Nationals Baseball: Tuesday Quickie

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday Quickie

The Nats continue on hurtling through the season like an unimpressive comet hurtling through space. They can't seem to get traction, but they have to much talent to simply fade away. They won 2 of 3 from the Phillies, which is what they should have done. They should win 2 of 4 from the Orioles, we'll see, and then go 1-2 vs the Braves.

This sounds like treading water and it is, but that's what happens when a good team plays a team that's as good or better. The Nats are no longer 100 win challengers and the expectations have to change with that. It doesn't mean we won't expect the Nats to win more than they lose, they should go 5-1 over the Mets/Twins stretch, but that they'll lose only a little less than half the time as they inch back toward a 90 win pace.

Again, how did this happen? Well to sum up the last few weeks of columns - the hitting has been disappointing through a combination of injuries and a bench that has come back to Earth with such force it killed the dinosaurs. The pitching is still good, even very good, but it's not "best in the league great", and thus can't carry this disappointing offense. There's hope that it'll change but the Nats need everyone healthy in the lineup and everyone who can't get healthy replaced.

We can keep talking about this over and over but we all know where it stands. Fix the bench (get rid of Moore and/or Tracy and try something new), decide on what to do with Espy (if he can't get healthy enough to hit, you have to DL him and try something else - this offense can't carry an automatic out), make doubly sure that Bryce & Werth are healthy when they return and ready to play for the rest of the year, hopefully.

What's up with Drew?

Drew Storen was pretty unlucky the first month of the year. He didn't pitch all that bad but the hits had eyes and he gave up a couple poorly timed big ones and up went the ERA.  In May though he's just pitching badly.

His BABIP has dropped from a crazy .406 to a still pretty high .353. His LD% is up and his GB% is way up which is usually good, but I feel like he's getting hit harder. He's striking out far fewer batters (10.45 K/9 in April, 6.52 K/9 in May) and walking a bunch more (0.87 BB/9 to 3.72) His LOB rate which was at an unlucky 60.6% is not at a more normal 78.3% but his runs given up have still gone up because of all these extra men on base.

I haven't spent enough time digging through the pitch data but a cursory look does tell me that his "K" pitches, his slider and changeup are less effective in May and he's actually throwing them more. Trying to avoid contact after getting unlucky in April rather than trusting his stuff? Maybe. Again - we're drawing hypotheses here, not conclusions.

In an ideal world Drew's ERA would be inching up toward 4.00 and Nats fans would be saying "We gotta watch Drew, I don't like what I'm seeing and we can't afford for the bullpen to go bad, too".  But the world is not ideal. Drew didn't get to start with the 3.00 ERA he deserved so he doesn't have that leash. Nats fans should be patient with him. Really it is only one bad month of pitching that happened to get two bad months of results. But at this point I doubt anyone is feeling in a patient mood.


Anonymous said...

We are 30-45 days away from a Storen injury report. Seriously, does anything different ever happen in MLB? Pitcher with otherwise decent track record sees ERA climb into the 5's and ... voila! ... out comes the injury report.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Good stuff, Harper. I've had this nagging feeling every time Storen comes in, and I couldn't out my finger on it. I still can't, but that column helped. I think you're right, I think he isn't trusting his stuff because he got beat up in April. Same reason I think Strasburg isn't throwing nearly enough first pitch strikes.

Totally off the subject... what's the actual statistical definition of a ground ball? Touches the ground on the infield grass? Touches the ground before the base path? Touches the ground before the outfield grass?

Harper said...

Anon - maybe... assuming he doesn't pitch better. That is always the way if only because it allows you to evaluate an injury away from the game and frees up a spot for someone who can pitch.

BS - You know, I don't know and I couldn't easily find it. I'd imagine it would have to be "touches infield grass" but I couldn't tell you for sure. It is, on some level, subjective, but I'd imagine close calls aren't regular occurances. It's usually pretty clear. I'd imagine the most problems are with LD vs FBs not vs GBs.

Booyah Suckah! said...

True. I'm just thinking of maybe a hard-hit shot that sneaks through a gap, but touches down on the infield dirt and skates into the outfield on the ground. Not really a LD, but it was still in the air when it passed a diving infielder.

