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August 1, 2014 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ July in review: We want to finish strong

For the first three weeks of July, the Nats regulars were all healthy and the team played really well, going 11–5. After Ryan Zimmerman suffered a “Grade 3” hamstring on July 22, however, and went on the disabled list, the Nats finished the month 3–5. Nevertheless, the Nats’ 14–10 record for the month allowed them to take the lead in the division from the Braves. The Nats finished the month with a 58–48 record, 1-1/2 games ahead of the Braves and 6 games ahead of the Marlins.

The Nats’ began the month at home, finishing the final 2 games of a series against the Rockies. They won both games. The Cubs then came to town, and the Nats took 2 of 3. Next the played one game at home against the Orioles, which they lost; the other game was rained out. Then they moved to Baltimore to play 2 more games and split that series. Next they then traveled to Philadelphia, where they took 2 of 3 against the Phillies just before the All Star break.

Initially only one Nat was selected to the All Star team, Jordan Zimmermann, but he dropped out after suffering a bicep strain in his last outing before the game. Tyler Clippard was named to the All Star team as a replacement player. In the game, he faced 2 batters and retired both of them. Fortunately, Zimmermann’s bicep strain was not serious and he avoided a trip to the DL.

After the break, the Nats opened with a series against the Brewers at home, which they won, 2 games to 1. Next came a road trip that started in Denver against the Rockies and then moved on to Cincinnati. The Nats took 2 games of 3 against both the Rockies and the Reds. The game they lost in Cincinnati was an epic pitching duel between Johnny Cueto and Gio Gonzalez, which the Nats lost by the score of 1–0. They finished the road trip in Miami, where the Nats gave up a 6–0 lead in the opener, as the bullpen imploded and the Marlins won 7–6 in the bottom of the ninth. They also lost the second game, before avoiding a sweep by winning the final game. The last game of the month was at home against the Phillies, and the Nats lost 10–4. The Nats also ended the month with a trade deadline deal of Zach Walters for Asdrubal Cabrera, giving the Nats an infielder who could play second base while Zimmerman is out.

With the full lineup intact for the first three weeks, the team’s offense improved in July. The Nats were tied for 3rd in the National League in runs scored in July with 111 and 4th in weighted runs created relative to league (wRC+) with 103 (that is, they created 3% more runs than the average team, taking account of park effects and quality of the league).

The starting pitching continued to be excellent. The starters’ ERA– (earned run average adjusted for park and league quality) was 83 in July (that is, 17% better than average), the second best in the NL. On the other hand, the relievers’ ERA– was 130 in July, which was next-to-last in the NL, but their fielding independent pitching (FIP–) of 89 was a more respectable 6th in the NL.

Record:

14-10 (.583)

Pythagorean Record:

15-9 (4.63 R/G – 3.67 RA/G)

Playoff odds at the end of the month:

Baseball Prospectus:  74.8% for Division championship, 85.5% for playoffs

FanGraphs (projection mode): 78.2% for Division, 90.8% for playoffs

FanGraphs (season-to-date mode): 67.4% for Division, 80.8% for playoffs

July MVP:

Jayson Werth (.337/.446/.687, 24 G, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 1.6 fWAR).

Most valuable starting pitcher:

Tanner Roark (4-1, 2.06 RA/9, 5 G, 35 IP, 6.4 H/9, 7.5 K/9, 1.2 rWAR).

Most valuable relief pitcher:

Tyler Clippard (1-0, 1.00 RA/9, 9 G, 9 IP, 7.0 H/9, 12.0 K/9, 3.13 RE24, 0.4 rWAR).

Worst month:

Adam LaRoche (.159/ .238/ .227, 24 G, 1 HR, –0.9 fWAR).

 

Best start this month:

Gio Gonzalez (July 5, 13–0 win over the Cubs in Washington) pitched 8 scoreless innings, giving up only 4 hits and 1 walk while striking out 7, for a game score of 80.

Worst start:

Gio Gonzalez (July 31, 10–4 loss to the Phillies in Washington) gave up 8 hits, 5 runs, and 1 walk in 3-2/3 innings, while getting 2 K and a game score of 26.

Tough losses:

  • Gio Gonzalez (July 10, 4–3 loss to the Orioles in Baltimore) gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits and 3 walks with 7 strikeouts in 6-2/3 innings (game score 52).
  • Stephen Strasburg (July 18, 4–2 loss to the Brewers in Washington) gave up 4 runs on 7 hits and 1 walk with 9 strikeouts in 7 innings (game score 55).
  • Gio Gonzalez (July 26, 1–0 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati) gave up 1 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks with 8 strikeouts in 7 innings (game score 71).
  • Stephen Strasburg (July 29, 3–0 loss to the Marlins in Miami) gave up 1 run on 4 hits and 2 walks with 4 strikeouts in 7 innings (game score 67).

Cheap win: 

  • Doug Fister (July 21, 7–2 win over the Rockies in Colorado) gave up 2 runs on 9 hits and 2 walks with 4 strikeouts in 5-2/3 innings (game score 45).

Best shutdown:

Rafael Soriano (July 6, 2–1 win over the Cubs at home) pitched the 9th inning in a one-run ball game. He faced Ruggiano, Rizzo, and Castro and retired them in order for the save. (Win probability added .151).

Worst meltdown:

Rafael Soriano (July 28, 7–6 loss to the Marlins in Miami). Soriano entered the 9th with a 6–3 lead. McGehee led off and Soriano walked him, then gave up a double to Jones and a single to Ozuna (scoring McGehee). Saltalamacchia hit a sacrifice fly for the first run, scoring Jones and making it a one-run game. After a wild pitch advanced Ozuna to second, Hechevarria hit a triple to tie the game. Soriano then hit the next batter, Solano, and was finally lifted from the game with only one out, the score tied, and runners on first and third (Win probability added –.784) Jerry Blevins came in and struck out Yelich before giving up the walk-off hit to Jeff Baker.

Clutch hit:

Jayson Werth (July 20, 5–4 win over the Brewers in Washington). With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, the score was tied 4–4 and Anthony Rendon was on first when Werth came to bat. Werth lined a double down the left field line, driving in Rendon for the walk-off win (WPA .440).

Choke:

Ian Desmond (July 26, 1–0 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati). In the top of the 9th, Desmond was on first base, having led off the inning with a walk, when he attempted to steal second. He was thrown out, killing the Nats’ effort to mount a rally against Aroldis Chapman (WPA –.182).

 

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