Nationals Baseball: Who needs Zim?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Who needs Zim?

Well, the Nats do, but for one night things are ok.

Yesterday, I said that the Nats rotation would clearly fall back to Earth, and I meant it. They can't have 4 of the best seasons of all-time. But how far will each pitcher fall and for that matter will tonight's pitcher Edwin Jackson pitch any better.   It's time for a traipse through some fancy stats.

These are values that can vary from pitcher to pitcher but in general fall within a defined range.  There can be an outlier or two in any given year but they are rare and barely fall out of the expected range.  For these if any Nats are outside the range you'd have to really expect them to fall back into it.

BABIP (usually ranges from .250-.325)
Strasburg: .262 (rough, back of the envelop 2-year ave  .275)
Gio: .228 (.280)
ZNN: .200 (.270)
EJax: .250 (.320)
Detwiler: .238 (.272)

This is a big one and we're gonna see some regression.  I LOVE the fact that Strasburg is not far from how he's done in his past and completely in line with the usual range.  The rest of the group, including E Jax unfortunately, are going to have a few more hits fall in. ZNN should feel it the worst.

HR/FB  (6.0% - 13.0%)
Strasburg: 0.0%  (4.5%)
Gio: 0.0% (8.5%)
ZNN: 4.2% (14%)
EJax: 5.0% (9.4%)
Detwiler:  9.1% (10.6%)

So few homers!  Strasburg just doesn't give up homers.  He'll give up a handful but not much more than that.  Gio might be in line for a big bump backwards here. ZNN is an interesting case. He had terrible luck here 2 years ago (22%) and great luck here last year (6%).  I expect some real improvement here but I'll need him to go through the whole year giving up just a couple bombs before I'll believe he's changed into a Strasburg. Dewtiler is fine.  

LOB% (66% - 80%)
Strasburg: 82.5% (71%)
Gio: 80% (77.5%)
ZNN: 80.7% (73.3%)
EJax: 51.3% (72%)
Detwiler:73.5% (78.7%)

Here's where Edwin has gotten screwed.  He's actually gotten lucky with hits and homers, but has bad luck when guys have gotten on base. Tipping his pitches, maybe? Strasburg should get a little less lucky here but not terribly so, maybe ZNN, too.  Others are pretty close.

Personal stats
Here what we want to see if anyone has improved enough in these stats to justify the change in results we are seeing on the field. There IS a range but it's very broad and frankly I think it's more telling to look at their stats last year. It's difficult to improve on something like BABIP or LOB%. but I like to believe you can for the below.

Strasburg:   42.9% (42%)
Gio: 52.7% (48%)
ZNN: 48.7% (44%)
EJax: 51.1% (46%)
Detwiler: 64.3% (43%)

Detwiler's GB% is a bit crazy. You have to go back to 2007 to find someone who did that well for an entire year.  Can he do it? Maybe. Certainly he can be up around 60%, but given it's only been a few games, he hasn't done it before then I want to see it before I expect it.  I think it's nice to see here that everyone has improved.  Edwin's numbers give me pause a bit, though I'll get back to exactly why.

K/9  BB/9
Strasburg: 9.00 / 2.16 (11 /2) 
Gio: 10.27 / 2.66 (8/4)
ZNN: 5.33 / 0.67 (7.5 / 2.3)
EJax: 9.47 / 1.42 (7.4 / 3)
Detwiler: 8.44 / 2.25 (5.5 / 2.73)

The big things to notice here are how Gio has made big strides in both striking people out and walking fewer.  Maybe it's just having that pitcher respite, but the guy looks really good here.  ZNN is walking no one, 2 walks in 27 innings, while Detwiler is striking out a bunch more.  Edwin has improved too - so again I'll get back to it.

What does all this mean? It means that the National pitchers are in general getting lucky AND pitching better.  That makes is far less likely that we're going to see a stretch where everyone sees their ERAs bounce back close to 4.00.  For Strasburg I see the least change. He's pitching how he always has. He may give up a couple more runs but honestly this is a guy that should be in the low 2.00s. Gio's numbers are exciting because even though he should be giving up a couple more runs, he's pitching much better. The more I see him the more I like him to be under 3.00 as well. ZNN has the farthest to "fall" out of any of them.  A lot of his great pitching so far has been based on things going his way.  Not that he's going to be terrible or anything.  Based on the limited info we have so far, he should end up with a year a lot like last year and that's good. This is a damn good 1 through 3.

Detwiler and Jackson are the question marks. Detwiler IS pitching very very well.  Not 0.56 ERA well but arguably better than ZNN. The question though is how much of that is a fluke of small sample size? He's so far off some of his numbers that it's hard to just buy this as improvement. Is he suddenly Brandon Webb at his peak? If we were talking about 20 starts here maybe you start to buy into it, but for now it's a situation where Ross is going to have to prove it every time out for a couple months before Nats fans can get excited about him.  As for Jackson, as the most veteran arm you tend to buy into his history more than others.  That makes his improvements in GB%, K/9, and BB/9 a little less believable in my eyes. And I'm not enthused by how right now he's getting a screwed by his pitching with RISP, when the Nats talked about that as a strength ("he was tipping!") and the fact that he's getting lucky in other areas. This can go a lot of ways but I don't see him developing into that #2 type guy that some people were thinking he could be. I see more just repeating last couple years of minor disappointment in the high 3s.  But hey - an awesome game today could change everything.

