Nationals Baseball: First Place!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

First Place!

San Diego has a relief ERA of 1.76.  San Francisco 1.88.  The Nationals 1.89.  No one else has an ERA under 2.70.

Rafeal Soriano has an ERA of 0.00.
Drew Storen has a WHIP of 0.469
Aaron Barrett has struck out 14 men in 9.2 innings.
Tyler Clippard has struck out 21 in 14.2.
Jerry Blevins is holding lefties to a .120 / .185 / .160 line.

It never seems like Matt Williams is using these guys correctly but when they are putting up numbers like this that doesn't matter. It's like watching someone use a spotlight to search under the bed.

With a pen this good (and it probably is something close to this good) & starting pitching this good (ditto) the Nats will have a chance in most games. The offense might seem poor but it isn't. a .325 OBP and a .411 SLG are both going to be near the top of the NL in a given season.

And this has been a team without Fister, Ramos, and missing Zimm for a good chunk (and now Bryce for a few games)

Everyone wasn't wrong.  This team is good. Those things I talked about yesterday? They aren't going to keep the Nats from the playoffs. They are division / league issues.  The only thing keeping the Nats down is going to be more injuries.


Anonymous said...

Sound an alarm! Somebody took over Harper's account and posted a positive entry!

Harper said...


Anonymous said...


Jeff Hayes said...

Harper is still being objective. Leave him alone. The other important consideration is how much the Braves have sucked offensively. It has been a near total collapse. On this day a year ago, we were 2 games over .500. Meanwhile the Braves were 7 games over. That doesn't take anything away from the 2014 Nats. They are clutch and the pitching is finally giving us the edge we all expected it to.

cass said...

First place!

Now let's build a lead before facing the Braves again.

Soriano's success has been quite surprising to me this year. He's let on his share of base runners, but he gets the job done.

I also find it odd that no one has talked about the fact that the Nats two Mexican-American players hit home runs on Cinco de Mayo. Well, Ses de Mayo for Espinosa, but still.

Eric said...

Yeah, it's still early, but...FIRST PLACE! Feels good, especially with so many trials and tribulations anchoring the team so far this season.

So, check it out: Denard Span currently ranks 7th for WPA in all of the MLB. Imagine where he'll be if/when he ends up putting up second-half-2013 numbers at the plate? Last night was a good sign on that front.

Werth is 3rd

LaRoche is 17th.

Eric said...

PS - Span is also 5th in Clutch (Werth still 3rd for that.

I do think it would be nice if there were some way to weight or annotate BA to reflect productive outs, especially those that score runs. Maybe like .250 (.275) or something like that? Like Span's walkoff sac fly or the hit that moved the runner after Lee quick pitched him, which, iirc, led to a run.

Donald said...

Gonna be tough to stay in 1st today, given the pitching match-ups in DC and Atlanta, but it's nice to right in the mix regardless. A half a game either way isn't a big deal at this point.

Harper -- I asked in the comments of your last post about the Braves slide? What's your take on them? Just a temporary swoon or the signs of deeper issues?

m j b said...

Harper's optimism is all relative to the competition. In this case the Braves are imploding and the Nats are chugging along above expectations considering their situation. Very rational analysis of an otherwise volatile and crayCray subject.

Bjd1207 said...

@Donald - I'd absolutely agree with you about tonight if Kershaw and Floyd weren't coming off the DL. Given that, I think both games could go either way.

As for the Braves, this SCREAMS regression, as many people said even before they imploded. It's not just a freak slide. I don't think their offense will be this bad all year (although it could) but their pitching is nowhere near what their April portended. They'll continue with above average pitching but below average (well below avg) offense

JE34 said...

The unspoken stat about the Nats bullpen is fan fingernail consumption in innings 7-8-9. Clippard and Soriano innings often seem to be an adventure (leadoff base runners aplenty for Tyler), but the end results are still positive.

