Nationals Baseball: Amusement Park

Friday, May 19, 2017

Amusement Park

I want to say this season for the Nats is like riding a roller coaster. The offense and the starters provide the highs, the relief pitching the lows. But it's really not the season we're talking about. The season should end up fine because the rest of the NL East is pure garbage. There should be only highs and "not as high"s. It's individual games that provide the up and down excitement. So it's more like the season is a trip to the amusement park where you pick a ride, like a roller coaster, and go through great parts and scary parts and maybe some parts you don't like but you end up fine in the end. At least this is what the regular season is like.

With that in mind I guess we're already at the "sit back and enjoy it" phase. The season isn't clinched because there's time for craziness and there's a brutal schedule coming up, but I'm not expecting anything. Just enjoy these crazy roller coaster games for a while until the other rides open up at the trade deadline.

With that in mind it is vaguely hard to talk about stuff. We can talk about the relief pitching but dammit if we don't do that all the time. I'm sure Monday I'll talk about it again after another blown game. Other than that we have a lot of guys doing roughly what they should, or who are not where they should be but seem to be trending in that direction.  These aren't terribly interesting topics, especially if you are like me, and prefer to give more time, than less.

Looking at it I'm left with two reasonable topics, Werth - who's overperforming but glancing at stats I'll predict will fall soon and Roark who is underperforming. I guess Roark it is.

What you first need to understand is that you can't use last year's results as a baseline for Roark.  Well you can but I wouldn't. While I don't think his FIP or xFIP is fair (Roark has a history of lower than average HR/FB which these numbers will assume will be more average) I do think his LOB% is a little high. Can he stay near 80% - perhaps, but historically looking at minor league data as well he's normally lower. I'd think a low 70s would be more appropriate. That means more runs given up, higher ERA, fewer wins etc. I'm not saying he's bad, just don't go into this thinking he's a  2.80 ERA 16-10 guy. Maybe more of a 3.20 ERA 14-11?

OK so usual fancy stats thing

How's the velocity? 
Seems fine

How's the K/9? 

That's up

That's up too.

Ok that combo would suggest a lack of control and keeping the ball up. But I guess for the latter I'd expect a different group of hits if that were the case. Fewer GBs, more FBs. That could explain the homers - more pitches up mean more mistakes up. Eh - that is the case but only slightly. GBs down from 48.7% to 46%, FBs up from 31.2% to 32.7% I wouldn't attribute the HRs to that.

Is he getting hit harder then - does that explain the HRs? Or is it just a fluke - one HR does make a big difference here.
Yes that could explain it.  Soft percentage down a bunch, hard percentage up. But don't rule out fluke.

What about the walks? Is he out of control?  
No real change in percentages in the zone thrown would suggest not. The walks seem to be driven by swings outside the zone being down a bunch, swings inside up.Guys aren't biting on his stuff outside the zone.

But he's had no real difference in what's being thrown has he? 
No not really.

So we kind of reach the end of fancy stats analysis here. I can try to look at the zone profile now... ok I verify he's not really leaving the ball up more. I see big drops in the swing percentages inside for both RHB and LHB, but especially LHB.... His splits against RHB is fine. It is the lefties that are more of an issue. Zone profile doesn't tell me exactly how much he missed though

My hypothesis would be that whatever pitch he uses to attack inside, especially to lefties but maybe to both, isn't working the same. Maybe it's a movement thing, maybe location. Lefties are then able to sit on in zone pitches and attack a lot better (they have all the home runs and four of the 5 doubles he's allowed). Righties on the other hand just are able to lay off a few more pitches. This is just a guess though.

My other thought is that he's the victim of the decline in defense. As a RH GB pitcher there's a certain import on the ability of the 1B/2B side of the Nats infield to field and acoording to early stats Murphy and Zimm are worse than last year. This is of course - small sample size - (we like 3 years of D data and we're talking about 25% of one) but I think it's clear they ain't good.  The Nats starters except for Max are all GB guys now so that may explain the general slight shift down from them. Maybe - Turner though has been fine.  If anyone wants to track all the hits Roark has given up and see if this plays, go to it. 


JE34 said...

Could it be that Tanner is not getting as many borderline pitch calls because of how awful Wieters is behind the plate? Like yesterday when he stood up on a bunt try, causing a pitch that was *right down the middle* to be called a ball... and all the other times when he makes what looks like no effort at all to frame pitches on the edges...

JE34 said...

(at least I think it was yesterday... it's been a long week)

Harper said...