It's not particularly important either way, I was just curious what the statistician's definition might be. Unlike hit vs. error (which is clearly subjective), you'd think there'd be some sort of definition. But you're right, LD vs. FB must be tough... very subjective. I guess the moral of the story is that even stats can be misleading.

Kenny B. said...

Yup. Struggling offense gets injured, struggles even more. We've got Werth, Harper, Ramos, and Espinosa all not playing regularly, leaving basically Desmond, Zimmerman and LaRoche as the only guys in there we've come to expect much out of.

Meanwhile, Stras and Gio are inconsistent (though Stras seems to be getting in the groove), Haren is completely schizophrenic, and Detwiler is injured.

The result of all this is that you can't watch a game without your hands over your eyes for a pretty substantial portion.

Froggy said...

Geezus...what a 2010 lineup we have these days.

Ok, who is Nate Karns? I mean, what do we know about him...good stuff?

Harper said...

BS - they do seem fairly consistent though - while it's impt to know bias for overall analysis, there isn't enough discrepency to turn a FB guy into a GB guy or make a guy getting hit hard with a lot of LDs look better.

KB - Over the past month the Nats were a two-bat team, LaRoche and Zimm. Span and Lombo are picking up but all the do is hit singles so they aren't getting on base enough.

Sneaky bad the past month : Ian Desmond. Really check out his splits.

Froggy : I'd just be repeating what I read here so why not link it?

Miles Treacy said...

If Karns comes up and gets 2-3 starts and impresses, and Haren continues to be completely unpredictable, do you see Karns staying up and Haren headed to the pen at all? I'm sure Rizzo won't put a $13mil/year starter in the pen, but just a thought.

Froggy said...

Two rookie pitchers = homerun derby. Yowza! Fun game to watch.

Karns looked pretty good against a very good hitting team. You could tell he had the jitters early but settled down nicely until the fifth and then started leaving them up in the zone. Looked like a lively FB in the upper 90's and a decent change up. All in all, I was impressed and as Davey said post game he earned another go round on Sunday.

Reason to be excited, we'll see on Sunday.

blovy8 said...

Went to the game last night, and both AA guys looked like they weren't quite ready, but Karns located his pitches enough to get by. Knowing Stammen probably wasn't going to be there for the middle innings worried me, but Duke was ok. Normally, giving back the three run lead like that would be pretty miserable. But I guess Gausman was rushed up a bit soon and he really didn't like throwing anything but #1 too much.
There was a point where he got two quick strikes on Moore, and I was grousing to my Orioles fan friend that they didn't need to throw him a strike, and just as I'm saying that Gausman lays in a fat one that Moore nails for a homer. Blind squirrel receives acorn I suppose.

I also noted that Desmond was ice cold too. I think his average has dropped fifty points in a couple of weeks.

Karns throws a pretty easy 94-95, and that was nice to see, but I don't think he's a savior given his minors numbers. Still, the Orioles put out a pretty good lineup right now.

BenDen said...

@Blovy - Agreed with all points. I was at the game as well.

Desi was showing some maturity in the early season, going a bit deeper into his counts. Now it seems he's back to fouling/grounding/flying the first pitch, even when he doesn't need to. Might say he's always done this and his average will come back around and maybe so. But I really liked the way he looked about 2 weeks ago.

Tyler Moore was waiting for a matchup like Gausman. 97 4-seamer with only a change-up that's big league ready? You better believe Tyler's sitting on that change up with 2 strikes. Got it inner half and launched it. Unfortunately I think it speaks more to that particular matchup than Moore's progression, as I expect to see him waiving at curves in the dirt again tonight.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Blovy, one thing I've noticed about Desi lately (and it could just be me noticing it more) is it seems like he's flying out a TON more than usual. And more than that, it seems like he's popping out a ton. His IF/FB is up a little from last year (17% vs 14%) but his GB/FB is waaaaay down. Just a failure to recognize the top edge of the strike zone? Impatience? Beats me... but I think he'll fix it. Cold streak, nothing more... one hopes.