Friday, 30 May 2014

Nationals 2014 Game 52 and Tigers 2014 Game 49: illi contigit et tunc mea felis moriut

The Nationals went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, and Anthony Rendon managed to be at the plate for three of those. More and more I think I want to see him switch with Span and move into to the leadoff position. He walks a bit more than Denard Span, and maybe he'll do a better job of setting the table than coming up with men on. (Not that it makes a lot of difference after the first time through the lineup.) The problem, though, is that Span hits a lot more ground balls than Rendon, and certainly the tenth would have ended more quickly if they had been swapped yesterday, as it seems like Span would have grounded into a double play.

Despite my worries about Jordan Zimmermann, yesterday he put in a fringy quality start, at the limit of the QMAX Success Square despite giving up eight hits. He threw more fastballs, more breaking balls and fewer sliders. His fastballs look like they had a bit more velocity, but at some cost in movement.

Highest Leverage PA:     6.1, McGehee single vs Barrett, Marlins 10th. 
Highest LI Win Value:   -.773 McGehee single vs Barrett, Marlins 10th.
QMAX rating:             (4,3) for Zimmermann (SS).
Bullpen Award:           Barrett, Goat's Head.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Span           0.876
McLouth        0.837
Desmond        0.163
Hairston       0.097
Espinosa       0.069
Ramos         -0.010
Zimmermann    -0.022
Moore         -0.032
Dobbs         -0.289
Frandsen      -0.466
LaRoche       -0.496
Werth         -0.511
Rendon        -0.810

vs Mets

vs Marlins

Having met disappointment in DC, I headed across country via the magic of the Internet and was entranced by a eminently watchable pitching duel between Anibal Sanchez and Scott Kazmir in Oakland. Kazmir's amazing 'fall off the table' pitch time and again fooled Tiger batters. Sanchez met him pitch for pitch, working the zone in such a way that gained the umpire's approval but left the Athletics to stalk away shaking their heads with grimaces of disgust. Sanchez was pulled in the ninth after giving up a double and then the ghost of Jose Valverde, disguised as Joe Nathan, took the mound. 'Oimoi', as they used to say in Ancient Greek tragedy.

Highest Leverage PA:     7.5, Donaldson HR vs Nathan, Athletics 9th. 
Highest LI Win Value:   -1.819, Donaldson HR vs Nathan, Athletics 9th.
QMAX rating:             (1,1) for Sanchez (ES).
Bullpen Award:           Nathan, Goat's Head.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Rajai          0.026
V-Mart         0.004
A-Jax         -0.014
Worth         -0.020
JD-Mart       -0.039
Cabrera       -0.038
Castellanos   -0.044
Hunter        -0.047
Avila         -0.085
Kinsler       -0.188

Tigers 2014 Game 48: Currens Hominis

This win belonged to Rajai Davis, with that alert steal of third that almost resembled a high-school level game, but I think was down to Abad's focus on getting the batter out. Al Alburquerque gains a Hero's Palm even though, in terms of Win Expectancy, both Joba Chamberlain's eighth and Joe Nathan's ninth innings had more value. Alburquerque faced the heart of the Athletics' batting order in earning his palm. The last out of Alburquerque's stint, a one-handed catch by J D Martinez, was scary. He only just made it.
27 May 2014
Highest Leverage PA:     4.3, PA#67, A-Jax 6-4 force vs Gregerson, Tigers 8th. 
Highest LI Win Value:   -.353 PA#39, Jaso HR vs Scherzer, Athletics 4th.
QMAX rating:             (6,3) for Scherzer (Hit Hard).
Bullpen Award:           Alburquerque, Hero's Palm.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
JD-Mart        0.363
Cabrera        0.171
Castellanos    0.087
Avila          0.083
Rajai          0.076
Hunter         0.056
V-Mart        -0.028
Kinsler       -0.072
Romine        -0.092
A-Jax         -0.093
Kelly         -0.209

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Should We Worry About Jordan Zimmermann?