JE34 - possibly but if it were a strike/ball thing we'd see it in the zone percentage. I suppose maybe he relies on hitting the corners with 3 balls and in those cases he's losing an extra batter a game? Could be.

Harper said...

That wouldn't necessarily show up in the zone percentage since the frequency of those pitches would be limited. But you'd think it would show up more..... I'm not sure exactly the zone % effect of a bad framer though. A couple poorly frames strikes turned into balls could create more strikes later? I don't know. Would have to see if there's a connection.

Fries said...

I'm too lazy to go look at pitchf/x data, but I think you're right about the movement thing Harper. Charlie and Dave were hinting yesterday that his two seamer wasn't breaking back over the plate at all, and if he's not getting movement then his borderline strikes become borderline balls. Part of that could be Weiters, but I think it's more likely that it's the pitch itself since the chase rate is down.

And what causes balls to lose movement? Lack of spin...due to dead arms...and we're back to a bullpen argument again woooo

Harper said...

Fries... or the WBC argument.... BUM BUM BUM!

Fries said...

took a look at pitchf/x over lunch...and it's not movement related. yeah his movement has dropped off the last couple starts, but that's actually because he was overperforming his career averages earlier in the year

soooo where do we look from here? how about location...hmm fastballs are definitely up but the 4 seamer no more so than in the past. Maybe that 2 seamer (sinker on pitchf/x) is getting a little too far up, but nothing horrendous. what about horizontal location? Ah there we go, Tanner's throwing the ball right over the plate. He's not necessarily "grooving" the pitches, but he's not working the fringes of the plate as well as in the past. He used to be great at working the arm-side of the plate, and then burying a curve down on the opposite side of the plate. Now he's hardly working the arm side of the plate (inside on righties) and consistently missing off the opposite side (inside on lefties)

So what does that mean...? No idea. Might be a little bit of Weiters, might be mechanics, might be a head thing. But it's clearly a location issue more than it's a movement issue.

dc rl said...

A possible future topic: Trea Turner - who is he really?

A) The 2015 minor league version who we hoped would be the ideal leadoff man - Billy Hamilton speed, with a bat capable of .300+ and an obp of .370+.
B) The 2016 major league version who hit like prime Derek Jeter (with Billy Hamilton speed) - .300+ with gap power and HRs too.
C) The 2017 (so far) version who's more like Ian Desmond - swings hard and often, can be streaky hot and icy cold, but provides more batting value from extra base power then from obp (iow, not an ideal leadoff man, despite the Billy Hamilton speed).

Ole PBN said...

^^ I'd say Trea is a version of "C" with flare for "B" when he's on.

Offensively, Trea has tremendous wheels and good power for a guy his size. But like Danny Espinosa, has a long swing that puts balls in the gap and over the fence - produces weak contact or no contact at all. He hasn't shown great patience at the plate any level and has lived off of fastballs down the pipe (see 2016 season). Give him something to hit, and he'll make you pay more often than your average player. Make him chase, and like MAT, he'll chase. I'd argue that Bryce's best asset is his ability to command the strikezone, he makes pitchers come after them. And if they don't he'll take his walks, but he's on-base nonetheless. In truth, he's the ideal lead-off hitter, but that's not my point.

My point is Turner in the lead-off spot is exposing his weaknesses and not showcasing his strengths. Whether is old-school "he's fast - put him at leadoff" or some other reason, he's more likely to hurt the team than help it from that spot in the order. I've been harping on this all season, put him 7th or 8th (yes, behind MAT). Turner is a good athlete and will thrive in a low-expectation spot in the order. Why waste that on a guy like MAT who AT BEST is gonna give you something like .260 with modest pop and ton of K's?

At the end of the day, would you rather him hit .250 from leadoff or .310 hitting 8th, on-base and wreaking havoc for the pitcher while the heart of the order is up? I know what I'd want. The lineup with the team we have now should be Werth, Murphy, Zimmerman, Harper, Rendon, Wieters, Taylor, Turner, pitcher

Just advice from a silly old fan...but what do we know? AMIRIGHT?! Play on Dusty...

Ole PBN said...

Also, just to prove my point, go look at each guy in our starting lineup and how they hit at each spot in the order... is it some crazy coincidence that every guy KILLS it from the 8th hole (regardless of sample size?)

Sorry, not trying to be a know-it-all... I most certainly do not. Just drives me nuts with the apparent respect for advanced stats that these managers claim to have, yet throw it out the window for some unknown reason that is based on "yerp, just feel right"

Anonymous said...

