherited runners. The Nats relievers ranked only 10th in the NL in May with an RE24 of –1.10. They were tied for 5th in the league in shutdowns, with 27, but were also tied for the 5th most meltdowns, with 14. And the raw statistics disguised a lot of variability among the relievers, with Drew Storen pitching 9 shutdowns with no meltdowns, while Aaron Barrett and Matt Grace each had 5 meltdowns.

Record:

18–9 (.667)

Pythagorean Record:

16–11 (4.63 R/G – 3.89 RA/G)

May MVP:

Bryce Harper (.360/.495/.884, 26 G, 13 HR, 24 R, 28 RBI, 2.6 fWAR). He led the majors in slugging percentage and home runs for May, led the NL in on-base percentage, runs, and fWAR, and tied for the NL lead in RBI.

Most valuable starting pitcher:

Max Scherzer (5–1, 1.67 RA/9, 6 G, 43 IP, 11.7 K/9, .241 opp OBP, 2.0 RA9-WAR). He led NL starters in K/9, tied for the lead in wins, and led all MLB starters in fielding independent pitching with 1.88 and in fWAR with 1.7.

Most valuable relief pitcher:

Drew Storen (1–0, 0.00 RA/9, 13 G, 12-1/3 IP, 11.7 K/9, .178 opp OBP, 5.38 RE24, 1.0 RA9-WAR).

Worst month:

Stephen Strasburg (1–3, 11.25 RA/9, 5 G, 16 IP, 8.4 K/9, .402 opp OBP, –1.0 RA9-WAR).

Best start this month:

Max Scherzer (May 27, 3–0 win over the Cubs in Chicago) gave up no runs on 5 hits and 1 walk in 7 innings, striking out 13, for a game score of 79.

Worst start:

Doug Fister (May 14, 8–3 loss to the Padres in San Diego) gave up 7 runs on 8 hits and 1 walk in 2 innings, while getting only 1 strikeout. His game score was 12.

Tough loss:

  • Max Scherzer (May 1, 4–0 loss to the Mets in New York) gave up 1 run on 5 hits and 1 walk in 7 innings with 10 strikeouts (game score 72).

Cheap win: 

  • Max Scherzer (May 6, 7–5 win over the Marlins at home) gave up 5 runs on 10 hits (though no walks) in 7 innings with 10 strikeouts (game score 47). All of Scherzer’s three losses so far have come with game scores of 60+, so his one cheap win doesn’t seem unfair.

Best shutdown: 

Casey Janssen (May 27, 3–0 win over the Cubs in Chicago). The Nats were leading 2 to 0 when Grace opened the bottom of the 8th by allowing a double to Jorge Soler and then hitting Anthony Rizzo. Janssen entered with runners on first and second and no outs. He got Kris Bryant to fly out to first, then fielded a bunt from Dexter Fowler, throwing him out at first as the runners advanced. He got a ground ball from Starlin Castro to get the third out without any damage. (Win probability added .275)

Worst meltdown:

Casey Janssen (May 30, 8–5 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati). Janssen started the bottom of the eighth with the Nats leading 5 to 4. He got Joey Votto to ground out, then allowed a double, a walk, and a single to load the bases with one out. Marlon Byrd lined out to second for the second out, and there was still hope that he would get out of the inning. But then Zack Cozart doubled, scoring two and putting the Reds ahead. Janssen intentionally walked Skip Schumaker to load the bases again, then allowed a single to Billy Hamilton, giving the Reds a 3-run lead, before getting the third out. (WPA –.710)

Clutch hit:

Michael A. Taylor (May 13, 9–6 win over the Diamondbacks in Phoenix). In the top of the ninth, the Nats were trailing 6 to 5. With one out, Addison Reed gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases. Taylor then hit a grand slam home run to give the Nats a 9 to 6 lead. (WPA .507)

Choke:

Clint Robinson (May 31, 8–2 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati). In the top of the seventh with the score tied 2 to 2, runners on first and third, and one one out, Robinson came in as a pinch hitter. He lined the ball to first base and the first baseman stepped on the bag to get the third out. (WPA –.211)

May 25, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

First quarter 2015 review

After 44 games played, the Nats are a little past the quarter season mark. Let’s take a look at their performance. My benchmark is what we would have expected from the team and from each player.

The team is in first place by 2-1/2 games with a 26-18 record, a .591 winning percentage, on pace for 96 wins. If you prefer Pythagorean winning percentage, their 212 runs scored and 187 runs allowed are consistent with a .562 winning percentage, or a 25-19 record so far. I think it’s fair to say that’s about how the team was expected to perform. Of course, it overlooks their horrendous 7-13 start, as well as their 19-5 record since April 28.

