Tuesday, 29 May 2012

2012 Game 45

Highest Leverage PA:      2.2, PA#35 Minor GDP vs Strasburg, Braves 4th.
Highest WPA/LI Value:     .255, PA #44, Uggla HR vs Strasburg, Braves 5th.
Highest WPA/LI Fldg Play: .068, PA#35 Minor GDP vs Strasburg, Braves 4th.
QMAX rating:             (5,5) for Strasburg.
Bullpen Award:           Hero's Palm for Gorzelanny.
Batters' WPA/LI Values:
Espinosa       0.156
Harper         0.114
Tracy          0.061
Ankiel         0.036
LaRoche        0.028
Nady           0.007
Strasburg     -0.004
Desmond       -0.011
Gorzelanny    -0.033
Zimmerman     -0.043
Moore         -0.050
Flores        -0.074
And this one also belongs to the Nationals' hitting. This looks like Strasburg's worst start of the season so far, but the bullpen did a better job of holding back the Braves than they did on Friday night. Espinosa's and Harper's home runs were supported by crucial extra-base hits from Desmond, Ankiel and Nady. A solid team effort with the bats.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

2012 Game 44

Highest Leverage PA:     3.1, PA#58 Zimmerman 2B vs Hudson, Nationals 7th.
Highest WPA/LI Value:    .115, PA #7, Ankiel 3B vs Hudson, Nationals 1st
QMAX rating:             (5,5) for Detwiler.
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' WPA/LI Values:
Zimmerman      0.094
Ankiel         0.092
Desmond        0.069
Wang           0.020
Tracy          0.000
Harper        -0.013
Flores        -0.020
Lombardozzi   -0.036
Detwiler      -0.045
Espinosa      -0.073
LaRoche       -0.144
And this one belongs to the Nationals' hitting. I don't count this as Detwiler's worst outing, because he didn't give up many hits. His command (or the umpire's strike zone) deserted him in this game as he gave up more walks than innings pitched. Also, is the #5 starter now going to be by committee?

Having lamented the lack of a sequential offense in my last game digest, we were treated to two examples of that in this game, with single, double, single, hit by pitch and triple producing four runs in the first. Then, in the seventh, two walks and two doubles added another three runs. Zimmerman's doubles in both of these innings helped him top the WPA/LI list. And this happened against a good team (although the Reds have been looking a bit better of late)! This game filled me with hope in the way the series against the Orioles triggered some unhappy flashbacks.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Part One: Root, root, root for the...

...laundry? Player? Flag?

I found Tom Tango's stimulating post about how one decides who to root for resonating quite powerfully with me.

I was born and raised in Detroit, and so the first team I cheered for was the 'home team', the Detroit Tigers. I also naturally developed an interest in the Red Wings, the Lions and U of M football. (I had no interest whatsoever in basketball then.) Baseball was by far my favourite sport, and I was all for laundry then. However, in professional football, for reasons I don't really recall, I began to latch on to particular players. My interest in the Lions quickly waned, while I remained a fan of the NFL. The watershed moment came in 1973. Although I was all of twelve years old, the introduction of the designated hitter rule struck me as a deeply evil flouting of tradition. At some point in 1972 I had discovered that my little transistor radio could receive the Cincinnati Reds broadcasts. So I switched to the Reds, and became a NATIONAL LEAGUE fan.

I was rooting for rules and accessibility.

The next development drew on my football experience, in that I began to follow players more closely. In 1976, I joined an APBA league, and suddenly the idea of rooting for a single team at all seemed unpleasantly confining. Via The Sporting News, I was already getting a lot of information on individual players, and the APBA experience of breaking up rosters in a distribution draft simply shattered the link between person and laundry completely. My focus remained on the National League, but the old 'splendid isolation' from the nasty DH was ended. The trade of a player might lead me to follow a team, as in the case of Tony Perez going from the Reds to the Montreal Expos, which was my first link with the Nationals' franchise.

Two years later, I left Detroit for Southampton, England, and a new era in sports fandom. Basically, I was not a fan of much sport at all. Insofar as I was a fan, the flag trumped all. But that was a consequence of the sports I was following. I briefly tried to be an England cricket fan, but my main sporting interest from 1980 until 1995 was rugby union, and specifically the Five Nations' International Championship between England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France. However, I was not at first an England fan. Partly, this was because I was not accepted as 'English', with my harsh Michigan accent. But also because some similarity of appearance (mostly the hair) was found by my friends between me and the 'Blonde Bombshell' of the French back row, Jean-Pierre Rives. I remained a French fan through the years of Serge Blanco and then Philippe Saint-Andre and 'the Try from the End of the World'.

Rooting for players had been transformed into rooting for laundry, in that there was no reason for me to continue with 'Allez les Bleus after Rives had retired in 1984. But I did.