Jordan Zimmermann has been my favourite National* since I started following the team closely in 2009. (Despite the pitiable record, still one of my favourite seasons, as Mike Rizzo coped with a roster he did not assemble.) I have found his starts this season, however, somewhat lacking in the standards previously established by him. I thought about looking into it, and I have assembled a few charts from to illustrate my concern.

First, here is his start on 18 May, against the Mets:

Then, a start from exactly one year ago, 18 May 2013, against the Padres:

And, finally, a start at about the same time of year against the Mets, 4 June 2013:

The first thing to note is that Zimmermann is throwing a lot more change-ups, and a lot fewer breaking balls. Theoretically, this is good, because breaking balls apparently lead to arm trouble. However, his fast ball does not appear to be moving as well as it did in his starts last year. In fact, even his change-up isn't moving quite as well as it did last season. His PitchF/X velocities as recorded at show his average fast ball travelling at a slower speed, while his breaking balls are a bit faster. Going back to the charts note that the fast ball spread is not as tight this year as it was last. The slower ones are a bit slower, and there aren't quite as many faster ones. Now, the charts also show his numbers so far for 2014 are comparable to the 2012 ones rather than the 2013 ones, and that overall he has gained velocity since 2009. It's all a bit of a muddle, and I have no conclusion to offer, only that question. Should we worry? Let's create a watching brief on this one.

EDIT: I stupidly forgot to mention that Dave Jageler's comment about Zimmermann being 'wild in the strike zone' during the radio brodcast on 18 May against the Mets was what sent me to look at In fact, it seems more true of 2013 games than the one on 18 May.

*Jayson Werth is my favourite positional player, but I like pitchers best of all.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Nationals 2014 Game 51: virtutus non semper est praemium

Tanner Roark pitched like an elite pitcher yesterday, and was rewarded with an 'L' in the box score. The relievers held up their end, too. No Marlins hitter reached on an error. So, if we blame anyone for the loss, it has to be the hitters. Either Santangelo or Carpenter was saying at one point in the game that the Nationals needed to get on base. Perhaps they do, but I count them going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. Ian Desmond has been hitting well of late, but yesterday he struck out twice with a runner in scoring position. My abiding image of the game, however, will be his third and final K, when he was absolutely fooled by the kind of swing-back action from a Steve Cishek pitch that would fool an All-Star.

Highest Leverage PA:     3.3, PA#66, W Ramos fly-out vs Cishek, Nationals 9th. 
Highest LI Win Value:    .234, PA#13, LaRoche HR vs Eovaldi, Nationals 6th.
QMAX rating:             (2,2) for Roark (Elite Square).
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
LaRoche        0.167
Frandsen      -0.015
McLouth       -0.030
Roark         -0.032
Ramos         -0.041
Espinosa      -0.045
Rendon        -0.050
Werth         -0.070
Moore         -0.070
Span          -0.136
Desmond       -0.176

Tigers 2014 Game 47: Decem multis etiam est

Think back to Game 35 of the Nationals' season, three weeks ago on 9th May. Tommy Milone was backed up by three home runs, while Scott Hairston managed the highest LI Win Value with .022. This was almost the same, except that the Athletics hit FIVE home runs off Tigers' pitching, including the 8th inning grand slam off Phil Coke that seemed almost needless.

Highest Leverage PA:     1.7, PA#7, Cespedes pop-out vs Smyly, Athletics' 1st.
                         1.7, PA#8, Lowrie's fly-out vs Smyly, Athletics' 1st. 
Highest LI Win Value:   -.111, PA#13, Moss HR vs Smyly, Athletics' 2nd.
QMAX rating:             (6,4) for Smyly (Hit Hard).
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Romine         0.041
Cabrera        0.025
Castellanos    0.023
Worth         -0.036
V-Mart        -0.044
Holaday       -0.055
A-Jax         -0.056
Rajai         -0.062
Hunter        -0.063

Monday, 26 May 2014

NERD Fight

In 2010 Fangraphs' Carson Cistulli, in response to a throwaway line on ESPN by Rob Neyer discussing Cistulli's own Fangraphs post on 'Why We Watch' baseball, developed a means of capturing the appeal of a given baseball game between major-league teams to a number on a 1 to 10 scale. Cistulli christened this 'NERD'.

