Friday, July 29, 2005

Breaking down our losses

I started drafting this yesterday, so it doesn't include yesterday's game, but here goes:

Going into yesterday's loss, we had lost 15 out of 20 games. People are wondering what has changed and some of it is obvious. Some of it isn't.

Yes, it is obvious that many of these losses have been one-run games. But for example, did you know that of those 15 losses, we had the lead in 12 of them? Outside of the 1-0 9th inning loss to Philly (that we obviously couldn't lead in), the 3-2 loss to Roy Oswalt and the 14-1 drubbing the Astros put on us when Clemens was pitching, we have had the lead in every other game in this horrendous losing streak.

This makes you realize that we have reversed trends completely. Before, our bats would fail to wake up until the 6th or 7th if not later, we would score as many as we needed to to win, and our relief staff would keep us in the game until we won it. The opposite has happened this month. Our starters have been stellar. We've actually scored a run or two early in a lot of these games. But then our offense completely dies, the other team chips away at our tiny leads, and then our relief staff blows it. In fact, of the 15 losses, 10 were credited to relievers. Our huge strength in the first half of the season has therefore become a weakness. Although, in their defense, it is not like we can say they have performed awfully. When you go into the 7th tied in a bunch of games and never ever score any runs after that, eventually the other team will score. I feel like when we get into a tie game lately that I am just waiting for the other team to score because it plainly feels like we can't.

Have you gotten the feeling that we enter these streaks each game where our offense just dies and we don't see a hit for innings on end? So did I. So, I looked into it to see if I was just imagining it. Unfortunately no. Here is a list of our 15 losses, and the bad hitting streaks we have encountered (two caveats: I don't have walks included, just hits/at bats; and I don't know if it is fairly common for a team to have a bad few innings each game on average. It is hard to imagine that the average team regulaly gets into ruts this bad though).

First loss, 5-3 to NYM: 1 for 12 stretch.
Second loss, 5-2 to NYM: 1 for 17 stretch.
Third loss, 3-2 to NYM: 2 for 16 stretch.
Fourth loss, 1-0 to Philly: 1 for 13 and a 1 for 11 stretch.
Fifth loss, 5-4 to Philly: 1 for 9 and a 2 for 13 stretch.
Sixth loss, 4-2 to Milwaukee: 0 for 15 stretch to end the game.
Seventh loss, 4-3 to Milwaukee: 0 for 8 and a second 0 for 8 stretch to end the game.
Eighth loss, 5-3 to Milwaukee: 1 for 17 stretch (and the 1 was out in a dp).
Ninth loss, 5-4 to Colorado: 3 for 18 stretch to end the game.
Tenth loss, 3-2 to Colorado: 2 for 19 stretch.
Eleventh loss, 3-2 to Houston: 0 for 7 stretch (suprisingly we scattered hits against Oswalt).
Twelvth loss, 14-1 to Houston: the whole game was a bad stretch, 3 hits off Clemens.
Thirteenth loss, 4-1 to Houston in 14: 0 for 13 stretch and 1 for 30 to end the game!!
Fourteenth loss, 3-2 to Atlanta in 10: 1 for 16 stretch to end the game.
Fifteenth loss, 4-3 to Atlanta: 2 for 21 stretch and 0 for 6 to end the game.

You can take the above as meaning nothing or a lot, but my guess is there aren't that many teams that so consistently fall asleep at the plate for 3, 4, 5 innings at a time like we do.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Can you root for a team that plays Cristian Guzman?

It's too depressing to write about how we have fallen off, although I do have a couple posts coming on that. So I will write about this instead...

A couple months back and I will put the link in later, I wrote about how Cristian Guzman compares to some of the worst seasons all-time.

Guzman currently has a .181 batting average, a .221 on base average, and a .268 slugging percentage for a .489 OPS. (the league wide-OPS in 2004 was .788). He is also on pace for only 32 runs scored and 21 RBI for a full season of work. As I mentioned in the earlier post, here are the other contenders for worst season of all-time (well, since 1910 anyway--hard to judge anything before then):

Hal Lanier, 1968 (the death of offense, league avg OPS = .665): .225 OBP and .239 SLG for a .464 OPS in 498 PAs.
Bob Lillis, 1963 (league avg OPS = .678): .230 OBP and .237 SLG for a .467 OPS in 484 PAs.
Jim Levey, 1933 (league avg OPS = .775): .237 OBP and .240 SLG for a .477 OPS in 555 PAs. He was 26 at the time and Levey never played another game after this season.