One reason for that was an English lock named Wade Dooley. This policeman from Lancashire was a horrible brute on the playing field, whose sins went unremarked by the rugby announcer Nigel Starmer-Smith, quite a patriotic Englishman in pointing out the cheating play of England's opponents. Together, they prevented me from following my natural inclination to back England (as I had done in cricket), until this attitude hardened to the point that to this day I cannot bring myself to support England in rugby, or any other sport with the exception of cricket, with any degree of comfort. Thanks, Starmer-Smith.

So rooting against a player worked just as effectively as rooting for one.

By the early 1990s I had been living in London for about ten years, but begun taking regular trips to Florence, Italy. Soccer ('football' in English) held little appeal to me up to then, but my love of Italy and the broadcasting of Football Italia on Channel 4 in England sowed the seeds of me becoming a fan of calcio. Florence's Fiorentina was (and still is) my team, but at the time I was also living a short bus ride from Selhurst Park, a soccer ground where Wimbledon FC played. Rules had intervened again, as rugby union had abandoned 'shamateurism' and officially gone professional. This coincided with some other playing-rule changes that paradoxcially made the game less interesting to watch (a minority opinion, to be sure).

Now I was rooting for 'place' — the teams representing my two residences so to speak (a stretch in the case of Wimbledon, who were tenants of the laughable Crystal Palace at Selhurst, but they were still my closest Premiership side).

2012 Game 43

Highest Leverage PA:     2.3, PA #43, LaRoche 4-3g vs Hamels, Nationals 6th.
Highest WPA/LI Value:    .204, PA #15, Fontenot 1B vs Jackson, Phillies 2nd.
QMAX rating:             Success Square (4,3) for Jackson.
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' WPA/LI Values:
Harper         0.086
Flores         0.071
Espinosa       0.009
Nady          -0.031
Zimmerman     -0.041
Ankiel        -0.065
Lombardozzi   -0.080
Jackson       -0.107
Desmond       -0.119
LaRoche       -0.225
Apologies for the week-long AWOL. The absence was partly a consequence of a decision to switch from my own system of 'leveraged win values' to the Baseball-Reference.com method of Win Probability Added/Leverage Index (or WPA/LI for short). I will explain the effect of this change in a subsequent post, but there is one important one. Those games I don't have a chance to listen to in 'real time' can be analysed more quickly with the help of Baseball Reference.

Wednesday's game with the Phillies was another example of those games where the bats let down a decent, rather than good, pitching performance. Edwin Jackson pitched just well enough to have a game that a team will win more often than not, but as WPA/LI shows oh-so-starkly, the Nationals' hitters couldn't hold up their end of the bargain. Three times the Nationals had a runner on third base, but couldn't convert that 'Red Zone' visit into a score. I am growing concerned at the Nationals' difficulty in sustaining a sequential offense, as opposed to the home runs like Adam LaRoche's 9th inning effort. But that's a topic for another post.

Friday, 18 May 2012

2012 Game 36

Highest Leverage PA:     2.5, PA #7, Baker 1B vs Strasburg, Padres' 1st.
Highest Clutch Value:    .130, PA #7, Baker 1B vs Strasburg, Padres' 1st.
QMAX rating:             Hit Hard (6,4) for Strasburg.
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
LaRoche        0.116
Desmond        0.101
Gorzelanny     0.042
Harper         0.041
Lombardozzi    0.010
Strasburg     -0.008
Flores        -0.031
Ankiel        -0.053
Espinosa      -0.089
Bernadina     -0.126
Zimmerman     -0.143
A dispiriting game, this was quite the opposite of Monday night's. After this, one can only go home and hope for tomorrow being a better day. I was a bit concerned with Ryan Perry's innings. Either he's not getting enough work to stay sharp, or he's really the seventh man in the bullpen and ought to be looking nervously towards Chien Ming Wang's return. Meanwhile, I find myself thinking more playing time needs to be found for Steve Lombardozzi. He did a decent job in Ryan Zimmerman's absence, and seems to get his hits despite warming the bench for extended periods.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A Note on Radio Guys

Back in 2010, when the San Diego Padres were in the race for the National League West title, I found myself often tuning in to their broadcasts. One of the things I do for Nationals (and other teams I might follow closely) is keep score. But when I do a 'bedtime broadcast', picking up a West Coast game not involving a team I am tracking, is just listen. It isn't quite an aural wallpaper, because I'm listening to hear opinions of other players, but I don't pay as close attention as I would to the mighty duo of Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler.

Well, except I also have a habit of listening to the visiting broadcasts on GameDay Audio. I do this to get insight into the park.

Back in 2010, I was entertained by Leitner's voice, but this time I found his commentary made it very difficult to track the game statistically. (He also offered some bone-headed views on sabermetrics.) I post a negative note because this is the first time a visiting broadcaster has driven me away from their coverage in quite a while. I'm not sure if I've changed or if Leitner has.

