Nationals Baseball: Maxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Maxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Ok it's not K's but it feels the same to me.

Scherzer was fantastic last night. Yes the strike zone was a favorable as was the Tigers approach. But really that's like saying they left the door open a crack for a sniper shot. Max shot a nuke into the building. His control was spot on. He had the velocity. he had the movement. He was going to get a bunch of K's last night even given different circumstances. All the above did was help him get 20 instead of say 15 or 16.

So he's back right! Woo!

Ummm... probably!

Starting pitchers are hard to evaluate. We only see them a little more than 30 times a year. If we take games as individual events, like we would a bad relief outing or a 5-5 2 HR game, then we are stuck waiting two weeks to get the 3-4 data points we'd like to say something as simple as "He's hot" or "He might need a day off". Opponents, feelings, location all matter immensely as well. One game they might be off for some reason against a good hitting team in a band box. Another game they might be on against punch and judies in a cavern. We have to take those data points and treat them the same because that's all we have. So evaluation becomes more of a rolling thing.

What does that all mean for Max? For the season you'd say that his starts were something like Good, Not Good, Good, Bad, Not Good, Great, Terrible, Fantastic. I guess the feeling we sit on today is "Rusty first month, but Max is probably back in form" and treat that last terrible start, against the best team in baseball, as a fluke. Then we wait for the next start. Another good or better start and the data starts telling you something with a lot more confidence. Something less and that confidence is gone. You may say "He just was historic!". That's true. That's why I'm not really asking for much here. Really I'm just waiting for him to have two good games in a row. Surely you can see that isn't setting too high a bar for "being back"

Honestly Max has made it to the point where the Nats are as a team, for me. We think they are really good. We keep waiting for them to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

How was the rest of the team last night? They won! Now they have a day off!

42 comments:

Fries said...

My only worry with Max is his HR rate. He's been averaging like 2 HR's per outing? (I'm too lazy to go look up the actual numbers) That's not a good sign. He lets up a HR with someone on base yesterday and all of a sudden we're looking at extras (and then maybe he gets that 21st K, but I digress)

Froggy said...

Funny, had a baby boy last week and named him Max. Then we go to the game to show him off and the 'other' Max shows us up! LoL.

Harper said...

Fries - yeah it shows you that the HR problem isn't gone but it's not a big deal if he has control. While you're right if a HR was hit at a different time the game goes on, what that tells me is the Nats need to score more than 3 runs. It's when he walks guys and gives up HRs that things go awry. You want pitchers to strike guys out (he does that), not give up HRs (he doesn't do that), and keep walks down. There's the pivot point.

Froggy - Congratulations on having the second best Max in the park last night!

Strasburger said...

You went to a Nattys game with a one week old child?! Froggy, that's even intense for you. I guess baseball will be engrained now...ha!

As for Max - what a game! So much fun to watch, and he was throwing serious cheddar, sustaining at 96 for parts of the game.

I didn't get to see anything but the ninth, because I had a b school exam, but happy I caught him matching history. You could tell Rendon was like.... should I drop this ball and let him get 21?!

Either way the state of the union is good, and I see us as the team to beat other than the cubs. It's just one month, but what Murphy has done over a month is impressive, no matter how you look at it. Now lets pray Zimmerman can keep up the pop.

BxJaycobb said...

To Fries: generally FB/HR ratio is something that stays relatively consistent throughout a pitchers career sort of like BABIP for hitters. Yeah, some have higher ones than others--generally power pitchers---but a rate like Max's is flatly unsustainable. As in...I can tell you with 100% confidence he won't keep giving up homers this frequently. You could say---but he's been giving up tons of homers since last August! True but that's sort of like a hitter having a BABIP of .470 over 3 months. It happens. But it won't stay there. And it's not like Max is giving up that many more fly balls than his career to date. So I can't tell you he won't still be fairly homer prone, sort of like Strasburg, but I can tell you he won't give up this many.

