Nationals Baseball: Busy Busy Busy

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Busy Busy Busy

I always find the "quality start" idea absurd. 3 ER in 6IP translates into a 4.50 ERA which means you are praising pitchers for pitching like the best 5th starter in baseball.  Whoopee. bang zoom.

Give up 3 runs in 6 innings and it's very likely the other team will score at least 1 more, meaning your team will have to score 5 runs to win. Teams score 5 runs about 40% of the time so basically you are happy that your starter has decreased your chances of winning from the get go (almost certainly higher than 40% when game starts). Granted it's about accumulated games under this goal, but the goal is still way to broadly defined. 3 runs in 6 innings is not a quality start, certainly not in this day and age of decreased scoring.

Yesterday I set the base goal for Strasburg to be 2ER in 7IP and he hit that. (Arguably could have been 1 if not for Ramos' ill-advised throw to 2nd on the pitch in the dirt) This is a bit more than a quality start.  Pitching to an 2.57 ERA and making it less likely that extra run comes home (3 fewer outs for the opponent and unlikely to be working through bad relievers in only 2 innings) means your team can win with 3 (which teams score ~66% of the time) or 4 runs (~53%).  I think that makes a nice goal for a #1. He hit it. Team's fault the Nats lost. End of story.

Fun Fact to ruminate over

NO TEAM gets on base less often from the leadoff spot than the Nats. 


JWLumley said...

Strasburg pitched well, it was against a pretty bad lineup, but he pitched well. The Nats offense looks terrible, although Espinosa's swing from the right side still looks good and isn't nearly as long as his swing from the left side, there's just too many outs in the lineup. Right now, the Nats are only running out 2 guys with OBP's over .300 (Rendon and Werth), 3 on the days when Frandsen starts. That means that 7/9's of the Nats LOLineup make outs more than 70% of the time. Which means opposing starters can go deeper into games because they keep their pitch counts down, rallies are harder to build because the Nats are reliant on the bloop and a blast offense.

A .330 wOBA is about average for a big league hitter, the Nats currently have 2 regulars above that mark (Rendon and Werth) and only 5 total when you include the bench (Walters, Hairston & Dobbs aka the guys who have seen the fewest PA's) which means the Nats are running out a lineup with guys who are basically below league average in 3/4's of their lineup. I know Span should not be hitting in the leadoff spot, but who else would you put there right now? Frandsen maybe? This team needs to get healthy quick, and when they do it should mean no more Moore and Walters who are both 4A players. They also need Desmond to start hitting and Span to return to below average hitter from below replacement level hitter.

Todd Boss said...

Like the QS stat or not ... its actually a pretty good predictor of whether or not your team gets a win.

Honestly though I do agree that the quality start should really be 2 ER in 6ip as a bench mark. I used to try to track these "real quality starts" but it didn't show much beyond what we already could glean out of the QS figure.

Jordan Zimmerman in 2013: 32 starts, 21 quality starts, 19 wins. A simple cherry-picked example but also telling.

JWLumley said...

@Todd @Harper I realize it might be a bit more complicated and not as quick, but perhaps a better quality start stat would be a sliding scale, like 6 IP and 2 ER's is a quality start, but so is 8/9 IP and 3 ER's.

Miles Treacy said...

What do you see as a good leadoff scenario? Span is pretty frustrating in that spot. The weak grounders get old (although he did have a big hit late last night with 2 outs). Move a high OBP guy like Werth similar to what Davey did? Seems Werth is starting to get some power back with his wrist, so would stink to move him up that high with no one on, but late in games could come in handy.

Chaz R said...

I've been waiting for the Stras haters and nay sayers to come out on the blogs, but it's been oddly quiet.

What can you say about Det??? He just has not seemed to have found his footing out of the bullpen. That was a huge disappointment. I'm not blaming him for the loss, the Nats had chances to score more runs. But how can you toss up anything that might be hit for a HR at that point in the game? I really wished MW would have put Blevins in.

cass said...

I was there for all 15 innings last night. Pretty good baseball, despite the frustrations of not being able to score on Leake.

Painful to see two walk-off hits robbed by the Reds, but those were some spectacular fielding plays. Kudos to Phillips and Hamilton.

I liked how Strasburg escaped a jam in the second with tons of change-ups and a few curveballs. He seems to recognize that his change is his best pitch again. I know you can't throw it all the time, but it always seems to be his fastballs that get hit.

Billy Hamilton is really fun to watch, especially in person. The game is more exciting when he's involved. I was sitting down near third base, so my view of the pitcher also included him when he was on first. As I said - exciting.

Phillip Harmonic said...
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Phillip Harmonic said...

On my fantasy team, I much prefer QS to W, since QS is more within a pitcher's control than whether or not he gets the win.