You can throw Lanier and Lillis out because they played in the 1960s. To make a comparison to Guzman for players in the 60s, you'd probably have to lower his OPS to about .425.
So, it's Levey and Guzman in a race. May the best/worst man win/lose. And yes, it's harsh but I do believe Guzman deserves the same fate as Levey.

In a different post about a month ago, I listed Cristian's stats in various situations to show that he is actually having a much WORSE year that his stats indicate. Because he actually does even worse than his .181 batting average etc. when he is in important situations. Somehow, Mr. Guzman has managed to drop his stats in clutch situations even more. While he has a .181 batting average overall, his average is actually .132 if any runners are on base. His average drops further to a ridiculous .095 in the 74 at-bats he has had with runners in scoring position. And with a staggering 2 for 40, his average drops to .050 when he comes up with runners in scoring position and 2 outs.

Just an update here: Out of 276 regulars in the major leagues (those with at least 200 plate appearances this year), Guzman's .489 OPS ranks of course 276th. Tony Womack, who hasn't started regularly for a month is 275th, 50 points ahead of Cristian. Not a single other player has an OPS within even 100 points of Guzman's (Jamey Carroll is actually 274th at a .595 OPS).

And what's the rule? If you can't hit, at least work the count. Well, of the 432 major leaguers who have at least 50 plate appearances this year, Cristian ranks 430th at a miniscule 3.04 pitches seen per plate appearances (guys like Bobby Abreu see 50% more pitches than Cristian, and we know what Abreu does with a good pitch to hit). By the way, the two batters behind Guzman in this list are not stellar. At # 432 sits Livan Hernandez.

And finally, you know that quiet and a bit creepy guy that everyone thinks must be smart, until you actually talk to him and realize he's actually quiet, creepy and not all that smart at all? That's my analogy for Cristian Guzman's fielding. People want to think "Oh, he can't hit and he's still in the majors. He must be a good fielder." No, he's still in the majors because GMs make bad decisions and sign bad contracts. All the evidence we have says that Guzman has been no better than average during his career in the field. And this year, he is well-below average. His fielding percentage is tied for 9th in the NL (out of 15), and just 1/10 of 1% above 12th place. His range factor is 10th and far below average. His zone rating is 12th and far below average.

In essence, our team has chosen to keep putting out there a guy whose basic stats put him in strong contention for the worst season of all time, and in addition, can't hit in the clutch, doesn't work the pitch count to help his teammates, and isn't a very good fielder.
It's one thing to lose games. It's another to start the game with an arm tied behind your back. That is what management is choosing to do here by putting Mr. G out there every night.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

ERV Boxscore for July 26, at Atlanta

Baseball sucks. It gives you all this information, all these clues, making you think you can understand why teams win or why they lose. And then you get a game like this. Yogi had it right, in baseball, nobody knows nothin'.

I had survived this miserable July reasonably well, on the theory that our lineup was so pathetically bad that to expect to win those games was foolhardy. No expectations. Tonight was different. Solid lineup, ace pitcher, ace closer, ace setup man -- and we blow another lead and lose like that. Going into the bottom of the ninth, I thought we had turned the corner, but instead we hit a brick wall.

This was game 100. We can't afford to lose this way anymore.

ERV Boxscore for July 24, vs. Houston

Monday, July 25, 2005

ERV Boxscores for July 22 & 23, vs. Houston

How bad is this offense?

So bad that John Patterson, who is 5th in the entire majors in ERA at 2.58, is likely on pace to set a record for no decisions by a starter, although I don't know the exact number he'd need.

So bad that their major league worst batting average with runners in scoring position is starting to look like Cristian Guzman's overall average.

So bad that they are:
30th in MLB (out of 30 obviously) in Runs scored at 388.
30th in HR at 70.
30th in TB at 1284.
29th in BA at .255.
22nd in OBP at .325 (only 5 points out of 29th).
30th in SLG at .389.
29th in OPS at .714.
30th in Runs created per 27 outs.

