We talked a little bit about momentum in the comments yesterday and I feel the Mets game encapsulates perfectly why you can't plan around it. The Mets had been hot. They took 7 of 8 and only lost that last game by a run. They got an initial run in the top of the first to take an early lead. Everything was going their way. Then Rafael Montero hit the mound. A bad pitcher (lifetime ERA over 4.50) having a bad season (ERA 4.63 going into last night) who had just come off a bad start (4 walks, 3 runs, 3 hits - including a triple and homer, in 79 pitches in only 4 and a third). If there was anyone who would precitably give a bad performance it was him. He did. He was unable to make it out of the second, walking another 4, giving up 2 homers and pretty much ending the game right then and there.
If the Mets lose tonight, Sydergaard vs Cole, suddenly they've lost 3 of 4 with the last game being their current ace losing to a fill-in from another team. In the space of 17 innings a hot team becomes a cold team, mostly because of one bad outing.
We know momentum exists. Trying to capture it though, harness it for use tomorrow, is seemingly impossible. It's fine to make marginal judgment calls to try to capture it, but going beyond that is too far. Like a wave, just hope you can ride it to your destination, if not be in position to paddle, rather than let the tide pull you back out.
As for the Nats. They did what they should do, and what they have done, beat up on a bad pitcher. I fully expect if the Nats catch a mediocre 3 or 4 in the playoffs that they should score enough to win (whether they give up enough to lose is another story). More important that the offensive explosion against the Mets D team* was the Nats C team holding the Mets bats quiet. They had been scoring 5+ runs a game recently. Yes it was against subpar pitching, but that's exactly what the Nats rolled out last night. And they came through. Now the Nats have to repeat that performance, because while it's possible to beat Syndergaard, it's very unlikely they'll knock him out early with a big lead.
A little side note here about Zimmerman (1-4 last night) and the idea of exit velocity. Ok, so in the world of fancy stats there are a group of people excited by something called Statcast**. Basically it's MLB's attempt to capture everything happening on the diamond. They are capturing things like how fast fielders move and react, more accurate timings of how fast runners round the bases, and yes, how fast the ball leaves the bat after it's hit. This last one is exit velocity.
As you might expect in a very broad sense the harder you hit it the better. That's just common sense. However, when you look at the leaders in these values you see a suprising thing. Ryan Zimmerman is among the top ranked players, and is the topped ranked National. If you stopped right there (like Boz does) this may lead you to believe that Ryan is just getting very unlucky. He is hitting the ball hard but just hitting them "where they is". However that ignores a second important measure, the "launch angle".
The launch angle is the vertical angle off the bat the ball is going when it is hit. The more positive the more "fly ball" the more negative the more "ground ball"*** Why does this matter? Well as soon as you hit a ball it begins to lose speed. That loss is made much, much greater if it strikes something along the way, such as, you know, the ground. The end result is that the advantage of exit velocity is muted for groundballs.
This isn't supposed to be another look at Zimm, but
instead a quick look at how to use stats and data. When you look at data
know the limitations and know exactly what you are saying. See if you
can't find more information that will corroborate or go against what you
are trying to say. Zimmerman hits the ball hard. That is all exit
velocity tells us. Now we need to see if he's hitting the ball like everyone else in general and if he's hitting the hard balls in any particular way. If he's hitting like everyone and hitting the hard balls no different than the soft ones then he is probably unlucky in some way. Or at the very least it passes the first tests of this theory.
Well he isn't hitting the ball like everyone else. Nearly half of all his balls in play are ground balls, for one of the higher percentages in the league. Next, if you look at the data, his hardest hits have an extermely low launch angle, and he ranks low on hard hit balls with a high launch angle. I'm going to guess with more digging we'd find that he is among the league leaders in "hard hit balls into the ground" so to speak. These two things suggest Ryan isn't just getting unlucky but is hitting the ball in a different way.
You could view that as a fluke. That it just happens that his contact is off in the same direction every time and it'll even itself out. But I don't. We look for more evidence and we get to something we talked about talked about before; Zimmerman has trouble hitting the ball up in the zone. This is where more line drives and fly balls come from. He doesn't make contact there. He makes contact low. Occasionally he will square up on a pitch and drive it. More often though he will pound a low pitch into the ground. This is what you'd see with almost any player. Zimm is no different.
I don't claim to have made an exhaustive look at Zimmerman, not now or before. It's certainly possible I'm missing something here. Perhaps if I look deeper we won't see him leading in hard hit grounders. Perhaps it has more to do with pitch type or pitch speed than pitch location and it is just mixed all up in there. These are the further analysis you assume teams are doing on every player. However, I hope you see from this how just using one stat can be misleading. Zimm hitting the ball hard or not, is probably not just unlucky.
*Did you know Ynoa gave up 2 runs in 2 IP last night and LOWERED his ERA? No even just by a little. By almost 4 runs! Yeah, Collins waved the white flag there.
**Note that this data is still incomplete and has known flaws in measurement. It's best used only in a broad sense
***It is not a simple as positive = fly ball though - the ball of course will immediately start to drop (gravity!) so you actually have to hit it around 10 degrees to get a line drive type hit. And if you hit it too positive, say over 45/50 degrees, it's "too high". Those are generally pop-ups.