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September 2, 2022 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ August in review: ‘You’re going to figure it out’

August 2 was the trade deadline, and Nats fans braced themselves to say goodbye to Juan Soto and Josh Bell. There was also a worry on many of our minds—how much worse would this already awful team be after losing one of the greatest players of this generation? It turned out they were not really worse—their 9–18 record for the month was about the same winning percentage (one game in three) that they had had all season.

On August 1, the Nats played the first game of a three-game series against the Mets (who were starting long-time Nats ace, Max Scherzer), and the fans gave Soto and Bell multiple ovations, realizing that this was probably their last game as Nats. The fans were rewarded, as Bell hit a double in the first inning that—with the help of some sloppy Mets fielding—scored Soto with the go-ahead run. In the second inning, Soto’s throw to the plate nailed out a Mets runner attempting to score. And in the fourth inning, Soto hit a solo home run to deep center field. In all, Soto was perfect at the plate in his final game with his home run, three walks, and a stolen base in a game the Nats lost 7 to 3. In five seasons with the Nats, Soto played 565 games, hit .291/.427/.538, hit 119 home runs, 9 triples, and 108 doubles, and stole 38 bases, scoring 399 runs and driving in 358. In two seasons, Bell played 247 games and hit .278/.363/.483 with 41 home runs, 48 doubles, and 145 RBI.

Just before noon on August 2, the news dropped that Soto and Bell were headed to the Padres in exchange for six players—the rookies, CJ Abrams (shortstop, age 21) and Mackenzie Gore (left-handed pitcher, 23, who remained on the injured list throughout August); prospects, Robert Hassell III (outfielder, 20), James Wood (outfielder, 19), and Jarlin Susana (right-handed pitcher, 18); and veteran first baseman, Luke Voit. The only other pre-deadline trade that Mike Rizzo was able to make sent Ehire Adrianza to the Braves. Presumably, none of the other veteran players under contract to the Nats were of interest to contending teams, which was a sad comment on the state of the team’s roster.

What changes did the Nats make to fill in behind the lost players and re-form their roster? Luke Voit, a 31-year-old slugger who was the 2020 home run champion while playing for the Yankees, took over at first base with occasional games as DH. Joey Meneses, a 30-year-old who had played in the minors since 2011 in the Braves, Phillies, and Red Sox systems along with a season in Japan, made his major league debut on August 2 and became a regular playing in right field or at first base. Ildemaro Vargas, a 31-year-old utility infielder who had played for four previous major league teams and had signed a minor league contract with the Nats in May after the Cubs designated him for assignment, took over for Adrianza. He soon became a regular (something he had never really managed to do in five previous seasons), mostly playing third base. Later in the month, Luis Garcia went on the injured list, and Abrams took over at shortstop. When Garcia came off the IL, he moved to second base. Late in the month, the Nats’ top pitching prospect, Cade Cavalli, made his major league debut, though he soon afterward went on the IL. Josh Palacios (a 27-year-old outfielder who the Nats had selected off waivers in April from the Blue Jays) was called up. During August, two additional players were claimed off waivers and joined the team—Alex Call, a 27-year-old outfielder from the Guardians, and Jake McGee, a 36-year-old left-handed relief pitcher from the Brewers—a 13-season veteran with 5 major league teams. Meanwhile several players departed the team, including Tanner Rainey (who underwent Tommy John surgery and will be out for a year), Yadiel Hernandez (who went on the 60-day IL with a left calf strain), Josh Rogers (who was designated for assignment, granted free agency, and signed with the Marlins), Tyler Clippard (who was designated for assignment and granted free agency), and Dee Strange-Gordon, Alcides Escobar, and Maikel Franco (who were all released).

In their first post-Soto game, the Nats managed to beat the Mets, who were starting Jacob DeGrom in his first start after a long stint on the injured list, 5 to 1. The next day, the Mets took the final game to win the series. For the home stand, the Nats were 2–4.

Their road trip began with a four-game series in Philadelphia, which the Phillies swept. The first loss was 5 to 4 loss in a rain-shorted five-inning game, but the later losses came by larger margins, culminating in a 13–1 rout in the final game of the series. That was followed by a three game series against the Cubs in Chicago, which the Nats lost two games to one, giving them a 1–6 record on the road trip.

Returning home, the Nats faced the Padres and welcomed back Soto and Bell. The two former stars helped the visitors beat the Nats two games to one. The Nats next hosted the Cubs, and lost the series to the North Siders two games to one, giving the Nats a 2–4 record for the home stand.

Next came a west coast trip, where the Nats played four games against the Padres followed by two  against the Mariners—both of whom were in playoff contention. The Nats split both series, winning the first two games against the Padres and the second game against the Mariners. In all three victories, the Nats entered the top of the ninth with the game tied and managed to score some runs to give them the win. All of their losses were close games (scores of 2 to 1 in both losses to the Padres, and a score of 4 to 2 in the loss to the Mariners).

Returning home, the Nats finished the month with a three game series against the Reds, followed by the first two of a three-game series against the A’s.  They lost the Reds series, two games to one, and split the first two games of the series against the A’s.

In their victory against the Reds, Patrick Corbin was able to snap a rather ignominious record that was set by the team’s starters. Nationals’ starters had managed to go 43 consecutive games without recording a win—far surpassing the previous record winless streak of 35 games, which was held by the 1949 Senators. Of course, this is the kind of record for which the starters do not bear full responsibility. During the 43 game span running from July 7 to August 27, offensive support was extremely weak, with the Nats averaging only 3.28 runs per game. The Nats scored 5 or more runs in only 11 of the 43 games. Bad relief pitching also contributed, with Nats relievers recording 25 meltdowns during the span. And of course, the team’s starting pitchers were, themselves, pretty awful, recording a 6.74 ERA over the span.  A game score of 50 or better represents a starter performance that merits a win. The Nats’ average game score over the span was 42.2, and it reached 50 in only 11 of the 43 starts.

Despite the awful overall statistics, the Nationals showed some bright spots this month. One might argue that at least for this one month, the substitution of Meneses and Voit for Soto and Bell didn’t hurt the team statistically. Meneses hit .333/.367/.591 with 6 home runs (0.7 fWAR), compared to Soto’s .256/.413/.427 with 3 home runs (0.5 fWAR) with the Padres. And while Voit hitting only .218/.299/.410 with 5 home runs (0.1 fWAR) with the Nats may have been disappointing, it still exceeded Bell’s .185/.318/.293 with 2 home runs (–0.2 fWAR) with the Padres. The addition of Vargas and Abrams vastly improved the Nats’ defense on the left side of the infield. And by the last half of August, the Nats’ starting pitching was getting better, with an average game score of 50.6 from August 15 to 31 and game scores of at least 50 in 8 of those 14 starts.

Record:

9–18 (.333)

Pythagorean Record:

8–19 (3.41 R/G – 5.19 RA/G)

August MVP:

Ildemaro Vargas (.325/.369/.494, 3 HR, 8 R, 8 RBI, 140 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR). His strong defense and clutch hitting gave him the edge over Joey Meneses (.333/.367/.591, 6 HR, 16 R, 11 RBI, 165 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR).

In his second week in the majors, Meneses actually had a good case for winning NL Player of the Week, though the award wound up going to Manny Machado. For the week of August 8 to 14, Meneses led the majors in average (.550), home runs (4), slugging percentage (1.150), wRC+ (373), and fWAR (0.7). But while Machado’s .429 average, 2 home runs, and .821 slugging were well behind Meneses, he led the Nats rookie in RBIs 10 to 6, and in runs 7 to 6, and was able to beat Meneses for the award. 

Pitcher of the month:

Kyle Finnegan (3–0, 1.50 RA/9, 11 G, 12 IP, 9.0 K/9, .298 opp OBP, 5.38 RE24, 0.7 RA9-WAR, 7 shutdowns, 1 meltdown)

Starter of the month:

Anibal Sanchez (1–2, 4.11 RA/9, 6 GS, 30⅔ IP, 5.6 K/9, .328 opp OBP, 0.5 RA9-WAR). While his first three starts weren’t good, over the last three he was looking like the pitcher we remember from 2019.

Worst month:

Shared by Steve Cishek (0–2, 9.90 RA/9, 13 G, 10 IP, 12.6 K/9, .408 opp OBP, –8.33 RE24, –0.5 RA9-WAR, 1 shutdown, 6 meltdowns) and Victor Arano (1–1, 9.22 RA/9, 14 G, 13⅔ IP, 9.9 K/9, .388 opp OBP, –9.13 RE24, –0.6 RA9-WAR, 2 shutdowns, 4 meltdowns).

Best start this month:

Anibal Sanchez (August 31, 5–1 win over the A’s at home) pitched 7 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits and 3 walks and striking out 4 for a game score of 68.

Worst start:

Shared by Patrick Corbin (August 6, 11–5 loss to the Phillies in Philadelphia), who gave up 6 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks in ⅔ inning, with no strike outs, for a game score of 16; and Cory Abbott (August 7, 13–1 loss to the Phillies in Philadelphia), who gave up 7 runs on 7 hits and 5 walks in 3⅔ innings, while striking out 2, for a game score of 16.

Tough losses:

  • Erick Fedde (August 23, 4–2 loss to the Mariners in Seattle) gave up 2 runs on 3 hits and 1 walk in 5 innings, while striking out 6, for a game score of 58.

