Thursday, June 30, 2005

It's More Impressive Than You Think

With today's thrilling 7-5 win over the Pirates, our thrilling Washington Nationals have moved their record up to 47-31 through 78 games. That is, by my mathematics, a 98-win pace, good enough not only for an NL East championship (unless something bizarre happens), but for the second-best win total in Washington, D.C. baseball history (only the 1933 Senators had more than 98 wins). They are over a .600 winning percentage, one of just four teams in the Major Leagues that can claim that lofty perch.

What's even more remarkable is that, as of May 28th's loss to the Cardinals, the Nats stood at 24-25. In the 29 games since, they are 23-6! That's not just great baseball, that is .800 baseball (well, close)!

We all know that hot streaks do not last forever. This team will not go 67-17 the rest of the way (the 84-game equivalent of 23-9). But it's also becoming less likely that the Nationals really are a .500 team having a freakishly good half. .500 teams don't go on 23-6 runs - they have too many holes to win that consistently. Now, injuries may take their toll, and players may struggle. But you won't get me believing that this is a .500 team and will wind up 88-74. This is a 90-win team. Book it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Moonlight Graham Day

If you didn't know already, today is Moonlight Graham day, the 100th anniversary of Moonlight Graham's single game appearance for John McGraw's New York Giants.

Made famous by the movie Field of Dreams, we all should remember these words, which teach us to enjoy every great day as if it were our last great day:
It was like having come this close to your dreams... and then watch them brush past you like a stranger in the crowd. At the time you don't think much of it. You know we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they happen. Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that was the only day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

All Good Things...

No, I'm not talking about the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard "finds himself shifting continually into the past, future and present and must use that to discover a threat to humanity's existence." I'm talking about the Nats Blog winning streak, which at one point, Dexy's thought was a statistically significant cause of the Nats' victories in themselves.

The Nats lost with me in attendance on Sunday.

I'm trying to figure out what changes in karma occurred before or during the game to snap the streak. I went to the game with new people, but the new people thing hasn't hurt before. I got my ice cream of the future a bit early this game, in the fourth inning or so....but that wouldn't seem to cause any shift for or against the Nats (they actually scored via the Spivey homer while I was getting the Dippin' Dots). My only conclusion is that it was....

The Chorizo.

Is the Chorizo bad? !No! Es muy muy bueno. Me gusto el chorizo. In fact, the chorizo, which was SuperNoVa's last, best hope for ballpark food, was a godsend...a lightning bolt from above that said "You may eat good food at RFK!" But finding good food at the ballpark also meant suffering a loss. Could it be that we can enjoy a Nats victory and that we can enjoy a good sausage at RFK, but we cannot do both? The horror.

Speaking of streaks ending, Nick Johnson was injured on Sunday scoring a run. His MRIs - yes, he's had two, say he has a deep bone bruise.

Let's face it folks, we all knew Nick Johnson would get injured. We were living on borrowed time. For some reason, "deep bone bruise" and "out 3 to 7 days" sounds to me like "nagging injury" and "will cause him to miss more games."

Oddly enough, an old classmate of mine who is a Yankee fan was at the game on Sunday and he noted how Nick Johnson was injury prone. He even joked that he came down to see Nick Johnson get injured. Turns out he got what he paid for in that department.

Ball-wonk to "D" Equals Comedy WebGem!

Ball-wonk adroitly compares Sunday's game to a depressing Smiths' tune, and Friend of Nats Blog "D" discovers that Johnny Marr and Morrissey predicted this result nearly 20 years ago in their initial lyrics for "Panic". LOL funny for new wave/Nats geeks like myself!

Monday, June 27, 2005

ERV Boxscore for June 26, vs. Toronto

I know I'm late with this one, and I have no time to comment or provide details for this.

But, to make it up to you, here's a game chart, essentially showing the Nats chance of winning as the game went on (above zero means above 50%, below zero means below 50%):

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A peek into the laboratory ...

Here are some things the Nats Blog Research & Development team are working on. First, we're close to releasing ERV charts for pitchers, now that we have a fair amount of games for them. Here's a look at Esteban Loaiza's:

Compare to Chad Cordero's:

The one thing to notice about Cordero's: he has earned positive RV/WV in EVERY game in which he has appeared this year, except for one. Even in his blown save, he went on to pitch another inning or two to make up for it a bit. And we all know about his close calls. Truly remarkable.

Finally, here's a chart showing the Nats cumulative Win Value for last night's game. Essentially the higher the line goes above 0.00, the better chance the Nats have at winning the game (and vice versa for below the line). This chart shows how comfortable the win was last night.

Friday Morning Figures: Special Edition

It has come to my attention that the Friday Morning Figures I posted two days ago relies on my old algorithm for computing Win Value. Here's a new chart, complete through last night's game, which computes everything accurately:

ERV Boxscore for June 25, vs. Toronto

I feel asleep after the third inning in this one (It was about 2 AM my time), but I did so intentionally, without worrying about the outcome of this game. I didn't think this Jays' lineup had a chance to come back from 4 down against Livan.

ERV Win: Marlon Byrd & Nick Johnson
ERV Loss: Lilly & Rios

3 Most Valuable Plays:

(1) Spivey's double in the second (1.38)
(2) Byrd's catch in the fourth (1.20)
(3) Spivey's bad throw on Rios DP ball in the 8th (-1.14)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Standings of the Future

Everyone keeps saying, "It's only June, the standings don't mean anything." OK, well, if Dippin' Dots can make an Ice Cream of the Future, we here at Nats Blog can make a Standings of the Future. What you see is the NL East standings based on the number wins the market at Tradesports indicates each team will have, as of a few minutes ago. We're right there.

The Nats' Most Valuable Things

Capitol Punishment is asking whether Chad Cordero might be in the running for Cy Young and whether he is more important than Livan. This prompted me to compile the list below, the ten most valuable things for the Nats this year, based on season Win Value (including Friday's game against the Jays):

(1) Chad Cordero's Arm, 42.63
(2) Nick Johnson's Bat, 40.36
(3) Livan Hernandez's Arm, 22.62
(4) Jose Guillen's Bat, 12.94
(5) John Patterson's Arm, 11.88
(6) Ryan Church's Bat, 11.78
(7) Gary Majewski's Arm, 11.14
(8) Hector Carrasco's Arm, 9.08
(9) Brian Schneider's Bat, 8.98
(10) Brad Wilkerson's Bat, 7.09

Just off the list are Ayala's arm, 6.74, and Schneider's glove, 6.69. Carrasco and Church suprised me the most on the list.

I know you must be thinking, what about the least valuable things? The bottom 2 are Guzman's Bat, -39.57 and Castilla's Bat, -21.48.

ERV Boxscore for June 24, vs. Toronto

A nondescript, workman-like win, where "Mr. Self-Help" Esteban Loaiza runs this show, with a combined hitting/pitching WV of 5.17 in only six innings of work.

ERV Win: Loaiza
ERV Loss: Hill, Hinske & Zaun

3 most valuable plays:
(1) Loaiza's double in the 2nd (2.35)
(2) Hudson's GIDP in the 2nd (-0.92)
(3) Catalanotto's Walk in the 6th (0.85)

Click on boxscore for larger image.

Friday, June 24, 2005

OK, It May Be Time To Take This Seriously

With tonight's 3-0 victory over the Nats' erstwhile "rivals" the Blue Jays, the Nationals are 43-30 ... a pace to win 95 games mind you ... and four games up in the standings. Meanwhile, the Nats figure to pick up a great hitter after the All-Star Break, and what's better is that they don't have to trade to get him.

Let's face it. You were just happy to have a team in DC, and you were probably relishing the fact that they would struggle a bit so that they could amuse you with Bad News Bears type plays in the field. You thought you could have some hot dogs and beer and just soak in the enjoyment of having baseball close to home. Hell, you wouldn't have to even learn the players, since they would be gone soon enough when the real ownership took over.

And then you were even amused when the Nats, through sheer Monty Pythonesque farcery (it's a word now that I've used it) by the Marlins, Braves, Phillies and Mets, took a slender lead in the NL East based on a barely-over-.500 record. Even then, while you took great pleasure in noting that the Nationals were in first place, you never thought it would last. They were the Jason Gore of Major League Baseball - the fat guy ranked low who found himself near the top of the leaderboard. You expected the Nats to fire an 84 on Sunday, didn't you?