And then, we get to the outs we just give away.... In the entire majors, we are:
30th in SB % at 49%, the only team under .500--only one other team is even below 60%.
#1 in Sacrifice hits at 61. No other team even has 55. 8 teams have fewer than 20.
9th in sac flies at 30--the #1 team is only at 35, so we are pretty close.
No team is within single digits of our 91 overall sacrificess.
In addition, we have the 3rd most strikeouts in MLB at 671.
We are 7th in MLB at 84 GIDP (#3 is 87).

So, in the just pure giving away outs category, we are #1 in sacs with 91, #7 in GIDP with 84, #3 in Ks at 671 and have the worst stolen base percentage.

As far as I know, NONE of those particular items is related to where our freakin' fences are. So, my advice to the team is to stop whining and start hitting the ball. Has anyone on the team considered the fact that we are just not a power-hitting team and maybe it is time to start adjusting to the park and hitting a bunch of singles and doubles, that combined with our pitching staff should win a bunch of games like we did in the first half of the season? Seriously, guys, shut up and start hitting the ball.
And Frank, outs are a little too precious to waste bunting your best players. Please...wake up.

Finally park effects or no park effects, we still play half our games outside of RFK. The idea that we are #3 in Ks and #30 in HRs is just absurd. Have we decided to be neither contact hitters NOR power hitters? The 2 teams ahead of us in Ks are both in the top 10 in homers. Of the teams right behind us, a couple are in the top 10 and the other two are well out of contention #15 (the Dodgers) and #21 (the Rockies).
We need a game plan and we need it now. The most important week of our season is upon us, so it is now or never.

The Guzman Virus

So I was reading CBS Sportsline's recap of Sunday's game, and I could not finish it, because this sentence left me too stunned to continue:
The Nationals are hitting .170 since the All-Star break.
Good Lord! It's contagious!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Friday Morning Figures

Through games of July 21

ERV Boxscore for July 21, vs. Houston

This bad luck is suffocating. Plenty of men on base to score, but really bad timing, like Baerga getting hit, only to bring up Loaiza; all the double plays; Wilson's too little, too late HR. Loaiza pitched well, but Oswalt was better. This one was not as frustrating as last night or Monday, but they all count the same.

ERV Win: Oswalt
ERV Loss: Baerga

3 Most Valuable Plays
(1) Baerga's Error in the 5th (-1.85)
(2) Lamb's HR in the 6th (1.65)
(3) Oswalt's single in the 6th (1.10)

Tom Petty would have loved this

In response to DM's rosy philosophical outlook, I present an 80s ballad with a different outlook--and yeah, it's a blog, this is how I feel today.
Apologies to Mr. Petty, the tune to sing this to will be obvious.....

He was a good player, drove in his teammates
But that was years past, his knees never healed
And we decided to trade for another
We've got two guys straight out of Coors Field.

We've got a great Skip, a top Hall of Famer
To manage, but now we're fading from the hunt
Hey who's batting, it's our best player
The answer's obvious... let's have him bunt.

And now we're freeeee......
Free Fallin'......
Yes, we're freeeee
Free Fallin'

We've got a GM whose history is suspect
He's the go-to guy that we love to hate
You may ask why, he's probably a nice guy
He signed our shortstop who hits .188.

Now we're freeeee......
Free Fallin'......
Yes, we're freeeee
Free Fallin'

We've got at Angel who yells at other players
And gets real angry when he is hit
Oh, did I mention that our best pitcher
Decided yesterday that he wants to quit.

Now we're freeeee......
Free Fallin'......
Yes, we're freeeee
Free Fallin'

I wanna go back to when we were winners
When we'd shut up and were happy to play
Before they all started whining
'Bout the dimensions at RFK

Now we're freeeee......
(Free Fallin', we're-a free fallin, we're-a)
Free Fallin'
(Free Fallin', we're-a free fallin, we're-a)
Free Fallin'
(Free Fallin', we're-a free fallin, we're-a)
Free Fallin'
(Free Fallin', we're-a free fallin, we're-a)
Free Fallin'
(repeat to fade...out of first place)

Heraclitus Would Have Loved This

My favorite pre-Socratic philosopher is Heraclitus, for two reasons: (1) he stirred things up; and (2) he was right. He went after the great Greek poets, Homer and Hesiod, who were always lamenting war and longing for peace. To this, Heraclitus said "SAVE IT!!!" Conflict is the stuff of life, he said. Look at this stick and string, he explained. Separate and "at peace", they are boring, inert. Now, tie the string to one end of the stick and bend the stick so you can tie the other, and you got something -- a bow. You can make music with it. You can fire an arrow into you enemy's butt with it. In conflict, these things are much more interesting, and actually create a harmony and unity that is much more useful. Of all the things I learned in college, this last bit is the one that has stayed with me and been proven true most often.