Cheap wins:

  • None

Biggest shutdown:

Carl Edwards, Jr. (August 9, 6–5 win over the Cubs in Chicago) came into the game in the bottom of the eighth with two outs, a runner on second, and a 6–5 lead. He struck out Willson Contreras to get out of the inning. He came back for the ninth, got a strikeout, then gave up a single to Seiya Suzuki, who was caught stealing. After giving up a walk, he got his third strikeout to end the game. (Win probability added/WPA +.302)

Worst meltdown:

Steve Cishek (August 10, 4–2 loss to the Cubs in Chicago). The Nats were ahead 2–1 in the bottom of the seventh with one out and a runner on first when Cishek got the call to replace Josiah Gray. He gave up a walk, followed by an RBI single and a sacrifice fly. When he was lifted from the game after facing three batters, the Nats were trailing 3–2. (WPA –.416)

Clutch hit:

Joey Meneses (August 9, 6–5 win over the Cubs in Chicago). The Nats were trailing 5–4 in the bottom of the eighth, with two outs and a runner on first. Meneses lofted a home run past the ivy in left field to give the Nats a one-run lead. (WPA +.516)

Choke:

Maikel Franco (August 20, 2–1 loss to the Padres in San Diego). With one out in the top of the ninth, runners on first and second, and the Nats trailing 2 to 1, Franco got the call to pinch hit for Victor Robles. He hit a soft liner toward the first baseman. The runners froze, and first baseman Drury backed up a step to let the ball bounce. Drury then fired to second to get the force out, and the throw then went to third to tag the runner and get the double play. I’m not quite sure why the infield fly rule wasn’t written to cover this case, but the game was over. (WPA –.272) That turned out to be Franco’s last appearance in a game for the Nats, as he was released six days later.

Memorable hits:

Memorable fielding plays:

August 2, 2022 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ July in review: ‘I’m just going to be here to play baseball’

July was a dreary month for the Nationals. In the first 16 days they went 1–14. Most of these games were against divisional rivals, against whom they went 2–12 for the month. (Their cumulative record against the NL East opponents is now 8–36, compared to 27–32 against teams outside the division.) They finished July with a 6–19 monthly record for their worst month since April 2009. The month ended with the Nats’ record at 35–68, the worst in MLB. And as the month ended, the trade deadline loomed, which means the team is likely to be even worse in the last two months of this season.

The month began with the Nats at home playing a four-game series with the Marlins. Even though the Marlins didn’t start their Cy Young candidate, Sandy Alcantara, they still managed to sweep all four games from the hapless Nats. The home team managed to keep the last two games close but lost both of them in the tenth inning. The series ended with the Nats holding a 1–12 record against the fourth-place Marlins. For the home stand as a whole, the Nats’ record was 2–5.

Their next series was in Philadelphia against the Phillies. The series began with an 11–0 blowout loss to the Phils. The Nats managed to win the next game 3–2 but lost the finale. Their next series was in Atlanta, and it began with a 12–2 blowout loss to the Braves. The other two games were closer—one-run games—with the finale not decided until the twelfth inning, but the Nats were the losing team in all three games. Their record on the road trip was 1–5.

Returning home, the Nats had six games to play before the All-Star break. The first of two games scheduled against the Mariners was rained out, so they played both games the following day as a day-night doubleheader. The Nats lost both games, with a 2–1 loss coming in the nightcap. They then faced the Braves for four games. They lost the first three, giving them a nine-game losing streak (their longest since 2008), and losses in 15 of their last 16 games. But in the series finale, the last game before the All-Star break, the Nats rallied to win the game 7–3, letting them move to the break on a more hopeful note.

During that last weekend before the break, the news broke that Juan Soto had turned down the Nats’ last offer for a contract extension, and the team would be putting him on the trade market. Soto had made the All-Star team and was competing in the home-run derby, so he would face the full attention of the national media. With 17 days remaining until the August 2 trade deadline, the baseball news was full of trade rumors and speculation about possible trades.

The Nats’ only representatives at the All-Star game were Soto and Davey Martinez, who was designated as a coach under manager Brian Snitcker of the Braves. Martinez, of course, had missed his chance to manage the All-Star game after the team’s 2019 championship due to the 2020 pandemic, which led to the cancellation of that year’s game. Soto won the home run derby. It seemed eerily similar to the Nationals’ other home-run derby champion, Bryce Harper, who won in 2018, also shortly before leaving the team.

The first-year player draft also took place during the All-Star break. The Nats used their number 5 pick to draft 18 year-old outfielder Elijah Green and signed him a few days later. He’s described as hitting with power and having the speed and arm to play center field, and as having “the biggest upside of any player in this draft.”

After the break, the Nats had a western road trip, which opened with three games in Phoenix against the Diamondbacks. The series again opened with a blowout loss, this time by a 10–1 score. The Nats lost the first two games, but managed to win the finale by a one-run margin. Their next series was in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, who were on an eight-game winning streak and held the best record in baseball. In the opener, the Nats’ pitching (especially the relievers) kept the Dodger bats at bay, and the Nats won 4 to 1. They followed up the next evening with late rallies in the eighth and ninth innings for an 8 to 3 win, giving them their first series victory in four weeks. They lost the finale, finishing the road trip with a 3–3 record.

The month concluded at home with a series against the Cardinals, another team with playoff aspirations. The Nats won one of three, ending a largely miserable month that also featured several memorable games.

The Nationals were pretty awful all around. The starting pitchers in July had the worst ERA and ERA– in the National League and the worst fielding independent pitching (FIP) and FIP– in baseball. The batters were near the bottom (13th of 15 teams in the NL in weighted runs created, or wRC+) with only Juan Soto and Josh Bell hitting better than league average according to wRC+. The one bright spot for the team was the relief pitchers, whose 3.36 ERA in July ranked fifth in the NL.

Maybe the most devastating article I read on the Nationals this season was actually this article about the Orioles. It included an interview with Austin Voth, whom the Nats DFA’d after he pitched as a reliever in 19 games this season with a 10.13 ERA. With the Orioles for the last two months, he’s returned to starting and has a 2.84 ERA in 11 games. Voth said “I was kind of blown away by all the data that they have here, the video guys and how they can break down stats and pitches. And individually things for each pitcher. That was big for me.” The interview and Voth’s improved performance raises the question of just how bad the Nationals are at analytics, and how it may have led to disappointing performance by many talented young pitchers.

Two Nats pitchers, Tanner Rainey and Sean Doolittle, suffered elbow ligament injuries in July that likely ended their seasons. Doolittle had surgery that was less invasive than Tommy John surgery to repair a partial tear and faces a five-to-seven month recovery period. So far, there’s no word that Rainey will need surgery for his elbow ligament strain, but he was placed on the 60-day injured list and is reported to be out for the remainder of the season. Jackson Tetreault suffered a right scapula stress fracture and also went on the 60-day injured list.

In other personnel moves, the Nationals picked up 2023 contract options for Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez, allowing both the general manager and the manager to remain in place for another season as ownership continues to explore the sale of the team. Anibal Sanchez returned to the starting rotation for the first time since 2020—he sat out the 2021 season and was on the injured list for the first three and a half months of 2022 due to cervical nerve impingement.  Departing the team in July was Sam Clay, who was claimed off waivers and is now with the Mets.

Record:

6–19 (.240)

Pythagorean Record:

6–19 (3.12 R/G – 5.48 RA/G)

July MVP:

Juan Soto (.315/.495/.616, 6 HR, 17 R, 13 RBI, 205 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR)

Pitcher of the month:

Kyle Finnegan (0–0, 1.64 RA/9, 9 G, 11 IP, 6.5 K/9, .162 opp OBP, 5.09 RE24, 0.7 RA9-WAR, 5 shutdowns, 1 meltdown)

Starter of the month:

Erasmo Ramirez (As a starter: 0–0, 0.00 RA/9, 1 GS, 3 IP, 6.0 K/9, .100 opp OBP, 0.2 RA9-WAR). Okay, this is kind of a joke award, given that Ramirez was a reliever who made just the one 3-inning start. The point, though, is that none of the actual starters deserved an award. The lowest ERA in July of the Nats’ seven “actual” starters was 5.82 (by Paolo Espino). All of the other starters had ERAs ranging from 6.75 to 9.00. That is not award-worthy performance.

Worst month:

This one is shared by Patrick Corbin (0–4, 8.36 RA/9, 5 GS, 22⅔ IP, 8.7 K/9, .409 opp OBP, –0.6 RA9-WAR) and Nelson Cruz (.173/.253/.213, 0 HR, 5 R, 7 RBI, 35 wRC+, –0.6 fWAR). Cruz’s poor performance in July may have cost him a trade to a contender before the deadline (written with about four hours to go before the deadline).

Best start this month:

Josiah Gray (July 6, 3–2 win over the Phillies in Philadelphia) pitched 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 1 walk and striking out 11 for a game score of 66.

Worst start:

Erick Fedde (July 8, 12–2 loss to the Braves in Atlanta) gave up 8 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks in 3+ innings with 1 strikeout for a game score of 9.