And a nice companion to the Nats' bullpen results is their late inning scoring:

Runners LOB is still a problem. Yes, they're hitting, but they're not moving guys over enough... e.g. Desmond is still striking out a lot, and he looks like he's jumping out of his shoes to pull the ball with guys on 2nd base.

Donald said...

@Bjd1207 -- Yeah, I agree there had to be some regression since there was no way the Braves were a 113 win team. But are they just reverting to a 92-94 win pace where they'll be contending all season? Or is this exposing the offensive weaknesses (BJ Upton, Dan Uggla, etc.) along with an average rotation after all their off-season losses, which makes them project as a .500 team?

A week ago, I assumed they'd regress but still be the odds on favorite to win the division. Now? Where would you place them?

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blovy8 said...

This Harper seems like more of a Tom Bosley than Tom Boswell since this is one of those happy days. Bringing up all this clutchiness is sure to vulcanize this blog back into unforgiving mathematical logic again.

I think offense is down league-wide, so we may have to adjust for what a good run average might be this season. BABIP inflation notwithstanding, the Marlins are starting to look like a bigger problem than the Braves. If they had a couple more reliable pitchers, that club could make a serious run.

Not liking Treinen instead of Det tonight, but if it works out, it'll at least make me think Williams has some mojo working.

JWLumley said...

The bullpen should be good, the Nats spent as much, if not more, than anyone else on it, so I don't know that you can say MW is using them well based on results alone.

Still, this is a really good team.

Eric said...

Sorry for all the deleted posts, but I wanted put everything together:

JE34 - the Nats' issue this year with LOB has had me wondering if the LOB picture looks different when viewed as a % instead of a raw number.

This has me curious if there's a stat such as "total reached safely" or something like that, which bundles HBP, BB, and H, but omits HR. I think it would also make sense to remove caught stealing and picked off from "adjusted LOB" (aLOB). IMO, dividing aLOB by reached safely would paint a clearer comparative picture of how the teams produce with LOB.

I did this for the Nats and the Padres (the latter have the fewest LOB/game) so far this season, except I don't see a stat for "Picked Off", so I just used CS. It breaks down like this:
Nats aLOB: 7.66 (7.75 - .09 caught stealing)
Nats reached safely: 11.3
aLOB%: 68%

Padres aLOB: 5.88 (6.06 - .18 caught stealing)
Padres reached safely: 8.9
aLOB%: 66%

Interestingly, if you don't omit caught stealing from LOB, we're almost exactly even; our greater rate of success stealing bases "hurts" us in the aLOB% department.

It's also interesting that the Padres are dead last in H, BB, and HBP

Kenny B. said...

Jeez, what a triumphant piece. I really hope those bullpen numbers are legit. Feels good knowing you're still in games as long as your starter doesn't completely melt down.

What's more insane than the fact that the Nats are in first despite having a pretty big chunk of impact players out, is the fact that whole of the NL East is separated by two games. I mean, the whole division could turn upside down in a weekend. (The AL East is separated by 1.5 games. Holy moly!!)

It's kind of fun to have a reason to pay attention to the whole division every night. All the players and fans are into it, and it brings all these fancy new stadiums to life. I would love the Nats to run away with it, but if it's going to be a race, let's get everyone involved. A similar state of affairs persisted in the first half of 2012, IIRC.

There's a long way left to go, but first place generally has a positive impact on critical stats such as ClutchSlg and xGRIT. We'll see if high Detrmntn% from the other teams regresses over the course of the season.

Dustin M. Smith said...

Seriously... a post that doesn't leave me depressed and never wanting to watch baseball again? What's happening here?

BooyahSuckah! said...

Blovy, how's that Treinen v. Det conundrum feel? I mean, yowza. It's just one game, but Treinen at least looked competent. 5+ innings, no (or one, depending on the scorekeeper) earned runs. Det, on the other hand, melted down like Chernobyl. The capper was when he completely failed to field the dribbler down the first base line. Come on, man. That game would've been 4-3 in the late innings if not for Det. Yeesh.

Eric said...