And now you (and by you, I mean me) are faced with the prospect of this team actually being for real. Not a fluke, not a sham, not some running-on-pure-adrenaline-from-actually-having-fans type of thing, but a real, honest-to-goodness division leader and a playoff team. After all, they play in a pitcher's park that keeps scores down and games close. They have a lineup featuring a couple of guys (Wilkerson and Johnson) who get on base. They have people like Brian Schneider who play great defensively and contribute timely, nay, extremely timely hits. They have a real ace in Livan Hernandez, an up-and-coming guy in John Patterson, and a crafty veteran who was the best pitcher in the American League just two years ago (that's you, Esteban). They have two extraordinary relievers in Majewski and Ayala who simply get the job done. And they have a closer in Cordero that is impervious to pressure, freakish in his effectiveness, and, I believe, a real threat to Bobby Thigpen's save record.

After all, this team is more than 43-30. It has the second best record in the National League. It has the fourth best record in all of Baseball. And with a four game lead and a bright future of returning stars and payroll flexibility in front of it, I guess I'll say it....

This team is for real.

Wearing third-party gear

So, I have spent a good deal of energy in my life sneering at folks who wear hats or jerseys to ballgames that don't represent either of the teams playing.
In my opinion, of course, supporting the home team is expected and appreciated, and I respect those who wear the garb of the visiting team, especially when done in a hostile park. But I have never understood someone going to say, a Nats-Phillies game and wearing a Yankees cap.

That being said, tomorrow, my college buddy is having me and my family to a suite at the Red Sox -Phillies game. I will be rooting for the Red Sox, mostly because I want the Phils to lose ground to the Nats. But it occurred to me: The only cap I would wear would be a Nats cap. It then quickly occurred to me that I am a hypocrite.

So, quick reaction--was my previous line of thinking wrong and I should go with my Nats cap? Or better to wear no cap and just root for the Sox?

Friday Morning Figures

For games through June 23. Last week's chart here.

Click on chart for larger image

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Strat v. ABPA

In comments to this post about Strat-O-Matic, reader arrScott throws down the APBA v. Strat gauntlet, which I can't really pick up. I never played ABPA, but neither was I a Strat diehard, even though I did play it for a time. Part of the reason I never joined sides in that war was that I owned and played nearly EVERY baseball board game that existed, including the following:

(1) Strat-O-Matic -- Bought this around 1975 from "Two Guys". Came with the 75 Giants and 75 Brewers (Hank Aaron!). This was the first time I met Von Joshua and Sixto Lezcano. Later I would buy all the teams, and my friend would try to always play the Phils and always pitch Steve Carlton, and only keep track of his strikeouts. This was 1979 or so. Our version of interleague play was picking two teams at random from the Acme bag that held my set, and play them. The big reason I did not become devoted to Strat was that I wanted to rate players myself, and Strat didn't let you do this.

(2) SherCo Baseball-- this was my favorite, because it used a board that was a 28 x 28 grid, and you could position fielders everywhere, and use real ballpark layouts, and plot where the ball was hit. You could also rate players yourself (one team took about 30 minutes to do, with just a calculator and baseball encyclopedia), though the stat engine was quite rough (all players with batting average -- yes, batting average -- betwen .250 and .299 had the same chance of getting a hit). It also had a neat rare plays chart, including a player being injured in home stove fire.

(3) Bill Rigney's Baseball Challenge-- This was very fancy, with a different kind of field grid for a board, similar to today's fielding zones for zone ratings. The thing about this game was it had a pitch-by-pitch mode! It took about 6 hours to play a game pitch-by-pitch, which dampened the excitement a bit.

(4) All-Star Baseball -- The classic, with spinner and discs, and pitchers were only rated for their hitting. We divided the cards into four teams and played several leagues with my friends.

(5) Statis-Pro Baseball -- Avalon Hill's stat based baseball game, that also let you rate players, though it was more cumbersome because it was more accurate. During the 1981 strike, Avalon Hill sent registered owners of the game some Japanese team sets. Riveting.

(6) Superstar Baseball -- Successor to Sports Illustrated baseball, this was one of the first games I had. Came with all-time great player cards, and is where I learned about players like Frankie Frisch.

(7) Baseball Strategy -- Another Avalon Hill game, but no stats here, though you could adapt the basic Topps card to the game. No dice either, the play was determined by the player ratings and the pitch choice by the defensive player and the batting choice by the offensive player.

(8) Thinking Man's Baseball -- I barely remember this one; only that the board was covered in clear plastic that you would write the score on with a grease pencil.

(9) George Brett Baseball -- This one was freaky. You rolled dice and stuff, but you didn't play baseball, you did baseball things and accumulated points. Really, really dumb idea -- I won this game at a carnival.

(10) Pennant Race -- Another game by Avalon Hill. It was a season replay game, where you picked lineups, made a few rolls of the dice, and the final score was determined. Not really that much fun.

(11) Charlie Brown's Baseball -- This one was pretty cool and a lot of fun when I was 6 or 7. It was like real baseball, just with Peanuts characters and a simple 3-dice chart for different plays. The stats seemed to come out about right.

(12) Baseball -- I had several variations of this game, which was pretty generic and got boring pretty quickly, but relatives kept buying it for me as a gift.

(13) Calculator Baseball -- This one was purchased from an advertisement in the back of Baseball Digest for about $5.00. It basically told you how to generate random numbers with an ordinary caculator, and gave you generic cards that you could use with basic batter and pitcher stats from real teams. Reggie Jackson hit a game winning homerun in the first game I ever played with this, which gave it some staying power.

Crystal ball (And lots of hope)

Looking ahead to the all-star break, we and the Marlins have the easiest (knock on wood) schedule over the 16-18 games before that break occurs.
So, I tried to break down the most likely occurrences for each series for each team and see (and hope) what our records would look like at the break.

I have the Nats (currently 42-30) going 2-1 at home against Toronto, 2-1 at home against Pittsburgh, 1-2 on the road at the Cubs, 3-1 at home against the Mets (a bit of hoping here), and with a lot of hope, going 2-1 at Philly to score a big win before the break. That gets us to 52-36.

Philly (now 39-33) plays a game against the Mets (1-0), 3 against Boston (1-2), 3 at the Mets (1-2), 3 vs. Atlanta (2-1), 4 at PIT (2-2) and the 1-2 against the Nats for 47-42, 5.5 games back.

Atlanta (now 38-33) plays a game against FLA (1-0), 3 against Baltimore (1-2), 4 at FLA (1-3), 3 at PHI (1-2), 4 vs. the Cubs (3-1) and 3 vs. MIL (2-1) for 47-42, also 5.5 games back.

Florida (now 34-34) plays a game against ATL (0-1), 3 at Tampa (2-1), 4 against Atl (3-1), 3 at the Mets (1-2), 4 vs. MIL (3-1), and 3 vs. the Cubs (2-1) for 45-41, 6 games back.

And the Mets (now 34-37) play one at Philly (0-1), 3 at the Yanks (1-2), 3 against Philly (2-1), 3 against FLA (2-1), 4 at the Nats (1-3 hopefully), and 3 at PIT (1-2) for 41-47, 11 games back.

And tell me that wouldn't be one happy all-star break!

ERV Boxscore for June 22, at Pittsburgh

Click on Boxscore for larger image

ERV Boxscore for June 21, at Pittsburgh

Click on boxscore for larger image

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Our all-stars?

So, here is the question: who will our all-stars be?
My guess is Livan and Cordero (Chad, not Wil :-p ) definitely. But who else? Anyone?

The only potential one would be Nick Johnson of course. But I fear Nick will be towards the top of the snub list. Derrick Lee and Albert Pujols are absolute locks. Assume there is a third player and you probably give the edge to Carlos Delgado. There is also the potential of a pick going to a team that needs a player, like Milwaukee's Lyle Overbay (although SuperNova thinks Carlos Lee is getting in) and Colorado's Todd Helton now that Barmes is injured (although I think Preston Wilson gets that pick--SuperNova mentioned the possibility of a guy like Brian Fuentes, who I think would instantly go to the top of any argument of worst all-star ever: a reliever with a 1-3 record, 2.91 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and only 7 saves).

Anyway, I hate to say it, but our debateable mid-season MVP may be taking a much needed rest in a couple of weeks.
p.s. Nice win today, and great job by Hector getting out of that HUGE jam.

Not must win, but...

I am never going to say that a game against the Pirates in mid-late June is a must win situation. However, it is certainly an important game. It is the difference between us being over .500 and under .500 on this road trip. It is a game where Patterson is pitching that we "should" win. It is the difference between a happy day of rest and a day of rest after two losses to a bad team. And given that the rest of the division is playing each other this week, losing a series means that we would be assured of losing ground on other teams in the division.

As I write this now, Patterson has given up 3 homers today...what is up with that? Before last week, he had only given up one (the Alou grand slam) all season. Get those pitching coaches to work with him now on getting back the early season form.