I'm not saying that there couldn't be a better measure (maybe it should be a 3.00 ERA and at least 6 innings pitched). In 2012, 13% of quality starts had an ERA of 4.00 or greater, which I don't think is too bad, considering the inherent flaws with almost any baseball stat. so not many pitchers getting the QS are at that upper end of the "poor" quality start.

Clip&Store said...

2 earned over 7 IP and 4 K's with 6 hits allowed, 2 HBP's and a walk.....i mean its not BAD, its just nothing that great considering the lineup he was facing and all. Certainly good enough to win, but really nothing of note.

Bjd1207 said...

@Harper - While agree with the gist of the post, you took some ridiculous liberties in there. How come in the first scenario you assume one more run being scored and in the second you dont? Just because? "Very likely"?

Stop it

Christopher Stevenson said...

Two images for a great post title -


Harper said...


Going 6 instead of 7 opens up three things that make a rather large difference in scoring probabilities.

#1 - it allows for 3 more outs (50% more)to score runs.

#2 - it forces a manager (under current strategies) to use at least 3 relief pitchers, rather than at least 2 (assuming this is a close game)

#3 - it ensures the lineup will fully turn over meaning you will face the best hitters the other team has to offer. 2 innings does not guarantee that.

I feel fairly certain that that would noticeably increase the chances of a scored run.

Another way to look at it is that each inning represents a distinct chance on run scoring. Having a 3.00 ERA could be seen as each inning having a distinct 33% chance of scoring (WAY oversimplification but the point I'm trying to make in a second is very broad). That means your chance of NOT scoring a run in any inning would be about 66%. I ran the numbers like this using last years ERA for innings 7-9 and found that your chances for giving up no runs drops from 39% to under 23% by adding that extra inning. (so scoring a run would be happen around 77% of the time... "very likely" seems fair)

Like I said SUPER broad, plenty of flaws - this is better done with simulations - put it on my to do list. But I do believe the general trend is right and overall point is valid. Expecting to keep them scoreless for one inning is fair. For two is give or take. For three is not fair.

I'll also note that I didn't say they wouldn't score another run in the second scenario. Just that it can't be taken as a given. That's why I give times team scores 3 runs OR 4 runs (in case that run is scored).

JWLumley said...

@Chaz, not sure if I'm a Strasburg hater (I don't hate him), but Strasburg's biggest issue isn't in starts like yesterday, it's consistency. If he has 4 or 5 more starts like yesterday in a row, then come talk to me. But one good start against a punch and judy offense isn't anything to quell all fears about him not reaching his potential.

The "potential" question is really what makes Strasburg so maddening to me. Like Mike Schmidt said, "How does anyone ever get a hit off of him?" His stuff is that good, but he leaves balls up and grooves fastballs. He also gets pretty predictable with his pitch sequences. I honestly can't figure out what the issue is, but he's not nearly as good as he could be. It's not like he's Harper and still 21, he's almost 26 and should be coming into his prime. I don't know if it's coaching, if he's bought into pitch to contact too much, if it's mental or what. He does seem to overthrow a lot of pitches in big counts, but it may just be anecdotal evidence. That's a long-winded way of saying I'm just looking for an answer.

Bjd1207 said...

Hahahaha so glad I got such a rise, it was pretty wildly out of character for you.

I'm starting to come around on the general thinking, maybe. Basically you're trying to draw a "fair" line for what to expect out of your bullpen. Let me ruminate a bit.

I figured there was more behind it than what was included in the original post

Chaz R said...
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Chaz R said...

@JW- I can't argue with that thinking. I like Strasburg and think he has proven himself to be a good pitcher. I think all of our expectations of him was to be a "generational talent", elite type pitcher; in a class with Kershaw, Fernandez, Verlander, etc. For whatever reason, and maybe unfairly, he seem to have started in that class but can't seem to maintain his membership.

blovy8 said...

I think a quality start isn't much worse than the hitting/on base streak idea. That's the minimum, often you do better than that. Two runs in six innings is a very tough bar, and would indicate excellence if you could do it a lot, again, that would mean you did better than that sometimes too.

Pitching inside like Strasburg did last night is a good sign, hitting guys - not so much. Pitching low and away is safe, but pitching up and in, while dangerous, gets you respect. He's got enough on that fastball to pitch up occasionally - a guy like Hamilton is helpless against that, for instance.

He also did a reasonable job of at least trying to keep Hamilton on first. Luckily, that guy hasn't Ichiroed his game yet. It seems like he'd get on base 40 percent of the time just getting the ball on the ground to the left side.

JWLumley said...

