Nationals Baseball: Tuesday Quickie : I got nothing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Quickie : I got nothing.

It started with a simple question. How did the Giants manage to neutralize the Nationals bats? The Giants' pitching was good but not THAT good and the Nats' bats weren't great but they were very good. It shouldn't happen at least not for four straight games.

The initial look seemed to make the reason obvious. As many noted, the Giants pitched the Nats outside and particularly low and outside. Simple really. Except then you have the follow-up questions. Did the Nats really fail to adjust? and was this unusual for the Nats?

On the latter the answer is no, the Giants weren't particularly clever. Everyone did this all year long.

For example:
Pitches to  Adam LaRoche during the playoffs
Pitches to Adam LaRoche during the year

See! And you can go player by player and see that. That's not to say the Giants pitching like that wasn't a reason for their success. They were certainly very committed to it, and perhaps with more defined analysis of the pitching we would show that SF worked further outside, or with a focus on certain pitches, or certain counts. But even if we couldn't, what about the first question? It takes two to tango and every at bat is a combination of hitting and pitching. Could we say something about the hitting that failed? Well you can look at the spray charts and make some assumptions.

For example:
For Span you can say he was pitched outside...
But pulled the ball playing right into the Giants hands.

Great!  Let's wrap this up early and go for lunch. But again follow-ups. Did Span get pitched like this all year? Did he hit like this all year?

In fact, yes, he was getting pitched outside
And yes he did hit sorta like this all year.

So instead of having a neat little column, now you have a mess. You could say Span didn't adjust, (and Rendon did, and LaRoche and Werth kind of did but hit too many flyballs, and Bryce hit mistakes, and Desmond isn't any good anymore, and Ramos might never have really been good) but based on the above I don't feel comfortable saying it without more analysis. So then I need pitch f/x data and maybe another data base (it depends on if the pitch fx data has hit location) and if I can get both and I can get both up to date through the playoffs then then I can do some analysis to see if Span was really pulling outside low pitches at a different rate in the playoffs than in the regular season. And if he was hitting them for more GBs than LDs. And I'm sure other things I'll think of between then and now. And that's just Span.

 This is the rabbit hole of analysis. With so much data is possible to say nearly anything. If you go in with a preconceived notion there's a good chance you'll find some way to support it.  So the follow-ups become very important but that's more time.

Is this just a long-winded way of saying I've got no post? Kinda. But occasionally I do like to explain what I'm thinking because sometimes you can come up with nothing (or rather don't get to the point you want) even with work. That's why teams pay people to do this stuff. There are plenty of blind alleys and dead ends in exploratory analysis. To do it right sometimes you need someone else paying you to do this 8 hours a day.  At least if you want it done expediently.

So maybe I get back to it later in the offseason. Until then this show ain't stopping. Post-season analysis like last year starts tomorrow.


JQuest said...

There was a lot of unhappiness with balls/strikes. Were the umps particularly bad or did we just fail to identify the strikezone? Or was it all rather normal and it wasn't reasonable to focus on it?

Harper said...

jQuest - outside of Sat night it's likely just a lot of griping. Umps strike-zones are never perfect and thus everyone - pitchers and hitters - spend the first few innings feeling it out and then reacting to that. You get a few bad calls, a few good ones, and it mostly evens out. This is just a feeling mind you - not analysis - but 95% of the time this feeling turns out to be right.

Sat it didn't even out.
Again, over the course of the season it probably evens out. If 95% of the bad umpiring effects both teams evenly than a few games it does matter. Over a season though it'll probably be a few games for you and a few against. In the playoffs though you don't have 162 games to even things out. Just one can turn the tide.

But you shouldn't think "bad umpiring cost the Nats the series". It was more the final nail in the coffin for one game.

JQuest said...

Thanks Harper. I'd never blame the game on an ump, but it definitely seemed like the Nats were very unhappy with a lot of calls. As you say, it always even out over a season, but those two strikes in the 9th that were called balls were killer.

Zimmerman11 said...

Jayson Werth's Beard would have had a much better series if a lot of the bad calls weren't going the wrong way for him...

but that would only have taken focus away from the Nats' offense... which cost them. I'm okay with chalking it up to small sample size and hard luck... but will be very sad if that's tru for the Nats' next trip to the postseason (assumign there is one).

Zimmerman11 said...

The numbers being thrown around to re-sign Desi, Znn, and Fister are:

Ian - 7 years 105 Million
Znn - 6 years 120 Million
Fister - 5 years 75 Million

Ian and Znn are 29, Fister a little older.

Discuss... please assume the 300M MASN payments per the arbitration process find their way through the courts unreduced :)

Froggy said...

To that point, I agree we can't blame cold bats on the umps. But the check swing strike 3 on Desmond was abysmal. Harper, don't you agree that MLB should consider doing something like giving an automatic appeal for third strike calls? I mean that is one of the main reasons there are umps down the lines right?

I know it is a long season, and I'm in no way suggesting that Desmond and Ramos' final numbers are their new norms, but...I'm not so convinced anymore that they (Desmond and Ramos in particular) are untouchable for trade purposes. Should be an interesting off season for sure.

BxJaycobb said...


Anonymous said...

Has anyone actually studied the impact of umpiring on a single game? Seems like teams are willing to pay a lot of money for a catcher who can steal a strike every game or two. It would be fun to see bias in ball/strike calls correlated with winning percentages over a bunch of games.

Ryan said...

Here's some fun trivia: since 2011, who is the only pitcher who has thrown 300 innings without making a single start?

a m s said...

Failing to insert Zimmerman into an anemic offense.. I keep coming back to that thinking WTF.

That, and LaRoche. At least Werth got on base and was robbed of at least one BB. But LaRoche put up an all time tank job for a 4-hole.

And the framing issues with pitching. Why was an ineffective and struggling Ramos given Molina-credit when Lobaton consistently showed the ability to frame well and get good calls.

There was so much talent that rode the pine it's a heartbreaker. 290 wins last three years. I'll bet a George Washington that aint gonna be repeated the next three years.

a m s said...

and Zimmerman11 - Desmond is a soon to be 3-time Silver Slugger SS with good defense and top notch character.

Precisely who do you propose we replace him with? An older, less talented player in an easier defensive position?

John C. said...

People keep beating the "why wasn't Zimmerman in the lineup?" drum. When the obvious answer is that he wasn't healthy enough to play the field. Getting mad at MW for not pinch-running for Zim when he re-tweaked (translated: re-injured) the hamstring on the play at the plate, sure. But it's obvious from what Zimmerman said that during the NLDS he simply wasn't healthy enough to play - unable to make the explosive movements needed to play a corner infield position.

With Zim unable to play 1b, your ALR option was ... Kevin Frandsen. I'd have stuck with ALR, too.

a m s said...

John C - noted, you're right that I hadn't fully appreciated the degree of Zmm's health issues. But LaRoche's range isn't exactly plus, so what is the real drop off there if a one legged Zmm plays 1st?

Probably time for me to stop moaning about mgmt in the NLDS regardless :)