Speaking of home runs, Guillen has hit two today. Way to go Jose! I think given his recent big power explosion (and yes, I know they are headed back to RFK where he has only hit one this season), I would move him to the clean-up spot and place Nick third. Would be nice to get the high OBP guy up right before a guy on a huge power tear.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

My Slumping Cousin Vinny

In early May I posted charts showing the Nats starter's cumulative batting RV and WV over the season. The chart for Vinny Castilla back then is here. Below is his current chart. Not a pretty picture.

Vinny's Chart

Even Strat-O-Matic Likes to Pummel Guzman

For my birthday, my sister bought me the book Strat-O-Matic Fanatics by Glenn Guzzo, about the man, Hal Richman, who created Strat-O-Matic baseball board game. On page 217, Guzzo describes the "coffee klatch" where the Strat guys gave out fielding ratings for the 2003 cards (1 being the best, 5 being the worst). Check this out:

"Christian [sic] Guzman, SS: He is reduced to a 3 and the notes suggest this may not be temporary: 'Inconsistent play. Lack of intensity. Questionable future.'"

Couldn't have said it better myself. I don't think Bodes plays Strat, unfortunately. And I gues someone should tell Hal Richman he has to go through Boswell first.

ERV Boxscore for June 20, at Pittsburgh

I know I should learn to enjoy these kinds of wins, but I can't help but think: Why didn't we do this to the Reds? Anyway, Cristian Guzman continues his slow march back up the RV/WV hill -- as Dexys says, let's hope it continues, because we need all the offense we can get.


-- Sorry for the backlog of boxscores, but I'm on the road and connections, time, etc. have been scarce. I believe, however, that I am in a place that is not on any blackout lists, so I should be able to watch a few games this week, albeit maybe on a bit of a delay.

-- The version of the Pirates game was the Fox feed from Pittsburgh, with Steve Blass and some guy whose name I forgot doing PbP. I must say, Mr. Whats-His-Name was TRULY AWFUL, very close to the worst announcer I have ever heard. He did not tell you what was happening -- he sat there silently until the play was over. Check out his call of Guillen's first homer. It was like he invited you to watch the game with him, not call it for you. I understand not talking too much during a telecast (as opposed to radio), but this was outrageous. It made it very hard to follow the game. Midway through the game they were interviewing some conductor/music professor in the booth. For one whole inning nobody talked about the game at all, and when the good professor finally left, the dork and Steve Blass were checking each others scorecards on the air. It had all the feel of a late September game; I feel for Pirate fans, it's like the announcers have packed it in already. In never thought someone could make me miss Ron Darling.

ERV Win: Hernandez
ERV Loss: M. Redman

3 most valuable plays:

(1) Wilkerson's 2-run Double in the 4th (1.80)
(2) Guzman's 2-run double in the 2nd (1.14)
(3) T. Redman's GIDP in the 3rd (-1.05)

Click on boxscore for larger image.

ERV Boxscore for June 19, at Texas

Click on boxscore for larger image

ERV Boxscore for June 18, at Texas

Click on boxscore for larger image

Monday, June 20, 2005

As good a time as any...

to lose a series one game to two. Well, I'll give you what we can take away from the weekend series in a cursory fashion with a more detailed analysis hopefully later in the day.
1) Arlington gives even Cristian Guzman a power stroke--in all seriousness, I do hope he builds on this;
2) We should keep picking up Rangers' pitching cast-offs;
3) Everyone picked it up to avoid the sweep in a game that we could have easily lost on paper going in; and
4) Most importantly, we are still on track for coming out of this road-trip with a plus-.500 record and we actually GAINED ground or held tight against everyone except the Braves, against whom we only lost one game. We stayed even with the Marlins and Phillies, who also lost two of three this weekend, and gained a game on the Mets. And while losing a game to the NL West leading Padres, we even gained a game on the currently three potential wild-card teams outside our division, the Cubs, the Diamondbacks, and the Dodgers. All in all, I feel pretty good about things (which I am sure is helped by us winning the last game as opposed to winning the first and losing the last two).

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Grantville, PA -- Nats Country !!

I'm blogging to you live from Grantville, PA, a bucolic patch of rolling hills and farmland seven miles north of Hershey, PA, 11 miles east of Harrisburg, and 132 miles north, as the car drives, from Arlington, VA. The vista from our hotel room is quite nice, though it would have been nicer before the Eisenhower interstate highway system rolled through in 1950 or so, as I-81 South charges through right below our window.

Grantville, it seems, suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, with Harrisburg and Hershey dominating the area -- the local Perkins restaurant listed Harrisburg as its location, which probably steams the Grantville Kiwanis club that very likely meets there every Thursday. Even the Hanovers (East and West) draw more attention from the road signs and maps than Grantville. We have not had chance to find the town square to check whether the name was given in a spot of euphoria around 1865 or so in honor of old "Unconditional Surrender" himself. Somehow I think there is a more mundane story behind it, given Grantville's second-class status.

So it is with baseball, too. One would think that this is Phillies country. Indeed, today was "Phillies Day" at Hersheypark, with the Phanatic roaming the park, sitting in our stroller for a laugh, squashing my Nats hat and kissing Mrs. DM. Between the hours of 2 and 3 pm you could have had a free autograph from "World Series Pitcher" Dickie Noles. Dickie earned that title with about an hour's worth of work against the Kansas City Royals in a game the Phils lost. The line was about 4 deep, with the family in the fourth slot debating hard about whether to ditch Dickie and head for some cotton candy. Even with complications I could have had his autograph in about 7 minutes, but I walked right by, thus passing up an easy twelve dollars. Around 3:45 PM, his work day done, Dickie walked past us again, common citizen, clutching some "Chocolate Currency" and asking the lemonade vendor where he could redeem them for Kisses and the like. I didn't want to think that $5 of free chocolate was all Dickie pulled in for letting us into, oh so briefly, the world of a "World Series" pitcher, but it may be true. Though, if you think about it, does a 49-year-old man who stil goes by "Dickie" deserve better? I don't know.

I did see a few Nats hats at the park beside my own, but everyone wearing one looked like someone from D.C., College Park, Alexandria, but certainly not Grantville. The Wilco truck stop down the road offered no Nats garb for purchase.

But, according to Major League Baseball, Grantville, PA, 17028, is a teeming cauldron of Nats fever, thick with diehard fans that advertisers and broadcast networks would pay good money to reach through expensive exclusive territorial rights. Even though the UPN 20 signal is a bit weak in these parts, MASN still holds the ground firm here, refusing to surrender like the man Grantville might be named for. Because, you see, blacks out Nationals' games here, and thus I am forced to blog, rather than watch video of Grantville's beloved Nats fall behind by 7 runs early against the Rangers. I can only imagine how the locals here are taking the bad news.

ERV Boxscore for June 17, at Texas

Click on boxscore for larger image

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday Morning Figures

Through games of June 16. Last week's chart here.

Click on chart for larger image

Thursday, June 16, 2005

We Talk About the Nats Off the Blog, Too

Posting of an IM session between SNV and Dexy's (enhanced with links):

SuperNoVa: How about Drese?
Dexy’s: that is something!!!
SuperNoVa: the way, I only watched like 2 innings
Dexy’s: I was SOOOO pissed that ESPN blacked out the game
SuperNoVa: First inning I watched included Schneider's HR
SuperNoVa: Schneider LOVES it when I watch him play.
Dexy’s: I didn't see a single pitch...I had scheduled my night around watching...[Dexy's wife] was in NY, I was all set to relax and watch it
SuperNoVa: I've caught 3 of his 4 HR (2 live at RFK, 1 last night)
Dexy’s: what impresses me the most from looking at the box score is that he only had 98 pitches in those 8 innings
SuperNoVa: yup
Dexy’s: almost surprised Frank didn't keep him in!
SuperNoVa: I have to say, despite his stats, Schneider is the player that has grown on me the most
SuperNoVa: I thought Wilkerson would be my favorite, but Schneider is really endearing himself to me
Dexy’s: well, even though they don't hit regularly, both catchers do have some big hits to their credit this year
Dexy’s: the guys most surprising to me, how much I like them I mean, are actually Majewski and Ayala
Dexy’s: these guys (knock on wood) have really wildly exceeded expectations
SuperNoVa: Well, Ayala had a great year last year, too
SuperNoVa: Majewski is more found money
Dexy’s: a team like the Nats needs found money
Dexy’s: if you would have told me we would GAIN ground on the NL East from our Angels series (with the other teams playing the A's, M's, Cubs & Rangers), I would have thought you were crazy
SuperNoVa: No kidding
SuperNoVa: 3 games.....that's closing in on the definition of a LEAD
Dexy’s: in fact, of the other 5 divisions, 3 of them are closer or the same as the Nats three game lead
Dexy’s: if we could go 6-3 on this road trip...that would be a wow
SuperNoVa: It would be more of a "cool!" than a "wow"
Dexy’s: maybe so
SuperNoVa: 7-2 would be a "wow"
Dexy’s: yeah
SuperNoVa: 8-1 would be a "WHOA!"
Dexy’s: 7-2 and you would see that tradesports money start to flow into the Nats
SuperNoVa: I'm going to post this chat session
Dexy’s: lol, ok

ERV Boxscore for June 15, vs. Anaheim

I still can't breathe. Chad Cordero not only was playing with fire tonight, he was spitting gasoline in it. When Erstad was held at third on Anderson's single, I thought that might come back to haunt the Angels.