2012 Game 35

Highest Leverage PA:     4.2, PA #78, Guzman GDP vs Burnett, Padres' 9th.
Highest Clutch Value:    .165, PA #56, Desmond 2B vs Mikoleas, Nationals' 6th.
Lowest Opp. Clutch Val:  -.218, PA #78, Guzman GDP vs Burnett, Padres' 9th.
QMAX rating:             Hit Hard (6,3) for Detwiler.
Bullpen Award:           Hero's Palm for Burnett.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Desmond        0.234
Zimmerman      0.169
Bernadina      0.135
Flores         0.081
Tracy          0.062
Ankiel         0.041
Nady          -0.007
Stammen       -0.024
Leon          -0.032
Detwiler      -0.042
Harper        -0.084
Espinosa      -0.108
LaRoche       -0.149
This was a very good result for the Nationals. They turned around from a heartbreaker in Cincinnati, went the next evening with not much rest after a night of travel to play in unpleasant conditions, and hung on in a ding-dong battle until they came out the winners. It speaks a lot of the character of this team. Unlike a lot of sabermetrically minded types, I put some value on what can't be measured, because in results like this, though we can't measure it, we can see it on display. Furthermore, it wasn't just one player who carried the team, but an effort involving the top and the bottom of the lineup, and even the chaps off the bench.

A word, though, about Ross Detwiler. I've been very excited about his start to this season, but it is a bad time for him to suffer a bit of a slump, with Wang's return from the disabled list closer every day. Although he continues to exhibit exemplary control, he has got knocked around a bit in his last two starts. I'm just a little worried.

2012 Game 34

Highest Leverage PA:     10.9, PA #87, Votto HR vs Rodriguez, Reds' 9th.
Highest Clutch Value:    1.341, PA #87, Votto HR vs Rodriguez, Reds' 9th.
Lowest Opp. Clutch Val:  -.130, PA #84, Cairo FL5 vs Rodriguez, Reds' 9th.
QMAX rating:             Success Square (4,3) for Jackson.
Bullpen Award:           Goat's Head for Rodriguez.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Ankiel         0.171
Espinosa       0.143
Tracy          0.099
Bernadina      0.079
Flores        -0.004
Harper        -0.018
Nady          -0.026
LaRoche       -0.028
Desmond       -0.042
Moore         -0.038
Zimmerman     -0.062
Jackson       -0.073
Who would want to be a closer? To paraphrase what Ryan Zimmerman says in the advertisements I hear on the radio broadcasts, if you can't handle the stress, maybe you're in the wrong profession. Henry Rodriguez coughed up a home-run ball to Joey Votto, and that was that. The Nationals dropped out of first place.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

2012 Game 33

Highest Leverage PA:     3.9, PA #39, Harper 4-6 force vs Latos, Nats' 5th.
Highest Clutch Value:    .160, PA #33, Ramos HR vs Latos, Nationals' 5th.
                         .160, PA #45, Espinosa HR vs Arredondo, Nats' 6th.
Lowest Opp. Clutch Val:  -.120, PA #50, Phillips L6-3 DP vs Zimmermann, Reds' 6th
QMAX rating:                 Elite Square (2,2) for Zimmermann.
Bullpen Award:               Hero's Palm for Rodriguez.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Espinosa       0.277
Ramos          0.158
LaRoche        0.052
Desmond        0.031
Zimmermann     0.006
Moore         -0.016
Bernadina     -0.047
Zimmerman     -0.108
Ankiel        -0.193
Harper        -0.196
Wilson Ramos' torn ACL marred one of those tense, splendid games that are a joy for fans but probably a bit stressful for the players. Ramos hasn't received a whole lot of notice in the Season of Bryce, but he was putting together a useful season as a key contributor with the bat in clutch situations. The Nationals may well miss him more than the few weeks of Jayson Werth or Michael Morse. Contending teams always feature a couple of chaps like Ramos having career years from the lower reaches of the lineup. At least he went out on a high note with that homer. As far as the game went, on the manager's show the next day Davey Johnson commented on Bryce Harper's current troubles with the bat by highlighting exactly that 4-6 force out singled out as the most leveraged plate appearance of the game. No consolation to Harper that if he was going to be got out in spectacular fashion, it had to be at such a highly-leveraged moment.