Harper: One big thing about last night that should be appreciated: Max is absolute murder on righties, and merely good to average against lefties (this year it's been very good against righties and horrible against lefties....I think going into last night his splits were like .178 average against righties and .320 average against lefties.) The Tigers are true most right-hand dominant team he has faced this year, and I can't think of a more righty dominant lineup in baseball frankly. (Who's their best lefty bag? I guess when Victor M hits lefty?). So you could sort of see last night coming. It shaped up to be favorable. The sliders Max occasionally hang tend to get smashed by lefties and fouled off by righties, and the fastball just isn't as hard to pick up. Key is change up. The big test to see how Max is will be next time he faces an awesome offensive team with big lefty bats. That's probably the mets (Conforto, Duda, granderson, Walker, etc).... Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

and the mets are still better...... haha sherzer wont picth good the rest of the year, waait till u guys come back down to earth

John C. said...

Max has been homer prone, but I just want to point out that it's not like he served up the first HR on a platter (the second one kind of was, a first pitch fastball to get ahead that got crushed). Iglesias (Igelsias?!?) hit a pitch that was about neck high and several inches inside. I have no idea how he hit it, much less that he got the barrel to it, much less that he kept it fair. It went just out to the shortest part of the park, but that's the only kind of HR he's going to hit anyway. Point being, that wasn't really a flaw on the part of Scherzer - it's just one of those things that occasionally happens. Like Pence hitting a HR off of JZim a couple of years ago on a pitch that was over his head.

Anonymous said...

The good - Max (duh).

The bad - Bryce suspended a game, and I'll be shocked if he wins his appeal.

The ugly - Still Jayson Werth. Anyone out there still holding onto the delusion that he's not washed up? We're now over 500 consecutive plate appearances of sub-replacement garbage production and rising.

Froggy said...

Strasburger- yeah when he wasn't in that lactation room he was sleeping in the Norfolk lounge. My poor wife.

sirc said...

Did you see the locations on his 2 HR allowed last night?

In the 9th he hung a cement mixer to a power hitter, who then mashed it. That was bad. In the 1st he threw mid 90s way up and way in, and a puffed up flea hit it out. I don't know how Iglesias hit that ball fair, let alone out. Hitting that pitch at all should have resulted in a 90 degree angle into the oppenent's dugout.

Weird.

BxJaycobb said...

I just want to supplement what I posted regarding his HR/FB rate. Generally major league pitchers have a HR/FB rate at an average of 8%, spanning about 7-14% season to season. It is VERY rate to have a pitcher top 15%...as in, one or two each year in MLB will do it (last year James Shields led the majors at 17%). Again, this stat is generally based on luck in small sample sizes, and stabilizes over the course of a season-plus (much like BABIP, you could have a .380 season, but you'll never have .380 over two seasons). Max's season to season HR/FB rates below (average 10.3% for career, which is about normal for power guys...Clayton Kershaw's was 10% last year, for example):

2010: 9.6%
2011: 12.6%
2012: 11.6%
2013: 7.6%
2014: 7.5%
2015: 10.5%
2016: 20.4% (one month)

Again. NOBODY HAS A HR/FB RATE AT 20% FOR A SEASON. If you're Max, is it possible that you would have yours spike from between 9-12 to like 16%? It's possible, but incredibly unlikely. So this won't continue. Given his career average, Nat's park being smaller than Comerica, and his April of super homer bad luck, I'm gonna guess he ends up in the 12-15% range, so in upper third of pitchers, but not crazy outlier. On the rest of his career: You would certainly expect his rate to go up when he became a Nat because of how much larger Comerica Park is. That's not a surprise. And last year actually coincides nicely with his career average. But there is NO PRECEDENT---I repeat...NONE...for a pitcher having a 20.4% HR/FB ratio in a major league year. This is sort of like a hitter having a BABIP of .125 after a month. It could stay super low, but it's insanely unlikely.

Dmitri Young said...

I only get to go to a handful of games a year and I saw Max's no hitter and the 20k game last night. I'll take the luck!

Harper: So last night being justified, when do we start getting concerned about Dusty and the starters' pitch counts? I don't know there is a good barometer on this as successful pitchers are less likely to get yanked before they've reached a higher pitch count, but the Nats have three guys in the top 23 in pitches thrown (Max #1, Roark #18, Stras #23). Ross and Gio might have been right with them if not for the blister and Gio essentially missing his first turn. Excepting the blister game, Ross is throwing 99.4 pitches per game, Gio 99.2, compared with Stras 101.7, Tanner 102.6, and Max 105.9.