-- Ryan Drese's 7.07 WV game is the best for any Nats starter this year. Ironically, he knocked Tomo Ohka's 6.80 from Memorial Day off the perch.

-- Just two more wins and we guarantee a 500 record at the halfway point.

ERV Win: Drese and Cordero
ERV Loss: Finley, McPherson & Molina

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Finley's K in the 9th (-2.78)
(2) McPherson's K in the 9th (-2.77)
(3) Molina's F8 in the 9th (-2.67)

Click on boxscore for larger image

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Guzman v. Wilkerson v. Johnson

So, I looked at and figured out some quick situational stats (hopefully, my quick calculations all turned out ok), to show that not only is Cristian Guzman killing us at the plate, he is actually performing far worse than his basic stats.

By way of comparison, I put his numbers alongside someone who is playing average to good ball for us in Brad Wilkerson and our best hitter of the year, Nick Johnson. As you can see, while Wilkerson and Johnson actually do better than their overall stats in the more important situations, Guzman does far worse. Now...if we could only figure out a way to get Nick hitting when he leads off an inning!!


Guzman OPS

Wilkerson OPS

Johnson OPS

None on, 1 or 2 out




None on, none out




Man 1st, 2 out


.347 (9 PA)


Man 1st, none or 1 out




RISP none or 1 out




RISP, 2 out




ERV Boxscore for June 14, at California

The problem with baseball is that, although it appears to be pretty static, it has a number of moving parts that make it hard to tell why things happened. For the first six innings last night, I thought our feeble mid-May bats had returned and were the source of the problem. But that turned out to be Ervin Santana, and as soon as he left, and Frank fingered the cheater Donnelly, and Scioscia reacted like a baby, Santana's spell was not only gone, it had backfired and was now confounding the Angels. The rest is not only history, but another signpost game for us to look back on when the season is over.

ERV Win: Spivey & Guillen
ERV Loss: Shields

(1) Guillen HR in 8th (3.49)
(2) Spivey diving stop in 4th (2.97)
(3) Spivey go ahead single in 8th (2.73)

Click on boxscore for larger image.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Felipe Lopez

It is pretty up in the air what the Nationals will do when Vidro comes back regarding Spivey and Cristian Guzman. If the roster stays like it is, I would like to see them give Spivey a try at SS as he is a serious upgrade over Vidro.

Assuming, however, they decide to make Spivey the backup 2B and a prime option off the bench, we will need a solid SS to take Guzman's place, and Bowden and the press keep going on and on about how he has extra cash to pick up some pieces to really fill some holes and make a pennant run.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you....Felipe Lopez. Why Felipe Lopez?
1) He is on the Reds, who are going nowhere right now, so they would be one of those teams that would unload talent for the right price.
2) He is on the Reds, where I assume Bowden still has his best connections from his time with that team.
3) He is on the Reds, so he isn't well-known and hasn't gotten the buzz that would push his price sky high.
4) His .919 OPS is the second best in the majors for shortstops, after only Miguel Tejada (and DOUBLE Guzman's OPS).
5) He probably is an equivalent fielder to Guzman (Lopez actually has fewer errors this year, but this has been a pretty bad fielding year for Cristian).
6) He's a switch hitter, which Frank will love.
7) The Nats' fan base would go ga-ga over this deal as everyone realizes that our huge hole is at short--in fact, outside getting a huge 3B, which won't happen as Castilla is entrenched for now and Zimmerman was just drafted, and a big hitting catcher, which doesn't exist, where else can we upgrade the offense significantly.

Here is the huge thing holding this back: Lopez is only 25, so the Reds might really want to hang on to him as one of those young pieces of the puzzle in rebuilding the team. His current salary is only $415,000, so its not like we can offer the Reds cheaper options, and if we gave them Guzman, we would almost definitely have to eat his salary.

Anyway, acquiring Lopez would be my #1 option. #2 and close behind would be an absolute star pitcher, but I'm guessing we are more likely to get a middle of the staff type guy if we do make a move in that direction. My last piece of the puzzle, further behind those two, would be a solid lefty set-up guy to join Ayala and Majewski.

ERV Boxscore vs. WPA Scoring

If you haven't seen it already, Studes over at Hardball Times did a review of Saturday night's Nats-Mariners tilt at RFK using the "Win Probability Added" method of scoring. Studes' work provides a nice comparison to DM's own ERV scoring of the same game.

For the most part, a non-statistical observer, and ERV fan, and a WPA scorer would see this game the same. Everyone and their brother knows that Guillen's single to score the go-ahead run in the 7th was the biggest play of the game. In a 2-1 game, it's easy to see.

There are subtle difference, however, and it's worth comparing the two. Byrd was a net negative under DM's scoring, while he came out as the fourth most valuable player in Studes' system. Ryan Church was a hugely valuable player according to DM's ERV/WV system, while he was only about as valuable as Byrd in Studes' scoring. Fascinating that similar approaches could yield different results.

The problem is, neither approach can tell you whether there was enough Dippin' Dots on hand Saturday night. I mean, the net value of the Ice Cream of the Future on a muggy DC evening was HUGE.

Easier to put behind us

I didn't get to see any of last night's game (in fact, this entire series won't be on UPN and this whole TV contract thing really has to get cleared up for the new owners--it is hard to imagine what the bids looked like without anyone knowing what the tv contract will be, there must have been a bunch of bidding in the dark no matter what MLB was able to tell them).

But, the box score makes it pretty clear that this was just an ol' fashioned clock cleaning. 20 hits, so many of them for extra bases that the Angels slugged .854 for the game. And, to argue the following point is silly because no one knows what the psychological effect is of losing close ones vs. getting blown out, etc., but I'll make the case that if we had to lose, this was the way to go:
We didn't get emptionally spent over it.
We didn't have to pitch Majewski, Ayala, Cordero or even Carrasco.
We didn't lose any of our mystique of "if it's close, we will find a way to pull it out."
We just lost to (what I think is) an excellent team whose bats were clicking.
Perhaps Frank can pat them on their asses and say, "let's start a new streak" and we can move on. And I'd hope that they won't dwell on the idea that they beat up on the weak AL West teams, and now they can't handle a real team, because they did win 6 of 7 from the Braves and Marlins, two real teams for sure.

If there are any real negatives to take from this game, they are easy ones to move on from, and they are:
1) Paul Byrd is not Pedro Martinez. Come on, let's get some more runs against him. (Paul is actually the last pitcher on my fantasy team and I didn't play him this week because a) I never play a starter who is about to face the Nationals and b) he sucks).
2) We really had a couple of good early chances in the game to take a lead and then after down 2-0, tie it, and we couldn't string anything together. We are going to have to wake the bats up earlier on the road.
3) Nick Johnson the last three games or so has lost a bit of his invincibility. Not that I expected him to hit over .500 the rest of the season, but there is something comforting about seeing that positive RV and WV in every day's box score. So, Nick...make me proud. Keep pounding that ball and taking those key walks.

In sum..congrats on the great win streak, and let's start another one (see, who needs Frank?). I said before the road trip and I'll stick by it, that 5-4 on this 9 game road trip (1-2 to ANA, 2-1 to TEX and PIT) would be outstanding and show that we can really play away from the friendly confines.

ERV Boxscore for June 13, at Los Angeles Angels

Click on boxscore for larger image

Monday, June 13, 2005

Attending The Cathedral of Baseball

Yes, you know by now from Dexy's that the Nats Blog is undefeated - a perfect 13-0 when attending a Nationals home game. I don't subscribe to any theory of statistic significance (something must be related to or caused by something to be statistically significant. My butt in my seat doesn't help the Nats win). SuperNoVa, who drafted a number of Sunday games, is personally 7-0 when attending Nats games:

(1) Opening Night 5-3 win over D-Backs
(2) April 26th 3-1 win over Phils
(3) April 29th 5-1 win over Mets
(4) May 15th 5-4 win over Flubs (sorry, White Sox fan in me)
(5) May 19th 3-2 win over Brewers
(6) June 8th 7-2 win over A's
(7) June 12th 3-2 win over Mariners

Until yesterday's game, I never came away from RFK with anything other then pleasure over a Nats victory.