Tough losses:

  • None

Cheap wins:

  • None

Biggest shutdown:

Tanner Rainey (July 10, 4–3 loss to the Braves in 12 innings in Atlanta) pitched the 10th and 11th innings of a game that was tied 3–3 and held the Braves scoreless. He gave up a 2-out single in the 10th, but automatic runner Austin Riley was thrown out at the plate trying to score. The Braves also got a one-out single in the 11th, but were unable to score either runner. (Win probability added/WPA +.635)

Worst meltdown:

Tanner Rainey (July 3, 7–4 loss to the Marlins at home). The Nats were ahead 3–2 in the top of the ninth when Rainey was asked to get the save. He got a strikeout and a ground out, but then walked Avisail Garcia. With a 2–2 count, Jesus Sanchez hit a home run to give the Marlins the lead. (WPA –.629) The Nats tied the game in the bottom of the inning, but Carl Edwards Jr. gave up 4 singles and 3 runs in the top of the 10th, and the Nats were unable to score in the bottom of the inning.

Clutch hit:

Luis Garcia (July 26, 8–3 win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles). Garcia came to bat in the top of the eighth with two outs, a runner on first, and the Nats were trailing 3–2. He hit a 1–2 hanging breaking ball into the right field bleachers, giving the Nationals the lead. (WPA +.536) The Nats tacked on 4 runs in the top of the ninth to guarantee the win.

Choke:

Luis Garcia (July 4, 3–2 loss to the Marlins at home). The Nats and Marlins were tied 1 to 1 at the end of nine. In the top of the tenth, Bryan De La Cruz hit a 2-run homer to give the Marlins a 3–1 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Ehire Adrianza led off with a single, advancing the automatic runner to third. So, Garcia came to bat with no outs and runners on first and third. He grounded into a 4–6–3 double play, scoring the runner from third  but leaving two outs and the bases empty. (WPA –.319) The Nats got one more single before the Marlins got the final out.

Memorable fielding plays:

Victor Robles may have misjudged this fly ball off the bat, but he recovered to make a fine play.

July 3, 2022 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ June in review: ‘If you squint you might see everything coming together’

The Nationals in June were up and down. In the middle of the month, they went through a brutal stretch, losing  8 straight games. For a while, their pitching rotation was in shambles, and their bullpen was falling apart from exhaustion. Their June record was 1–11 against divisional rivals, but they went 10–5 against teams outside the division. As they ended the month, their pitching appeared to be solidifying, and they went 6–3 in their last nine games. And the games were more exciting! There were one- and two-run games with opportunities for the relievers to succeed (and fail) and for clutch hitting to matter. For the month as a whole, the Nats went 11–16 and finished the month with a 29–49 record, last place in the division and 19 games behind the Mets.

The month began with the Nats in New York playing the last game of a three-game series with the Mets. Alcides Escobar had been injured, so Luis Garcia was called up to play shortstop. They also needed a starter, so they called up Evan Lee from Double A to make his major league debut. They were shut out by the Mets (their second consecutive shutout) and swept in the series. Garcia would hit well in June and take over as the regular shortstop, but Lee soon found himself on the injured list.

Their next series was in Cincinnati against the Reds—the only team in the league with a record as bad as the Nats’. The Nats won three of four. The road trip concluded in Miami with a three-game series against the Marlins, and the Nats lost all three. The third game featured the return of Stephen Strasburg from his thoracic outlet surgery—his first game pitched in a year. It did not go well, and he quickly returned to the injured list with a “stress reaction of the ribs.”  The team had a 3–7 record on the road trip. With the Miami series, the Nats began an intense span of 14 games played in 13 days.

Returning to Washington, the Nats first faced the Brewers, who were leading the Central Division race. The Nationals won the first two games and lost the last one. Next came the Braves, who came into the series having won 11 straight games. When the Braves left three days later, they had won 14 straight games. The series began inauspiciously when Josiah Gray was scratched from his start when long rain delay occurred after he was fully warmed up. The already depleted bullpen had to pitch 9 innings and gave up 9 runs. The next night, Jackson Tetreault started, making his major league debut in another loss. The Braves completed their sweep in the third game, and the Phillies came to town.

Since firing manager Joe Girardi, the Phillies had been on a 10–2 hot streak. The series, which began on Thursday, was five games in four days with a double-header on Friday. On Thursday, the Phillies clobbered the Nats 10 to 1. The Phillies swept the doubleheader too, but the games were close—with their 2–1 win in the second game coming in the tenth inning and impacted by a controversial umpiring decision. Before Saturday’s game, Ryan Zimmerman‘s number 11 was retired in an emotional ceremony.  The Nats tried really hard to win that game, but lost it 8 to 7, again in the tenth inning. For Sunday’s game, they finally got a win after 8 straight losses by a decisive 9 to 3 score. Their record on the home stand was 3–8.

The next road trip began close to home with two games in Baltimore. They shut out the Orioles in the first game, but the next night were shut out by the Birds in a rain-delayed six-inning game. The brief road trip concluded with a three-game series in Texas against the Rangers. The Nats won the first and third games and lost the second, giving them a 3–2 record on the road trip.

The month concluded at home with a three game series against the Pirates. The Nats won the first two games, both of which were low scoring and close. By this point, the Nats’ starters had pitched well in nine of their last ten starts. The Bucs won the final game, another close game but with a higher score (8 to 7), with another controversial umpire call (this one dealing with an obscure rule that calls for a “fourth out” to be called in an unusual situation that most of us have never seen in a lifetime of watching games).

Besides Lee and Tetreault, a few other players debuted with the team during June. Utility player Ehire Adrianza made his first appearance as a Nat after a stint on the 60-day IL due to a left quad injury. Reliever Reed Garrett was called up. He’s 29 years old and pitched briefly for the Tigers 2019 before spending two years in Japan with the Seibu Lions. Reliever Cory Abbott is 26 years old and was claimed off waivers from the Giants after pitching with the Cubs last season. Departing the team was Dee Strange-Gordon, who was designated for assignment. When Adrianza and Escobar were both finally available on the bench, Strange-Gordon had become redundant.

Record:

11–16 (.407)

Pythagorean Record:

10–17 (4.04 R/G – 5.44 RA/G)

June MVP:

Josh Bell (.358/.447/.695, 7 HR, 15 R, 18 RBI, 204 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR)

Pitcher of the month:

Josiah Gray (1–0, 1.50 RA/9, 4 GS, 24 IP, 10.5 K/9, .232 opp OBP, 1.3 RA9-WAR)

Reliever of the month:

Carl Edwards, Jr. (2–1, 3.94 RA/9, 14 G, 16 IP, 8.4 K/9, .250 opp OBP, 3.65 RE24, 0.2 RA9-WAR, 7 shutdowns, 1 meltdown)

Worst month:

Joan Adon (0–3, 10.13 RA/9, 3 GS, 13⅓ IP, 8.1 K/9, .415 opp OBP, –0.5 RA9-WAR), a performance that had him sent back to Rochester

Best start this month:

Patrick Corbin (June 28, 3–1 win over the Pirates at home) pitched 8 innings, giving up 1 run on 5 hits and 2 walks and striking out 12 for a game score of 78.

Worst start:

Joan Adon (June 7, 12–2 loss to the Marlins in Miami) gave up 8 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 3 innings with 3 strikeouts for a game score of 13.

Tough loss:

  • Paolo Espino (June 12, 4–1 loss to the Brewers at home) pitched 3⅔ innings and gave up 1 run on 4 hits and no walks, while striking out 2, for a game score of 51 in his first start of the year.

Cheap wins:

  • Patrick Corbin (June 5, 5–4 win over the Reds in Cincinnati) gave up 3 runs on 9 hits and no walks in 6 innings, while striking out 5, for a game score of 47.
  • Patrick Corbin (June 11, 8–6 win over the Brewers at home) gave up 4 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings, while striking out 2, for a game score of 42.

Biggest shutdown:

Andres Machado (June 18, 2–1 loss to the Phillies in 10 innings at home). This was the day that Ryan Zimmerman’s number was retired. In the bottom of the ninth, Lane Thomas drove in the tying run and sent the game to extra innings. Reed Garrett, who had pitched a scoreless inning in the top of the ninth, was still on the mound in the tenth, when he gave up a single, scoring the ghost runner, followed by a walk and another single. When Machado got called into the game in the top of the tenth, the Nats were trailing 2–1 with the bases loaded and no outs. Machado got Castellanos to ground to second, forcing the runner at home. Then he got a pop fly from Realmuto and a fly out from Herrera to end the inning with no further damage. (Win probability added/WPA +.285) The Nats, however, were unable to score in the bottom of the inning and lost the game.

Worst meltdown:

Tanner Rainey (June 8, 2–1 loss to the Marlins in Miami). Facing Sandy Alcantara, who pitched 9 scoreless innings, Josiah Gray and the Nats’ bullpen had managed to keep the game a scoreless tie through 9. In the top of the tenth, the Nats drove in their ghost runner to go ahead 1–0, and Rainey got the call to close out the game in the bottom of the tenth. He got a lineout from Cooper for the first out. Astudillo hit a bloop single to right and Chisholm raced home. He was initially called out, but the call was reversed when replay review determined that Keibert Ruiz had blocked the plate, which tied the game. Astudillo had advanced to second on the play. The next batter, Aguilar, grounded up the middle. The ball deflected off second base and into center field while Astudillo sprinted home, giving the Marlins a walk-off win. (WPA –.556)

Clutch hit:

Maikel Franco (June 27, 3–2 win over the Pirates at home). The Nats were trailing 2–1 when Franco came to bat with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and Luis Garcia on second. Franco launched the first pitch into the Pirates bullpen, putting the Nats ahead 3–2. (WPA +.574)

Choke:

Luis Garcia (June 29, 8–7 loss to the Pirates at home). In the bottom of the eighth with 2 outs, the Nats had the bases loaded and were trailing 8 to 7. Garcia lined out to left field to end the inning and the potential rally (WPA –.199).

