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August 5, 2012 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ July in review

July was the month when the Nats’ bats came alive—they ranked second in the NL in runs scored. The pitching, on the other hand, was more of a mixed bag as the starters continued to be solid, but the relievers ranked only 12th in the league in RE24 (a measure of runs attributable to a pitcher that is more accurate than earned runs).

The month began with an 8–4 victory in Atlanta. Returning to Washington, the Nats swept the NL West-leading Giants over the Independence Day holiday, but then lost two of three against the Rockies before the All-Star break. The team was represented at the midsummer classic by Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Bryce Harper, with Ian Desmond skipping the game to rest his oblique strain.

After the break, the Nats split a four-game series against the Marlins in Miami. Returning home, they won two of three against the Mets, then split a four-game series with the Braves. The first game of the Braves series was traumatic, when the Nats blew a nine-run lead as the bullpen imploded, but the Nats came back to win the last two games.

Going on the road, the Nats swept a three game series against the Mets, then won three of four against the Brewers. The month ended at home with an 8–0 loss to the Phillies, with Strasburg pitching the worst start of his young career. The Nats finished July in first place, 2-1/2 games ahead of the Braves (who were also red hot during July). According to coolstandings.com, the Nats’ playoff odds were 87.3%.

Record:

17–9 (.654)

Pythagorean Record:

16–10 (5.08 R/G – 3.92 RA/G)

MVP for July:

Ryan Zimmerman (.366/.434/.752, 25 G, 113 PA, 10 HR, 26 R, 24 RBI, 2.1 fWAR, 1.33 WPA, 16.13 RE24). He led the NL in slugging, runs, RBIs, and fWAR for the month.

Most valuable starting pitcher:

Jordan Zimmermann (4–0, 1.22 R/9, 6 G, 37 IP, 7.5 K/9, 1.0 BB/9, 11.25 RE24, 1.9 rWAR). Zimmermann led the majors in R/9 and RE24 for the month and was named the NL Pitcher of the Month.

Most valuable reliever:

The last two awards were easy, but this one is tough—I’m tempted to throw up my hands and say that none of the relievers deserve the award. But I’ll reluctantly give it to Tom Gorzelanny (1-1, 3.27 R/9, 7 G, 11 IP, 6.5 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 7.4 H/9, 1.68 RE24, –0.05 WPA, 0 of 2 inherited runner scored, 3 shutdowns, 1 meltdown).

Best start this month:

Stephen Strasburg (July 25, 5–2 win over the Mets in New York). Strasburg went 7 innings and got the win, giving up 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, getting 11 K and a game score of 76.

Worst start:

Gio Gonzalez (July 19, 9–5 loss to the Mets at home, 3-1/3 IP, 6 H, 2 HR, 6 R, 3 BB, 2 K, game score of 23). Strasburg is a close runner up with his July 31 6-run, 4 IP outing against the Phillies (game score of 24).

Best shutdown:

Mike Gonzalez (July 8, 4–3 loss to the Rockies at home). I guess this is symptomatic of the sorry state of the bullpen this month that the best shutdown wasn’t even that good. Gonzalez relieved Sean Burnett in the top of the eighth with no outs, runners on first and third and a 3–2 lead. He immediately threw a wild pitch and allowed the tying run to score. But he then got three struck out Carlos Gonzalez, Tyler Colvin, and Todd Helton to get out of the inning (Win probability added .145). The next inning, Tyler Clippard gave up the lead and the Nats lost.

Worst meltdown:

Tyler Clippard (July 17, 5–4 win over the Mets at home) entered in the top of the ninth with a 2–0 lead, then gave up singles to Josh Thole and David Wright, followed by a home run to Jordany Valdespin, before finally getting out of the inning with the Nats trailing 3–2 (Win probability added –.761). Nats tied it in the bottom of the ninth, and I’ll tell the rest of the story in the next entry.

Clutch hit:

Bryce Harper (July 17, 5–4 win over the Mets at home). In the top of the tenth, the Mets took a 4–3 lead. In the bottom of the inning, with Jhonatan Solano on second and one out, Harper tripled to tie the game (Win proability added .558). Then both  Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond were intentionally walked to load the bases, and Adam LaRoche reached on a fielder’s choice, with Harper out at home. Finally, Pedro Beato uncorked a walk-off wild pitch, with Zimmerman coming home to score the winning run.

Choke:

Tyler Moore (July 17, same game) came up in the bottom of the ninth with one out, the Nats down 3–2, and runners on first and third and struck out (WPA –.257). All was not lost, as the next batter, Danny Espinosa, singled to tie the game and send it to extra innings.

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