A careless copying error led to Clippard getting a Hero's Palm that should have gone to Henry Rodriguez. The Bullpen Awards table has been modified.
— 17 May 2012

2012 Game 32

Highest Leverage PA:         3.1, PA #73, Heisey F5 vs Mattheus, Reds' 8th.
Highest Clutch Value:        .172, PA #2, Bernadina HR vs Leake, Nationals' 1st.
Lowest Opp. Clutch Value:   -.081, PA #73, Heisey F5 vs Mattheus, Reds' 8th.
QMAX rating:                 (4,5) for Gonzalez.
Bullpen Award:               None.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Bernadina      0.190
LaRoche        0.104
Zimmerman      0.052
Desmond        0.036
Espinosa       0.015
Ramos          0.005
Stammen       -0.003
Ankiel        -0.016
Gonzalez      -0.025
Harper        -0.069
You remember those games earlier in the season, where the Nationals would squeeze out a victory through some timely hitting? This is a through-the-looking-glass version, in which some timely pitching squeezed out a victory. The Nationals did not have a good performance from Gio Gonzalez, but a mediocre one, and Craig Stammen managed to pitch his way into a jam in his third inning of work, following two solid innings. Stammen might have got a Hero's Palm had he not needed to be rescued by Ryan Mattheus. In other words, the pitching did just enough for the victory, in a situation that could easily have turned ugly twice over, in the 5th and again in the 8th.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

2012 Game 31

Highest Leverage PA:         4.9, PA #49, Jones K vs Strasburg, Pirates' 6th.
Highest Clutch Value:        .283, PA #40, LaRoche HR vs Correia, Nationals' 9th.
Lowest Opp. Clutch Value:   -.132, PA#49, Jones K vs Strasburg, Pirates' 6th
QMAX rating:                 Success Square (3,4) for Strasburg.
Bullpen Award:               Hero's Palm for Tyler Clippard.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
LaRoche        0.318
Bernadina      0.095
Strasburg      0.053
Ankiel         0.019
Zimmerman      0.013
Tracy          0.010
Harper        -0.014
Lombardozzi   -0.021
Flores        -0.081
Desmond       -0.112
Espinosa      -0.208
A game of True Outcomes, with Stephen Strasburg's thirteen strikeouts and the Nationals runs all coming on walks and home runs. Even the Pirates' 6th inning was dominated by True Outcomes, as only Jose Tabata's leadoff 6-3 ground out actually involved any fielders other than the catcher. The rest of the plate appearances were walks or strikeouts. Taking a look at 'the other side of the hill' (to allude to the Iron Duke), one notes that Kevin Correia also pitched into the Success Square, at a 3,3 rate. That means his outing was a little bit better than Strasburg's, for all the strikeouts. The difference is one walk. In QMAX, how you get outs is irrelevant.

Friday, 11 May 2012

2012 Game 30

Highest Leverage PA:         6.8, PA #63, Ankiel K vs Grilli, Nationals' 8th.
Highest Clutch Value:        .145, PA #70, Desmond 2B vs Hanrahan, Nats' 9th.
QMAX rating:                 Success square (4,2) for Detwiler.
Bullpen Award:               None.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Desmond        0.144
Nady           0.123
LaRoche        0.052
Lombardozzi    0.029
Tracy         -0.012
Detwiler      -0.027
Ramos         -0.031
Moore         -0.056
Espinosa      -0.081
Zimmerman     -0.088
Harper        -0.212
Ankiel        -0.236
Ross Detwiler put in yet another quality quality start, although it was his worst outing since 15 April. Despite that, the Nationals' bats couldn't come through before Detwiler left the game. Indeed, this game was another example of the Nationals lineup being unable to create a league-average number of runs for a game. It might be easy to point a finger at Ian Desmond's brain-cramp in the Pirates' 3rd inning, as being at fault, but then where does that leave McCutchen's home run in the Pirates' 8th? Desmond, in fact, did sterling work with the bat. If I was to point an accusing finger anywhere, it would be at the disaster of the Nationals' 8th inning. Not a single run was scored then. Bad show, chaps.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Leveraged Win Values for Batters

The sidebar on the left now includes the aggregate Leveraged Win Values of each batter, including all games between 21st April and 8th May. I shall be adding subsequent games and updating the list regularly. It ought to be pointed out that Adam LaRoche's position at the top of the list was not affected by his home run in the 9th inning in the game of 8th May. He only about doubled his total for the season during the period!

The numbers basically capture what percentage of a win each batter has contributed given what he did in a plate appearance in the particular context of the game at that exact moment. I've taken to calling it 'clutch' in the short summaries heading my individual game comments. Thus, LaRoche's accumulated plate appearances during the period covered were worth an entire win, and then some, in themselves.

The most glaring matter requiring comment is Danny Espinosa's situation. Espinosa is clearly well adrift of the impact of most regulars. I confess to not understanding Davey Johnson's persistence in putting him any higher than seventh in the lineup. If it's a case of not having too many left-handed hitters in succession, placing Wilson Ramos behind Chad Tracy (where Espinosa batted on Tuesday night) seems to make far more sense, based on these numbers.

I'd also just like to note that Tracy has been a pleasant surprise so far.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

2012 Game 29

I lost this morning to migraine, so the batter numbers are still delayed.
Highest Leverage PA:         6.1, PA #69, Barajas HR vs Rodriguez, Pirates' 9th.
Highest Clutch Value:        .750, PA #69, Barajas HR vs Rodriguez, Pirates' 9th.
Lowest Opp Clutch Value:    -.157, PA #68, Navarro K vs Rodriguez, Pirates' 9th.
QMAX rating:                 Success square (3,2) for Jackson.
Bullpen Award:               Goat's Horns for Rodriguez.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
LaRoche        0.624
Zimmerman      0.083
Jackson        0.078
Ramos          0.074
Ankiel         0.027
Harper        -0.016
Lombardozzi   -0.051
Bernadina     -0.095
Espinosa      -0.120
Desmond       -0.250
Now here was a game that took me back to the 2009 season, when the bullpen seemed to be a Fountain of Misery, and the Bullpen Goat of the Day award was a bit of fun to relieve the anguish. This was when I started to keep track of win probability, as in comparing the chance of winning when the reliever came in, and subtracting that from the chance of winning when the reliever left the game. Last night, Henry Rodriguez managed to convert his total for the season from positive to negative territory, which was quite something since when he entered the game in the 9th his win probability contribution was .362 in games between 11 April and 4th May.

But it wasn't just Rodriguez. Tyler Clippard did fans no favours either, even after deducting the effects of Ian Desmond's misplay. Clippard's win probablity effect wasn't anywhere close to Rodriguez' disastrous number, but it was still in negative territory.

Despite all the disappointment, though, it was a very good game to follow. So thanks to the players for battling hard, even if they came up short.

2012 Game 28 NATITUDE series

Work took longer than I anticipated, so the batting ratings will now be published tomorrow, including the results of tonight's stunning game.
Highest Leverage PA:         2.2, PA #19, Rollins 3g vs Zimmermann, Phils' 3rd.
                             2.2, PA #20, Pierre 43g vs Zimmermann, Phils' 3rd.
Highest Clutch Value:        .221, PA #26, Pence HR vs Zimmermann, Phils' 4th.
Lowest Opp Clutch Value:    -.074, PA #37, Victorino 463gdp vs Zimmermann, 5th.
QMAX rating:                 (4,4) for Zimmermann.
Bullpen Award:               None.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Harper         0.117
Bernadina      0.040
Desmond       -0.001
Moore         -0.019
Werth         -0.020
Tracy         -0.036
Ramos         -0.042
Zimmermann    -0.042
Espinosa      -0.068
Nady          -0.076
Ankiel        -0.086
Lombardozzi   -0.122
I thought long and hard about awarding a Hero's Palm to Craig Stammen. He did yeoman's work in the 7th, coming in with the bases loaded and getting the team out of the jam. However, the palms are only awarded in victories. Otherwise, this was a thoroughly unremarkable game for the most part, even with Ryan Perry's implosion in the 9th. It came too late to do any real damage, although those two runs in the bottom of the inning would have been considerably more valuable if there had been no implosion.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

2012 Game 27 NATITUDE Series

Highest Leverage PA:         2.6, PA #41, Harper F7 vs Worley, Nationals' 5th.
                             2.6, PA #42, Werth HR vs Worley, Nationals' 5th.
Highest Clutch Value:        .320, PA #42, Werth HR vs Worley, Nationals' 5th.
Lowest Opp Clutch Value:    -.047, PA #7, Galvis F6 vs Gonzalez, Phillies 2nd.
QMAX rating:                 Elite Square (2,2) for Gonzalez.
Bullpen Award:               None.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Werth          0.245
Lombardozzi    0.189
Ankiel         0.161
Tracy          0.058
Gonzalez       0.056
Desmond       -0.031
Espinosa      -0.054
Ramos         -0.099
Harper        -0.129
Here's a game where the usefulness of the Leverage Index in assigning value is readily apparent. Jayson Werth's 5th inning home run boosted the Nationals' chances of winning by 64 per cent. Ian Desmond's and Chad Tracy's homers only by 5 per cent each. The difference is context. Werth's fence-clearer came with the Nationals down by a run in the 5th. The Nationals were up by three in the bottom of the 6th when Desmond's blast occurred. Tracy's came with the Nationals up by four in the 7th. Basically, leverage tells us that a home team with a three-run lead after six innings, is very likely to win the game already. There just aren't enough PAs left for the visitors to get the two or three rallies they need to make up the difference.

Monday, 7 May 2012

2012 Game 26 NATITUDE Series

A busy weekend got in the way of my being able to blog. By the time the Nationals play again, de civitate sabermetricarum will be caught up PLUS with the long-promised batting rankings in place.
Highest Leverage PA:         6.4, PA #91, Ramos 1B vs Schwimmer, Nationals' 11th.
Highest Clutch Value:        .357, PA #66, Flores 2B vs Qualls, Nationals' 8th.
Lowest Clutch Value:        -.096, PA #73, Galvez F7 vs Rodriguez, Phillies 9th.
QMAX rating:                 Success Square (2,3) for Strasburg.
Bullpen Award:               None.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Ramos          0.333
Flores         0.236
Tracy          0.230
Ankiel         0.164
Bernadina      0.058
Nady           0.030
Harper         0.028
Strasburg     -0.016
Espinosa      -0.032
Lombardozzi   -0.044
Moore         -0.060
Werth         -0.172
Desmond       -0.354
ALL HAIL PINCH HITTERS! They earned a .421 Leveraged Win Value (a/k/a 'clutch hitting') for the Nationals in this game, with Ramos, Bernadina and Nady all contributing. A team only needs a .500 value to win a game, at least on paper, so the pinch hitters basically did it all themselves. It may come as a surprise that Flores' double in the sixth out-clutched Bernadina's game-winning blow in the 11th, but it goes back to what I was saying about how when the home team ties the game in late innings, it puts home-field advantage into play. The bullpen also played an important role, but no individual stood out. Poor Ian Desmond's recent surge was unceremoniously halted in a long game. Those fielder's choices in the 6th and 8th really hurt

Friday, 4 May 2012

2012 Game 25

Highest Leverage PA:         2.9, PA #59, Upton F8 vs Rodriguez, D'backs' 9th.
Highest Clutch Value:        .139, PA #43, Harper 2B vs Kennedy, Nationals' 6th.
Lowest Clutch Value:        -.114, PA #31, Pollock GDP vs Detilwer, D'backs' 5th.
QMAX rating:                 Success Square (2,4) for Detwiler.
Bullpen Award:               Hero's Palm for Rodriguez.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Harper         0.105
Desmond        0.061
Ankiel         0.027
Werth          0.013
Tracy         -0.013
Bernadina     -0.016
Detwiler      -0.053
Espinosa      -0.094
Ramos         -0.094
Lombardozzi   -0.096
This game was a pitching victory. Not only did Ross Detwiler put in another above-average start for a FIFTH STARTER (who normally are the dregs of the starting rotation), but three successive pitchers came out of the bullpen in highish-leverage situations and navigated to successful conclusions. Ryan Mattheus broke new ground by being brought in with the Leverage Index registering 2.3. this is his highest reading of the season so far, and suggests that Davey Johnson has developed a lot of confidence in him. Henry Rodriguez faced the highest leverage of any reliever, and acquitted himself nicely.

Will Rodriguez get an outing if a save situation arises tonight? He has pitched two days in a row.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

2012 Game 24

Highest Leverage PA:         5.2, PA #71, Desmond HR vs Putz, Nationals' 9th.
Highest Clutch Value:        .640, PA #71, Desmond HR vs Putz, Nationals' 9th.
QMAX rating:                 None (5,3) for Jackson.
Bullpen Award:               Hero's Palm for Stammen.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Desmond        0.594
Harper         0.310
Werth          0.126
Lombardozzi    0.083
Ramos         -0.025
Jackson       -0.041
Moore         -0.068
Nady          -0.075
Espinosa      -0.133
Ankiel        -0.135
LaRoche       -0.197
Pity poor Ian Desmond, who has bust out of a slump. The last two days his Leveraged Win (or 'Clutch') Values with the bat have been in positive territory for the first time in a while. Yet all the headline attention has gone to Bryce Harper. Well, he's taking it for the team, I'm sure.

As you can see, the game was won by the bats for a change. The only thing I'd point out is that Stammen's fine two-inning stint produced a good chunk of value, too. So he gets a Hero's Palm.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

2012 Game 23

Highest Leverage PA:         3.1, PA #45, Ankiel GDP vs Cahill, Nationals' 6th.
                             3.1, PA #61, Cahill GDP vs Mattheus, D'backs' 8th.
Highest Clutch Value:        .120, PA #44, Lombardozzi 1B vs Cahill, Nats' 6th.
QMAX rating:                 Soldier of Fortune (6,2) for Zimmermann.
Bullpen Award:               None.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Lombardozzi    0.099
Desmond        0.073
Bernadina      0.026
Werth          0.025
Zimmermann    -0.043
Harper        -0.071
Espinosa      -0.074
Ramos         -0.077
LaRoche       -0.104
Ankiel        -0.293
This loss was the most disconcerting one of the season so far, at least for me. As the Leveraged PA and 'Clutch' Value numbers indicate, the Nationals lost the game in the sixth inning, when Cahill induced Ankiel's double play ball. (Ankiel's horrible Leveraged Win Value is largely made up of the -.208 value accrued in this single plate appearance.) That was followed by the disastrous Diamondbacks' 7th, when an intentional walk came back to bite the Nationals in the nether parts. At the moment, four runs is an insurmountable lead for the level of offense the Nationals are achieving.

A note on Zimmermann's QMAX rating — To quote the fabled Big Bad Baseball Annual, the Soldier of Fortune outing is the kind 'where pitchers with exceptional control can work effectively despite giving up more hits than innings pitched'. That is to say, Zimmermann pitched well enough to entertain the possiblity of a win, although not the likelihood. It is, as it were, the geographical antipode of the Power Precipice.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

2012 Game 22

Highest Leverage PA:         3.3, PA #46, Loney 1b vs Gonzalez, Dodgers' 6th.
Highest Clutch Value:        .172, PA #46, Londy 1b vs Gonzalez, Dodgers' 6th.
Highest Nats' Clutch Value:  .073, PA #21, Desmond 2B vs Capuano, Nationals' 4th.
QMAX rating:                 Power Precipice (2,5) for Gonzalez.
Bullpen Award:               None.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
LaRoche        0.032
Moore          0.026
Harper        -0.007
Desmond       -0.014
Lombardozzi   -0.024
Ankiel        -0.041
Gonzalez      -0.043
Tracy         -0.059
Espinosa      -0.068
Flores        -0.170
Nady          -0.190
So the Nationals finished a six-game western road trip going 2-4. We have got a better measure of the team after this, as we can see that the problem is that they do not have enough offense to carry a playoff-calibre pitching staff into the post-season. It could be a team-wide slump, but for this particular game I question Davey Johnson's lineup. migraine led to Jayson Werth being a late scratch, which is the sort of thing that can't be helped, but Danny Espinosa is not the player I would have put in his place at #3. I would have gone with either "Country" (as opposed to "Mary") Tyler Moore or Bryce Harper, and probably Moore. The fact is, though Gio Gonzalez fell off the Power Precipice in the sixth, he still pitched well enough for a win, if he had the hitters to back him up.

2012 Game 21

Highest Leverage event: 7.4, PA #74, Uribe scores on wild pitch, Dodgers' 9th.
Highest Leverage PA:    5.7, PA #74, Kennedy FC vs Rodriguez, Dodgers' 9th.
Highest Leveraged Win Value: .363, PA #72, Uribe vs Rodriguez, Dodgers' 9th.
Highest Nats' Lev Win Value: .178, PA #44, LaRoche HR vs Billingsley, Nats' 7th.
QMAX rating:                 Elite Square (2,1) for Strasburg.
Bullpen Award:               Goat's Horns for Henry Rodriguez.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
LaRoche        0.239
Ramos          0.096
Espinosa       0.069
Strasburg      0.019
Harper         0.013
Tracy          0.003
Ankiel        -0.023
Werth         -0.124
Lombardozzi   -0.181
Desmond       -0.204
An unmitigated disaster. Taking into account the leverage index and the win value of the event, Uribe's scoring on a wild pitch was worth more to the Dodgers than Kemp's game-winning home run. The reason for this is that this event made it more likely that the Dodgers would win the game in the end. That's the way leverage works — it helps identify the turning point of the game. Home teams have the advantage, especially in extra innings. Once the game was tied, the odds favoured the Dodgers.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

2012 Game 20

Highest Leverage PA:         2.9, PA #67, DeRosa F8 vs Jansen, Nationals' 9th.
                             2.9, PA #70 Flores' K vs Jansen, Nationals' 9th
Highest Leveraged Win Value: .209, PA #43, LaRoche HR vs Kershaw, Nationals' 6th.
QMAX rating:                 Success Square (3,3) for Detwiler.
Bullpen Award:               None.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
LaRoche        0.209
Tracy          0.044
Detwiler       0.027
Bernadina     -0.035
Lombardozzi   -0.067
Espinosa      -0.071
Werth         -0.072
Nady          -0.074
Desmond       -0.118
Flores        -0.125
DeRosa        -0.172
Let's start with a bold, optimistic statement: the Nationals are half of a playoff team. That half is the pitching. Think about this — the club's designated FIFTH STARTER held his own against one of the BEST PITCHERS IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE. Ross Detwiler has pitched nothing like a typical fifth starter so far this season, and he has kept his team in the game in almost every outing. Take a moment to give him a pat on the back.

Ryan Mattheus did well, although not enough to earn a Hero's Palm. The reason is down to the batters. I'm not going to dwell on that. I'm sure they are working hard at making adjustments. They got fairly close last night, just fell a bit short. Against a player of the calibre of Clayton Kershaw, that's what can happen. However, against lesser mortals they need to get it done, and then we can all look forward to games in September that are not just meaningful opportunities to play the role of spoiler.

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Bryce Is Right

Here comes Bryce Harper.

With Ryan Zimmerman going on the disabled list, the already-lightweight Nationals' batting lineup faced the loss of a key player, at least in terms of potential. (Zimmerman's slash line was not exactly helping, at 224/324/345, and my concerns were mounting.) NadyRosa are being pushed beyond legitimate expectations of two players who look satisfactory down at 6 or 7 in the batting order, but not so hot going in at #3.