Memorable offensive plays:

Memorable fielding plays:

June 30, 2022 / Nat Anacostia

Soto and Cruz make my 2022 NL All-Star Team

Each year, I put together a National League All Star team to see which Nationals deserve to be on it. For objectivity, I follow a point system where points are based on wins above replacement (WAR) for this year’s season-to-date, last season, and the player’s career.

This year, two Nationals make the team. Even though Juan Soto‘s 2022 season has been disappointing compared to his own recent seasons, he still ranks as one of the two best corner outfielders in the NL and a starter for my team. This was the first season where I’ve had to select NL players for the position of DH based on players who claim tht role. And while Bryce Harper was the obvious first choice, I realized that the other NL teams don’t have obvious all-stars in the role. So, even though Nelson Cruz‘s 2022 season may not seem all-star worthy, based on his 2021 season and career statistics he did wind up with the second-most points for the position, and was selected for the team. (Of course, Bryce is injured and won’t be back in time for the game, which would make Cruz the starter for the actual game if my team were selected.)

At the end of this post, I’m including a step-by-step explanation of my point system (and how I adjusted it to account for the DH). Read it if you’re interested. The points are based on games played through June 29.

Here’s my 2021 NL All-Star team (showing the points assigned by my system in parentheses):

Starters

C – Willson Contreras – Cubs (21.3)

1B – Paul Goldschmidt – Cardinals (33.1)

2B – Tommy Edman – Cardinals (24.9)

3B – Manny Machado – Padres (32.4)

SS – Trea Turner – Dodgers (30.9)

OF – Mookie Betts – Dodgers (27.1)

CF – Bryan Reynolds – Pirates (20.7)

OF – Juan Soto – Nationals (24.5)

DH – Bryce Harper – Phillies (27.2)

SP – Corbin Burnes – Brewers (28.4)

Reserves

C – J.T. Realmuto – Phillies (20.6)

1B – Freddie Freeman – Dodgers (29.4)

1B – Matt Olson – Braves (21.1)

2B – Jake Cronenworth – Padres (20.0)

3B – Nolan Arenado – Cardinals (27.9)

SS – Francisco Lindor – Mets (24.5)

SS – Dansby Swanson – Braves (24.0)

OF – Starling Marte – Mets (22.0)

CF – Brandon Nimmo – Mets (20.1)

OF – Ronald Acuna Jr. – Braves (17.6)

DH – Nelson Cruz – Nationals (11.1)

SP – Sandy Alcantara – Marlins (27.8)

SP – Zack Wheeler – Phillies (27.7)

SP – Max Scherzer – Mets (26.5)

SP – Adam Wainwright – Cardinals (26.0)

SP – Carlos Rodon – Giants (25.8)

SP – Tyler Mahle – Reds (16.7) (* selected so the Reds would be represented)

RP – Josh Hader – Brewers (15.6)

RP – Kenley Jansen – Braves (11.7)

RP – Ryan Helsley – Cardinals (10.8)

RP – Daniel Bard – Rockies (8.8) (* selected so the Rockies would be represented)

RP – Joe Mantiply – Diamondbacks (7.9) (* selected so the Diamondbacks would be represented)

Nats fans have talked about the possibility of Josh Bell making the team. Bell has had a pretty good season so far this year, but his 2021 season was more ordinary. Overall, my system has him ranked fifth at first base with 16.7 points. That’s good, but it leaves him well behind the three first baseman that were selected for the team (Goldschmidt, Freeman, and Olson), as well as fourth-ranking Pete Alonso. Bell needs to keep up his current level of performance for the next 12 months to be considered for next year’s team.

Methodology:

The general philosophy that underlies my point system is that I’m trying to find the best players right now. That doesn’t mean just the players that have been hot for the last three months. So my system also factors in performance last season. I also include career performance, but it’s given a relatively small weight. The idea is that in cases where two players have played similarly but one is a long-time star, I would lean toward the long-time star. The system does allow a rookie or a player who has genuinely taken a big step forward to stardom to be recognized, but only in exceptional cases. (An example from the American League is Alejandro Kirk, who would have made the AL team if I had selected one, reflecting his breakout performance this season.)

Everyone who has played in the NL this season and is currently on a 40-man roster is considered, regardless of their current injury status. Players are assigned a position based on where they’ve played the most games this season.

While the MLB ballot lumps together all outfielders, I separate center fielders from corner outfielders. While I treat the corner outfield positions as interchangeable, I want to make sure that my all-star team has at least two actual center fielders.

I follow the MLB rule that there will be 20 position players and 12 pitchers. I begin by picking the highest rated players at each position as starters. I then select one backup at each position, as well as the four backup starting pitchers and three relievers. At that point, 26 of the 32 players have been selected, and I still need to fill in two more position players and four more pitchers.

I then check to see which teams aren’t yet represented, and pick the highest ranking players from those teams. This year there were four teams in that category—the Giants, Rockies,  Diamondbacks, and Reds. The Giants were easy, because Rodon was the next highest ranking starting pitcher. For the other three teams, I compared their highest ranking position players, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers to the cutoff line for their position and picked the player who was closest (in percentage terms) to the cutoff. This resulted in the selections of starting pitcher Tyler Mahle (of the Reds) and relief pitchers Daniel Bard (Rockies) and Joe Mantiply (Diamondbacks). I then completed the lineup with the two highest ranking position players who hadn’t yet been selected (Swanson and Olson). (If I hadn’t followed the rule of including at least one player from each team, the additional pitchers who would have been selected were Max Fried of the Braves (24.4) and relievers David Bednar of the Pirates (10.6) and David Robertson of the Cubs (10.4).

My point calculation method is pretty simple but reflects the philosophy outlined above. I did make some modifications this year to how I calculate the points for pitchers and for designated hitters, which I will describe after going through the main position player calcujlation.

The points are calculated as the sum of three components—this season’s WAR times 4, the previous season’s WAR times 2, and the square root of the player’s career WAR. (Last year I adjusted this formula due to the prior year being the short 2020 season, but I’ve gone back to my long-standing formula.) If the career WAR is less than zero, the last term is simply set to zero.

I use Fangraphs WAR for position players. To keep rookies or players who were injured or had an off-year the previous year competitive, I substitute the current season’s performance into the formula for the past year if it is greater.

Written as an equation, this year’s formula is:

Points = 4 * 2022_WAR + 2 * MAX(2021_WAR, 2022_WAR) + Squareroot(Career_WAR)

Pitchers:

For pitchers, in the past I’ve always used Fangraphs’ RA9-WAR, which is based on runs allowed per nine innings, rather than Fangraphs’ standard WAR for pitchers, which is “fielding independent” and is based solely on strikeouts, walks, and home runs. While runs allowed are affected by fielding and “luck,” I’ve been concerned that fielding-independent runs leave out too many things that are under the pitcher’s control, such as controlling the running game, fielding the pitcher’s own position, and inducing soft contact such as pop-ups. But starting this year, I’ve decided to start basing the points for pitchers on a mix of RA9-WAR and Fangraph’s fielding independent WAR, with a weight of ⅔ given to RA9-WAR and ⅓ to fielding-independent WAR. Otherwise, the formula is the same as for position players. I use the same weighted average for relief pitchers.

Designated Hitters:

In looking over the candidates for the DH position, I quickly realized that only about half of the teams use a regular DH, with the other teams rotating the role among players who primarily play other positions. For example, the Cubs players with the most plate appearances at DH are Willson Contreras (who played most of his games at catcher), Frank Schwindel (mostly a first baseman), and Rafael Ortega (mostly an outfielder). No one is primarily a DH. That meant that if I had used my usual method of primary position, there would only have been seven or eight candidates for the DH slots on the all-star team, and only one of them (Harper) was an obvious all-star. So I decided to widen the pool by considering any player who had at least 75 plate appearances in 2022 as a DH, even if another position was their primary one.

This increased the pool to about 20 players, but it raised another issue. In my opinion, the DH selection should focus exclusively on the players’ offensive statistics, yet WAR includes their defensive contributions from when they play other positions. So I decided to strip out the defensive part of WAR and come up with a WAR-type measure that considers only the players offensive contributions (that is, batting and base running).

For this I used the statistic that Fangraphs calls “Off” (standing for offense), which is the offensive runs contributed by the player relative to an average hitter. For example, for Nelson Cruz this is 0.2 for 2022 and 14.0 for 2021. To convert that number to wins, I divide by 10. Then I need a replacement-level adjustment, for which I use the player’s total plate appearance divided by 1,000. So for Cruz, in 2022 I get 0.2/10 + 302/1,000 = 0.3, and in 2021 I get 14.0/10 + 584/1,000 = 2.0. Those numbers turn out to equal Cruz’s Fangraphs WAR, telling me that my rough approximation is working pretty well for a full-time DH. I will call this number “OFFAR” for “offense above replacement.”

For a player who is not a full-time DH, the OFFAR will usually be smaller than his WAR because it leaves out his defensive contributions, but that is what I intended in order to select a DH solely based on offense.

The player who was most competitive to Cruz for the second DH slot was Garrett Cooper of the Marlins. His 2022 offensive statistics are better than Cruz’s, but Cruz had a big lead in 2021 and career statistics that gave him the overall lead, 11.1 points for Cruz to 10.6 for Cooper.

