Nationals Baseball: Back to where they started

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Back to where they started

This isn't necessarily as bad as it looks. No, the Braves won't lose the series to the Marlins but they do have a four gamer with the Reds coming up. That could go badly for them and only one more win before the All-Star break isn't crazy to hope for. As for the Nats, if they can sneak by Lee tonight, they finish the first "half" with 4 easily winnable games.They could get back to the 4 games out level I was hoping for by the All-Star break.


After getting as close as a half-game out in mid-May, the Nats had fallen to 4.5 games behind over the course of 4 straight games. The Nats would fall a game further out by the start of June and would spend the entire month at least 5 out. Getting back to 4 games out was a psychological hurdle for everyone. This wasn't the middling team from June. It was already closer than that team ever was. This was a team that was going to make up ground. It already made up a half-game from that early season debacle. To watch it slip away so quickly is.. confidence killing.

But that's the sport right? You can lose 4 games of ground in four days and think your season is doomed, then gain back those 4 games in 4 days and think you are on the way to a title. We'll look back again when we get to the break.

Dan Haren

So did Haren do anything differently? Yes. A couple things. Of course any singular game worth of data is kind of suspect unless something jumps out at you (like Haren throwing 5 times as many curves against the Rockies as he usually does), but here's what the data said

Dan's split was the slowest it has ever been.  The Post story noted this and it bares out in the numbers. He had been usually between 83.5 MPH and 85.5 with it. Monday it was under 83. We mentioned his issues with similar velocity to his pitches before and I think that curveball party was in response to those concerns. It is by far his slowest pitch. Thing is I don't think Dan necessarily likes/trusts his curve. He does throw a splitter far more often so if he can keep it effective and just take a little bit off, it should mix better. 

Dan threw more sinkers than he normally does. Brooks Baseball has him throwing it 41 times. It's not necessarily an unusual number - he's been in the mid 30s before.  He was never dominant in those games, but like Monday night he was homer sparse in (1HR in the 4 games he threw 30+ sinkers) those games which keeps him from being bombed early at least. 

Dan kept the ball out of the top part of the zone. If you can imagine the strike zone, split up into nine little squares Dan had an issue throwing too many balls in that top part. 8.06% in the top three, 14.81% in the middle three. Monday night he threw in those spaces 5.27% and 9.48% of the times, respectively.  This is almost certainly related to the higher number of sinkers thrown and possibly with the slower splitter.

So in the end Dan saw the fewest percentage of fly balls hit against him all year. 26.7%. Some games he had been as high as 66.7%.

This isn't a universal key to success. Some guys can live blowing the ball by guys up in the zone, or fooling them into lazy fly balls. But based on his past work, Dan had been giving up too many flyballs and was getting them crushed enough to matter. The increase in sinkers and the working away from up in the strike zone will help curtail that issue. Will this make him an effective pitcher though? Let's see what happens next week.

The offense?

No clue. Well not really no clue. The power is out. Did you know they manage to score 32 runs over those 4 games with only 8 XBH? Even though their batting average is great looking at the past week, their isoSLG (SLG with the singles cut out) was only .110, which for the season would put them 15th out of 16 NL teams.

In the two game 23 run burst just before that 4 game stretch they had 17 XBH. The Nats have had one 3 XBH hit game since then (July 1st) and nothing better. You can still score that way, but you need a lot of walks and/or timely hits.  The Nats were walking but it's not their strong suit.

Let's see some pop boys.


Kenny B. said...

The Nats are still inconsistent to a maddening degree. I don't see that changing after the ASB, and I still think we will be middling around .500 for the rest of the season. We seem to have caught an allergy to success that kicks in anytime a win streak starts to develop. We may get to within 3 games of first at some point, but the allergy will kick in and soon the Nats will be fending off the Phillies in a fight to stay out of third place. That's the story all season so far, and I don't know what could change at the ASB to create a sudden change from the status quo.

Also, 16 NL teams?

Miles Treacy said...

I like Rendon in that 2 spot. It was all good to joke Davey solved the offense against SD by putting Desi there, but I like Rendon's ABs for a 2 spot a lot more than Desi. Rendon is a lot more selective and swings and better pitches.

Erich said...

Great post, Harper.

On Haren, it's almost as if he might be just successful enough for the team not to try and make a big deal for a starter. In part, I'm sure it's his salary, but I have no confidence in him. It's like the best case scenario is giving up 3-4 runs a game. There's never a chance for him to put up a solid game and give up only 1 or 2. But what can you do? The offense could have showed up in either of the last two games and the starting pitching problem wouldn't seem like such an issue.

Froggy said...

Great analysis Harper, and really do appreciate you looking for something positive with Haren, but it is like pointing out how the arterial blood flows less quickly out of a body after losing 4 of 6 liters. 'Yep, looks like the patient is not spewing blood out of the top portion of the artery anymore...good news!'.

Bottom line is the Nats have lost the last 9 games in a row that Haren has pitched.

As to your first point, I do hope we can gain a split with the Phillies and maybe be at 3 or 4 out at the ASB. I like Hairston in the lineup and think the offense is due to return tonight.

Last thing, although I love Bryce and he might love playing CF, he clearly is not as good a CF as Span. There were a couple balls that he didn't take good routes to that I feel Span would have got to last night.

Harper said...

Kenny B - I still think it will come together. There's a 11 in 15 run coming. Just don't know when and if it'll be enough.

Also, It's not 2012 anymore? can I stop listening to Call me Maybe now?

MT - Desmond at 2nd doesn't bother me as much as Rendon 7th while Span is at 1st. Not optimal (for all that it really matters)

Erich - I think he'll have those 1-2 run games but as a function of luck rather than skill 3-4 in 5-6 is going to be his usual ceiling until I see something else.

Froggy - I know you are focused on the Ls but it's just a bad predictor of what's to come. Of course what we would predict is something like 4 wins in the next 9? 3? So if you want an improvement here's a spot.

The problem with scoring a bunch tonight is CLIFF LEE is pitching. As much as I say "let it play out" the Nats really didn't want to enter tonight needing a win.

Yeah, bryce isn't span. Span has been very good.

Ollie said...

How likely is a positive regression to the mean by the offense? I read *gasp* another blog (Federal Baseball) and took interest in this paragraph, given how much the Nats' hitting against LH pitching has been bemoaned this season:

"On the year, however, Zimmerman has a .291/.404/.494 line against LHP. Werth has a .273/.344/.491 line vs lefties. Ian Desmond, who was 1 for 4 last night, has a .272/.318/.469 line vs left-handers. Adam LaRoche? LaRoche has a .246/.301/.437 line against lefties in his career. This season it's down to .193/.253/.337. Denard Span, who has a .278/.358/.373 career line against left-handers, has a .154/.222/.176 line vs lefties this year. Bryce Harper, who had a .240/.300/.415 line vs lefties in his rookie campaign in 2012, has a .196/.313/.333 line vs LHP this year."

Seems like several guys have underperformed in this area and _could_ improve in the second half.

With Haren shaky and Detwiler banged up, who might be available on the SP trade market that makes sense for them? Would love to see Garza here (as apparently would Rizzo) but his price will likely be too high. I suspect Price will be as well since he's under team control another year (and the market for him would be competitive as well. What about Travis Wood, Bud Norris, or someone else lower on the radar? I totally see a realistic scenario where this team sneaks into the playoffs and manages a run due to their pitching, but they seem to need an extra shot in the arm (more than a Hairston brother) to carry them through the second half.

Quentin said...

This is cool!