I think the key points are
  • Very early but the Nats are pitching better and getting lucky
  • Should see some regression but again pitching better so they should still be among the best in the majors
  • Strasburg and ZNN are as good as most expected. Gio may in fact be better. 
  • Detwiler is so far off his history, but we have so little history for him that we just don't know if this is real.
  • Jackson's not necessarily in for a large improvement.  I wouldn't bet on it but I can't rule it out either.


AtlNatsFan said...

Great post. It is important for fans not to believe that this record is what the Nats are. I have never been an EJax fan. CMW is already throwing games and should be back soon. He needs a spot in the rotation. Could the Nats trade EJax to make room for CMW?

The rotation will look a lot worse once Strasburg is shutdown. I wonder what this rotation will be like without him.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harper said...

Way too early to trade EJAX. Too early in year. Too early to do it for a guy that can't seem to stay healthy. Plus you'd be trading him when he looks worse than he's actually been pitching. Not maximizing return.

It could be meh when (if?) Stras is sat but Gio and ZNN are the real deal. Top of the rotation should be fine.

brendan said...


I think trading Jackson would definitely be an interesting move, but one that simply won't happen. Not many will take on 11 mil for a 4.0 ERA pitcher (not sure why the Nationals did, but the pitching coach said he saw something that he could change, so I'll leave it up to him).

However, on the other hand, if he's pitching at a 3.0 clip, there's no reason to switch his rotation spot with CMW.

Detwiler still has to perform of course but it looks like CMW's hammy cost him a comeback.

On to the hitters, while no one has picked up to account for for Desmond and Laroche cooling off, just about everyone seems to be doing a little bit better.

So what's better, everyone improving their average by 15 points or two improving by 40?

Section 224 said...


This is a team sport, and part of what we're seeing is what we saw brewing the 2nd half of last year. These guys would die for each other out there. They take pitches to give RISP for the guys batting after them. They pick each other up after rough outings or errors. Nobody threw Gorzy under the bus for getting shelled the other night, nor EJ either.

Morale is high. Team chemistry is great. Wealth of talent is great. We have to decide which well-performing player to send down when Wang returns.

And the best part of it all? Davey has them believing that they are this good. That's worth 5-10 wins right there.

Shane said...

AtlNatsFans - Everyone improving by 15 is better overall, but will take longer to see the difference. Two improving by 40 shows quicker return and causes us fans to throw our hats down at the LOB stat.

Great news is we only have to win one of the next four to have a 'successful' WCRT. I'm still pulling for a SD sweep and 1 of 3 in LA.

AtlNatsFan said...

Shane - personally, I know the Nats will do their fair share of losing before the season is over. But, with the team playing the way it has been, I expect to win every series and sweep bad teams. So I am looking for a win tonight and 2 of 3 against LAD. I know that is optimistic, but if you can't be an optimistic fan during this streak then when can you?

Harper - I totally get what you say about EJax. I just see the wealth of arms the team has accrued over the years through drafting I want to just see the best five up in the rotation. I obviously don't want to leverage the future for this year, but this is the last year the Nats can use that phrase and that is only bc Strasburg is on an innings limit...

AtlNatsFan said...

as for Zimmerman - could Lomnbardozzi play 3rd for the games that Zimm is out and keep his bat in the game? I know he is a middle infielder with servicable outfield skills, but is playing Chad Tracy really a better option?

Anonymous said...

It's way too early to give up on EJax, especially because the raw stuff is much better than CMW. Even though we have 9 million dollars in starters tied up not actually in the rotation, it's a sunk cost at this point. If Rizzo believes the 5 we have out there are the best 5 (which they are), then we have to stick with that. CMW may be fairly ineffective out of the bullpen, but he could figure out how to be a swingman and figure back into the rotation if an injury happens or when Stras reaches his limit.

michael k said...

Wait a minute...

1) You can change "personal stats"
2) "Personal stats" account for changes in "ranges"
3) It is difficult to improve on "ranges"

Ugh...logical fallacy alert #ohman #whydoievencomehere #gradeschoollogic #soooobad

:P. Great post Harper. As I've said before this "hook" is the reason I come here. Great to see Gio improve on his peripherals, gives me hope that he's the real deal moving forward. It really doesn't matter how the folks we gave up do if he can average 3.00 ERA for 7 relatively cheap years. I thought Zimmermann got lucky last year with HR/FB, but that he would improve on other areas enough to get the same ERA. So far that theory hasn't been disproven (yet). Strasburg is a beast. Lots of things to look forward to in the Nats' future.

Hoo said...

silly to trade Ejax this year. I don't think EJAX as a less than 1 year rental will generate much value.