So it is with the Nats. We now have plenty of conflict. June was disquieting because the victories were too peaceful -- we got no information about what was really going on with this team. Now, in July, we've got Livan threatening a shutdown, Jose complaining about his teammates backing him up and about their work habits, Ryan Church getting dissed by his manager, and a 6-10 record against mediocre opponents. How the team reacts to this time will tell us much more about our future this season than the 20 wins in June. Houston comes to town having score 11, 6, 9, & 8 runs in the past 3 days. We haven't had a offensive streak like that in over 3 months. And next week we go to Atlanta. If we are not careful, we could be 5 games out of first by next Friday.

This conflict stuff is good. Let's find out what this team is really all about.

ERV Boxscores for July 18, 19 & 20, vs. Colorado

ERV Boxscores for July 16 & 17, at Milwaukee

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Should we just trade Ryan Church?

Last night was besides being one of the 10 worst managerial moves I've ever seen by pinch hitting Jamey Carroll for Ryan Church, but an enormous slap in the face to young Private Ryan.

I don't like when players "demand" trades, especially ones that haven't proven much, but I can't say that if I were Ryan Church, I wouldn't be demanding a trade this morning.

Nick Johnson gets hurt and you can't get more playing time. You end up platooning with Marlon Byrd. A trade for Preston Wilson says you will be playing even less when Johnson gets back. The manager pulls you every time you even sniff a lefty. And then, in a clutch situation in the 9th inning, you get pulled for Jamey Carroll.

On a team that has pretty much no offense, Ryan Church has managed to hit .318 with a little power and a decent glove, and he gets no respect from Frank Robinson or Jim Bowden. Ryan has nothing left to prove. It is the stupidity of management that is holding him back at this point, and he deserves better.

Let's set up the situation last night...down 5-4, men on 1st and 2nd, one out, a lefty pitching. And Church gets pulled for Jamey Carroll.
You might say, well, Church is a lefty, he probably has bad stats against lefties. Ahem.
.407 OBP, .625 SLG for a staggering 1.032 OPS and we all remember his game winning home run against a lefty just a couple months ago.
Jamey Carroll on the other hand has 3 extra base hits (all doubles) in 64 plate appearances against lefties..he gets on base a good amount, but only registers with a .776 OPS, over 250 points lower than Church.
I don't want to bash Carroll....he's a way better option than Guzman (I can't bear to write about Guzman today), but he is no Ryan Church.
My gut says that Frank was playing not to win the game, but not to lose, and he somehow figured Carroll would do that better. It's an idiotic strategy to begin with and has the added minus of being just plain wrong here.

So, anyway, if you aren't going to use the guy's talents, trade Church for something big because other teams would love him. (Or, we need to suck it up and wait for new owners next year and see what happens).

p.s. If a righty ended up coming in to face Carroll, his OPS against righties is obscenely low and you wouldn't have Church anymore.

Bad Omens

I was traveling again yesterday, sitting in LaGuardia at game time. I had wireless internet, so I fired up, only to find I was blacked out. I missed the big Nats banner in the US Airways terminal, though. I turn to Gameday, and I see the following words "Cristian Guzman bunts ground out into double play." Then, Joey Eischen is pitching in the 3rd inning. But we are ahead 2-1, and I board the plane ...

... I get to my car at National and turn on Charlie & Dave: "... and he just couldn't get it down. He's really not doing anything right. So, one out and Brian Schneider still on first base ..." No indication of the score, but the tone of C&D's voice is somber, so I'm convinced we are losing. The inning ends, and, much to my surprise, it's tied 4-4. But I think C&D knew what we all knew. I was sitting at an Exxon station when the ball went through Vinny's legs, and when I get home, another omen, for later in the week: Astros 11, Pirates 1 ...

... Plus, I am in an ERV Boxscore slump, falling 2 1/2 games behind. But I can make that up tonight or tomorrow pretty easily. The Nats, on the other hand, might have a steeper climb ...

Have you seen me?