June 2, 2022 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ May in review: “But it’s frustrating”

The Nationals faced a tough schedule in May, playing 14 games against the division-leading Mets, Astros, Brewers, and Dodgers, plus another four games against the strong Giants and Angels. They ended the month going 11–17, which isn’t good but was still a step up from their 7–16 record during April. With mostly poor starting pitching and sloppy defense, the Nats’ games tended to be a bit boring, with nearly two-thirds of the games decided by more than a three-run margin.

The month began with the Nats in San Francisco playing the last game of a three-game series with the Giants. They won the game and took the series two games to one. Their next series, against the Rockies in Denver, began with a 10–2 win. Over four games, they had scored 38 runs—quite a change from the quiet bats that had characterized the Nats’ offense during April. The burst of offense, of course, did not last. The Nats lost the next two games to the Rockies, then lost two of three to the Angels in Anaheim. The final game was a heartbreaker, in which the Nats entered the bottom of the ninth with a 4–2 lead but were walked off by former Nat, Anthony Rendon. The team had a 4–5 record on the road trip.

Returning to Washington, the Nats faced the Mets and played respectably but lost the series two games to one. Their next series was their first against the Astros since the 2019 World Series. Alas, these Nats don’t much resemble their 2019 version. The Nats lost to the Astros two games to one, but managed to score 13–6 in their one victory in the series.

The next week was spent on the road. The Nats lost two of three games against the Marlins, only managing to score 6 runs. They also lost two of three against the Brewers, for a 2–4 road trip.

Home again, the Nats faced the Dodgers and lost the first game 10–1. They also lost the second game, but won the finale 1–0 in a rare game in which the pitching and defense were all pretty flawless. They next faced the Rockies for four games. They won the first game, and the second was postponed due to weather, resulting in a double header the next day. The Nats won the opener of the doubleheader, giving them a three-game winning streak for the first time this season. They lost a close game in the the nightcap, but came back to win another close game the next day. Winning the series three games to one, it was their first series win in four weeks. Ending the home stand with a 4–3 record, it was their first one with a winning record this season.

On the next day, Memorial Day, the Nats were in New York, where they lost the first of a three-game set against the Mets. The month ended with the next game, which the Nats lost 10–0, a suitable reminder of how far the team has fallen.

There was a mix of good and bad news about pitchers trying to return from injuries. Stephen Strasburg made a couple of successful rehab starts and appears to be on track to return to the rotation in a week or two. The rehab attempt by Joe Ross, however, did not go so well, and he had to go for his second Tommy John surgery.

A couple of relief pitchers debuted with the Nats this month. Carl Edwards, Jr. is best known as a reliever for the Cubs from 2015 to 2019, and bounced between the Braves, the Blue Jays, and various minor league teams last season. He signed a minor league contract with the Nats and was promoted on May 10. Jordan Weems, a 29-year old journeyman who pitched for Oakland and Arizona last season, also signed a minor league contract and was promoted on May 31.

Record:

11–17 (.393)

Pythagorean Record:

11–17 (4.36 R/G – 5.50 RA/G)

May MVP:

Keibert Ruiz (.307/.402/.440, 1 HR, 12 R, 8 RBI, 140 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR), with runner-up Cesar Hernandez (.304/.376/.384, 18 R, 8 RBI, 117 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR). One of the few bright spots of this season is watching Ruiz develop into an above-average MLB catcher.

Pitcher of the month:

Erick Fedde (2–2, 3.72 RA/9, 6 GS, 29 IP, 7.1 K/9, .346 opp OBP, 0.7 RA9-WAR). He had a really tough outing in his last start of the month, getting knocked out by the Mets after 1⅓ innings, but his month overall was pretty good.

Reliever of the month:

Paolo Espino (0–0, 1.42 RA/9, 10 G, 12⅔ IP, 4.3 K/9, 0.7 BB/9, .224 opp OBP, 4.16 RE24, 0.3 RA9-WAR, 0 shutdowns, 0 meltdowns). Espino isn’t ever going to be a relief ace, but there’s still a lot to be said for someone who almost never walks anyone. The weird thing is that the Nats this year have literally never used him in a high leverage situation. If you prefer your best reliever to be someone who sometimes pitches in meaningful situations, Carl Edwards, Jr. (0–1, 2.25 RA/9, 10 G, 12 IP, 9 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, .227 opp OBP, 3.78 RE24, 0.3 RA9-WAR, 2 shutdowns, 1 meltdown) gets the nod.

Worst month:

This one is shared by two pitchers, a starter and a reliever, who each ended the month designated for assignment:

  • Aaron Sanchez (2–2, 9.41 RA/9, 5 GS, 22 IP, 4.5 K/9, .422 opp OBP, –0.7 RA9-WAR)
  • Austin Voth (0–0, 15.00 RA/9, 9 G, 9 IP, 7.0 K/9, .479 opp OBP, –9.12 RE24, –0.7 RA9-WAR), had pitched for the Nats since 2018 before being designated for assignment.

Best start this month:

A tie between:

  • Josiah Gray (May 1, 11–5 win over the Giants in San Francisco) pitched 6 scoreless innings, giving up 1 hit and 4 walks and striking out 3 for a game score of 69. He left the game with an 8–0 lead, which fortunately was enough for the Nats to win despite a sorry bullpen.
  • Erick Fedde (May 25, 1–0 win over the Dodgers at home) pitched 6 scoreless innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 walk and striking out 6 for a game score of 69. With only one run of offensive support, both Fedde and the bullpen had to be perfect.

Worst start:

Erick Fedde (May 30, 13–5 loss to the Mets in New York) gave up 6 runs on 8 hits and 1 walk in 1⅓ innings with no strikeouts for a game score of 13.

Tough losses:

  • Patrick Corbin (May 4, 5–2 loss to the Rockies in Denver) pitched an 8 inning complete game and gave up 5 runs (only 3 of which were earned) with a game score of 51.
  • Joan Adon (May 6, 3–0 loss to the Angels in Anaheim) gave up 3 runs on 3 hits in 5 innings, while striking out 6, for a game score of 50.
  • Joan Adon (May 17, 5–1 loss to the Marlins in Miami) gave up 1 run on 5 hits in 4⅔ innings, for a game score of 52.
  • Erick Fedde (May 20, 7–0 loss to the Brewers in Milwaukee) gave up 2 runs on 4 hits in 5⅔ innings, for a game score of 54.

Cheap wins:

  • Josiah Gray (May 7, 7–3 win over the Angels in Anaheim) gave up 3 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks in 5⅓ innings, while striking out 3, for a game score of 47.
  • Aaron Sanchez (May 11, 8–3 win over the Mets at home) gave up 3 runs on 6 hits in 5⅓ innings, while striking out 1, for a game score of 45.
  • Aaron Sanchez (May 22, 8–2 win over the Brewers in Milwaukee) gave up 2 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings, while striking out 1, for a game score of 44.
  • Patrick Corbin (May 26, 7–3 win over the Rockies at home) gave up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 6⅓ innings, while striking out 3, for a game score of 48.

Best shutdown:

Tanner Rainey (May 29, 6–5 win over the Rockies at home). The Nats had led 6–1 after six, but Andres Machado and Kyle Finnegan had given up four runs in the next 1⅓ innings. Rainey got the call with one out in the top of the eighth, runners on first and third, and the Nats leading 6–5. He struck out Elias Diaz and Charlie Blackmon to get out of the eighth without further damage. Rainey returned in the ninth and retired the Rockies’ two, three, and four hitters on a grounder, a strikeout, and a foul pop fly, earning a five-out save. (Win probability added/WPA +.445)

Worst meltdown:

Tanner Rainey (May 8, 5–4 loss to the Angels in Anaheim). The Nats were ahead 4–2 when Rainey got the call to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth. He struck out the first batter, then gave up a walk and a single, bringing Trout to the plate. Rainey struck him out for the second out, but then Ohtani tied the game with a double to deep left-center field. Rendon followed with a single that scored Ohtani and walked off the Nationals. (WPA –.918)

Clutch hit:

Yadiel Hernandez (May 14, 13–6 win over the Astros at home). The Nats were leading 1–0 when Hernandez came to bat with two outs in the bottom of the third and runners on first and second. Hernandez launched one into the Nats’ bullpen, putting the Nats ahead 4–0. (WPA +.219)

Choke:

Juan Soto (May 5, 9–7 loss to the Rockies in Denver). With no outs in the top of the ninth, Josh Bell had doubled, scoring a run and advancing Soto to third. The Nats were trailing 4–3, and Yadiel Hernandez was at bat. The Rockies catcher, Dom Nunez, fired to third, picking off Soto (WPA –.161). Hernandez, of course, then singled and advanced Bell to third, but Soto’s carelessness on the bases had cost the Nats at least one run. The next batter grounded into a double-play, ending the potential rally.

Cool fielding play:

On May 20, Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, and Josh Bell combined for a triple play against the Brewers. It was the second one turned in Nationals’ history, with the first having been made by Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon on July 29, 2016.

May 3, 2022 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ April in review: ‘We’ve got to hit, though’

After a lock-out delayed spring training, MLB started the season on April 7, a week later than initially planned. Making up for lost time, the Nats played 23 games in 24 days. Expectations were low, and it’s fair to say that the Nats didn’t meet them. They ended the month with a 7–16 record. Only the Reds had a worse record.

The season started at home with a four-game set against the Mets. The Nats lost three of four. Next came a three-game set against the Braves in Atlanta, and the Nats managed to take two of three against the 2021 World Series Champions. Moving to Pittsburgh, the Bucs won three of four, giving the Nats a 3–4 record on the road trip.