Yesterday, I got a foul ball.

The bottom of the 7th may not have been meaningful for you, but it was for me. It happened here:

Wilkerson's foul was a bouncing ball, which ricocheted off the Mariner's bullpen and off the person sitting in front of me. It fell to the ground, I snatched it and there it was, my first Major League foul ball. From Wilkerson, nonetheless! It has the nice "Inaugural Season" logo, and is only mildly damaged from its run-in with the concrete dugout.

Now, in the hierarchy of foul balls, this was probably the third most impressive way of getting a ball. At the top of the hierarchy is catching a screaming line drive, or softly cradling a pop foul. Next is catching a foul cleanly on a hop, or off of someone else's hands or body. Third is getting it when it gets to the floor. Below that is when a player tosses it to you. Getting one tossed to you from a ball-girl down the line is the lowest form of foul ball.

Here's my theory on this. I'm in my thirties, and I've never gotten a foul before. So I'm entitled to one foul ball, kids be damned. (I think I'd also be entitled to one home run ball, too).

But every ball after this goes to kids in the stands. Not the big kids who hog up the balls between innings, but a little guy, maybe too small for his age. And you don't toss it to him, you hand him the ball, so those bully kids can't take it away from him (or her).

Game Notes

As for the game - two words come to mind. Hot and slow. More hot than slow, but the slow part was really ticking me off. I mean, this was getaway day, guys! It's 90+ degrees out there. Never mind the fact that Frank Robinson was wearing his warmup jacket all game. Perhaps the heat has gone to his brain or something - that's why he bunts so much. Meanwhile, the home plate ump was not exactly lenient with the strike zone either. I was groaning when he wasn't calling strikes on pitches to our guys.

Majewski's at-bat did not surprise me much. Ayala and the rest of the bullpen have been used pretty heavily lately, and Armas's 108 pitch, five inning performance meant that Frank was going to have to lean on the bullpen. I don't blame him for trying to get 2 innings out of Majewski. Baerga was ready to hit if Carroll got on, but with one out and no-one on, there's no real loss from batting Majewski there. The ERV loss from that situation is what, .18? Not much to ask when you might save an inning from the bullpen. In the end, Ayala was needed for the 7th and 8th, but it wasn't a bad call.

I think the best part of the game - and one of my highlights thus far this season - was the send-off the crowd gave to the Nats at the end of the game. We cheered for the end of the game, then died down, and then cheered the Nats off the field and into the locker room on their way to Anaheim Los Angeles of Anaheim (still "ANA" on the out of town scoreboard, guys). Not only did it warm my heart, but you could tell that the players really, really appreciated it. They waved their caps and lingered just a little bit to soak it in. It was one of those moments that only happens in sports - the bonding of a team and a city. It might have got a little dry in the stadium at that point - or maybe it's just dry in my office as I'm writing this.

SuperNoVa's Concessionaire Notes

There was plenty of the Ice Cream of the Future on hand yesterday, at least in my favorite flavor, chocolate. They ran out of cookies & cream, to the chagrin of everyone else in line in front of me.

The Nachos are a scam! The pictures of the Nachos includes a white, creamy liquid that must be sour cream. (As we know, cheese, sour cream and salsa is the best combination of flavors on this Earth). Ordering said nachos, I learned that not only did they not have sour cream on Sunday, but they have never had sour cream for the nachos. This is the kind of outrageous false advertising upon which the FTC should clamp down.

I'm close to giving up on the concessions at RFK now that my nacho dream has been destroyed. I'll try the chorizo next time, but I do not have high hopes.

Figuring Attendance

The Post beat me to it, but I was going to mention that yesterday's RFK crowd put the Nats over the top of the DC record for highest attendance in a year. That's right, no Senators team ever drew more than 1.05 million. Shocking, isn't it?

Believe it or not, the Nats will have higher attendance in their games against American League teams (9 games vs. the AL, probable attendance of 300,000) than the 1935 team had all year versus the American League. Mind you, that 1935 team had a lot of the same players that had played in the World Series two years earlier.


ESPN says that the Nats can "eclipse a franchise record" with their 11th straight win tonight. This assumes, of course, that the Nats are the same "franchise" as the Expos. A debatable topic, at best. If we were still the same franchise, wouldn't Andre Dawson/Rusty Staub's #10 have to be retired? No one wears it, but it's also not on the outfield wall like Jackie Robinson's 42. According to the Web site, #8, #10, and #30 are retired. I'm calling bull**** on this one - the Twinkies haven't retired former Senators' greats numbers. Ooops...there were none. Walter Johnson never wore a uniform number when he played, and none of the other Senators were worthy of numbers being retired (with the possible exception of Goose Goslin, who also played the bulk of his time with the Senators before numbers were used).

Ok, now it is getting eerie

You might remember a few weeks ago, I posted asking the question: at what point can a fan become statistically significant? And I have kept y'all updated here and there on the Nats record when at least one member of Nats Blog attends. Well, the convergence of us going to a bunch of games over the past two weeks and the Nats going 12-1 on this homestand (none of us attended the one loss), has put the Nats' Nats Blog attends record at a stunning, preposterous 17-0. Yeah, that isn't a typo and I am knocking on wood like crazy (ok, well, pressed particle board, I don't think this is genuine wood).

That means, the Nats are 17-0 when we attend and 7-9 when we don't. What are the chances of that? Well, since you asked, about 1 in 3300 (for math geeks: the chances of randomly having all 17 games you attend result in a win when a team is 24-9 overall is 24 factorial up through 8 divided by 33 factorial up through 17, which equals about a 0.0003 chance).

Now, the question I'd have to run some real analysis on, and if anyone with real skillz out there feels like doing it is: Can one actually say that based on the above, Nats Blog attendance is statistically significant, and to what degree of confidence. The issues that are twisting a bit in my head are whether for the sake of analysis, it matters that I don't know how many "sets" of season ticket owners there are (if 22,000 season tix, maybe 8,000 sets of owners?), and I haven't thought about whether it matters that I don't know how many games those season ticket owners go to.

Anyway, it would be interesting to see and fun to be able to say. Now, of course, we KNOW that this is absurd and are not so full of ourselves that we think we truly affect the outcome (ok, maybe I do), but there are things that happen all the time that we know have no correlation and are just absurd outlier coincidences, but are nevertheless statistically significant when you run the math (e.g. before this past year, Presidential elections based on whether the Redskins win their last home game, etc.). And besides, 17-0 with us there and 7-9 without is a pretty cool stat and I'm going to milk it for now!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The "Real" Standings, June 12

We have not quite convinced the crowds. Here are the latest NL East "standings" at Tradesports:


On a related note, I mentioned back in March that one could make some money if you were willing to dream of the Nats success, because back then you could have a contract that they would win the East for about 1.0. If you had bought $100 worth back then, you could sell for about $1000 right now.

ERV Boxscore for June 12, vs. Seattle

I got on a plane at 11:50 AM, so I couldn't watch this game. I arrived at my hotel around 4:30, so I turned on the TV to get a score. On TBS, they were scrolling through the scores on the ticker during the Braves game. I waited patiently -- the Nats score was one of the last to come up. When it did, I felt foolish. Another one-run win, save by Cordero. I should know better by now.


-- I watched the highlights for judgment calls, so some are reflected in this boxscore, and I may watch the rest of the game tonight. If any thinks a great play might be missing, let me know in comments.

-- Why did Majewski bat?

-- With this win, we have tied the Playoff Pace. When we dropped to 5 games behind Playoff Pace two weeks ago, I thought we'd never see this day, let alone see it in 2 weeks.

-- Ichiro had a tough game. 5 chances to get his 1,000 hit and he can't do it, plus he failed in a lot of key situations.

ERV Win: Armas
ERV Loss: Ichiro

3 Most Valuable Plays:

(1) Spivey's HR (1.83)
(2) Ibanez's Double (1.78)
(3) Dobbs PH Double (1.25)

Click on boxscore for larger image

ERV Boxscore for June 11, vs. Seattle

I keep telling myself during these games, "OK, this will be the one we lose." But, to be honest, I don't believe it. No matter how much my cynical Phillies-raised fandom wants to expect the worst, I just can't with this team. We ARE better than the Mariners, and we SHOULD beat them, especially with Patterson throwing like he did. And we did.


-- I was at tonight's game with Mrs. DM, and here are some things we noticed:

(1) Mrs. DM noted that no other Mariner talked to Ichiro, ever;
(2) She ripped Bret Boone's highlighted blond hair, and thinks he's put on weight;
(3) After Guzman's double, she said "And YOU were making fun of him!";
(4) She likes Junior Spivey, as do I. No offense to Jamey Carroll, but Spivey is a real major league 2B. He motored to third on Schneider's single in the 8th.
(5) In the fourth, after Vinny Castilla got two quick strikes on him, he spit his gum out and hit it with his bat as it fell to the ground. I think it went into the crowd, and may be on eBay by now;
(6) Huppert waved Byrd home on his triple, and if he didn't slip and head back, he would have been out my a mile-and-a-half. Mrs. DM said "What was HE thinking?"
(7) Randy Winn is impressive, he hit the ball hard every time up. But once you get past him, with Beltre struggling, not much in that Seattle lineup.
(8) The Patterson-Ichiro battles were pretty good. I was sure Patterson got out of the jam when Ichiro grounded to NJ, but the ball took a wicked hop. The Mariners were lucky to get one run.
(9) Contrary to Eli Saslow's game story, Guillen was anything but "cool[ly] indifferent" about his game-winning single immediately after it was struck. He was pumping his fist standing on first, and pointed into the dugout as if to say thanks to someone (Frank? McCraw?).

-- Mrs. DM (a Reds-land native) also brought up Ken Griffey, Jr., and asked whether he overlapped with Ichiro (he didn't -- Ichiro came in '01, Junior left after '99). She thinks he would not have collapsed like he did had he stayed in Seattle. I said injuries are injuries, whether in Cincy or in Seattle. But she thinks the move to Cincy turned him into a head case, and that made things at least worst. She may be right about that part.

ERV Win: Patterson
ERV Loss: Putz

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Guillen's single in the 7th (2.91)
(2) Johnson's GIDP in the 7th (-1.88)
(3) Church's walk in the 7th (1.80)

Click on Boxscore for larger image

Saturday, June 11, 2005

ERV Boxscore for June 10, vs. Seattle

ERV Boxscore for June 10, vs. Seattle

Friday, June 10, 2005

Nationals start dealing

Well, if you haven't heard already, the Nationals dealt Tomo Ohka to the Brewers for Junior Spivey. They then picked up Ryan Drese off waivers.
All in all, I am pretty ambivalent about this. Ohka seems a bit too valuable to me to give up for Spivey--I would have much rather traded Armas I think.

Here is what will make or break this trade being good or bad for me. Spivey needs to play short (certainly against lefties, but I think all the time). If we just traded away a guy with a 3.33 ERA and a .684 OPS against for a backup second baseman just because Frank isn't thrilled with him, I will not be happy.

In the last 4 seasons, Ohka has only had an ERA above 3.40 once (4.16 in 2003). On the negative side, his career OPS against isn't all that great, he doesn't strike many people out, and he has had bunches of control problems lately and takes a lot of pitches to get people out making it so that he is averaging under 6 innings per start.

However, Spivey isn't having a very good season for himself at all, albeit way better than Cristian Guzman's. In fact, Spivey's season is very Jamey Carroll like with a bunch more power. No doubt Spivey would be an upgrade at second, but with Vidro back (crossing fingers) in a month, we need a Guzman upgrade way more. I would even be happy if they wanted to give Brendan Harris a try at second with Spivey at short.

Ryan Drese was a bit of a surprise move, especially since the big criticism of Ohka is that he has more walks than strikeouts. So does Drese (24 vs. 20). And he has been just CRUSHED this year, giving up a hit and a half per inning for a 6.46 ERA and a .858 OPS against. And to me, anyone that gets released by the Rangers...well, that is saying a lot. SuperNova made some good points in a quick chat with me just now and he points out that Drese's historic strikeout rate is twice as high as his 2005 rate and his BABIP is .345, so he has been very unlucky. I'm just wondering whether maybe the Rangers saw more than bad luck, and whether we are about to find out.

Personally, the thing I am really excited about is that Sunny Kim is getting a start tonight. And it is my personal belief (probably shared by very few) that Sunny Kim has some really solid stuff and I hope he shows it tonight.
In sum then, if Kim pitches well and Drese can duke it out with Armas. And if they actually use Spivey at short and not just to play some innings at second until Vidro gets back, this could be a solid trade. If, however, Spivey is merely a backup 2B for us, that will be very disappointing, because while Tomo may have never been a star, you can't argue that he was at least average to pretty solid for a #4 pitcher. As I stated above, I would have rather traded Armas, who also doesn't give you more than 6 innings a start, who strikes out even FEWER batters, and whose ERA is 50% higher and OPS against is 100 points higher. I have no idea if Bowden tried this and got rejected, but I at least hope he gave it an effort before giving up Ohka.

Clutch Hitting? Nope, Clutch Pitching.

Looking over the RV and WV numbers in this morning's latest Friday Morning Figures, I happened on the last column for Pitching WV. Essentially EVERY pitcher currently on the 25-man roster has a positive WV (recall that WV reflects the score and inning of plays the pitcher is involved in, so the more close and late situations, the higher the WV for getting outs -- and lower for giving up bases). The only ones that don't are Armas and Tucker, but Tucker's numbers are from earlier this year and Armas is pretty close (-0.32). Overall, the Pitching WV is way positive.

The clutch hitting gets the headlines and the fireworks, but the pitching is winning the games.

Friday Morning Figures

Through games of June 9. Here is last week's chart for comparison. I'll save you some trouble: Nick Johnson this week +7.91 RV, +18.01 WV; Cristian Guzman -2.57 RV, -2.84 WV

Click on chart for larger image

ERV Boxscore for June 9, vs. Oakland

That's more like it -- I missed those high-leverage late innings. The dismal mid-May road trip is but a faded memory; if we were Redskins fans, we'd be clamoring for the Nats to start selling playoff tickets. Of course, Seattle just put some hurt on the Marlins, and they are headed north.


-- I gave Castilla the fielding debit in the ninth, even though Baerga got the error. He had time to go to first, and he should know who is playing second (see, e.g. this game).

-- We finish off that 10-game segment 9-1, and move to within one game of Playoff Pace, the highest we've been since I began tracking it in late April. If we split on the road and win 2 of 3 at home the rest of the year, we will end up with 94 wins.

ERV Win: Hernandez
ERV Loss: Blanton

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Castilla's errant throw to Baerga (-3.48)
(2) Johnson's double in the 3rd (3.11)
(3) Crosby's groundout to end the game (-2.38)

Click on boxscore for larger image

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Johnny Law ...

... is still patrolling the Nats clubhouse, and apparently handed out fines to Guillen for not running out a pop fly and to Wilkerson for missing a bunt sign. I wonder if it was in this game where I was surprised Frank didn't bunt?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

ERV Boxscore for June 8, vs. Oakland

OK, we can win games like normal good teams: we can beat up on the opposing pitcher (with HRs even!) and have our own starter go seven good innings, and by the 8th and 9th there is little doubt about the game's outcome. Not to nitpick or anything, but recall we had a real shot of winning game 3 against the Braves -- if we had, this would be a 10-game winning streak.

ERV Win: Schneider, Church & Loaiza
ERV Loss: Glynn, Swisher & Rincon

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Schneider's HR in the 4th (2.57)
(2) Swisher's GIDP in the 4th (-1.66)
(3) Church's Triple in the 6th (1.50)

Click on boxscore for larger image

Predicting the East

Over at Yuda's Game Chat, he took a straw poll for the final standings of the NL East. I did not post because, no matter how much I thought about the various strengths and weaknesses of the clubs, I really couldn't make up my mind, and was completely at a loss. In these times of utter confusion and despair, I turn to the comfort of ... anonymous betting markets! Tradesports confirms my confusion, as it predicts the following finish:


It's starting to look a lot like 1973 all over again.

Guzman Stat of the Day

Cristian Guzman is more likely to survive as a stowaway in the wheel well of a jet airliner than he is to get a hit.
Few hopeful refugees attempt wheel-well arrivals every year. In 2000, for example, the FAA counted 13 such stowaways, three of whom survived. In 2001, six tried to enter the United States in such a fashion, with no survivors. In 2002, five perished and one survived. (The wheel-well survival rate since 1947 is 20.3 percent.) The death estimates may be low, as some bodies may have tumbled out into water or remote areas, never to be recovered.


Robert Tagorda over at Baseball Crank is not buying the hype about our beloved Nats. He throws some stat-head cold water on our 32-26 record by pointing out that the Pythagorean theorem says we should be 28-30. That's true, because in the aggregate we've been outscored this season.

Loyal readers of this blog know, however, about Win Value, which adjusts every run scored to reflect score and inning of its occurrence (e.g. the first run by the visitors in the top of the first isn't really worth 1.0 runs, its worth 0.61 runs). If you tally up the Win Value adjusted runs and plug them into the Pythagorean formula, it says our record should be 31.6 wins and 26.4 losses -- pretty close to our actual record.

So what does that mean? We have been scoring at the right time, and we've let the other guys score at the right time too. Is that luck? Is it clutch? Will it continue? I don't know.

P.S. You can also do interesting things with Pythagoras and Win Value. For example, add back all of the Batting and Running WV Guzman has costs us, and take away all the Fielding WV he's given to the other guys, and Pythagoras says our record would be 36-22 ... 14 games over .500. Without Nick the Stick, we'd be 28-30.

ERV Boxscore for June 7, vs. Oakland

So I looked up last night's lineups in the thesauras and found the following: anemic, sickly, pallid, feeble, wan. Only Nick Johnson, of course, had a positive ERV night at the plate for the Nats. He has had positive ERV games in 7 of the last 8 and 13 of the last 17. Can we petition the league to allow him to bat every time, using invisible men on base?


-- Not surprisingly, the most valuable play is a defensive one, Johnson's pick of Carroll's wan throw on the crucial double play in the 8th. Carroll gets the debit, but Nick picks up the fielding credit, which gives him a 7.00 total WV on the night (Gary Bennett-like numbers).

-- In addition to the victory, we gave A's fans false hope about Barry Zito. Cf. Obermueller, W. (May 2005) & Moehler, B. (April 2005). Dozens of struggling pitchers throughout the league are thinking, "If I can just get to the Nats game ..."

-- Nats Blog's attendance winning streak stretches to 13 games on the year, with the aid of Chris Needham of Capitol Punishment and D of the DC United blog, and Dexys and I had to talk the guards out of tasering them only twice. The four of us stood alone against the simpletons who applauded the Nats's sacrifice bunts.

EDIT: The original box omitted Ayala's appearance. It is now fixed.

ERV Win: Obvious
ERV Loss: Kotsay

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Johnson's pick of Carroll's throw on the DP in the 8th (3.66)
(2) Johnson's 2-run homer (2.91)
(3) Kotsay ground out to end the game (-1.83)

Click on boxscore for larger image

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Some Nationals team stats

I did a review of how some of our stats compare to the rest of the league, and unfortunately, it isn't pretty. Now, for the batting statistics, one has to remember that there is a bit of an RFK factor which will weigh our offensive numbers down a bit. However, one would then think that our pitching stats should be equally affected and they are pretty doggone average.
What this tells me is that while these one run victories are very exciting and being in first place makes me feel great, we are going to need some more actual "performance" if we want to keep this up. (Anything not listed below will probably mean I looked but we were right at or near the middle of the pack).

Batting stats (all rankings are among the entire MLB, not just NL):
The good!: We are 4th in the majors in getting hit by a pitch with 29.

The bad (everything else):
27th out of 30 MLB teams in runs per game at 4.09
23rd in OPS at .728, (but well ahead of team # 24)
28th in home runs at 40
19th in OBP at .329 (need to be better if low slugging)
26th in Slugging at .399
28th in SBs, yet 5th in CS for by far the WORST SB % in the majors at .45%
3rd in majors in Sacrifice bunts and 3rd in Sac flies, for first overall with 50 sacrifices (we at Nats Blog are not a fan of the sacrifice except in certain situations)
3rd in GIDPs in majors with 54 (essentially one per game), just awful
Tied for 23rd in pitches per plate appearance (but getting better as of late)
23rd in "Runs Created" per 27 outs (improving as of late)

So, the good news even if it isn't much, is that clearly, we have been getting the big hits when we need them this last week, but I would like to see some real explosions of offense. And I admit that may be asking for a lot and you would be right to tell me to shut up and enjoy the wins.

Pitching stats (we were just more middle of the pack on a lot of things like ERA, etc. than I thought we would be--I expected to see top 10 on more things):
The good!: 8th in OPS against at .718 (result of low slugging against us (6th best))
Tied for 3rd best in HR allowed at 40 (and well ahead of # 5 (48). Florida is by far the best (28)).
9th best save %.
4th best in caught stealing getting 45% of those that attempt steals against us.

The bad:
20th in MLB in WHIP
27th in Ks per BB
Last in Ks per 9 innings

So, we are allowing a decent amount of baserunners, even if not many power shots, and don't have the ability to strike guys out. That is a little worrisome to me.

Anyway, interpret as you like, but my inclination is to be generally happy with the pitching and shudder at a combination of low OPS which we then give up more outs through sacs and especially GIDPs. Essentially, it looks like we are trying to be the White Sox without a couple of the White Sox's key ingredients.

That being said...Nats Blog goes for (KNOCKS ON WOOD!!!) 14-0 tonight as DM and dexys will be there cheering on our red and white knights (as opposed to white elephants).

Postseason Odds

I have to admit, I am an avid follower of Baseball Prospectus's "Postseason Odds" daily report. I like to see the fortunes of my teams wax and wane like stocks in the market. Of course, TradeSports has a similar feature in terms of the collective intelligence of baseball fans, but there's nothing like having the pure "science" of Baseball Prospectus.

Here's what it says today about the NL East:

Team% Div.

How does that strike you? Seems to overrate the Mets' chances to me, while also underrating those of the Braves and Nats. By any stretch of the imagination, it's a close division, but if you told me the Mets were the most likely team to run away with it, I'd say you're crazy. The Phillies or Marlins, perhaps, if they get untracked (like the Phils seem to be doing). But if the Mets run and hide, I'll be surprised.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Most Valuable Plays of the Year (Updated)

Through games of June 5. Note that 4 new entries into the top ten came between Thursday and Sunday just passed. Note also that Ryan Church has 3 in the top 11.

Here are the top ten:

1. 4/21 Guzman's throwing error against the Braves (-8.33)
2. 4/12 Schneider's 2-out double against the Braves (7.35)
3. 6/2 G. Bennett's double in the 8th against Atlanta (6.92)
4. 6/3 R. Church's sac fly in the 11th to beat Florida (6.04)
5. 5/24 R. Keisler's base hit in the 14th for the Reds (6.04)
6. 5/18 Hammonds single in the ninth(6.04)
7. 5/8 Vizquel's double in the 13th inning (6.04)
8. 5/24 L. Lopez GIDP in the 11th for the Reds (-5.84)
9. 6/3 N. Bump's botched throw to second in the 11th (-5.84)
10. 6/5 R. Church's homer in the 8th against Florida (5.39)

Here are the next 8:

11. 5/7 Ryan Church's double in the ninth against the Giants (5.37)
12. 5/24 L. Lopez double in the 14th for the Reds (5.32)
13. 6/3 V. Castilla popping out in the 11th (-4.80)
14. 5/10 Troy Glaus's 3-run homer in the sixth in Arizona (4.52)
15. 4/6 Jose Guillen's homer in the 8th against Tim Worrell in Philly (4.48)
16. 5/11 Chad Tracy's bloop single in the 8th in Arizona (4.32)
17. 4/10 Paul LoDuca's double in the 7th in Florida to give them the lead 2-0(4.26)
18. 5/7 Moises Alou grand slam in San Francisco (3.96)

Edit: New reader Sec. 210 rightfully asks for some explanation of these numbers. The numbers above are WV, or Win Value. Win Value is Run Value adjusted to reflect the score and inning of a game. RV is equivalent to runs (e.g. a solo home run is worth 1.0 RV). Win Value takes RV and mutiplies it by an adjustment factor. For example, the adjustment factor for the run that breaks the tie in the bottom of the ninth is 6.04, so a solo home run to win is worth 1.0 RV and 6.04 WV. In contrast, the adjustment for a solo shot by the leadoff batter in the top of the first is 0.61, so in that case, the RV is 1.0 and WV is 0.61.

Where do the adjustment factors come from? I try to explain that in this long post, as amended by this post. Short version: They are based on the effect each run has on the average team's probability of winning the game. The 6.04 WV means that play increased the teams chance of winning 6 times as much as the average run scored at any other point in the game. In contrast, the leadoff home run increased the chance to win by 6/10ths of the average run.

So, to answer Sec. 210's question, for the 5.89 WV, you can say that that play was worth nearly 6 times the average solo home run hit at any other point in the game. Or, that play helped the Nats win as much as the visiting team scoring 10 runs in the top of the first does. (i.e. add up all of the WV in the 1st inning column of this chart.

For additional background, start here (which explains ERV Scoring).

Livan's Freakish Arm

If you haven't seen it, Aaron Gleeman wrote a column on Livan Hernandez in Hardball Times. It notes the utter abuse Livan's arm has taken since coming up to the majors in 1997. And it's true; the guy has thrown more pitches than anyone not named Randy Johnson.

You can read it for what it's worth, but the fact that Livan can soak up so many innings provides a value to the team that far exceeds his numbers. He makes the Nats' relievers better by forcing them to throw fewer innings. He makes the Nats' more likely to win games by forcing fewer innings on the ugly end of the bullpen, meaning that there are fewer steps between him and Chad Cordero than there are for, say, John Patterson.