Psuedonym: SuperNoVa
Last Post: July 1, 2005
Last Seen With: Black Betsy

SuperNoVa is a Nats Blogger who had been in an abusive relationship with his original team, the White Sox. His co-bloggers are concerned that the abuser has lured him back with trinkets like a good record at the All-Star Break and other shiny but meaningless items. The abuser apparently has powerful influence over SuperNoVa, and direct efforts to alert him to his plight only make him defensive and are counterproductive. More creative intervention is needed, such as the return of Nick Johnson.

If you have any information about the whereabouts of this Nats Blogger, please contact Nats Blog.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Patterson's Endurance

A few days ago in a game chat, Dexys observed that John Patterson seems to lose a lo after his 100th pitch. We don't chart pitches here at Nats Blog (we're obsessive, not insane), but we can calculate a pitcher's average RV per batter faced over different innings. Here's a chart of Patterson RV per batter for each of the innings in which he's pitched:

It definitely seems he can only go 6 innings, which is about 100 pitches, given that Patterson seems to throw a lot of pitches. The first and third innings are also interesting.

ERV Boxscore for July 15, at Milwaukee

A walk-off balk. No, I have never seen that happen before. Yes, it was an outrageously bad call, probably the worst of the year. No, oddly enough, I was not furious -- I had expected us to lose from the moment of Carlos Lee's homerun. My rational side keeps saying that we will see the bad side of luck in these one-run games in the second half. But do we have to see them all at once?

ERV Win: Nobody (literally 4 people would qualify by my method, Magruder, Turnbow, Santana and Sheets, but I'm too disgusted to give it out)
ERV Loss: Stanton and Ayala

ERV Boxscore for July 14, at Milwaukee

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

PLEASE don't trade for Preston Wilson

Strong rumor on the street has it that within the next day or two, we will be sending J.J. Davis and Zach Day to the Rockies for Preston Wilson. One might ask, well, what is wrong with this? Davis never plays and Day can't hit the broad side of a barnacle with his pitches. The problem isn't what we are trading. The problem is what the trade will mean. Preston Wilson makes over $12 million a year, making him three times richer than our next highest paid player. The Nats won't have to pick up more than 2 or 3 million of that one would think, but still, we are obviously going to be giving up money in this deal, making it harder to make other deals.
MUCH more means that Wilson would go into the starting lineup relegating star-in-the-making rookie Ryan Church to the bench. Now if we then trade Church for something spectacular, what you are about to read may change, but we have to assume for the moment that the plan is simply to "upgrade" Church for Wilson.
Let's get one thing verrrry clear. Preston Wilson is an extraordinarily huge downgrade from Ryan Church.
Ryan Church's OPS? .924
Preston Wilson's OPS? .813
Ryan Church's .924 was compiled with his home park being RFK, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks (if not the most) in all of baseball.
Preston Wilson's .813 was compiled where? Oh, that is right...Coors Field.
A more accurate read of Wilson's stats are probably his road stats where overall the parks will be neutral. His OPS there was a grotesquely low .691 for an outfielder. That means that his road stats will probably stay in that dreadful .691 area, while his home numbers should be even lower, conservatively in the .650 area. YUCK! I'm not saying this will happen exactly, but that is what the numbers say is your most likely scenario.

Oh, and let's dig a bit deeper. How did Wilson get to his .813 OPS? Hitting poorly overall, but at least hitting well in clutch situations? Nope. In fact, his trend is very Cristian Guzman like. Hitting well in the lowest of pressure situations (.925 OPS with none on and 1 or 2 out) to hitting not very well in mid-pressure situations (.835 with none on, none out) to being just awful in high-pressure situations (.632 OPS with runners in scoring position, .535 OPS with runners in scoring position, 2 outs and .536 OPS with bases loaded). This is the guy that Bowden would probably look to bat 5th--talk about an inning killer.

So, please, please Mr. Bowden. Do not make this deal unless something remarkable is up your sleeve--like turning around and trading Wilson to an even bigger sucker. We can't afford to lose Church's bat and glove for this guy.

ERV Boxscore for July 12, the All-Star Game

ERV Win: Ortiz & Tejada
ERV Loss: Oswalt, Hernandez & Ramirez

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Ortiz's single in the 3rd (1.63)
(2) Manny Ramirez's GIDP in the 1st (-1.47)
(3) Tejada's HR in the 2nd (1.33)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Our Secret Weapon

By now it is clear that RFK is a pitcher's park, which suits the light-hitting Nats quite well. The question as to why it dulls offense, particularly opposing batters, remains open: is it the spacious dimensions? Ample foul ground? Wind patterns in the outfield? Tom Boswell's column today reveals that the secret lies in a smelly Chevy Caprice with intermittent A/C and broken seat belts:
Veteran Arizona outfielder Luis Gonzalez noticed in the Opening Day series that everything about the RFK experience was subtly hostile or alien. ... "None of the cabbies know where RFK is. Everybody's cab fare was different, like $10 or $12 different."

So, the next time you find yourself arguing with a cabbie over whether you crossed H Street, or why he decided to pick up a passenger going in the opposite direction, or when exactly "rush hour" started, remember: your taking one for the team!

Monday, July 11, 2005

More ERV Stats

Below are some more ERV stats that I have been tracking. They are essentially all "rate stats" -- RV and WV per "game" or "inning" for each Nats Player and Pitcher (I've separate pitchers and batters here, and ignored pitchers hitting in these charts). An explanation for the columns is at the bottom of this post:


PA = Plate Appearances (note that in rare cases this may be off from the actual totals for players who appeared only as pinch runners).

G = Games Equivalent (PA divided by 4.1, that is why Wilkerson has more games that we've actually played.

RV and WV columns = This is the RV and WV each player produces or squanders per games (games equivalent, actually). In other words, RV and WV divided by G.

ERVTot. = ERVTot is the total Expected Run Value for the team for all PAs for that batter. For example, if a batter leads off an inning, he gets 0.53 (the ERV at that point for the team) added to his ERVTot. If he comes up with Bases Loaded, he gets 2.25 added to his ERVTot. It is a measure of the scoring situations the player has faced.

ROI = Return on Investment. This is the players total Batting RV for the season (see Friday Morning Figures for that) divided by his ERVTot. I view this as how well the player has invested the run currency he was given in his at bats. Like any investment, a player can lose money. Note that the ERVTot is a team-based figure, as it reflects the runs the team is expected to score, not just that player. So you would not expect the player to have anything close to 100% here, though that can happen in an individual game (the ERV Boxscores show ERVTot under the column ERVPA). Nick Johnson is our best investor, earning a 17% return on the Nats money. Wil Cordero is the worst, losing over 40% of our expected runs in his at bats.

ERV/PA = This is simply ERVTot divided by PA. It is a measure of the "leverage" each batter faces on average. As you would expect, Wilkerson's is pretty low given that he leads off, and pinch-hitters are pretty high, given that they usually bat with men on base. For comparison, the ERV table I'm using says the leadoff hitter in every inning comes to the plate with an ERV of 0.53.


BFP = Batters faced by the pitcher

IP = Equivalent innings pitched, based on 4.1 batters per inning (37 BFP divided by 9).

RV & WV = Pitching and Fielding RV and WV per inning.

ERVF = The pitcher's version of ERVTot -- the total ERV faced by opposing batters faced by that pitcher. Note that unlike the batters, the pitcher has some control over this figure, in that if he is mowing them down, his ERVF is pretty low because he's not giving the opponents scoring opportunities.

ROI = Return on Investment, total Pitching RV divided by ERVF. Similar to the batters, although the because the pitcher can control the denominator somewhat, those who pitch to the score will have a relatively low number here, like Livan Hernandez. I'm still puzzling over what this number actually means, and whether there is a better way to calculate this.

ERV/BFP = The average ERV faced by the pitcher for each batter, a measure of the leverage the pitcher faces. Relievers who come in in the middle of innings generally have the higher number here.

Friday Morning Figures at the Break

Sunday, July 10, 2005

ERV Boxscores for July 9 & 10, at Philadelphia

I've posted these boxscores together because these two games, for our purposes, were essentially the same. We had the manpower to win a 7-inning game this weekend, not a 9-inning game, let alone an extra inning game. These games are a good test for us fans -- if you thought, in the late stages, that we had any chance of winning either of these contests, you are truly loyal beyond rationality, and I envy you. I stopped watching at the start of extra innings in both, convinced of our demise.

If we had managed to win these games, then it would be certain that there is a 2005 Nationals team portrait in the bowels of RFK slowly turning into the horrifying 1962 Mets, win by win.