Ole PBN, you are not following in the footsteps of your namesake

I agree though. I think Trea isn't really a leadoff type hitter because he's never really been a high OBP guy. I think he needs to shorten his swing and learn to be a slap type hitter. Yeah power is great and all, but there's enough power in this lineup. Slap the ball down the third base line and beat out infield single after infield single. That's my take at least

Robot said...

I'm sure Monday I'll talk about it again after another blown game.

Well, here's #1....

Sammy Kent said...

Three L's in a row. The MLB leading offense has now been bottled up by two of the worst teams in the league. The pitching staff is now one group of starters that have worn themselves out already because Dusty doesn't trust the bullpen, and the bullpen that justifies Dusty's angst game after game.

It's only May 20th, the Nats are 25-16, seven games ahead in the standings even after last night's loss to the now 2nd place Braves, and still I have this really bad gnawing in my gut that says this team is in deep doodoo. We need Scherzer and four days of rain.

Now tell me again how mediocre Kurt Suzuki is.

Robot said...

Suzuki is still mediocre, brah.

Anonymous said...

I am so tired of our broadcasters being such homers - its pathetic. 8th inning in Saturday's game, Bryce hit's a sharp ground ball that Phillips bobbles, picks it up, and just barely throws out a "hustling" Bryce. FP pointed it out: "look at Bryce, hustling all the way, just barely gets him, thats the breaks." Except no FP. No he wasn't. He was slow out of the box - then about a quarter of the way down the line, starts sprinting when he realizes he has a chance. Every player is guilty of this, but our announcers wouldn't let you know it. Go look at what these clown are ranked... 3 different sources rank them top 5 worst in the game.... Ugh, see? This is what happens when they start giving games away - we start nitpicking every detail.

....But seriously, Bob and FP are terrible. FP is cliche after cliche and Bob just is plain BAD. And after finding out how long he's been in the booth, I'm shocked. The crew is way too Mickey Mouse for me.

Josh Higham said...

In a 21 game sample Suzuki is dramatically outperforming his career norms. He was below average last year and awful the year before. Not worth 5 million a year for the previous two years, and it's not certain he'll continue to hit well over the course of this season. Probably he'll end the year worth more than 5 million, but that doesn't make up for how bad he was in 2014 and how mediocre he was last year.

Rob said...

@Anonymous from 6:06PM

Everyone loves to critique announcers and say how awful they are (and since when did everything boil down to some arbitrary ranking?). For my money, Bob and FP are the best in the game. I love tuning in every night to listen to them.

Robot said...

I could take or leave Bob, but I frickin' love FP.

Fries said...

I'm in the same boat as Robot. FP is great comedic relief because at least 4 or 5 times a game, he says something so ridiculous you feel the need to rewind and make sure you heard it right. I also like his insights from the clubhouse. Bob is whatever. Still prefer Charile and Dave

Josh Higham said...

I'm team Robot and team FP. It's kind of a perverse thing--I love how bad FP is. I find him enormously fun to listen to, mostly because he's a homer and a washed up journeyman and all that. And sometimes I even think he has a good thing to say. Bob is hard for me to listen to. He gets facts wrong all the time, has very little insight to add, and is very vanilla in general.

Ole PBN said...

Charlie and Dave are quite a pair - love those guys. I will say this, comparing radio to TV announcers is comparing apples to oranges. Without the visual in TV radio guys are forced to describe the action in much more detailed/colorful way - to paint the picture for the audience. FP has grown on me though, he provides a quirky comedic relief and he does a great job explaining the intricacies of the game to the casual fan: "For all you youngsters out there, notice how Murphy... etc." So much of the entire package is about cadence and the guy's voice. I'm more of a John Miller, Vin Scully, Don Orsillo kind of guy. Charlie and Dave have a soothing rhythm as well.

As an aside, I read a comment on an ESPN article when we beat the Mets 23-5. The article had imbedded video clips from some of home runs our guys hit that day. Some guy from CA who doesnt watch the Nats wrote: "Wow - are those the announcers that Nationals fans have to listen to everyday? That is probably the worst/lamest home run call I've ever heard! Haha" Is it naive to think that if other fans around the country who casually pop in to Nats games notice this, that some of the Nats loyal fanbase notices this as well? I sure do. "See. You. Later! Aaaannnd the Nats. Are up 2-1." Bob sounds like he stating facts or reading a teleprompter during an infomercial.

I'd prefer a Charlie & Dave simulcast if you ask me.

Unknown said...

SLOW YOUR ROLL, DUSTY!!! Ye Gods!!! Not GOod!!!

19 percent of MLB starts of 115+ pitches this season have come from #Nats rotation...

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