I didn't find NERD myself until a couple of years ago, and I have used it from time to time to help me choose what baseball game to follow. Having studied its components, I came to realise that what I find 'watchable' about a baseball game is not at all the same things Cistulli enjoys. For me, a baseball game's enjoyment depends on the following:

a) Baserunners who score. Getting men on base who don't score is the sign of a mediocre offense and a lot of frustration for their fans. Solo home runs put the 'i' in team.

b) Batters who look for contact. Nothing is more dull than watching a succession of batters standing at the plate looking for their pitch, and winding up either called out on strikes or taking a walk. Give me eight or nine Vladimir Guerreros in my lineup any day.

c) Exciting fielding plays. Grabbing a ball at the edge of one's fielding zone either starts with an exciting run towards where the ball is going to land or ends with a bang-bang play on a throw to the base.

d) A bullpen that is likely to keep it close, even if that means not adding an eighth run. I don't want to see relievers giving up more and more runs if it just isn't the starter's day.

e) A starter who works fast and misses bats in the zone ensures steady action in the game.

f) However, a starter who induces swings at pitches out of the zone probably has a lot of deceptive movement, which is a joy for pitching aficionados.

And that's it. Everything else should be secondary to these elements. I don't care to put more emphasis on seeing younger, cheaper teams in preference to older, more expensive ones. There's a good chance that the latter have more star players building Hall of Fame cases. I'm not interested in whether the commentators are exceptionally good or exceptionally bad, because I've always been able to tune the bad ones out. I find home runs boring. Much better to watch two doubles than one dinger.

So, here's version 1 of my formula:

Team Score, step-by-step

Add together the following components.

1) Subtract a team's home runs from hits and runs. Divide remaining hits by remaining runs. Calculate a Z score. Multiply that times 4.

2) Find the hitters' Pitch F/X Swing percentage. Multiply that times a notional 100 pitches. (Eg, a 50% swing percentage would give you 50 pitches swung at.) Multiply that times the Pitch F/X Contact percentage. (Eg, a 50% contact percentage would give you 25 pitches actually struck.) Calculate another Z score and multiply that times 4.

3) Get the bullpen xFIPs for all teams. Calculate another Z score. Multiply that first by -1 so that the negative numbers become positive and vice versa, and then multiply that times 2.

4) Find the OOZ plays for each time in Revised Zone Rating on Fangraphs. Calculate a fourth Z score.

The sum of these four components will give a raw Team Score. One then needs to adjust it to scale from 1 to 30 by adding a constant. Take the lowest score and adjust it to equal 1. Adjust all other scores by the same amount. One has now arrived at the final Team Score.

Starter Score:

First, get the following scores (I use Fangraphs): the speed at which starters work (Pace at Fangraphs), their Pitch F/X O-swing, Z-Swing and Z-Contact percentages.

1) Calculate a Z-score for Pace.

2) For the Z-Swing and Z-Contact, use the '100 pitches' method used in calculating Team Score (2) above, first calculating the number of Z-Swings out of 100 and then the number of Z-Contact out of that. Calculate a Z-Score for that, but multiply it by minus 1 so that the pitchers who miss bats have positive numbers, and those whose pitches are hit have negative numbers.

3) Do the same for the O-Swing percentage, but don't multiply your Z-score by minus 1.

Add all these up to arrive at a raw Starter Score. One needs to adjust these as well, but this requires a little more art than was required by the Team Score. The objective here is again to avoid negative scores, but one also has to allow for the minimum number of innings one thinks is necessary to rate a pitcher. At the moment, I use 14, because that's the minimum needed to include Robbie Ray in the list. Since Robbie Ray's raw score is -3.5, I add 4.5 to everybody (even those with fewer than 14 innings pitched). If I chose, instead, to adopt a minimum of 20 innings pitched, the constant would become 4.1, and Robbie Ray would have a negative score.