Returning to Washington, the Nats had four games scheduled against the Diamondbacks. The opening Monday night game was rained out, so they played a doubleheader the next day, which the Nats swept. At that point, the Nats were 6–7 and tied for second place in the NL East. But things quickly went south. They lost the next two games, splitting the series with the Diamondbacks. Next they faced the Giants and were swept in the three-game series. The home stand ended with three games against the Marlins, and the Nats again were swept. They were 2–8 in the home stand, ending with eight consecutive losses during which they scored only 16 runs (and never more than 3 in any one game). The bats had gone silent.

Then the month ended in San Francisco with the first two games of a three-game series, and suddenly the silent bats found their voices. The Nats won the opener 14 to 4 with 22 hits. They lost the second game, and were scheduled to end the road trip in May, with one more game coming in San Francisco, followed by series in Colorado and Anaheim.

Lucius Fox, a 24-year old infielder, made his major league debut on April 10. Starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez (with the Giants last season) and relief pitchers Erasmo Ramirez (with the Tigers last year) and waiver pickups Hunter Harvey (from the Orioles) and Francisco Perez (from the Indians) also joined the Nats during the month.

Record:

7–16 (.304)

Pythagorean Record:

7–16 (3.65 R/G – 5.35 RA/G)

April MVP:

Josh Bell (.365/.460/.527, 2 HR, 12 R, 15 RBI, 187 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR), with runner-up Juan Soto (.241/.406/.443, 4 HR, 15 R, 5 RBI, 149 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR).

Most valuable pitcher:

Victor Arano (0–0, 1.64 RA/9, 11 G, 11 IP, 11.5 K/9, .268 opp OBP, 1.81 RE24, 0.5 RA9-WAR, 2 shutdowns, 2 meltdowns). I rarely give this monthly award to a relief pitcher, but Arano, along with Sean Doolittle (before going on the injured list) and Tanner Rainey, really were pleasant surprises this month, and none of the starters were more than passable.

Most valuable starting pitcher:

Josiah Gray (2–2, 4.05 RA/9, 4 GS, 20 IP, 12.6 K/9, .353 opp OBP, 0.3 RA9-WAR).

Worst month:

Patrick Corbin (0–4, 9.15 RA/9, 5 GS, 19⅔ IP, 10.5 K/9, .430 opp OBP, –0.7 RA9-WAR), with dishonorable mentions also going to Lucius Fox (.000/.048/.000, 23 PA, –0.7 fWAR) and Nelson Cruz (.155/.253/.226, 2 HR, 96 PA, –0.6 fWAR).

Best start this month:

Joan Adon (April 19, second game of doubleheader,1–0 win over the Diamondbacks at home) pitched 6⅓ scoreless innings, giving up 3 hits and 2 walks and striking out 5 for a game score of 70.

Worst start:

Patrick Corbin (April 22, 7–1 loss to the Giants at home) gave up 7 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks in 1⅔ innings with 4 strikeouts for a game score of 14.

Tough losses:

  • Erick Fedde (April 27, 2–1 loss to the Marlins at home) gave up 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks in 4⅔ innings, while striking out 5, for a game score of 52.
  • Patrick Corbin (April 28, 3–2 loss to the Marlins at home) gave up 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings, while striking out 8, for a game score of 60.

Cheap win:

  • Aaron Sanchez (April 29, 14–4 win over the Giants in San Francisco) gave up 3 runs on 6 hits and no walks in 5 innings, while striking out 4, for a game score of 47.

Best shutdown:

Tanner Rainey (April 19, second game of doubleheader, 1–0 win over the Diamondbacks at home). Rainey got the call to pitch the bottom of the ninth in a 1–0 game, facing the heart of the D-backs’ order. He promptly gave up a single, a walk, and another single to load the bases with no outs. But he got out of the jam with a strikeout, a foul pop-up, and a fly to left field for the final out. (Win probability added/WPA +.157)

Worst meltdown:

Steve Cishek (April 17, 5–3 loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh). The Nats were ahead 3–2 when Cishek got the call to pitch the bottom of the seventh. The first two batters hit singles, and a sacrifice bunt moved them to second and third. An intentional walk to Vogelbach loaded the bases, setting up a possible double play. Cishek then let loose a wild pitch, tying the game and advancing the other two runners. Another single put the Bucs ahead and finished Cishek’s night. (WPA –.516)

Clutch hit:

Nelson Cruz (April 10, 4–2 win over the Mets at home). The score was tied 2–2 and the bases were loaded with 2 outs when Cruz came to bat in the bottom of the eighth. Cruz’s hit a ground ball up the middle that made its way past the diving Lindor, driving in two runs and putting the Nats ahead. (WPA +.311)

Choke:

Juan Soto (April 21, 4–3 loss to the Diamondbacks at home). In the bottom of the ninth, the bases loaded and the Nats trailing by one, Soto had his chance to tie or win the game. Facing Mark Melancon, Soto popped out to end the game. (WPA –.267)

April 7, 2022 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ 2021-2022 offseason in review: ‘We’ve got to build you up’

With the Nationals in rebuilding mode, the team patched some gaps during the offseason but did little that seems likely to affect their longer term hopes of reconstituting a winning team. Here’s a quick review of what’s changed during the offseason.

Departures

The one truly notable departure was Mr. National himself, Ryan Zimmerman. On February 15, he announced he was concluding his 17-year career with the Washington Nationals and retiring as a player. His personal services contract will maintain his association with the organization until at least 2026. On March 21, the team announced that they will retire his number 11, making him the first Nat to receive this honor.

Two other veterans also retired. Alex Avila announced his retirement a couple of weeks before the end of last season, while Jody Mercer waited until April 5 to announce his retirement.

Long-time Nats relief pitcher, Wander Suero, departed via free agency and signed with the Angels. Jhon Romero was claimed by the Twins on waivers. Ryne Harper was non-tendered and has yet to land with another team. Sean Nolin had initially signed to a minor league contract, but the Nats released him so that he could sign with the Kia Tigers of the KBO.

Arrivals

With the National League finally adopting the DH this season, the Nats filled the position with their most notable acquisition of the off-season, 41-year old free agent Nelson Cruz. Signed to a one-year, $16 million contract, Cruz had a 130 OPS+ last season, splitting the year between the Twins and the Rays. The Nats took the gamble that he can keep up the production for at least one more season.

The Nats infield has been augmented with free agent second baseman, Cesar Hernandez, and third baseman, Maikel Franco, both former long-time Phillies. Hernandez finished last season with the White Sox, while Franco was released by the Orioles and finished last season in the Braves minor league system. They also signed utility infielder, Ehire Adrianza, most recently with the Braves. The Nats picked up Lucius Fox, who has not yet appeared in the majors, from the Orioles on a waivers claim. In the outfield, the Nats signed Dee Strange-Gordon, who has been kicking around with many organizations, but who Nats fans likely remember as a Marlin. He spent last year in the minors, splitting the season among the Brewers, Cubs, and Pirates organizations.

The Nats brought back Anibal Sanchez to take one of the spots in the starting rotation. Sanchez had not played during 2021. They signed free agent relief pitchers, Steve Cishek (most recently an Angel, but likely known to Nats fans as a former Marlin) and Sean Doolittle (a Nat from 2017 to 2020; most recently with the Mariners). They also signed relief pitcher and former Nat, Tyler Clippard, to a minor league contract. Clip has spent time with many organizations, mostly recently with the Diamondbacks. And relief pitcher Victor Arano, another former Phillie who spent 2021 in the minors in the Braves system, made the team as a non-roster invitee.

Injuries

The main names starting the season on the injured list are pitchers—Will Harris, Seth Romero, and Joe Ross on the 60-day IL and Stephen Strasburg on the 10-day IL. Also, third baseman Carter Kieboom starts the season on the 60-day IL with a UCL sprain in his right elbow, and Ehire Adrianza is on the 10-day IL with a quad injury.

October 12, 2021 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ September in review: ‘They battled all year long’

The Nationals finished the season that none of us anticipated, going 10-21 in September and the first three days of October to end the season in last place in the National League East with a 65–97 record. (In the rest of this article, I will refer to the “month of September” as including all of the regular season games played in September and the first three days of October.)

While I can’t say that the Nats were playing quality baseball, the month did have its high points. Juan Soto led the majors in monthly WAR (Fangraphs version) with 2.2. His .545 monthly on-base percentage was the highest by any MLB player since July 2016, when Votto had a .549 OBP. Beyond that, the Nats played an unusual number of exciting, closely fought games. Five games went to extra innings; six were decided with walk-off runs. Eleven games were determined by a margin of a single run. And in 18 of the 31 games, the win or loss was assigned to a relief pitcher, mostly indicating games where the lead changed after the starter left the game. Unfortunately for the Nats, most of these walk-offs and bullpen games were won by their opponents, but at least the Nats’ offense kept things competitive.

While the new limits on roster size have cut back on September call-ups, several players debuted with the Nationals this month. Relief pitcher Alberto Baldonado, age 28, was a minor league free agent who made his major league debut on September 2 and pitched 14 games by the end of the season. Starting pitcher Josh Rogers, age 27, was signed by the Nats in June after the Orioles had released him. He moved directly into the rotation beginning September 4 and made six starts for the Nats. Finally, starting pitcher Joan Adon, age 23, made his MLB debut on October 3, the last day of the season. Adon has been with the Nats’ organization since signing in the Dominican Republic in 2016.