Dusty always seems concerned about his bullpen (although not enough to rest Rivero absent a complete game it seems) but aren't those guys more fungible than our 5 starters?

Eric said...

Anonymous @6:38 - I see you're still rounding into mid-season trolling form. I'm sure the correct letters will start to drop any day. The important thing is, you're making contact with the keys. Keep your chin up!

John C - that over-the-head Pence homer was bananas! Wasn't that part of that crazy 10-game winning streak, and a game that we came back from a large deficit to win?

Also, I seem to recall Gattis hitting one out that was over his head awhile back off...maybe Stras?

Dmitri, I was really psyched Max got a shot at history, but 119 pitches makes me kinda nervous. Dusty did say during the post-game presser that they'll be keeping a close eye on him during his next outing as a result...but, we'll see.

Anonymous said...

I am not concerned about the pitch count last night. Only 1 inning last night (excluding the ninth) was really a high stress inning, and that is only because runners reached base, not because he was laboring throwing 25+ pitches. He averaged less than 14 pitches per inning. The off day today gives him 5 days off before his next start. That should be plenty of rest for his arm to recover.

Rob Evans said...
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Rob Evans said...
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Rob Evans said...

Now that was a fun ball game to watch.

Nats would have gained a game last night if not for that silly looking Mets pitcher hitting two dingers off that noodle armed Dodger pitcher...boo!

Chaz R said...

More like this, Harper:

MaKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKx

Harper said...

Bx - well part of the reason you never see that is because guys that get hit like that don't get to pitch full seasons. It's a testament to Max's other talents that his ERA isn't like 6.50 right now.

I agree - it will go down but it'll probably end up in the 12% range, I wouldn't even be surprised if it settles in higher - around 15%. If Max can keep doing OK giving up the occasional homer then there's less impetus to get rid of them.

D-Young - when we start to see effects, I guess. Pitch counts aren't the end all be all and are going to effect everyone differently. I worry most about Ross (I like guys <=23 kept lower) and Stras (past injury). For Max and Gio (and Roark) I say let it fly.

Zimmerman11 said...

MAKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKX!

G Cracka X said...

Is there anything to the perception that Max is a hot and cold pitcher? Last year he put together some amazing starts, and there were also ones where he didn't pitch well at all (at home vs. the Reds, for example). This year feels like a similar pattern. Obviously all starting pitchers go through ups and downs throughout the season, but Max's ups and downs feel more pronounced.

John C. said...

It's funny - we used to only notice pitch counts when they were truly nuts, like in the 130-150 range. Then 120, then 100 became the magic number.

Although Dusty leaned on pitchers hard in the early aughts when he was with the Cubs, he's changed a lot since then. With the Cubs he averaged over 20 games where he had the starter go 120+ pitches, topping out with 29 in both 2001 and 2004. After that his rate dropped precipitously; his last two years with the Reds combined he only did it five times. He's only gone 120 with one Nats starter - Roark - who went 121 in his 15 K game against the Twins. There have been two other games where pitchers went past 115 - Strasburg once and Scherzer once. Mostly the pitch averages have been robust because the starters have been really, really good. If you track the pitcher numbers it's clear that they tend to yank pitchers right around 100 pitches. I have no reason to believe that they are an outlier in this area, nor that they are taking unusual risks.

So, when should we worry? Well, you should worry about pitcher health all the time anyway - it's not something that the human body is really designed to do at that level. Pitchers get hurt. It's rare that a staff has only five starters stay healthy and make all of their starts. The last team that I'm aware of that did this was the 2012 Reds. Managed, of course, by Dusty Baker. Given the Nationals' organizational ethos of taking care of their pitchers, I'm sure that the usage is being very closely monitored and that Baker is in regular communication with Maddox and with Rizzo and the team folks,

Bryceroni said...

The way max was dealing I thought for sure he would get 21, but maybe that's just me being gluttonous.

Such a joy to watch, all pitches super crispy, commanded fabulously, in control the whole game (minus one mistake).

I was talking to some sports fans who don't like baseball the other day and I was trying to describe the strategy/drama of great pitching. Shoulda just told them to watch max lol.
I know I really fell in love with baseball when I started being able to appreciate pitching.