Game Score:

For each game, add together the two Team Scores and divide by 4. Then, add together the Starter Scores and divide by 2, thus giving the Starters more weight than the Teams. Finally, divide that sum by 2. At theoretical extremes, you might get scores higher than ten or lower than one, but these can be capped at ten or one respectively. Everything else will scale out between 10 and 1.

I have only played around with this system a couple of days, but so far I like the results. However, it is somewhat time consuming, and unless someone starts paying me to supply the data, I'll only do it when I have time and am in the mood. Here are some scores for today's games:

NY Yankees vs St Louis Cardinals 8 (TOP GAME)

Colorado Rockies vs Philadelphia Phillies 7 ( FREE GAME)

Detroit Tigers vs Oakland Athletics 7

San Diego Padres vs Arizona Diamondbacks 6

Miami Marlins vs Washington Nationals 4

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Nationals 2014 Game 42: Doleo

Game Date 17 May 2014, Mets 5, Nationals 2
Highest Leverage PA:     2.4, PA#5, Campbell single vs Gonzalez, Mets' 1st.
Highest LI Win Value:   -.138, PA#19, Moore GDP vs Colon, Nationals' 2nd.
QMAX rating:             (7,5) for Gonzalez (Hit Hard).
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Desmond        0.079
Stammen        0.046
Werth          0.020
McLouth        0.007
Espinosa      -0.014
Gonzalez      -0.029
Walters       -0.029
Rendon        -0.079
Span          -0.100
Ramos         -0.129
Moore         -0.170
Craig Stammen arguable deserves a Hero's Palm for his relief effort in this game, but I am reluctant to award
them in losses. The Nationals failed to take advantage of any of three opportunities with runners in scoring
position, which was the difference in the final score. Gio Gonzalez went on the disabled list after this, nd
in the pre-game chat on the radio the next day, Slowes and Jageler suggested the trouble had started back on
23 April, which in fact was a Success Square start by Gonzalez. Shoulder injuries for pitchers are
particularly worrying.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Tigers 2014 Game 37: Perfectio

Highest Leverage PA:     4, PA#54, Pierzynski GDP vs Krol, Red Sox' 8th.
Greatest LI Win Value:   .276, PA#54, Pierzynski GDP vs Krol, Red Sox' 8th.
QMAX rating:             (2,4) for Scherzer (Success Square).
Bullpen Award:           Ian Krol, Hero's Palm.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Hunter         0.069
Cabrera        0.010
Rajai         -0.026
A-Jax         -0.038
Castellanos   -0.040
Kinsler       -0.063
Worth         -0.073
Avila         -0.116
V-Mart        -0.148
The ideal baseball game, to me, has always been the one-run game, in which there are many baserunners, but only one scores. This game came as close to that as any one has reason to expect. Also, the run should be scored either very early in the game, or right at the end. When I watch a sporting event, I do not want to see dingers. I want to experience the tension of the tightrope.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

2014 Nationals' Fielding Review #2

Here is an update to last time's fielding numbers. My source for this is Fangraphs, which includes all the main metrics that interest me except for Michael Humphreys' Defensive Regression Analysis.* From Fangraphs, I've used Mitchel Lichtman's Ultimate Zone Rating, my personal first choice of the 'converted-to-runs-play-by-play' metrics, and my preferred measure of RZR. The last is Revised Zone Rating, which is like a fielding average but counts balls hit into a zone, rather than those the fielder actually reached. I have included the MLB positional averages for RZR, to help give the players' numbers some context. DRA is added to these two, while I have dropped Dewan's Defensive Runs Saved. Note that catchers do not have a Zone Rating. Instead, I have used the runs saved by framing, supplied by