September began with the Nats at home playing the final game of a three-game set against the Phillies—they had lost the first two. It was rained out on the first, but the teams played it on the second. The Nats led 6 to 0 after five innings and 6 to 3 after seven, but the bullpen and sloppy defense gave up the lead for a 7 to 6 loss, giving the Phillies a sweep.

Next came five games in four days against the Mets. In the opener, the Nats scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie it, but lost the game in the tenth. The next day there was a doubleheader. In the first game, the Nats came all the way back from a 9–0 deficit to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh and send it to extra innings, but ultimately lost 11–9. Behind newcomer Rogers, they came back to win the second game and split the doubleheader. The next game was tied 6–6 going into the eighth when the bullpen fell apart for a 13–6 loss. In the final game, the Nats were trailing 3–2 going into the bottom of ninth, but scored the tying and winning runs on singles by Andrew Stevenson and Carter Kieboom, ending the series with the Mets taking three of five. The Nats were 2–6 on the home stand.

The next road trip began in Atlanta. In the first game, the Nats rallied in the seventh, scoring four runs to tie the game 5 to 5, only to see the bullpen give up the go-ahead runs in an 8 to 5 loss. In the ninth inning, Braves’ closer Will Smith hit Soto with a pitch that the Nats players thought was intentional. So in the second game, Nats’ starter Sean Nolin was ejected after retaliating against Freddie Freeman, leaving it to the bullpen to get 26 outs. The bullpen held up and the Nats got a 4 to 2 win, but the next night the extra work caught up with them when they lost 7 to 6 in 10 innings.

The next stop was a three game series in Pittsburgh. In the first game, the bullpen failed again, getting walked off after the Nats went into the bottom of the ninth with a 3 to 2 lead. They split the next two games with the Pirates and ended the road trip with a 2–4 record.

In the next home stand, the Nats lost two of three to the Marlins. In the third game, the Nats took a 6 to 4 lead into the ninth but gave up four runs to lose 8 to 6. They then lost two of three to the Rockies. In the first game, they took an 8 to 7 lead into the ninth but gave up two runs for the loss in the game that officially eliminated them from any post-season possibility.

Their final road trip began with a three-game series in Miami. In the first game, the bullpen gave up a three run lead, sending the game into the 10th inning with the score tied 7 to 7. In the top of the 10th, a couple of base running errors kept the Nats from scoring. Luis Garcia was the designed runner and Lane Thomas led off with a double to right field. But Garcia went back to second to tag and thus failed to score the go-ahead run. I’ll describe the other basepath blunder below in the section entitled “Choke.” In the bottom of the inning, the Marlins got a walk-off win after scoring their designated runner on a stolen base and a wild pitch. The Nats won the next two games to win the series.

The next stop was Cincinnati, where the Nats won the first game, then dropped three in a row, with the losses in games two and three coming as walk offs. The road trip ended with three games in Colorado. The Nats won the first game, then dropped the next two, with the final game a six-hour marathon (four hours of playing time interrupted by a two-hour rain delay). They were 4–6 on the road trip.

The final three game series came at home against the Red Sox, who were desperately fighting for a playoff spot. Nationals Park was packed with some of the largest crowds of the season. The Red Sox mostly pitched around Juan Soto and won the first game and were leading the Nats 1 to 0 in the second game going into the bottom of the eighth. But then the Nats managed to load the bases, bringing Soto up with one out and the Sox needing to throw him strikes. The crowd cheered when Soto sent a fly into deep center field, but he didn’t get all of it and the Nats had to settle for a game-tying sacrifice fly. In the top of the ninth, though, the Nats’ bullpen gave up four runs, and the Nats’ two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth fell short in their 5 to 3 loss. After battling all month with the Marlins for fourth place, the Nats slipped into last place in the division.

Next came the final game of the season. Adon pitched well in his major league debut, and the Nats took a 5 to 2 lead into the seventh inning. Then the bullpen failed again, allowing the Sox to tie it in the seventh and take a 7 to 5 lead in the ninth. Davey Martinez started Alex Avila (who had previously announced his retirement) and Ryan Zimmerman (who hasn’t announced his plans for next season). He lifted the players late in the game, giving the capacity crowd an opportunity to give each of them a heartfelt standing ovation. The Red Sox clinched their wild card spot while the Nats headed into the hot stove league.

During September/October, the Nationals continued to hit well. Their .260 batting average ranked fourth in the National League, their .352 on-base percentage ranked second, and their .422 slugging percentage ranked seventh. The comprehensive offensive metric, weighted runs created (wRC+) was 107, ranking fifth in the NL. Base running, however, was a problem—according to Fangraphs they were 5.1 base-running runs below average in the month, which was last in the NL.

Pitching—especially relief pitching—was the Nats’ big problem. The starters’ ERA in August was 4.66, ranking 8th of the 15 NL teams. The starters’ fielding independent pitching (FIP) was 5.11, which ranked 11th. The relievers were worse. Their ERA was 6.27, ranking last in the NL, as was their 5.64 FIP. The relief corps was charged with 16 losses and 12 blown saves, with both totals leading all of MLB. The relievers had 37 meltdowns—by far the most in the majors—and managed 26 shutdowns (12th in the NL). The starting pitching was mediocre, but the relief pitching was awful.

Record:

10–21 (.323)

Pythagorean Record:

13–18 (4.74 R/G – 5.71 RA/G)

September MVP:

Juan Soto (.373/.545/.637, 7 HR, 23 R, 24 RBI, 203 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR).  With a strong final month, Soto ended the year as a solid MVP candidate, leading the National League position players in Baseball-Reference WAR for the year while tied for second in the FanGraphs version of WAR. As of September 23, Soto looked like he was headed for a truly historic month (and possibly winning the batting championship) with a slash line in the month’s first 22 games of .473/.608/.838. But his batting fell to earth during his last nine games (.107/.395/.107), which might turn out to cost him the MVP award.

Most valuable pitcher:

Josh Rogers (2–2, 3.28 RA/9, 6 GS, 35⅔ IP, 5.6 K/9, .320 opp OBP, 1.1 RA9-WAR). I’m kind of skeptical that Rogers will be able to maintain his effectiveness as the league adjusts, but at least for this month his work was a pleasant surprise.

Most valuable relief pitcher:

This month figuring out the best relief pitcher seems like an intractable problem, but I’ll go with Tanner Rainey (0–1, 6.35 RA/9, 6 G. 5⅔ IP, 17.5 K/9, .292 opp OBP, 0.17 RE24, –0.1 RA9-WAR, 2 shutdowns, 1 meltdown). I’ll admit the statistics don’t really support this award, but when he started striking out a lot of opposing batters after missing the first half of the month, it seemed to me that he had regained some of his promise.

Worst month:

Carter Kieboom (.175/.254/.204, 0 HR, 9 R, 4 RBI, 27 G, 24 wRC+, –1.0 fWAR). He seems to be rapidly playing himself out of a job. Several pitchers also had really bad months—Alberto Baldonado (8.44 RA/9, 6 meltdowns, 4 blown saves), Erick Fedde (1–0, 8.88 RA/9), Kyle Finnegan (1–4, 7.71 RA/9, 4 meltdowns, 2 blown saves), and Austin Voth (9.53 RA/9, 3 meldowns, 2 blown saves).

Best start this month:

Josh Rogers (September 15, 8–6 loss to the Marlins at home) pitched 5 scoreless innings on 1 hit and 1 walk and striking out 6 for a game score of 70.

Worst starts:

A tie between Erick Fedde (September 4, 11–9 loss to the Mets at home) who gave up 7 runs on 9 hits and 1 walk in 3 innings with 2 strikeouts, for a game score of 20, and Patrick Corbin (September 18, 6–0 loss to the Rockies at home) who gave up 6 runs on 10 hits and 3 walks in 4 innings with 5 strikeouts, also for a game score of 20.

Tough losses:

  • Paolo Espino (September 13, 3–0 loss to the Marlins at home) gave up 1 run on 6 hits and 3 walks in 6 innings, while striking out 6, for a game score of 59.
  • Patrick Corbin (September 28, 3–1 loss to the Rockies in Denver) gave up 2 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in 6 innings, while striking out 9, for a game score of 58.

Cheap win:

  • Josiah Gray (September 27, 5–4 win over the Rockies in Denver) gave up 3 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks in 5⅓ innings, while striking out 4, for a game score of 49.

Best shutdown:

Alberto Baldonado (September 4, 11–9 win over the Mets at home). It was the first game of a double header when Baldonado got the call to pitch in the top of the seventh, the Nats trailing 9 to 7. It was Baldonado’s second major league appearance. He retired the side, and the Nats scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to send it to extra innings. In the eighth, the Mets of course had a designated runner at second. Baldonado got a fly ball to left, a strikeout, and a pop fly to keep the Mets scoreless (Win probability added/WPA +.325). In the ninth Kyle Finnegan gave up a leadoff two-run home run, and the Nats remained scoreless in the bottom of the inning for the loss.