I think baseball prolly has a bit of a learning curve as a fan because at first it just looks like the pitcher is throwing.

Harper said...

JC - Crazy thing about 2012. it hadn't happened since 2006 then arguably three teams in same league had "perfect rotations" in 2012. The 2012 Giants did it. The two non-rotation starts were to get the rotation back in line after a DH and to rest everyone and set up the rotation for the post-season after clinching. And the Nats 2012 team basically did it. All missed starts were not because of current injuries. Assuming Stras wasn't shutdown and Rizzo wasn't in stupid love with Wang every other start was a DH or a late season rest day.

SM said...

John C. - Interesting how pitch counts are currently appraised. (There is slowly emerging, on the other hand, a school that argues that there is currently an unwarranted fretting over pitch counts.)

Dusty's "Death-To-Starting-Pitchers" reputation in some quarters can probably be attributed to the demise of Mark Prior following his 2003 workload. Prior was 22, worked 211 innings, and the Cubs were chasing a championship. That year, Prior averaged 113 pitches during the season; 126 in September; and 120 in the postseason. (The Marlins took them in 7 in the NLCS.)

But it could be argued the Prior example was an anomaly.

For one thing, Dusty didn't usually manage young--22-ish--starters. His staffs--until Cincinnati--were usually veterans or young veterans. But when he did have youngsters, he usually pushed them only as far they showed they could go. That 2003 staff featured a 22-year-old Carlos Zambrano. And the five years Dusty managed him were the only seasons Zambrano threw over 200 innings per season. Yet Zambrano had a very decent career and no arm trouble in Chicago.

In Cincinnati, in 2008, Dusty had a young Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Matt Latos among others. By 2012--the year they lost to the Giants in the post-season--he'd gradually increased their workload until 4 of his starters threw over 200 innings. (Leake pitched 179 innings.)

All of this is to say that Dusty knows enough to watch out for young Mr. Ross. (Of course if the Nats are driving hard for the pennant, we might be having a different conversation.)

Eric said...

"I was trying to describe the strategy/drama of great pitching."

I always describe it as a slow burn, or the constant tension and release of good jazz improv.

It's interesting because a common complaint about baseball is that there's so much downtime, but to me, the periods of "inaction" are some of the most intense and engrossing aspects of the game.

Dmitri Young said...

Thanks for the thoughts Harper and JC. I think it's fair to say we don't know how pitch counts affect an individual pitcher or staff. And it's fair to worry about pitchers' health just because. My concern led me to look at some stats, and I discovered the Nats appear to be a fairly extreme outlier when it comes to pitches thrown. We have 3 pitchers who have thrown more pitches than has the most-worked pitcher of 14 other teams. If you look at the team with the best ERA, the Cubs, you see that they have Lester averaging 101.1 pitches per game, Arrieta 99.7, Lackey 97.4, Hammel 90.5, and Hendrick 87.7. Again, a pretty stark difference from the Nats having all five pitchers averaging more than 99 and three over 101. I think being an outlier among 30 teams (25?) playing the same game with the same goal says something but maybe it has nothing to do with health.

The Nats are also outliers in that the have 4 guys in the top 30 in ERA- (none of whom had 20 Ks last night), which works for me.

Eric said...

My concern about Scherzer's count had something to do with a nagging half-memory of him getting leaned on heavily for long outings during the early - mid season last year, then hitting a pretty bad rough patch.

Of course, he has started this year in a fairly rough patch despite coming off 6 months' rest...so...who knows.

Bjd1207 said...

On the pitch count topic, I used to get all hung up on pitch counts until I just realized they 're really just an approximation tool.

By that I mean, if you look at the pitch count for a particular game, there are instances where you think to yourself "this shouldn't count." Intentional Walks are a good example. Those count toward your pitch count, but are really just soft-tosses to the catcher. By contrast, warm-up pitches before each inning are NOT counted toward the overall pitch count, but pitchers probably put more effort into those than into the intentional walk pitches.