The Nationals are having a great start, and now face an opponent having almost an equally great start. If Harper was going to be promoted at some point this season, this is as good a time as any, no matter how well he is doing at AAA. If he can keep the momentum going, it will add to the Mystique and Aura of Harper. If not, he's got a taste, and maybe will work harder for the next opportunity.

2012 Game 19 Notes

Highest Leverage PA:         5.9, PA #57, Hundley's K vs Clippard, Padres' 7th.
                             (Also, Lowest Leveraged Win Value at -.159)
Highest Leveraged Win Value: .337, PA #64, Kotsay's 2B vs Clippard, Padres' 8th.
Nationals' Highest Lev Win:  .148, PA #49, Werth's HR vs Volquez, Nationals' 7th.
QMAX rating:                 Success Square (3,4) for Jackson.
Bullpen Award:               Goat's Horns for Clippard.
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
LaRoche        0.048
Werth          0.030
Ramos          0.027
Bernadina     -0.018
Jackson       -0.055
Ankiel        -0.064
Nady          -0.064
Desmond       -0.104
Tracy         -0.109
Espinosa      -0.147
It is easy to point the finger at poor Tyler Clippard, who saved the day in the 7th inning, for blowing the game in the 8th. But, seriously, as the Batting Leveraged Win Values show, my Finger of Blame for yesterday's loss points squarely at the Nationals' hitters. The top of the order in particular—Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Chad Tracy—had a very poor game, as the numbers show. The bullpen's job is to hold a lead, even one as slim as one run, but a couple of years of messing about with Win Probability has taught me that to expect the bullpen to hold such slim leads game after game is a recipe for a .500 season.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

2012 Game 18 notes

Highest Leverage PA:          2.9 PA #48, Hermida vs Zimmermann, Padres' 6th.
Highest Leveraged Win Value:  .135, PA #54, LaRoche vs Spence, Nationals' 7th.
QMAX rating:                  Elite Square (2,2) for Zimmermann.
Bullpen Award:                None
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
LaRoche        0.234
DeRosa         0.059
Werth          0.053
Ramos          0.036
Bernadina      0.023
Gorzelanny     0.016
Ankiel         0.012
Espinosa       0.010
Desmond        0.007
Lombardozzi   -0.031
Tracy         -0.050
The result was never really in doubt, as the relatively low leverage of Hermida vs Zimmermann indicates. The bats came alive for this one, as a cumulative win value total of .369 for the batters shows. Nonetheless, Zimmermann's great outing (not a walk!) was of considerable value as well. Gorzelanny fell a few points short of the threshold for a Hero's Palm, given the five-run lead that Zimmermann and the hitters gave him.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

2012 Game 17 Notes

Highest Leverage PA:          4.3 PA #56, Denorfia vs Clippard, Padres' 7th.
Highest Leveraged Win Value:  .187, PA #54, Perino vs Clippard, Padres' 7th.
Highest Lev Win Val for Nats: .130, PA #49, Tracy vs Richard, Nationals' 7th.
Lowest Lev Win Val for Nats:  -.121, PA #3, DeRosa vs Richard, Nationals' 1st.
QMAX rating:                  Success Square (1,3) for Gonzalez.
Bullpen Award:                Hero's Palm to Clippard, for gaining .142 on Win
Batters' Leveraged Win Values:
Tracy          0.130
Ankiel         0.055
Nady           0.047
Ramos          0.022
Werth         -0.015
Bernadina     -0.026
Desmond       -0.033
Espinosa      -0.042
LaRoche       -0.05
Lombardozzi   -0.068
Gonzalez      -0.081
DeRosa        -0.141
Mark DeRosa's grounding into a double play in the top of first set the tone for this pitcher's duel. The crucial inning on both sides was the seventh, and for both teams the outcome of the game may have turned on bullpen usage. Bud Black may have been too slow in pulling Clayton Richard, while Davey Johnson wasted no time in taking Craig Stammen out when things turned a bit bad for him.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Rip Van Winkle Day: Wild Card Nationals?

Well, I'm going to resume a probably-erratic posting schedule for the 2012 season. There are some good reasons why I stopped posting, not many of which had to do with the last post. Some of them will come out in subsequent blogs.

I have resumed doing old-fashioned sabermetric analysis this season of the Nationals, with some of your old Big Bad Baseball Annual ideas such as QMAX. In due course I'll be updating some of the data I used to keep. The Bullpen Goat of The Day no longer applies, I'm delighted to report.

In the meantime, Replacement Level Yankees Weblog (RLYW) has for a few years now run some simulated seasons to project what the math suggests is going to happen when we get to the end of game 162, using player projections. RLYW has just updated their preseason projections with the results of the first three weeks of this season. The big news is that the results show the Nationals as one of the newfangled Wild Cards. Getting into at least a one-game playoff would do something for the morale of the long-suffering Washington baseball fan, wouldn't it?