More importantly, given the fact that the Nats are clearly in the playoff picture this year, why get rid of Ejax? Strass will almost certainly be shut down so there will be a spot for Wang and Dett and Ejax.

Nats are done trading starting players for a potential future. Nats are trading for the now b/c our window has arrived quite possibly a year ahead of schedule.

Harper said...

brendan - a lot of people saw EJAX as a low 3.00 pitcher that had some bad luck. The cost right now

Sec 224- I don't want to dismiss intangibles out of hand but 5 to 10? That's a bit too much.

AtlNats - If you are saying trade EJax for a bat, not a young pitcher then I'd agree but you just won't see that happen this early in the year. You don't want to deal players this early in the year - too much uncertainty on how they might do and how the team might do.

Nick - I assume CMW does the minors thing until someone gets injured or pitches terribly. You have to give Jackson... hooo at least half the year, right? Even if he's terrible?

mk - Forget fallacy, #2 is where it breaks down. While personal stats can account for some change in ranges there's almost too much noise there. Great K guys can have ok LOB%, great GB guys can have bad HR/FB rates, there's a lot of luck going on here beacuse we're breaking things down to even smaller samples.

Hooo - two good points. Any trade would be a now for now deal (at least I would think so). Trading ANY pitcher this early is unlikely because of the Strasburg situation.

Hoo said...

Harper: I know you and Rizzo have always pointed to 2013 as the year to make the run. But I'd guess everyone's timetable has jumped up with hot start and other teams looking weak. You don't sacrifice all the future but Win Now has increased in importance.

Whereas waiting till offseason for a key CF might have made sense, if Rizzo is offered a GIO type deal for a CF in June...

Donald said...

What are the odds that EJax ends up in the pen when CMW comes back. By a lot of accounts, CMW looked awesome in spring training (tiny sample). At his best, he was the Yankee's ace, and Davey thought he looked like a 1-3 pitcher. So if they have to make room for him, wouldn't it make more sense to put EJax in the pen, rather than Detwiler? We're not really thinking of EJax as a part of our future so pissing him off doesn't matter that much. And it would make more sense to have a rightie long reliever rather than a second leftie.

Anonymous said...

I dont care what anyone says, when Morse, Storen, and Zim come back, this will be a very balanced top team in the NL. And everyone keeps talking about Ejax pitching bad, lol, he has has one bad inning. See what his ERA is minus his first inning against the Astros.

Anonymous said...

I dont care what anyone says, when Morse, Storen, and Zim come back, this will be a very balanced top team in the NL. And everyone keeps talking about Ejax pitching bad, lol, he has has one bad inning. See what his ERA is minus his first inning against the Astros.

Anonymous said...

I dont care what anyone says, when Morse, Storen, and Zim come back, this will be a very balanced top team in the NL. And everyone keeps talking about Ejax pitching bad, lol, he has has one bad inning. See what his ERA is minus his first inning against the Astros.

Anonymous said...

Wow Harper, I think Im gonna go on the Phillies site so I can see some nice things said about the Nationals.

Anonymous said...

Great post Wally.

Anonymous said...

Such short memories already. Jackson has Nats' only CG this year, and got shelled in one inning with three triples. Every other team in MLB has more disastrous experiences to relate than Jackson's one bad inning. Either keep CMW fresh at AAA until a pitcher needs to miss some time (inevitable) or settle him into a long-relief role to complement Gorzy and Clippard, who have shown more warning signs than the starting rotation so far.

Harper said...

Hoo - Ah... I don't know. Can you say the timetable has moved up because of a two game lead in late April? By the time trade talk becomes serious we'll really know where the Nats stand.

Donald - slim, even before last night. CMW will take the slow road back and the Nats will hope the issue works itself out someway in the meantime.

Anon #1 - "balanced"? No, the offense just isn't that good unless everything goes right Zimm and Morse or not. But they'll have a good enough offense.

As for EJAx - we'll see. A lot of pitchers can look good if you take out an inning or two. Looked ok last night but 6 hits and 3 walks in 6+ against that lineup was certainly less than what you'd want to see. Maybe though he's just suffering in comparison.

Anon #2 - If you take a column that basically says - They're all pitching great, they'll slide back from best staff ever into best staff in the league, though question marks do remain about Detwiler and Jackson - to be overly negative then we're just going to agree to disagree.

Wally - Feel the same way about Strasburg. I think it's the walks. We're used to it being accidents but now it feels like "ok sure he walked a guy or two" of course that tells you the standard he's set for himself.

Detwiler I'm curious about too. He seems so good but then again. Mets without Wright, probably should have given up more to the Reds, scuffling Marlins team. The Dodgers aren't quite on fire but they should be a good test.

Anon #3 - the CG is key. The Nats and Davey won't mind riding Jackson's arm. They won't do that to anyone else other than Gio. he can save the bullpen in a way that a coming back from injury CMW can't. Unless he collapses there is no way EJAX doesn't stay in the rotation for most of the year.

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