But, hey, the Braves and Marlins lost 2 too, the Mets lost one (but they don't have it this year), and the Phils should be seriously worried that they didn't beat us 8-0 and 10-4. The break comes at the perfect time, and we get Milwaukee to feast on this Thursday. And we'd better feast!

ERV Win: Martinez & Rollins
ERV Loss: W. Cordero, Bennett & Majewski

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Martinez Single in the 12th (6.04)
(2) Pratt's Single in the 12th (4.06)
(3) Utley's GIDP in the 11th (-3.17)

ERV Win: Utley & Bell
ERV Loss: Carrasco

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Utley's Double in the 9th (5.32)
(2) Bell's Sac Fly in the 9th (4.95)
(3) Abreu's single in the 9th (2.33)

Why former players often make bad analysts

oh Ryno, you were such a good player. It's too bad you know so little about baseball. Jim Bowden, exec of the year...I had to type that four times before getting it right as I was shaking with laughter.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Bunt Thing Again

Today, in the top of the eighth, scored tied 0-0, Gary Bennett leads off with a walk. The pitcher John Patterson comes to the plate, after pitching 7 innings. Frank leaves him in to bunt, so I thought he was trying to save the bullpen, like he did Tuesday night with Loaiza. Patterson failed to get the bunt down, and the inning fizzled after that.

Much to my surprise, Hector Carrasco, not John Patterson, comes out to pitch the bottom of the eighth. Now, the objection here is obvious -- why didn't Frank pinch hit for Patterson in the top of the inning, if he wasn't going to pitch anymore? He had Marlon Byrd, Tony Blanco, Wil Cordero and Brian Schneider on the bench, IIRC. The objection is a good one, but the fact that he didn't pinch hit tells us something -- something we probably already knew but is now confirmed.

No matter who was going to hit in that at bat, be it Patterson, Byrd, or Blanco, he was going to be ordered to bunt. Frank must have thought that he didn't want to waste a pinch hitter just to bunt, which makes sense, sort of. (There is an objection to this thinking in that you want somebody who can actually bunt at the plate, but that's not what I want to focus on).

But the important thing that this event confirms is this: Frank thinks a successful bunt in that situation improves your chance of scoring that runner on first. It does not. There is no empirical evidence to prove that conclusion. (See here, here and here for previous posts on that point). What a successful bunt does is preserve the same chance of scoring for a new batter -- the chance of scoring a runner from first with none out is the same as scoring a runner from second with one out, but in the latter situation you probably have a better hitter at the plate, especially if the pitcher bunts. But Frank can have a better hitter at the plate by simply pinch-hitting, without giving up the out, and the chance of a messed up bunt.

What about the double play, you might ask? First, the analyses in the posts above generally take that into consideration and reveal that it is an unfounded concern so long as the hitter does not have an extraordinary propensity for GIDP. Also, the chance that the batter gets a double or triple or homer counterbalance that. But if you are worried about that, put in a guy who can run, like Marlon Byrd, which alleviates that concern. The point is, if you can have a decent hitter up there, let him swing away.

I know this is an old saw, and protest is futile. But it will come back to haunt us, probably in September at a crucial moment.

And besides, even if Frank brought in Byrd, he would have called for a hit and run.

[UPDATE: Occam's Razor says the best explanation is often the simplest. That may be the case here: Frank's decision to bat Patterson was just incompetence of a simpler nature. Apparently Frank wanted Spivey to pinch hit, but no one told him that Junior had broke his hand hitting off a tee in BP, so then he wanted Livan to pinch hit, but Livan wasn't wearing his jersey (he was comparing pecs and tats with Wil Cordero, I guess), so he had to let Patterson bat. The lesson from this additional information: we ALL need the All-star break!]

Luis Ayala

I was going to type about a few things last night, but my computer froze and I lost it all. So instead I will focus on the one pitcher that is really starting to worry me a little, and that is Luis Ayala.
Clearly, Luis is one of the major plus factors of our season that has helped us get where we are, but it is a bit troubling just how far he has fallen off in the last month or so.
Let's take a look at Luis's stats on June 18, just three weeks ago:
2.25 ERA, 40 IP, 41 H , 2 BB for a 1.08 WHIP

Ayala has had 11 appearances since then. His stats:
13 IP, 8 ER (and has let some inherited runners score as well) for a 5.54 ERA and 20 H & 6 BB for a dreadful 2.00 WHIP.