@Chaz I can't shake the idea that McCatty may be the issue. One of the things that Nationals pitchers--in general--don't seem to do much of (outside of Gio) is change sight lines and move batters feet. They move the ball in and out some, but they don't seem to go up and down (ie changing sight lines) with any consistency. Also, outside of Gio--who is sometimes effectively wild--guys seem to get pretty comfortable AB's against the Nats pitchers. They throw too hard for that. They need to throw the ball in at the belt and make guys move their feet, don't let them have such comfortable AB's. Also, the bullpen has been phenomenal, so why worry about pitch counts so much and going deep into games? I mean, guys like McCatty and their pitch to contact philosophy do so with the justification that pitching deeper into games helps the team, which it does. But if you play on a team with a great bullpen giving up fewer runs and only going 6 innings is better than giving up more runs and going 7.

Chaz R said...

@JW- I totally get the "there must be a problem here" feeling with Strasburg. I wonder how much of it is anecdotal or that we are just too close to it? I don't think it's about pitch location:

FWIW, Stras is always in the conversation when talking about elite pitchers. I don't know... I don't get it either...

Anonymous said...

After last nights marathon is it too much to ask for the Nats to go out and shell Cueto, wrecking his ERA, and letting me get to sleep at a decent hour tonight? That is asking a lot isn't it?

nicoxen said...

@harper et al

Somethings are forgivable. A total lack of offense with 3 of your expected 1 thru 5 hitters on the DL is not surprising. Treading water, maybe 1 or 2 games above .500 during this stretch would be admirable.

Other things are not forgivable. Link insisting on making Span the leadoff hitter when he's barely an average hitter, who doesn't walk, and steals about as many bases as Adam Laroche, that's unforgivable.

Also, failing to get a runner on 3rd home with less than 2 outs, that's unforgivable yet it happens game after game.

Also, everyone please get off of Espinosa. An Espinosa is an Espinosa is an Espinosa. He's doesn't hit for avg., he strikeouts a lot, and hits a couple of pretty homers occasionally. Everyone knew that going into the season. Fans knew it, bloggers knew it, dogs knew it, even Rizzo knew it. Yet Rizzo failed to add the add the big bat this team has needed for at least 3 years. Did we even sniff Omar Infante?

Instead he kept his fingers crossed that chronically DL'ed guys like Zimm, Werth, Span, Ramos, Harper and Laroche would stay intact for more than 120 games. We see how that has turned out.

If the Nats can't hold it together until Laroche and Zimmerman come back, this may be the beginning of the end of this team as we know it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reverse jinks on span Harper!!!
Anon: looks like your wish was granted.

Froggy said...

Seems like every time I (or Harper) ding Span about what a sucky hitter he is, he comes through and goes on some sort of 'in your face' tear. 5-5 tonight serves me right.

Is the bunt back 'in' this year in general or because MW is manager?

Nattydread said...

Span must have read your post.

Harper, can you provide a sabermetric analysis of MW's failure to bunt two nights ago with no outs man on second? I give MW a pass on that. 3 shots swinging away in that situation may have a lower risk than pitcher bunting him over to 3rd, before try to score him.

Lots of grumbling armchair managers.

Anonymous said...

Just to feed the Span detractors, here is a nice write-up on Alex Meyer that Sickels posted:

Bjd1207 said...

@Nattydread - Bunting the winning run from 2nd to 3rd is just about the only situation in baseball where bunting adds to your winning percentage. Basically it's the best (and in some opinions only) situation. I'll try to dig up the numbers behind it

Bjd1207 said...
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Bjd1207 said...

@NattyDread - This gets into it slightly, there's better treatments of it and with some time I can find it.

The part I left out is that you have to weigh in how successful you expect the bunt to be given the batter and fielders. But bunting runners on 1/2 to 2/3 is the best situation to bunt, even if your bunter sucks.

Nattydread said...

@Bjd1207 Thanks for the link. It's an interesting discussion.

1. You use up one out to move a runner to third where the runner has a considerably higher chance of scoring OR

2. You use 3 chances to try for a ball hit where the runner can score.

Its not an easy calculation.

On the anti-bunt side: There is a significant chance that the bunt would fail (Nats pitchers are not good bunters!). The pitcher's arsenal plays into things (I'm guessing that some pitches are harder to bunt). Match-ups (if you decide not to bunt) figure into the logic.

On the pro side: Man on third is much better. The bunt itself puts pressure on defense and can result in a mistake.

MW was in a much better position to make the decision than me.

Bjd1207 said...

@NattyDread - Oh yea definitely I'm glad I get to make these "decisions" in the comfort of my living room with no ramifications. Seems like there's almost no right answer some times.

But you and I can take all of that into account and more (ground ball %, 3b UZR rating) and at the end of the day you can decide you're swinging and I can decide I'm bunting on the same available info. Baseball's awesome

Anonymous said...

"Sacrificing that runner lowers the average run expectancy from 0.84 to 0.651. But your chance of scoring one run goes up from 17.6% to 22.9%."

So its really only worth it in the 9th inning in a tie ball game or some other situation where you only really want 1 run. I'd stick to the tie game 9th.

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