I’ve been out of the country on business for the better part of a month. I went to Nats Park last night for the first time since shortly after the All-Star break. I was really looking forward to a live baseball game again. I didn’t make it to the end of the game. What a stinker. It looked like 2008 all over again. The Nats have a couple of guys in the line-up that have been passed by father time. A couple more who are at best AAAA players. Say all you want to about the amount of money the Nats are spending on prospects and the draft – right now they aren’t even trying at the Major League level.
From Opening Day through June 22, Clippard allowed 47 opposing batters to reach base in 45 2/3 innings. But in six appearances since then, he’s allowed a staggering 18 batters to reach in only 5 2/3 innings. He’s also allowed 10 runs (seven earned), raising his ERA from 1.58 to 2.63.
Other than injury, what could cause Clippard to struggle like this? I looked at the Pitch F/X data, and was shocked by what I saw. According to Pitch F/X, Tyler Clippard has not thrown a curve ball since May 19th. Here is my post from Federal Baseball.
Two schools of thought have emerged recently on how to fix the Nats. One side argues that if the Nats top of the order can get on base more, the Nats power hitters will hit more 2 and 3 run home runs, and the Nats will win more games. One other side in the “how to fix the Nats” argument suggests that if the Nats would just stop committing so many errors, they would win more games. Is one side right and the other wrong? Are both sides right? Is it a combination plus other problems to rectify? Let’s take a look.
The Washington Nationals offense has been mired in a month long slump. Every day, the Nats make opposing pitchers look like a combo Bob Gibson, Greg Maddux, and Cy Young. How bad is the offense? Are they significantly underperforming, or have they run into a string of pitchers on top of their games?
Here’s my post from Federal Baseball that looks at the last 25 days:
Watching the Nats/White Sox game Saturday at Nats Park, I came to the realization that it’s time for technology to replace home plate umpires. Home Plate Umpire Sam Holbrook was a disaster. He had his own unique strike zone that made the game completely unwatchable. Two average pitching performances were turned into Cy Young auditions with Holbrook’s generous strike zone. Batters on both sides were unable to hit pitches called strikes, leaving the fans to stare at a 1-0 snoozefest.
On June 17th, the Wall Street Journal had an excellent piece (here) discussing major league umpires, Stephen Strasburg, and Pitch F/X. In it David Biderman wrote:
According to a consensus of umpires, a good umpire will make one bad call on a pitch every two innings—or about four or five per game.
For the last several years, John Lannan has been a solid starting pitcher for the Nats. He has relied on a two seam (sinking) fastball to produce ground balls. Even when he has allowed runners to reach base, he has been able to get out of jams by inducing batters to ground into double plays. This year has been a different story. He’s struggled to get batters to hit ground balls. He’s entered the death spiral of starting pitchers – he’s struggled to get batters out, which has forced him to pitch to additional batters each inning, which has forced him to throw too many pitches, which has forced him to leave games early. Let’s compare Lannan’s 2010 effort to his Pitch F/X data from 2009.
On Sunday, Stephen Strasburg pitched his 2nd career MLB game, giving up 2 hits and 5 walks while piling up 8 strikeouts in 5.1 innings. Although Strasburg was frustrated with his performance, and even more frustrated with the dangerous mound conditions in Cleveland, it was still an excellent effort for the Nats rookie.
In his first game, Strasburg threw 94 pitches to 24 batters – 11 lefties and 13 righties. In addition to his blazing four seam fastball, Strasburg tended to throw his two-seamer to lefties and his curveball to righties. (For those of you who missed my full breakdown of game one – click here). Against the Indians, Strasburg threw to 95 pitches to 23 batters – 18 lefties and 5 righties. Did this different mix of lefty and righty batters impact his pitch selection? Here’s my post from Federal Baseball: