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.
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.
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.