Worst meltdown:

Kyle Finnegan (September 15, 8–6 loss to the Marlins at home). In the top of the eighth, the Nats were ahead 5 to 4. There were two outs and a runner had just reach first base when Finnegan got the call for a four-out save. He got a strikeout to end the inning, and the Nats got an insurance run from a solo Josh Bell homer in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the ninth, Finnegan gave up a walk, a single, a wild pitch (advancing the runners to second and third), and a one-run single. With the Nats’ lead down to one run and runners at the corners, Finnegan got a grounder for the first out. He then got another ground out, but it scored the runner from third, tying the game. With two outs, the next batter, Jesus Sanchez, hit a home run putting the Marlins ahead 8 to 6. He then gave up another double before getting the final out. He faced nine batters and gave up 4 hits (including a home run) and a walk. (WPA –.767)

Clutch hit:

Riley Adams (September 3, 6–2 loss to the Mets at home). In the bottom of the ninth, the Nats were trailing 2 to 1 with one out and Andrew Stevenson on first when Adams came to bat. He doubled to right-center, driving in Stevenson to tie the game, and advanced to third on a bad throw. (WPA +.614) The Nats were unable to score him, though, and the Mets scored four in the top of the tenth to win the game.

Choke:

Josh Bell (September 20, 8–7 loss to the Marlins in Miami). In the top of the tenth with the score tied 7 to 7, the Nats had loaded the bases with one out. Josh Bell grounded sharply to the first baseman, who threw out Luis Garcia at home. The catcher then tried throwing to first for the double play, but his bad throw hit Bell in the back as he was stepping through the bag. The umpire ruled Bell out on interference for running inside the base line—the same play that nabbed Trea Turner in Game Six of the 2019 World Series. (WPA –.357)

Favorite defensive plays:

  • Lane Thomas covered a lot of ground and made a sliding catch to rob Lindor of a hit.
  • Josh Rogers chased down a ball hit along the first base line, then made a glove flip to just beat out the runner.
  • Alcides Escobar made a diving stop and a quick throw to get the lead runner at second.

September 13, 2021 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ August in review: ‘The boys are playing hard’

The Nationals went 7-20 in August, their worst monthly record since April 2009. Having opened the month in fourth place, 7½ games behind the division-leading Mets, they finished August still in fourth place but now 15 games behind the Braves, who had taken over the divisional lead. We saw quite a bit of bad baseball played by inexperienced players, but there were also some exciting games, interesting stories from players who were given a chance, and continued superb play from one of the finest players of his generation.

Several players debuted with the Nationals this month. Relief pitcher Mason Thompson, age 23, arrived from the San Diego Padres in the Daniel Hudson trade. Catcher Riley Adams, age 25, came from the Blue Jays in the Brad Hand trade. Starting pitcher Sean Nolin, age 31, had last played in the majors in 2015 and spent 2020 playing in Japan before signing a minor league contract with the Nats. Outfielder Lane Thomas, age 25, came from the Cardinals in the Jon Lester trade. Relief pitcher Patrick Murphy, age 26, came from the Blue Jays off waivers. And catcher Keibert Ruiz, age 23, came from the Dodgers as part of the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deal.

The month began with the Nats at home facing the Cubs in the rubber game of the series, the teams having split the first two. The Nats won it on a walk-off homer from Yadiel Hernandez. Unfortunately, that was the end of winning for quite a while.

The Phillies swept a 4-game series at Nationals Park. Moving to Atlanta, the Nats lost two of three to the Braves, with the Nats showing some sloppy defense. Moving to New York for a three game set against the Mets, the Nats’ coaches finally returned from the Covid injured list. The Mets swept the Nats in a rain-soaked series. The first game was suspended in the second inning due to rain and finished the next afternoon, but the second game couldn’t be played that evening and was finished as part of a doubleheader the next day. Joe Ross suffered a partial tear of his elbow ligament. He opted not to get surgery but was placed on the injured list for the rest of the season.

Returning home, the Braves swept three games from the Nats. At this point the Nationals had lost 7 straight games and 12 of 13. Next came a two-game set against the red-hot Blue Jays, and the Nats won both of them! Then came a road trip that began in Milwaukee. The Nats beat the Brewers in the first game, making it three wins in a row before returning to their losing ways. They lost the final two games against the Brewers, then lost two of three against the Marlins in Miami. They lost two of three against the Mets in New York, and returned to Washington where they lost the final two games of the month against the Phillies. In their last loss, they tied an obscure MLB record by losing six games against a single team (the Phillies) in which they had been ahead by at least three runs. (Two days later, this would happen a seventh time, giving the Nationals this ignominious record for baseball’s modern era.)

The Nats also engaged in some house cleaning before the month ended. Javy Guerra was designated for assignment and elected free agency. Victor Robles was optioned to Rochester as Lane Thomas hit well enough to take over his center field spot. By the end of the month, there were only a handful of players from the 2019 championship squad left on the active roster.

During August, the Nationals’ offense was more or less league average. Their .254 batting average ranked fourth in the National League, their .342 on-base percentage ranked first, and their .406 slugging percentage ranked tenth. The comprehensive offensive metric, weighted runs created (wRC+) was 100, indicating league-average performance and ranking seventh in the NL.

Pitching, however, was a problem. The starters’ ERA in August was 6.01, ranking 14th of the 15 NL teams. The starters’ fielding independent pitching (FIP) was 5.44, which was the worst in the NL. The relief corps was similarly bad. Their ERA was 5.42, ranking 14th in the NL, and their 5.86 FIP ranked last. The relievers had 20 meltdowns (14th in the league) and managed only 16 shutdowns (tied for 13th). Both starting and relief pitching were clearly problems for the team.

Record:

7–20 (.259)

Pythagorean Record:

10–17 (4.56 R/G – 5.96 RA/G)

August MVP:

Juan Soto (.284/.505/.500, 4 HR, 19 R, 13 RBI, 164 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR).  

Most valuable pitcher:

Josiah Gray (0–2, 4.50 RA/9, 6 GS, 32 IP, 9.3 K/9, .316 opp OBP, 0.5 RA9-WAR).

Most valuable relief pitcher:

Andres Machado (1–0, 2.81 RA/9, 16 G. 16 IP, 6.8 K/9, .323 opp OBP, 1.59 RE24, 0.4 RA9-WAR, 3 shutdowns, 2 meltdowns).

Worst month:

Wander Suero (0–0, 27.00 RA/9, 3 G, 2⅔ IP, 10.1 K/9, –8.22 RE24, –0.9 RA-9 WAR, 0 shutdown, 2 meltdowns). And Suero spent most of the month in Rochester! Other players with notably bad performances in August include Patrick Corbin, Paolo Espino, Luis Garcia, Javy Guerra, and Victor Robles.

Best start this month:

Patrick Corbin (August 20, 4–1 win over the Brewers in Milwaukee) pitched 6⅓ innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits and no walks and striking out 7 for a game score of 70.

Worst starts:

A tie between Josiah Gray (August 30, 7–4 loss to the Phillies at home) who gave up 6 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks in 4 innings with 4 strikeouts, for a game score of 25, and Patrick Corbin (August 31, 12–6 loss to the Phillies at home) who gave up 6 runs on 9 hits and 4 walks in 5 innings with 4 strikeouts, also for a game score of 25.

Tough losses:

  • Patrick Corbin (August 3, 5–4 loss to the Phillies at home) gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and 1 walk in 7 innings, while striking out 8, for a game score of 56.
  • Josiah Gray (August 13, 4–2 loss to the Braves at home) gave up 3 runs on 5 hits and 0 walks in 6 innings, while striking out 6, for a game score of 56.

Cheap win:

  • Erick Fedde (August 17, 12–6 win over the Blue Jays at home) gave up 3 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings, while striking out 4, for a game score of 46.

Best shutdown:

Kyle Finnegan (August 7, 3–2 win over the Braves in Atlanta). The Nats had just taken a 3 to 2 lead in the top of the ninth when Finnegan got the call to pitch the bottom of the inning for the save. He got a foul popup, a fly out to left, and a groundout to first to nail down the win. (Win probability added/WPA +.207)

Worst meltdown:

Kyle Finnegan (August 5, 7–6 loss to the Phillies at home). With the Nats ahead 5–3 going into the top of the ninth, Finnegan got the call. Herrera led off with a double, then Torreyes reached on a throwing error by Carter Kieboom. Finnegan struck out Segura and got Jankowski on a grounder, leaving runners on second and third with two outs. Then Realmuto doubled, tying the game. Harper was issued an intentional walk, and Hoskins doubled to deep left-center, driving in both runners and giving the Phillies a 7–5 lead. Finnegan got Gregorious to fly out to end the inning. (WPA –.827) The Nats scored one in the bottom of the ninth, but lost the game.

Clutch hit:

Riley Adams (August 7, 3–2 win over the Braves in Atlanta). In the top of the ninth, Will Smith was attempting to close out a 2–0 win for the Braves. By the time Adams came to bat, Josh Bell had walked and Ryan Zimmerman had doubled, with Bell scoring and Zimmerman advancing to third on a Garcia groundout. There were two outs, Zimmerman was on third, and the Nats were trailing 2 to 1. Adams launched the first pitch down the left field line into the upper deck, putting the Nats ahead 3 to 2. (WPA +.675).  Finnegan got the save in the bottom of the ninth for one the Nats’ few wins this month.

Choke:

Adrian Sanchez (August 15, 6–5 loss to the Braves at home). In the bottom of the eighth with the Nats trailing 6 to 5, Luis Garcia had drawn a walk to lead off the inning. Sanchez grounded into a double play to cut off a potential rally. (WPA –.209)

Favorite defensive plays:

September 1, 2021 / Nat Anacostia

Delay for August in review post

The Nationals went 7-20 in August, their worst monthly record since April 2009.

I’m traveling now, so the regular month in review post will be delayed until sometime after Labor Day.