Last night in the seventh inning of Game 1 against the Phillies, Philadelphia starter Jeremy Hellickson lost control of a pitch that struck reigning MVP Bryce Harper squarely on the outside of his right knee. The collective beating heart of NatsTown skipped multiple beats as the left-handed slugger stood there while Dusty Baker and head trainer Paul Lessard examined Harper, finally escorting him to first. Things would not improve from there. Continue Reading Deep Breaths for Bryce Harper
Sunday’s 10-2 win for the Washington Nationals over the St. Louis Cardinals encapsulated how dominant Stephen Strasburg has been all season. The success that has led him to his excellent start—which includes a 2.69 ERA and a 11 K/9 rate—was on display as he improved to 9-0, and a look his overall numbers shows that his early-season performance is sustainable.
What has been evident throughout Strasburg’s career is his ability to generate strikeouts, and that is continuing this season. His current K/9 rate is just a tad over his 10.5 career mark, but what is notable right now is that he is finding more success with certain secondary offerings. A glance at the Pitch F/X data available at Brooks Baseball shows that Strasburg is generating more swings and misses on his changeup than last season and is getting far more value out of his sinker.
With his secondary pitches working at a more effective rate, Strasburg is doing a better job of lessening contact. When hitters put the ball in play against him, they are not doing anywhere near the amount of damage they have done in previous years. Thus far, batted balls against Strasburg have amounted to hard contact just 24.5% of the time, which is much lower than in any full season he has pitched. It is possible that that number will jump overtime, though it seems likely to stay below the 28.9% and 31.7% figures of 2015 and 2014, respectively.
Strasburg’s ability to generate medium or soft contact at a higher rate is showing in both his FIP and xFIP marks, which are 2.58 and 2.93, respectively. In tandem, they suggest that his 2.69 ERA is sustainable.
One last point is the W-L record, which for various reasons is a terrible way to evaluate pitchers. In Strasburg’s case, however, there is one point that is worth noting. In each of 11 starts this season, he has lasted at least six innings, therefore giving him more control over the outcome of the game.
In fact, the Nationals have won every game that Strasburg has pitched this season. Much of that owes to the team’s improved bullpen, but it does show that Strasburg’s durability is having a positive effect on the team’s record.
If he can stay healthy, Strasburg will likely set a new career high in innings pitched, as he is in a position to pass his 215 innings total from 2014. That would be a notable milestone on its own, but all signs point to Strasburg completing what could go down as one of the best seasons of his career.
Today is May 28th. Estimates vary, but the date that Trea Turner can be called up and be under team control through the 2022 season instead of 2021 is somewhere in the range from May 29th to June 1st (the Washington Post says May 30th), so it’s possible the sun will rise tomorrow on a Nats roster with Turner as starting shortstop. It’s no sure thing that Mike Rizzo and Co. will call up Turner the moment they can, but with Turner shredding Triple A and Danny Espinosa struggling somewhat in the majors (despite another home run last night), it’s hard to think of a more opportune time.
Obviously, much ink has been spilled about the relative merits of Turner and Espinosa, including an excellent post by our own Frank Lattuca, so I won’t totally dive into that. In this post, I will attempt to take a thorough accounting of what kind of defender Espinosa is — a topic that has been surprisingly controversial — and take a look at how good (or bad) Turner’s defense might be.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a … wait, this isn’t remedial English Lit, this is the tale of two hitters. Two outstanding left-handed hitters for the Washington Nationals that are having similarly opposite seasons. This is a case study in how the Baseball Gods, especially the BABIP Gods — a particularly finicky lot — can make or break your season.
Although FP won’t be successful in making Daniel “Hits” Murphy happen, give him credit for trying because the sentiment stands. Murphy has been the best and most consistent hitter on the Nationals this far in the 2016 season. In fact, he’s been one of the best and most consistent hitters in all of baseball. He’s tied for the seventh-highest WAR in the majors according to FanGraphs. His .394 batting average is the highest in the league by over 30 points. Only 13 players in the MLB have struck out a lower rate than Murphy. He’s carried the offensive load for the Nationals for most of the season even though no one predicted such big things out of the former Met.
The Nationals have been busy this last month: sweeping the Cardinals for the first time since 2007, making history with a 20-strikeout complete game, and winning a series against division rival New York Mets. All this, and the Nationals still found time to check out the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and force Dan Kolko to wear pink sunglasses.
First of all, thank you all for your patience while we recovered from a completely unexpected shutdown from our former hosting service. We’ve moved to a new provider, and we hope to have more speed and stability from our site while we continue to provide the best content that we can. (I’m just as excited to have Mina’s posts back as you all are.)
Over the coming weeks and months, you will continue to notice many changes here. This design and layout is a work-in-progress. We wanted to get a site working as quickly as possible so we could start posting stuff here again rather than on Facebook, and we acknowledge it needs aesthetic improvements. We’ll get there. We promise.
You’ll also notice that our archives are not here. Luckily, despite our previous hosting provider taking us down without warning, we do still have the old content. We will begin to restore the old content in the months ahead, and it will be a long and tedious process to do so.
So for now: we’re back. We hope to be on more stable ground now that we’re running our own infrastructure, and we thank you again for being patient and sticking with us. We’re glad to be back.
Thanks to an intradivision rivalry and a shared Tommy John history, Matt Harvey and Stephen Strasburg will be forever linked. Since Matt Harvey fancies himself as the Dark Knight, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice dictates that Stephen Strasburg is Superman. Which, sidebar, is that a good thing? I never saw it so I don’t even know it was it really a rivalry. I’m assuming Batman and Superman just end up as buddies at the end so they can make their Justice League sequel(s)? Is that why it sucked? Should really have done my research before writing this piece, huh? Anyways, back on the field, it was Superman/Strasburg who took round two of the 2016 Harvey v. Strasburg matchup Tuesday night.
Continue Reading Harvey Struggles Against Nats Again
As their bats have struggled to warm up in the early going, the Nationals have been buoyed by their pitching. A team ERA of 2.88, the second best in baseball behind the Cubs, has lifted the Nats to first place in the NL East (though that lead sits at just a half game after Monday’s loss to the Mets).
In a surprising show of equity, both the relievers and starters rank second in ERA. But it is the relief corps that has stolen the show recently. Since May 9th, the bullpen has ceded just two runs in 36 1/3 innings, good for a 0.50 ERA. And after four scoreless in relief of Gio Gonzalez tonight, it has not allowed a run in the past eight games, an impressive 23 1/3-inning streak that is approaching the equivalent of three consecutive shutouts. During that span, the relievers have allowed 16 hits and walked seven while striking out 26.
Obviously, such a feat is a collective effort, but let’s look at each of the individual pitchers and see what their contribution to the whole has been. Below, I’ll list each of the seven pitchers and their May statline.
Continue Reading Nats’ Bullpen Leads the Way
#PitchersWhoRake are really popular around The Nats Blog. Who doesn’t love it when a Nationals’ pitcher comes through with a base knock? So far in 2016, Nats’ pitchers have been raking their way to the fifth best offensive output from pitchers in the National League, prior to Max Scherzer’s 0-2 with a walk day in the win versus the Marlins on Sunday.
Continue Reading #PitchersWhoRake, Nats Edition