Some day, somewhere, there will be a Livan Hernandez appreciation day. I just might come. If they have Dippin' Dots.

Curse of the White Sox

SuperNoVa, the Baseball Crank shows your native club some love ... sort of. He points out what you've been trying to explain to me for years -- the second-class citizen status of the White Sox as a "cursed" team.

Nats Blog: The Early Years ...

... well, early half-year, anyway. Our six-month anniversary came and went without much fanfare recently, but it's not too late to take a look back at some of the memorable moments from our beginnings -- the times we laughed, the times we whined, and yes, even the times we cried.

November 2004

"I said the worst possible thing Bowden could do would be to, oh...sign Vinny Castilla and Christian Guzman. Thanks Jim, for making me a genius. You ass."

"I have no friggin idea who Endy Chavez is. But I too know he must go. Why? Because the Phillies are interested in him. He must be a loser."

"You are wrong on Robinson. He is good at convincing players to bunt a runner up a base. Like Cabrera and Vidro Back-to-Back bunting endy Chavez toward Third base so Tony batista can fly out with a man on third. Get used to it boys..."

"Mr. Sheehan, I knew Pat Meares. Pat Meares was on my fantasy team. Guzman is no Pat Meares. "

"Linda Cropp's voting yes. Her silly ass is no longer a problem."

December 2004

"[A]sking for a war of math is really asking for a world of hurt."

"I came here to shatter dreams and chew bubble gum....and I'm all out of bubble gum"

"A balanced, diversified portfolio of kickbacks, graft, bribes, embezzlement, asset mismanagement, misappropriation, accounting irregularties, sinecures and cronyism should raise the 140 extra-large in no time."

January 2005

"I am pretty much a loser." (an obsession begins ...)

"Jayson Stark is reporting that the Nationals won't have new owners until at least July. This should give Jim Bowden just enough time to unload Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro at the trading deadline in exchange for Albert Belle, two players to be named later, and a stack of low-fat American cheese and a quarter pound of Havarti with Dill."

"the smell of Swiss everywhere"

February 2005

Lord knows I worked very hard in college to waste as much time as possible in front of things like SportsCenter, Tecmo Bowl, and Birdie King. I am convinced that if the Internet as we know it existed back then, I would be incarcerated right now.

Endy is bad for you. Sure, I know how attractive guys with fast wheels can be. They look flashy running around the bases and give you a thrill with their outlaw (base-stealing) behavior. But you got to get on first base to steal, honey, you really do. And a guy like that is only going to cost you runs when you need them most. I'm only telling you because I want you to be happy. I want all of us to be happy. He's not right for you, and you should wake up - at least by April - and dump him before he causes you pain.

March 2005

"Please let's not turn into a bunch of Orioles fans before the season even starts . . ."

April 2005

"[C]oming from Phillies country is like being a dissident from Soviet Armenia in the 1980s -- you don't look back fondly."

"What guys like Robinson and [Joe] Morgan have against "statistics" I don't understand. They had pretty good ones. I'm not sure how we are supposed to tell them from anyone else otherwise. Now, Cristian Guzman. He must hate statistics. "

"That little shortstop f***! "Oh, hell make it up for his bat with his glove." Well F*** that! Bench the b***ard! I'm so sick of it!

"[T]he scoreboards were often wrong as usual. Seriously, it's a team of monkeys isn't it? You can tell us. Llamas? Emus? Something fluffy? "

May 2005

"[I]f "PAP" were any guide, Livan would have lost a limb on like August 21, 1998."

ERV Boxscore for June 5, vs. Florida

First place. Alone. Third-most wins in the NL. Magic number: 106. Magic Number against the last place team: 105. You thought it was tight in the East on Friday? It got tighter over the weekend. We've just gone 7-1 against the likes of the Cards, Braves and Marlins after going 1-5 against the Blue Jays and Reds. In baseball, nobody knows nothing.


-- Ryan Church CAN hit lefties.

-- This weekend demands a new Top Ten Most Valuable Plays of the Year post. Churchy should have two spots on it. I'll try to do that in the next few days.

-- Dexys's post about how the non-Natosphere universe views Frank was spot on. Baseball Tonight leads off by saying "Frank Robinson" has the Nats in first, and Tim Kurkjian gave him a lot of love in a segment on the Nats.

-- Speaking of managers, I feel for Marlin fans. Paul LoDuca is really struggling, and even when going good, he's not the best hitter. But Jack McKeon had him batting 3rd today. Also, Jack kept having Juan Pierre bunt and give us outs. It's fun when you benefit from the "senior moments", as Capitol Punishment calls them.

ERV Win: Church & Patterson
ERV Loss: Perisho & Mecir

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Church's HR in the 8th (5.39)
(2) Harris's double in the 8th (4.01)
(3) Easley's error in the 8th (3.53)

Click on boxscore for larger image

Sunday, June 05, 2005

ERV Boxscore for June 4, vs. Florida

Just call this one the game of delinquents. Marlon Byrd (allegedley) takes down one ump while charging another, Schneider acts like a petulent Little Leaguer on his failed bunt, and apparently Ohka earned a fine for contempt for his reaction to being pulled in the fourth. But guess what? We won, and easily for the first time in a while. I'm willing to look the other way.


-- On the Byrd play, I'm not sure the "contact with the ump" rule should apply when the ump initiates the contact. If anyone should know how to argue against a suspension, it should be Frank, since he was once the judge.

-- Schneider's failure to run can be scored in ERV. He got minus 0.57 for the bunt, and another minus 0.60 for failing to run and causing a DP. I assumed that the pitcher would have caught the ball if he had been running.

ERV Win: Castilla and Johnson
ERV Loss: Mota and Cabrera

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Castilla's Double in the 1st (2.17)
(2) Bennett's GIDP in the 4th (-1.83)
(3) Johnson's Single in the 5th (1.71)

Click on boxscore for larger image

Saturday, June 04, 2005

ERV Boxscore for June 3, vs. Marlins

October in June. Are we supposed to get tired of this? How long can we stand it? Tonight we saw a classic battle of two great pitchers (they really are former World Series MVPs, aren't they?), and two very good, if not great, teams. Games like this make me love the unbalanced schedule -- it will be a blast to see these two clubs go at it another dozen times or so.


-- Tonight's box is another good lesson in Win Value. The top three WV guys for the Nats are Johnson, Church and Livan, and a very quiet ERV win for The Stick. Why Johnson? Because he drew the walk that moved Carroll to third, and he had the Triple that essentially scored the 2 other runs. Livan pitched great, of course, but thanks to Beckett, he could not win the game for the Nats. We needed Johnson and Church to team up and finish the job.

-- Gonzalez gets the ERV loss primarily on his error in the 10th and DP in the 11th, which combined were -6.0 WV.

ERV Win: Johnson & Church
ERV Loss: Alex Gonzalez

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Church's SF in the 11th (6.04)
(2) Bump's throwing error in the 11th (-5.84)
(3) Johnson's Walk in the 11th (5.04)

Click on boxscore for larger image

Friday, June 03, 2005

quick thoughts from tonight

I was at the game tonight and I have to say that it was probably in the top 3 regular season games I have been at in terms of roller coaster of emotions. And there is no doubt in my mind, as if there was before, what a huge Nats fan I have become based on how strong and how often those emotions turned.

Managerially, this game was pretty bad on all sides. But what this game was a great exhibit of is the idea, followed by far too few teams, that you should not save your "closer" for a closing situation. With two outs and bases loaded in the 8th and Majewski being pummelled, I think you HAVE to go to Cordero--what is 4 outs compared to 3?

Then Cox suffers from the same bad call by not bringing in his closer (if they even have one), but worse....I can understand intentionally walking Byrd to load the bases with 1 out. Personally, I wouldn't have done it, but it is an arguable call. But why would you bring in Grybowski to issue that walk? Why wouldn't you let Kolb throw those 4 pitches? I think it is bad enough loading the bases intentionally for a fresh pitcher whom you have no idea if he will be cold, but you exacerbate the problem if the first thing you have the guy do is throw 4 pitches out of the strike zone on purpose. As Bennett stepped to the plate, I said "that's about the surest thing you can do to make your pitcher fall behind in the count." Sure enough, Grybowski quickly went to 2-0 on Bennett. And at 2-1, I said "ok, this is where you pick one pitch and one zone--anything else you let go, but if it is there, you drive the heck out of the ball." I guess Bennett got just what he was looking for and the Nats get the win.

Two small items of note: 1) the Nats are now 11-0 in games at least one member of Nats Blog attends, really approaching statistical significance; 2) Frank got a double switch right, moving Wilkerson to first in the 9th, leaving Church in the outfield and moving the pitcher's spot to fourth.