Player              UZR    Change    RZR   Change    MLBaverage     DRA    Change   PFr
Lobaton (C)         n/a      --      n/a     ---         n/a        6.1     +0.2   -2.1
Span (CF)          -2.6     -2.2    .932    +.010       .915      - 4.0     -1.1    n/a
Espinosa (2B)      -0.3     +0.7    .766    +.009       .786        3.5     -0.9    n/a
LaRoche (1B)       -0.2      --     .846     ---        .813      - 4.0     -0.8    n/a
Harper (LF)        -1.5     +0.3    .875     ---        .868      - 3.4     -0.5    n/a
Desmond (SS)       -4.5     +0.1    .762    +.042       .772      -11.5     -2.8    n/a
Werth (RF)         -1.3     +0.6    .955    -.004       .888      - 2.8     -1.6    n/a
Rendon (3B)        -4.0     +1.0    .696    +.054       .720      - 0.5     +1.9    n/a
minimum 120 innings

Depending on which end of the chart one looks at, it's either good news or bad news. DRA, the method using traditional fielding statistics, thinks the Nationals have been getting worse. UZR and RZR, generally see improvement. A change that the table does not show, which is possibly relevant to this discussion, is in the MLB RZR averages by position. These fluctuate as well. In fact, UZR and DRA are both liable to be affected by the play of the rest of the league, as those plus/minus numbers are compared against the league average, which is constantly changing as games are played.

If one sums the UZR changes, the Nationals' regulars have improved by about +0.5 of a run. That isn't very much, but they are improving slightly in the infield, which is where they need to improve. Doing the same with the DRA numbers nets you a minus 5.6 runs, or almost half a win. My own impression aligns more with DRA I'm afraid. Last night's game turned on Kevin Frandsen's muffed play at third base, although the blame for the loss really belongs to the Nationals' hitters, who should manage to score more than one run a game.
* These are available at the Baseball Gauge of Humphreys wrote the excellent Wizardry, which is a way of looking at fielding using only the traditional statistics, and not the newfangled play-by-play metrics.

Nationals 2014 Game 46: Vibravit, Praeterivit

Highest Leverage PA:     4.1, PA#65, Ramos K vs Broxton, Nationals' 8th.
Greatest LI Win Value:   -.145, PA#16, Roark GDP vs Simon, Nationals' 2nd.
QMAX rating:             (4,4) for Roark (Uncategorised).
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Span           0.181
McLouth        0.056
Dobbs         -0.047
Moore         -0.059
Roark         -0.103
Desmond       -0.104
Frandsen      -0.111
Werth         -0.157
Espinosa      -0.158
Ramos         -0.185
Denard Span's home run filled one with hope, but this was an example of the kind of game the Nationals really need to win on a regular basis if there is to be any hope of post-season baseball for Washington. Tanner Roark's GDP in the 2nd inning signified the true course the contest would take. After the Reds took the lead in the fourth inning, the Nationals went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position. Nationals' hitters also struck out five times in the ensuing five innings before Aroldis Chapman came in, which works out as a 9 K/9 for a pitcher. That's as if the Nationals were facing 2013's Cliff Lee. But, in fact, they faced Alfredo Simon (5.6 K/9 in 2014 so far) and Jonathan Broxton (6.8 K/9). The Nationals certainly flattered those two last night.

Nationals 2014 Game 45: Quinque Palmi

Highest Leverage PA:     3.2, PA#42, Heisey 5-3g.o. vs Fister, Reds' 6th.
Highest LI Win Value:    .101, PA#23, e5 allowing Fister to score, Nationals' 3rd.
QMAX rating:             (3,2) for Fister (Success Square).
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Span           0.171
Fister         0.023
Moore          0.004
Werth          0.002
Walters        0.000
Frandsen      -0.008
Espinosa      -0.012
Rendon        -0.013
Lobaton       -0.038
Desmond       -0.069
Doug Fister's third start of 2014 was not quite as good as his second start, but still significantly better than his first start, moreso in hit prevention than in command. Denard Span's five-hit game led the Nationals' hitting, which is greatly reflected in the LI Win Values. One is entitled to wonder why the overall values are quite so low after scoring nine runs. Early big leads hurt leverage badly.

