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September 21, 2016 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ August in review: Make sure you keep that lead

I apologize for posting this so late. I had it mostly finished before the end of August, but then I was traveling in early September and didn’t get it finished, and haven’t been motivated to finally finish it up. I hope a few readers still find it interesting.

August began with the Nats 17 games over .500, holding a 4 game lead in their division over the Marlins. Fangraphs showed their probability of winning their division at 88.4%. After going 17–11 in August, the Nats finished the month 23 games over .500 and with a 9-game lead over the Mets (and an 11-game lead over the faltering Marlins). Their probability of winning the division had soared to 99.8%. By mid-month, Harper Gordek of the Nationals Baseball blog had alteready called the division for the Nats.

The month began auspiciously with the Nats finishing a western road trip with a series against the Diamondbacks, which they swept. Returning home, they took two of three against the Giants. Ryan Zimmerman went on the disabled list with a wrist contusion suffered when he was hit by a pitch on the last day of July. Continuing the home stand, the Nats split two games with the Indians, then took two of three against the Braves. Bryce Harper was out of the lineup for a week with a stiff neck during the latter part of the home stand, following a stretch of very poor hitting. Near the end of the home stand, the Nats released former closer Jonathan Papelbon.

With three days off during the first 11 days of the month, the Nats schedule seemed pretty easy, but the remainder of the month would feature a 20-day stretch without a day off.

The Nats’ next road trip began with three games against the Rockies in Colorado. The Nats scored 17 runs but gave up 22 in the series, and lost two of the three games. Needless to say, the bullpen got used a lot, and Sammy Solis went on the DL. Next came a 4-game set against Braves, which the Nats won three games to one. Zimmerman and Jose Lobaton returned from their DL stints. The road trip finished near home with two games in Baltimore, and the Orioles won both games. Stephen Strasburg went on the DL with “right elbow soreness,” though the front office hinted that it was more a chance for him to rest after some rough starts.

These were followed by two games against the Orioles in Washington, which the Nats split. In a trade with the Oakland A’s, the Nats acquired left-handed relief pitcher Marc Rzepczynski. The Nats then hosted the Rockies for three games, winning the first game and losing the last two. The month ended in Philadelphia, where the Nats swept a three-game series with the Phillies.

The Nats’ offense excelled in August. Their 157 runs scored ranked second in the National League, and their weighted runs created (wRC+) of 109 ranked third. Led by Trea Turner, they ranked second in the league in FanGraph’s measure of baserunning (BsR).

The starting pitching also did well, ranking third in the National League in ERA adjusted for ballpark (ERA–) with 98 and second in adjusted fielding independent pitching (FIP–) with 95. The relief pitching was the problem area; the Nats’ relievers ranked seventh in RE24 (–2.73), seventh in ERA– (100), and ninth in FIP– (99).

Record:

17–11 (.607)

Pythagorean Record:

17–11 (5.64 R/G – 4.61 RA/G)

August MVP:

Trea Turner (.357/.366/.571, 27 G, 5 HR, 27 R, 15 RBI, 11 SB, 1.4 fWAR). Honorable mention goes to Anthony Rendon (.324/.390/.539, 1.3 fWAR).

Most valuable starting pitcher:

Tanner Roark (4–1, 2.79 RA/9, 6 G, 38-2/3 IP, 6.1 K/9, .325 opp OBP, 1.3 RA9-WAR). Honorable mention goes to Max Scherzer (4–1, 3.27 RA/9, 1.1 RA9-WAR).

Most valuable relief pitcher:

Mark Melancon (0–0, 0.66 RA/9, 15 G, 13-2/3 IP, 9.2 K/9, .204 opp OBP, 3.00 RE24, 0.7 RA9-WAR, 6 shutdowns, 0 meltdown).

Worst month:

Stephen Strasburg (1–3, 10.19 RA/9, 4 G, 17-2/3 IP, 12.2 K/9, .402 opp OBP, –0.7 RA9-WAR) went on the disabled list after three consecutive poor performances.

Best start this month:

Max Scherzer (August 25, 4–0 win over the Orioles at home) got 10 strikeouts in 8 scoreless innings, allowing 2 hits and no walks, for a game score of 88.

Worst start:

Stephen Strasburg (August 17, 12–10 loss to the Rockies in Colorado) gave up 9 runs on 9 hits in 1-2/3 innings, with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts (game score 1).

Tough losses:

  • Max Scherzer (August 9, 3–1 loss to the Indians at home) gave up 2 runs (of which only 1 was earned) on 3 hits and 1 walk with 10 strikeouts in 7 innings (game score 74).
  • AJ Cole (August 22, 4–3 loss to the Orioles in Baltimore) gave up 4 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks with 8 strikeouts in 7 innings (game score 57).

Cheap wins: 

  • Gio Gonzalez (August 10, 7–4 win over the Indians at home) gave up 4 runs on 7 hits and 1 walk with 5 strikeouts in 5 innings (game score 41).
  • Max Scherzer (August 20, 11–9 win over the Braves in Atlanta) gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks with 6 strikeouts in 6-1/3 innings (game score 48).

Best shutdown: 

Blake Treinen (August 21, 7–6 loss to the Braves in Atlanta in 10 innings). Treinen pitched the eighth and ninth innings without giving up a run or a hit, allowing one walk. (Win probability added .334).

Worst meltdown:

Yusmeiro Petit (August 27, 9–4 loss to the Rockies at home). Asked to pitch in the top of the 11th inning of a tie game, and with no one available in the bullpen to bail him out, Petit gave up 5 runs on 7 hits including 2 homers.

Clutch hit:

Jayson Werth (August 27, 9–4 loss to the Rockies at home in 11 innings). With two out in the bottom of the 9th, with the Nats trailing 4–3, Werth homered to send the game to extra innings.(WPA .466). Unfortunately, Petit allowed five Rockies runs in the 11th.

Choke:

Ryan Zimmerman (August 24, 10–8 loss to the Orioles at home. The Nats entered the bottom of the 9th trailing 10–3. But after a grand slam by Daniel Murphy and an RBI double by Anthony Rendon, the Nats had runners on first and second with only one out, and an impossible comeback now seemed possible. But Zimmerman grounded into a game ending double play, ending the hope for a most remarkable comeback (WPA –.191).

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