Their offense has been a little better than expected, with a .265/.336/.432 slash line and their .334 wOBA for their non-pitchers ranking 4th in MLB. But offsetting the good performance of their position player’s offense has been worse-than-expected defense, so I’d rate their position players performance overall as about the same as expected.

Of course, every group has individuals who surprise. On the upside, the really big surprise, of course, has been Bryce Harper. With his .326/.464/.729 slash line, he leads the majors in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and with an fWAR of 3.1, leads the majors in wins above replacement. While we all expected Bryce to play at an all-star level, for the early part of this season he’s made the leap to MVP-level performance. Furthermore, the leap in walks and improved patience and pitch recognition suggest that the improvement may be permanent. No, I’m not expecting a .729 slugging percentage for the season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end with 40+ home runs and an OBP above .400.

The other big positive surprise has been Danny Espinosa. With Anthony Rendon out due to injury, Espinosa has  made up the difference with his unexpected .261/.359/.459 slash line and 1.0 fWAR. That was quite a step up from his .200/.255/.326 slash line over 2013–14. He’s also contributed with the glove.

Offsetting the positive surprises are the negative ones. The big one is Jayson Werth, whose .208/.294/.287 slash line and –0.6 fWAR is unprecedented in his career. Coming back from injury, it appears that he rushed back too soon, and over his first 19 games back (from April 13 to May 4) hit only .176/.247/.203. From May 8 to May 15, he hit a more respectable .296/.412/.519 over 34 plate appearances, before he went on the DL again after hurting his wrist.

We’ve already mentioned Anthony Rendon, who is a disappointment in the sense that we were expecting a lot from him and he hasn’t been able to play due to various injuries. The other player I’ll describe as a disappointment is Ian Desmond, whose .246/299/.392 slash line and 0.3 fWAR are worse than expected, and whose defensive miscues have also hurt the team.

Turning to pitching, I’ll mention that opinions on the team’s performance–especially that of the starting pitchers, is likely to vary depending on how much weight you give to fielding independent metrics such as FIP (or fWAR, which is based on FIP), and how much you give to traditional metrics such as ERA, RA/9, and rWAR or RA9-WAR, which are based on RA/9. According to FIP and fWAR, the Nationals starters are the best in baseball, but according to RA/9, their starters’ 4.86 ranks 25th among MLB rotations.

The one individual starter about whom there is no question is Max Scherzer. His 2.02 FIP is lowest among qualified major league pitchers, and his 1.67 ERA is fourth lowest. He’s started the season as a contender for the NL Cy Young Award.

Offsetting Scherzer’s strong performance have been major disappointments in the performance of Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister. Strasburg’s 6.50 ERA is second highest among qualified MLB pitchers, even though his 3.65 FIP is better than the league average of 3.90. Even his better-than-average FIP, however, is a disappointment compared to his career marks. Coming into the season, his career FIP had been 2.84 and his career ERA had been 3.02, while for 2014 his FIP had been 2.94 and his ERA had been 3.14. Fister’s season hasn’t been quite so extreme, but his 4.31 ERA and 4.69 FIP are significantly worse than his averages over the last three seasons, 3.22 for ERA and 3.51 for FIP.

In the bullpen, Drew Storen has had a surprisingly good performance, with 13 saves and only one blown save, a 0.98 ERA, and a 1.28 FIP. Furthermore, 7 of his saves have preserved one-run leads. The rest of the bullpen has been pretty much about what was expected, which was sort of an average major-league bullpen.

The Nats have been in the somewhat unusual situation where most of their negative surprises have been offset by positive ones. Some regression is expected, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the prospect that this looks like a really good team.

 

May 23, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

A comment on Harper’s ejection by Marvin Hudson

I know I’m late to this discussion. I’m in the camp that Bryce Harper, Matt Williams, and umpire Marvin Hudson all shared in the blame. Since I don’t know what Harper said to Hudson, I don’t know whether he deserved his ejection.

I did want to make one point about Hudson’s actions that I’m not sure I’ve seen in other commentary. I think that MLB ought to instruct umpires never to stop a game to talk to, or argue with a manager or coach in the dugout about what he’s saying. It’s ok to stop the game to toss the manager if he’s crossed the line, but if you’re just irritated with the chirping that’s coming from the dugout, wait until the end of the inning, then go over to the dugout and warn them, explain your call, or say whatever needs to be said. Forty thousand people have paid to attend the game, plus thousands more are watching on television. Nothing that’s being said in the dugout can’t wait until the inning break to be resolved.

To me, this seems like simple respect for the fans who are paying the bill. Furthermore, in a situation like Wednesday night’s game, waiting will give everyone a chance to cool off and hopefully avoid an unnecessary confrontation and ejection.

How about it?

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