As my two GIFs show, Fister's 2014 pattern still does not quite match his 2013 one. He's still not getting the ball down quite as much. Is it intentional?

2013 Doug Fister

2014 Doug Fister

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Nationals 2014 Game 41: Captura Preti

Highest Leverage PA:     1.7, PA#7, Werth single vs Niese, Nationals' 1st.
                         1.7, PA#65, Wright K vs Clippard, Mets' 8th.
Highest LI Win Value:    .090, PA#50, Duda GDP vs Detwiler, Mets' 6th.
QMAX rating:             (3,4) for Roark (Success Square).
Bullpen Award:           Hero's Palm for Jayson Werth!.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Hairston       0.080
Werth          0.072
Rendon         0.055
Span           0.044
Moore          0.029
Ramos          0.001
Roark         -0.002
Dobbs         -0.005
McLouth       -0.010
Espinosa      -0.029
Desmond       -0.049
Last Friday's defeat of the Mets once again allowed my favourite National, Jayson Werth, to shine. However, it is also a game that demonstrates how quickly baseball contest can turn around with a lead of three runs or less. Had it been up to Rafael Soriano alone, the Mets would have tied the game. In this case, Soriano got a save that should have gone to Werth.

New National Greg Dobbs is perhaps treated unfairly in this game. His timely hit scored him a bit, but being thrown out at home took him into negative territory on my LI Win Values. Was that really his fault?

Monday, 19 May 2014

Nationals 2014 Game 04: Painful Loss

Highest Leverage PA:     5.1, PA#64, Zimmmerman K vs Carpenter, Nationals' 8th.
Highest LI Win Value:    .148, PA#31, Gattis HR vs Zimmermann, Braves' 5th.
QMAX rating:             (3,3) for Zimmermann (Success Square).
Bullpen Award:           Goat's Head for Clippard.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Werth          0.150
Rendon         0.146
Zimmermann    -0.026
Lobaton       -0.041
McLouth       -0.047
Frandsen      -0.049
Espinosa      -0.055
Zimmerman     -0.063
Desmond       -0.113
Span          -0.130
LaRoche       -0.215
Harper        -0.221
The data from this game of 3rd April was not yet recorded in the sidebar, so I have finally got round to processing it. The Braves beat the Nationals 2-1, at Nationals' Park. As the LI Win Values data above shows, the defeat owed a lot to a failure to drive in baserunners. When one sees high plus and negative values at the extremes, that marks out baserunners who don't score. Adam LaRoche's numbers were badly damaged when he was thrown out at home in the fourth.

Tracking the Aggregate LI Win Value showed the Nationals with a narrow edge until the eighth inning, when the Braves' Carpenter allowed Anthony Rendon to single and walked Jayson Werth. The next three Nationals' batters, however, struck out. The Aggregate LI Win Value only finally drifted into negative territory then.

A tense game that was a joy to follow, even if it ended in heartbreak.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Nationals 2014 Game 40: Triumphus Pugilis

Highest Leverage PA:     3.4, PA#58, Rendon double vs Ziegler, Nationals' 9th.
Highest LI Win Value:    .224, PA#58, Rendon double vs Ziegler, Nationals' 9th.
QMAX rating:             (2,1) for Fister (Elite Square).
Bullpen Award:           Hero's Palm for Clippard.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Werth          0.209
Rendon         0.133
Desmond        0.113
McLouth        0.050
Hairston      -0.003
Frandsen      -0.021
Fister        -0.027
Span          -0.037
Moore         -0.051
Lobaton       -0.097
Espinosa      -0.109
Doug Fister put in the kind of performance that restores one's faith in the notion that he has been a criminally undervalued pitcher. It was unfortunate that he did not get the victory, as the Nationals' hitters could not get going until the Diamondbacks' Brad Ziegler got in the game.

I have returned to Brooks Baseball so that you can compare how Fister located pitches in his two starts so far. Note the smaller percentage of pitches in the middle of the zone, and how he works the edges better. I have also included a chart showing all the pitches that ended right-handed hitters' at-bats, and highlighted two in particular, to show just how baseball is a game of fine distinctions. The red one is Aaron Hill's home run in the Diamondbacks' fourth. The blue one is, one batter later, Cody Ross' ground-out to third. (Remember, these are all from the catcher's perspective. Click on the image to enlarge them.)

2014 Fister's Second Start:

2014 Fister's First Start:

Baseball is a game of Fine Distinctions:

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Nationals 2014 Game 35: pugnator impugnamur

Highest Leverage PA:     1.3, PA#8, Moss single vs Fister, A's 1st.
Highest LI Win Value:    .098, PA#21, Jaso homer vs Fister, A's' 3rd.
QMAX rating:             (7,3) for Fister (Hit Hard).
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Hairston       0.022
Walters        0.000
Werth         -0.023
Rendon        -0.034
Desmond       -0.037
Frandsen      -0.037
Span          -0.042
Ramos         -0.044
Espinosa      -0.047
LaRoche       -0.048
With Doug Fister making his second start of the season today, I thought it was about time to get some analysis of his first start up.

This game was another shellacking for the Nationals. This was the seventh loss by five runs or more during this season, which is not good. The sad-sack Astros have suffered fewer blow-outs than the Nats.

Fister seemed to leave a lot of balls up in the zone, which the Athletics' hitters feasted upon. Let's assume that he'll get this under control. I have posted two images from Brooks Baseball showing Fister's first six weeks in 2013, and one showing his last start. This is from the catcher's perspective As you can see, he's not keeping his pitches down-and-in quite enough. Keep your eye out for that.

2014 Fister:

2013 Fister:

Friday, 9 May 2014

2014 Nationals' Fielding Review #1

With a month of the season completed, it is time to start reviewing the fielding data periodically. My source for this is Fangraphs, which includes all the main metrics that interest me. I've used John Dewan's Defensive Runs Saved, Mitchel Lichtman's Ultimate Zone Rating, my personal first choice of the 'converted-to-runs-play-by-play' metrics, and my preferred measure of RZR. The last is Revised Zone Rating, which is like a fielding average but counts balls hit into a zone, rather than those the fielder actually reached. I have included the MLB positional averages for RZR, to help give the players' numbers some context. Note that catchers do not have a Zone Rating. I'll do something about pitch-framing runs saved another time, perhaps.

Player              DRS   Change  UZR      Change  RZR   Change   MLBaverage   DRA
Lobaton (C)         -1    --       n/a      --     n/a     ---         n/a      5.9
Span (CF)            1    --      -0.4      --    .922     ---        .912     -2.9  
Espinosa (2B)       -3    --      -1.0      --    .757     ---        .785      4.4
LaRoche (1B)         0    --      -0.2      --    .846     ---        .814     -3.2
Harper (LF)          1    --      -1.8      --    .875     ---        .865     -2.9
Desmond (SS)        -4    --      -4.6      --    .740     ---        .768     -8.7
Werth (RF)          -7    --      -1.9      --    .959     ---        .886     -1.2
Rendon (3B)         -3    --      -5.0      --    .642     ---        .721     -2.4
minimum 120 innings

I was a bit shocked that Ryan Zimmerman was absent even with a 70-inning minimum. Has he really been gone that long?

What the RZR data highlights is how poor the Nationals' infield defence is, relative to the rest of the league. Anthony Rendon in particular is hurting the Nationals' at third base. Jayson Werth doesn't look so bad in RZR, but his DRS number is a bit disturbing.

UPDATE: I have added the one-year numbers of Michael Humphrey's Defensive Regression Analysis system, available at the Baseball Gauge of, Humphreys wrote the excellent Wizardry, which is a way of looking at fielding using only the traditional statistics, and not the newfangled play-by-play metrics.