True enough, Booyah, but it's a little odd to fire up Det for the error but let Treinen off the hook for the error that opened the flood gates. Might as well say it would've been 3-0 Nats in the late innings if he hadn't committed that one.

Donald said...

Also, Det really has been treated oddly. There's an article in the Post about that. No use for 6 days and then call him in and expect him to be fresh. They really seem to be misusing or mistreating Detwiler for some reason. But it doesn't seem that fair to be so hard on him.

Anonymous said...

Second place! Back where you belong.

blovy8 said...

Treinen's line was a little misleading, he has a good, hard, heavy sinker, but the Dodgers got plenty of hits since he rarely threw anything else. That being so, I would still figure him as a reliever until he can use that slider more or feature a third pitch.

BooyahSuckah! said...

I don't mean to be hard on him in a general sense. Like I said, it's just one game. I'm just being hard on him about last night specifically. Factoring in xGRIT and ISOHeart, he just didn't seem to be trying all that hard, and the slow roller that he completely failed to go after just summed it up for me. There are pitchers who take their fielding responsibilities seriously (like Stammen grabbing that overthrown ball from Espy) and those that don't.

Or maybe he just couldn't see the ball because of his mustache.

I'm not giving Treinen a pass by any means, but it was the kid's first major league start and he matched Kershaw pitch-for-pitch through 5, not to mention getting a hit. So yeah, I guess I actually am giving him a pass. But again, it was one game. We'll see. Or, hopefully, Fister will be back and be dominant and we won't see.

As for Det, I happen to be of the school of thought that if we weren't going to use him as a SP, we should've traded him. He's always been a guy that needed an inning or two to settle down, which makes him worse than useless as a reliever, and he's proven that out this year.

John C. said...

On Detwiler, yeah his use has been all over the charts. But in MW'd defense, I will point out that Detwiler's performance has essentially ranged from mediocre to lousy from ST through April. It's hard to get someone regular work when the work you get from them isn't very good.

Why I'm less bothered by Treinen's error than Detwiler's: Treinen's was a physical error, which will happen to everyone. Utley had a ball go through the five hole on him last week. Detwiler's not fielding his position was a mental/hustle error. Those should not happen at this level.

John C. said...

Booyah, before you make pronouncements like "[Detwiler]'s always been a guy that needed an inning or two to settle down, which makes him worse than useless as a reliever" you should check your facts. Detwiler's career stats. In 69 games as a starter he has give up a slash of .277/.335/.414/.749 compared with .205/.313/.295/.608 in 25 games as a reliever.


One reason the Nationals may have felt comfortable moving him to the bullpen as the second lefty is that Detwiler had done well out of the bullpen in the past.

BooyahSuckah! said...

John, that's true, but relievers almost always have better slash lines than starters, so the same would hold true when a guy has been both a reliever and a starter. It generally comes from starters having guys see you more than once and pitching in any situation, regardless of matchups/leverage/etc, whereas relievers get put in at a specific time for a specific purpose, sometimes even for a specific batter to maximize their potential usefulness. I don't doubt that Det's slash line is better, but it doesn't prove he's been a better reliever than a starter (although I don't think he was particularly amazing as a starter, either). I'm not proficient enough with the stats websites to prove it, but I distinctly remember cringing through the first 2-3 innings of almost every Detwieler start until he got his mojo going.

BooyahSuckah! said...

I also think the slash line argument overlooks the mental aspect of having been "demoted" to the bullpen. Most of Det's relief appearances came before he was made a full-time starter. He was then demoted (as most people perceive it) to a bullpen role, which, while not quantifiable, probably has had an impact on his pitching.

Again, for the record, I'm not destroying the guy because of one game. I think he's a solid #4/#5 SP who, in my admittedly hazy recollection, always had trouble early on in games. That, combined with the head-case issues of demoting a guy to the bullpen, makes him unsuitable for the role he fills. I think we should've traded him. I think we could've gotten something reasonably valuable for him, particularly with the current price of even replacement-level starting pitchers. That's all. I'm sure he's a wonderful human being. But my butthole clenches when he comes into games.

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