Nationals Baseball: Pitching Pitching Pitching

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pitching Pitching Pitching

Oh I know Zimm is back and the offense has exploded the last two nights. The offense though, isn't the reason the Nats are winners of their last 5 games, 7 of 10, 10 of their last 15 and 11-8 in their last 19. It's the pitching. The Nats have allowed the following run totals in their last 11 wins.


and in their last 8 losses


The short of it is when the Nats pitching is average the Nats tend to lose. That may be different now with the Return of Zimm, but it's not that different. They need great pitching to be a good team. They've been getting it.

In the past two weeks tonight's pitcher, John Lannan, has allowed opponents to hit with an OPS of .625. That's good. It's like the opposing team has been a bunch of 2010 Pudges in his last 2 games. During that same span John Lannan is the 4th WORST pitcher on the Nats by that stat. Only Slaten, Maya, and Burnett have let opponents do better. ZNN and Marquis have been great. The bullpen has been a little wild but unhittable. Clippard has been brilliant (and really should be the Nats All-Star. If you are going to have a league where set-up men and middle relievers are important than guys like Clip have to be acknowledged.)

The pitching staff isn't this good. The average BABIP in the NL is going to be around .300. You got 5 key guys with BABIPs under .220 in the past 2 weeks. Clippard's is .000 (the only hit he's allowed was a HR). The team number is .246, in the .220s in the past 7 days. These numbers will come back to earth. How far back they fall will determine if this team can make a run at .500, or start slowly fading once again.


Bryan said...

Parade rainer!

Seriously, though, I don't think anyone really believes that Nats are the Nats we are seeing over the last 5, or 10 or 15 games. It's been fun, but this team isn't going to win at a .700 clip for long.

I don't think the offensive explosion timed right with Zimm's return is coincidence. I think its weather (its getting nicer and hotter) and having Zimm back. It's like how the Phils have started to hit since getting Utley back.

So.... improved offense, plus a minor drop off in pitching... equals right about where we are now.

Having said that, I think ZNN is maybe showing he is better than average and his numbers may stick.

DCNatty said...

What do you think of Morse? this is longer then a little hot streak...its like a month long streak. Ive talked trash on him before, but im becoming a believer (or bandwagoner). Hes 1B has been impressive too, looking past the fact he always makes the pitcher cover.

Harper said...

Bryan- A team is never as bad as the are when they are losing and never as good as they are when they are winning. And dammit if I won't prove that in column form.

I was going to mention that ZNN's BABIP is low (.250) but not crazy so. Everything looks good right now for him.

DCNatty - What do I think? the Babip (at like .400 since he got hot) just screams holding off on getting excited. My best guess is that the power is real but the average isn't. we'll see a guy with stats a lot like last years when it comes down to it. Which isn't a bad thing.

Bryan said...

Harper - DCNatty - considering what we gave up for Morse (Langerhauns, correct?), I'm very, very OK if Morse is a .290 plus some power. And if .290ish is his "norm," then .300 isn't all that far out of the ordinary.

Hoo said...

Morse was traded straight up for the Langer, which turned out to be gold for the Nats. Morse probably isn't a .300 but .280 to .90 with 20+ HR power is a realistic frame. He's a rich man's Willingham: Higher average, younger and healthier.

Nats aren't a .700 team but we may be closer to .500 than we thought. And while the starting pitching will fall back, I don't think we'll see ERAs closer to 5 than 4. And that can be a recipe for winning ball.

Furthermore, if you expect someone like Morse to cool (and surely he'll will), can't we expect Werth/Espi to do better? So even as nix/Morse cool, 3 other bats will be better: Werth, 3rd base and Espinosa.

Harper said...

Hoo - I wouldn't start comparing him to Willingham until he repeats this for a few seasons. Sure you can say he's been hitting like this since '08 but even going back that far he has just now reached a number of PAs that would constitute a full season.

I think we can expect slight improvements to both Werth and Espinosa, but the cooling of Nix/Morse should be more driving. Zimm should tip the scales for offensive improvement

Wally said...

My take on Morse is that of course he'll cool off, we don't exactly know to what, but that he is more than a platoon guy. And he looks good at 1B, although I think he is benefiting from most of us having pretty low expectations of him going in.

And I'll say this for Morse - he is one happy camper. Kind of refreshing to see him on the post game interviews with Ray Knight. Ray turning beet red trying to get out an entire sentence, and Morse just sitting there unable to keep from smiling. Makes me smile too.

Can I suggest that a blog post about Desmond's defense is in order? The guy's entire history is as an error machine, including the beginning of this year when he was making errors at his highest rate ever, and then on May 4th, the proverbial light bulb went on and since then, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Almost 40 games of solid D. Has this ever happened before?

PEDs? Santeria? Am I actually asleep?

Kenny B. said...

I'm kind of a neophyte to the advanced stats like BABIP, but can't the pitching rotation's lower BABIP be attributed to outstanding defense? I mean, there's no reason an outstanding defensive team (which the Nats have very suddenly and unexpectedly become) should revert all the way to the norm for BABIP.

Of course, that would mean that the defense would have to hold steady as it has lately, but once it's locked in, it seems defense isn't quite so fleeting as offense.

Harper said...

wally - You can suggest it... (I'm just not very interested in defense outside of a "this too" type of thing to think about when talking about a player)

Kenny B - certainly a team with a great D (and a staff geared toward the D's strength) can have a lower than average BABIP. It also helps to have a consistent staff (most pitchers that drive up the league average in BABIP aren't in the majors for long). So it doesn't have to jump to .300. But there's only been one team since the strike to have a BABIP under .278 (last year's Jays). You figure there's got to be a team that fit the good d criteria during that stretch.

Kenny B. said...

Just trying to keep optimistic! Thanks for the reply.

kick me in the GO NATS said...

I think you are underrating the defense which is a primary cause for that low BABIP. I agree that Clip has been very good, but Espinosa is the best player on the team not named Ryan. He is near the tops in baseball in defensive efficiency at a premium defensive position, and hitting home runs. Fangraphs gives him 2.2 Wins above replacement on the season which leads the team by a fair amount.

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