Tigers 2014 Game 28: Radius a Sole?

Highest Leverage PA:     1.8, PA#46, Carter reach on e4 vs Ray, Astros' 6th.
Highest LI Win Value:    .117, PA#52, Dominguez GDP vs Reed, Astros' 7th.
QMAX rating:             (3,3) for Ray (Success Square).
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Worth          0.060
Kinsler        0.049
Cabrera        0.047
V Martinez     0.041
Castellanos    0.018
Avila          0.011
Jackson        0.001
Hunter        -0.002
JD Martinez   -0.060
There was a higher-leveraged event than PA#46, which was when Jason Castro was put out at 2B following Ian Kinsler's drop of Chris Carter's pop-up in the sixth.

The question that arises for Nationals' fans is whether the Nationals will miss Robbie Ray in the long run. Was the trade for Doug Fister really worth it? We are in no position to give any kind of definitive answer after one big-league start. All we can do is assess the effect the trade had on the Nationals' farm system. Without doubt losing Ray weakened the Nationals' farm system. One notes the next two left-handers on the Baseball America prospect list have the following written about them in the Prospect Handbook:

Solis: "Staying healthy has been an issue for Solis since college days...[he] has a chance to be a No 4 starter in the majors."

Purke: Purke has lost prospect lustre...he still has a chance to become a back-end starter if he can harness his command."

Sammy Solis is showing on as on the disabled list still, having suffered a back injury. The most recent report on his health I can find is an early April Baseball America report. Matt Purke's ERA in AA currently stands at 7.18. QMAXing his AA starts this season produces 3 Uncategorised, 2 Hit Hard and 1 Success Square outing. The Success Square credit was earned in his last start, on 7 May, so perhaps we can take some heart from that.

If you haven't already seen it, there is a good article about Ray's outing on Fangraphs. What's really interesting is that author Jeff Sullivan notes that Ray has scrapped plans for a slider and is working on a curve ball. The Tigers under Dave Dombrowski have put a lot of emphasis on power fastball-slider pitching. Ray currently represents a departure from that. Also, if you missed the Tigers' radio broadcast of the game, we learned that Ray popped up on the Tigers' radar after an outing against their AA farm club at Erie last season. The Ray trade looks like one that was planned for a long time which, given the Dombrowski's track record, is not necessarily bad news for the Nationals.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Nationals 2014 Game 32: surge in primis

Highest Leverage PA:     2, PA#14, Olivo K vs Zimmermann, Dodgers 2nd.
                         2, PA#50, Ethier ground out vs Storen, Dodgers 7th.   
Highest LI Win Value:    .135, PA#6, Rendon homer vs Greinke, Nationals 1st.
QMAX rating:             (5,3) for Zimmermann (Uncategorised).
Bullpen Award:           None.
Batters' Aggregate LI Win Values:
Span           0.121
Rendon         0.039
Hairston       0.025
Zimmermann     0.013
LaRoche        0.004
Moore          0.000
Espinosa      -0.001
Frandsen      -0.003
Leon          -0.004
Walters       -0.019
Werth         -0.029
McLouth       -0.050
Desmond       -0.078
'The Red Badge of Natitude' was awarded by F P Santangelo to the small number of fans (even the Dodger ones who congregated together) who were able to remain in the ballpark through a three-hour rain delay. This game was never really in doubt from the Nationals' point of view, and really does not offer the players much in the way of rewards, but nor in terms of demerits.

I have to wonder if Anthony Rendon and Denard Span should swap places in the lineup. Span's OBP is a humbling (for a leadoff hitter) .304, and Rendon's .331 might serve the team better in the leadoff spot. Span also has struck out in about 12 per cent of his plate appearances, whereas Rendon is at over 16 per cent. The tradition #2 hitter is a bat-control chap, and Span fits that a bit better. Of course, the sabermetric solution would probably be to put Rendon or Jayson Werth in the second spot, so maybe I should not complain.