Nationals Baseball: Tuesday Quickie - I didn't want to do it

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Quickie - I didn't want to do it

I really didn't want to do this but when even Barry, even Barry, is doing something wrong you have to step in right?

Look, if you are going to compare how many pitches the Nats starters have thrown in their first nine starts you can't compare it to the entirety of last year. You have to compare it to the first nine starts of last year. This is for two reasons. First pitchers definitely scale down as the year winds down. With more players available to managers with expanded rosters and with playoff situations becoming set, starters are asked to back off in order to ensure they are ready for the postseason. The other reason, which we will see in a minute is debatable, is because it is thought that pitchers often "ramp up" starting with a few briefer outings in order to get their arms back to major league readiness.

Of course it's an easy enough thing to check so here are the Nats current P/G through 9 games and what it was in 2016

Max :  106.2 (2017), 105 (2016)

Stras :  104.8,  103.2

Gio :  105.8,  98.3

Roark : 106.3, 104.5

How many 110+ outings? Ok that's a arbitrary line in the sand and we might see different things if we set the line at say 105 or 108, but I'll play along.

Max :  3, 2
Stras :  3, 2
Gio :  2, 0
Roark : 3, 3

It turns out that, surprise!, the Nats starters are pitching about as much as they did last year. The difference for Max, Stras, and even Roark who is obviously struggling, is not something close to a batter an inning, but rather just one or two more pitches. Surprising, right? The only one with a big difference is Gio. So yes, Dusty is trying to get more out of Gio, trying to wring an out or two more from a guy who he might have pulled early in 2016.

Why then the change in rank?  Well they did go up, but also because rank is kind of silly, especially the earlier in the year you go. If I throw 90 pitches a game but the league throws 80 I might rank #1. If it averages 100, I might rank #50. I'm doing the same thing, the league is changing. Rank without values can be misleading. To this end, I wouldn't be surprised if the overall P/G is down a bit in the NL given the increase in offense we are seeing this year from the league. The end result being the Nats being higher without really throwing more. Even if they all lost 2 pitches per game putting then UNDER where they were through 9 games last year they'd still rank #3, #4, #5, and #8 which would seem like an increase from last year even though again - they'd have been throwing fewer pitches (except Gio)

I'm not saying the bullpen isn't effecting the starters. There is something to be said about sticking it out for one more important batter and having X number of additional high stress pitches thrown. That may effect an arm. Though until someone shows me that is actually going on in a way different from last year I'm going to assume things are the same since the pitches are the same. There is possibly a psychological effect on the pitcher. He may be demanding more of himself earlier in order to keep the game close. But the straight up idea that the Nats starters are throwing significantly more this year because of the problems with the pen? It's just not true, except for Gio.


Anonymous said...

Thank you!!

Positively Half St. said...

There is another reason for Gio pitching more. He needs to reach a certain number of innings (I think 200) for his 2018 salary to vest automatically. Gio is probably resisting any attempt to take him out early.

Jimmy said...

@Positively Half St. -
meh I believe it's a team/vesting option so even if it doesn't vest the team can still pick up his contract. If anything Gio would probably be interested in FA as he is a complete bargain right now.

G Cracka X said...

Excellent counter-analysis Harper!

Chas R said...

Excellent analysis, Harper

Ole PBN said...

Or Gio is just pitching better. Perhaps that s BIG reason why he's exceeding 100 pitches?

DezoPenguin said...

Thank goodness for sanity, Harper. I swear, one sports columnist starts a story like this and then a dozen others just repeat the story without actually looking at any of the underlying statistics or analyzing anything, no different than repeating a meme.

BxJaycobb said...

Thanks for this analysis. I guess what I would say is a couple things. First, I think the pitches per game actually understates it, because the Nats have been going with a 4 man rotation most of the year and skipping the 5th starters day, thus depriving the other 4 starters of an extra day of I bet if u looked up the stats for "total pitches thrown by each pitcher in 2017" it might be even worse. Second, I don't think it's a coincidence that EVERY Nats starter is up. Sure they're not all up drastically (gio is....and a 10% increase in pitches is a lot...let's hope he holds up and stays healthy). It's also not a coincidence that the rankings are high. At a time when bullpens are becoming more dominant and specialized, and more effective relative to starters, the Nats pen is becoming less* dominant and less effective relative to starters. Starters are throwing fewer pitches not because of higher league wide offense but because the long term trend over multiple years is for pitchers per start to continue to drop. So when an entire teams pitch counts go UP year to year, and not DOWN as every other teams is, that's noteworthy. Teams are smarter now about how ineffective a starter is when he's at a high pitch count and facing a guy for a 4th time through the order----for most if not all teams, it becomes a better short term strategic option to bring in a specialist reliever to get an out than push your starter to 125 pitches (Roark....sorry...but that's a bad inexcusable idea no matter the circumstances...u should simply not start a new AB at more than 115). So it may be a combination of multiple factors that the Nats rank high:
1. The Nats rotation thus far has been unusually short on young precious arms that you try to protect...let's see how Ross is treated.
2. As MLB is decreasing how deep starters go in games, the Nats are an outlier in how they're NOT decreasing how long they push their starter.
3. If anything, dusty is old school as a manger.
4. The Nats don't have awesome options out of the pen.

But it's definitely not like ranking 1,2,4, and 5 in the NL in average pitches is NOTHING. Nats starters ranked pretty high last year, and they're only throwing more this year, pushing them to the top of the list. We don't need to be alarmist and shriek that dusty is going to cause these guys arms to fall off. But we should take note of the trend and wonder whether it would be a good idea to let up on them as the season goes on. If you are more guaranteed than almost any team in baseball to be pitching your most important innings in October, then you probably shouldn't be working you starters HARDER than every other team. And even if it's not by a crazy amount relative to last year, that is what the Nats are doing.

Anonymous said...

Joe a boss!!

Anonymous said...

You have to give Dusty a bit of a break...the telecast showed him and Maddux having an extended conversation re: letting Strasburg stay in, and Dusty went with Maddux recommendation. Even though it didn't pan out...

Harper said...

BX - " If you are more guaranteed than almost any team in baseball to be pitching your most important innings in October, then you probably shouldn't be working you starters HARDER than every other team"

I don't think that's necessarily true, especially when "harder" is 1-2 more pitches a game over last year or 5 or so over "normal good starter work" BUT when taken in context of the season - namely the Nats are in total control of the East and don't need to push it - I can see the point.

Richard Parker said...

A bit off point: "...we've come to expect...". (not came). Also, yesterday you used "effected" when you should said "affected." There have been numeros other examples. I know, it's a baseball blog. But when the writer can't write, it gets irritating in the long run. Maybe just be more careful. Just a suggestion. You have real talent. Clean things up a bit and you might end up on ESPN.

leang heng said...

Thanks for nice sharing.


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