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September 1, 2011 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ August in review

Last winter, in looking ahead to this season’s Nats, I thought I’d see a team that would feature good offense from the heart of the order and weak bats from the rest of the lineup, along with undistinguished, but passable pitching.  In August, the team that I had imagined finally appeared.

Except where noted, all statistics are for the month of August only.

Record:

12–15 (.444) for August – ending the month at 63–71 (.470) for the season.

Pythagorean Record:

12–15 (3.74 R/G – 4.26 RA/G).

MVP for August:

Ryan Zimmerman (.333/.377/.562, 27 G, 114 PA, 5 HR, 15 R, 17 RBI, 155 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR).  His defense allowed him to edge out Michael Morse (.333/.405/.606).

Most valuable starting pitcher:

None of the Nats’ starters had a really good month.  I’m going to give the award to Jordan Zimmermann (2–2, 3.45 ERA, 5 G, 28-2/3 IP, 8.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9), even though he was fourth on the team in ERA for August. In this case, however, it’s illustrative of a problem with ERA—in August, 22.6% of the runs allowed by the Nats (26 of 115) were unearned. (In contrast, the major league average this season is 8.5% of all runs are unearned.) Unearned runs are not entirely the responsibility of fielders—pitchers bear at least some of the responsibility for allowing the baserunners to continue to advance and score and should be held responsible (at least in part) for unearned runs. If we look at (total) run average (including the unearned runs), Zimmermann led the staff – he also led in some of the sabermetric stats like “RE24”.  So he gets the award again this month. On the other hand, his August performance was nowhere near what he did in May and June.

Most valuable reliever:

Todd Coffey (1-0, 3.38 ERA, 12 G, 10-2/3 IP, 6.8 K/9, 0.8 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9, 0.56 WHIP, 0 of 4 inherited runners scored, 3 shutdowns, 0 meltdown). Tom Gorzelanny (1.80, 2 shutdowns, 1 meltdown) also received consideration; his 3-inning shutdown of the Phillies in the August 19 game that the Nats came back to win on Zim’s grand slam was especially notable.

Best start this month:

Chien-Ming Wang (August 9, 3–1 win over the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, 6 innings, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, Game score of 69).

Worst start:

Liván Hernández (August 6, 15–7 loss to Colorado in Denver, 3-2/3 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO, 2 HR, Game score of 11).

Best shutdown:

Tyler Clippard (August 5, 5–3 win over the Rockies in Denver). Clip was called in with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the sixth with the Nats ahead 4–3. He struck out Eric Young to end the inning. He came back to pitch a scoreless seventh and got two outs in the eighth when he allowed a single and Storen got the call for a four-out close. (Win probability added .324)

Worst meltdown:

Collin Balester (August 26, 4–3 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati). Called on to pitch the bottom of the ninth of a 3–3 tie, he started the inning with a groundout, then gave up three consecutive singles, allowing the Reds to walk off. (WPA –.360)

Clutch hit:

Ian Desmond (August 21,  5–4 win over the Phillies at home). The Nats were behind 4–3 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Desi stepped to the plate. With two strikes, he hit a game tying home run (WPA .489). The next inning, Jonny Gomes drove in the winning run with a walk-off hit by pitch. Honorable mention to Ryan Zimmerman for his walk-off grand slam against the Phils on August 19 (WPA .344).

Choke:

Wilson Ramos (August 17, 2–1 loss to the Reds at home). The bottom of the ninth, the Nats down by one, the bases loaded, one out, and Ramos grounds into a game-ending double play (WPA –.530).

Likely to cool off:

Todd Coffey – His batting average allowed on balls in play of .143 for August is not sustainable.

Likely to warm up:

Laynce Nix – In a bit of a slump in August with a BABIP for August of .222, which should rise if he can get healthy again.

Bryce Harper watch:

Hit .286/.368/.510 for Class AA Harrisburg in 14 games in August, before ending the month on the DL.

Stephen Strasburg watch:

He pitched five minor league rehab starts during August and is scheduled to return to the Nats and pitch on September 6.

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