So I wouldn't put too much stock in seeing that a certain pitcher made it up to 120 pitches on a given game. Rather, the reason 100 has started to become the "magic number" is because of the retro-active analysis that teams are doing. It turns out if your pitcher regularly averages more than 100 pitchers (significant overage, like 110+ on average) then they are increasingly susceptible to injuries. The difference between averaging 90 pitches and averaging 100 pitches is not nearly as drastic, or else 90 would be the magic number.

Anonymous said...

I was never nervous about Max, but he throws a lot of strikes even on 0 - 2 counts, so he will give up the occasional solo homer.

Mythra said...

I'd only worry about pitch counts with pitchers who throw 25-30% or more breaking stuff, personally. The torque of a slider or curve on the elbow is what blows out ligaments and leads to TJs. Max was mostly throwing the fastball and setting up the slider later in counts.

Then again, it's a lot of luck and genetics. Some guys like Nolan Ryan could throw a ton of pitches late into their careers and never needed TJ. Others, like Stras and ZNN needed it early in their careers.

BxJaycobb said...

Mythra: that's actually a common misconception, at least according to the most recent books and studies on arm injuries---generally fastballs put the most stress on the arm, not sliders etc. apparently this myth developed (again according to these books such as The Arm by Jeff Passan) because parents somehow decided that the way to prevent kids from hurting themselves is to not have them throw breaking pitches when they're young. The one exception supposedly is that a splitter is death on elbows because of what spreading fingers does to the tendons, and it's why the pitch has really gone out of style, at least in America.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to JW Lumley? Last I remember were people calling him out on here and he got real pissed and hasn't posted since...

Bjd1207 said...

@Anon - I'm pretty sure it was me. Never intended to drive him off, just wanted him to stop with the SEE I TOLD YOU SPAN SUCKS AND SOUZA IS AWESOME

Mythra said...

@Bx: Good to see there is more science and medicine getting behind the study of arms and pitching. I'll have to check out the book you mentioned. I was definitely raised in the age against curves/sliders when young. I still managed to tear the rotator on my pitching arm a few weeks before walk-on tryouts freshman year in college. Pitching career officially done right then.

Thanks again for the suggested reading. Headed to OBX for 2 weeks, might make for some good downtime reading.

BxJaycobb said...

HARPER: Can we get a post on Wilson Ramos? There's some decidedly compelling stuff happening here. I thought the Lasik surgery was baloney when I heard about it, but frankly, as we near the quarter poll, there is some extremely compelling evidence that this is a new hitter--or more specifically, a hitter closer to the 2013 Ramos, and not the one from the last two years. His K rate is almost cut IN HALF, and he has gone from literally never walking to...occasionally walking! (6% is not good but its not hilariously bad anymore). Of course his BABIP is high and he'll never maintain an average like this, but do I think his approach is qualitatively and fundamentally different this year? Um, yes I do. I've watched Ramos since he debuted. I have never in my life seen him spit on as many breaking stuff in the dirt as he has in the last week and a half. He still isn't lifting the ball as much as you'd like, but the K rate and the hugely slashed chase rate and swing and miss rate is real...as in, a stabilized non fluke stat over this amount of ABs. He's always been a rock solid defender and I think he could hit .270 this year with 15 homers. WE. WANT. A RAMOS. POST! (including....should we lock him up given the absolute dearth of compelling catching prospects in the pipeline and in major league baseball for that matter).

BxJaycobb said...

Mythra: yeah of course. I really recommend The Arm. It's truly tremendous and also a fun quick read.

Eric said...

Bx - second your request for a Ramos post...good call!

Eric said...

Bx - second your request for a Ramos post...good call!

Harper said...

I'll probably do a couple posts on a few hitters Mon/Tues going into Mets series. Ramos Rendon Werth

Sammy Kent said...

Here's my favorite pitching stat this season so far: the guys with the fourth, sixth, eighth, and twelfth highest batting averages for the Nationals are starting pitchers. Scherzer, Ross, Strasburg, and Gio are batting a combined 14 of 57 for a .246 average. That's two points higher than the team average. If the rest of the lineup could hit as well as the pitchers, we'd be blowing everyone's boat right out of the water. Only Roark (0-10) is not hitting well. Still, even with his numbers the starters are hitting .209.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know a good Mets blog? I want to see what the third place team's fans are talking about.