It's only two games until the all-star break, but if I were Frank, there is no chance that Luis comes in over the next two days. Let the guy rest and hopefully he comes back from the all-star break refreshed.

ERV Boxscore for July 8, at Philadelphia

Many people use the phrase "Pyrrhic victory" to simply mean an "empty" victory, or one that is not a victory at all. The historic context to the phrase gives a more nuanced definition. The problem for Pyrrhus, a Greek king in 280 BC or so, was that his generals expended so many forces in one battle with the Romans he knew they had nothing left to actually win the war.

Why this Sen. Robert Byrd-like filibuster? Because tonight's win was a true Pyrrhic victory. We expended so much of the bullpen, I'm not sure we can expect to win another before the break, unless Patterson and Loaiza go old school on us and throw 9 innings each. As Pyyrhus would say, "Another such victory over the [Phillies] and we are undone."

Friday, July 08, 2005

ERV Boxscore for July 7, vs. New York

Technical Difficulties ... Insert M*A*S*H Episode Here

The storm knocked out my power last night, so I could not put together a boxscore or the Friday Morning Figures. I will have them up tonight, and some additional statistics along the lines of Dexys' recent post. Stay Tuned!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

After the break

Last night's loss was disheartening to say the least because it seemed like we could really continue the roll into the all-star break. Hopefully we can gather some momentum and keep the division leads we have over the next 5 days.

Looking over DM's win value totals for the half-way break, I wondered how our lineup would change as we a) got our players back healthy and b) if we actually did a deal or kept Carroll at short or moved Spivey there.

I tried to break down DM's WV totals into a per game basis. Now, I think this is fine for the regulars, but it probably slightly hurts guys like Ryan Church and Marlon Byrd who have pinch hit a few times (and helps Carlos Baerga in that his negative numbers aren't as bad for the same reason).
Recent lineups before the Guzman injury had us with things like:
Wilkerson 0.13 WV per game
Carroll (0.29) WV per game (who has had his WV slightly hurt by so many bunts).
Guillen 0.25 WV per game
Cordero (0.40) WV per game or Baerga (0.07) WV per game
Castilla (0.22) WV per game
Cepicky too small a sample, but let's be VERY generous and say he is at zero.
Schneider 0.27 WV per game or Bennett (0.13) WV per game
Guzman (0.73!) WV per game (don't get me started)
for a total of negative 0.99 WV per game with Schneider in and negative 1.39 WV with Bennett.
This tells me for sure that except in rare cases, Schneider should be in every day, and it looks like Frank is moving that way.

However, let's bring back a couple of injured players and keep Guzman as far away from the playing field as possible. Then you have:
Wilkerson 0.13 WV per game
Vidro 0.02 WV per game (and I think and hope potential for much more now)
Johnson 0.57 WV per game
Guillen 0.25 WV per game
Church 0.25 WV per game
Schneider 0.27 WV per game (and yes, I know Frank will never bat him above Castilla)
Castilla (0.22) WV per game
Spivey 0.19 WV per game or more realistically Carroll (0.29) WV per game
That gives you a total of 1.46! WV per game with Spivey and still 0.98 WV with Carroll. That is a team with a legitimate offense even before you make a move. Combine that with a solid pitching staff and there is hope that we can hold off the likes of the Braves and Marlins. Now, if we dealt for a real shortstop (yeah, pipe dream) or a solid #2 starter to move everyone else down and Armas out (I know, you've heard that before from me), we have the makings of a real playoff team.

ERV Boxscore for July 6, vs. New York

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Reaching for the Stars

After DM and I used all our mojo last night to beat Pedro, I am feeling pretty darn pumped up. SuperNova is blaming his two losses on the Chorizo (and keeps asking me if I have tried it yet...answer: NO!). But I will tell you here and now that if and when the Nats finally lose when I am there, it will be because I personally did something wrong.

Ex: Last Thursday, it was so hot that after Loaiza's no-hitter bid was broken up, I went to the shady section in the 300s and gave two guys my seats so I could sit in the shade. When the Nats started getting pummelled, I paid pennance by walking the lower bowl back and forth for the last two innings to keep the streak alive (now, that's being a fan (or a sign of extreme delusional paranoia)).

Anyway, I am now at 11-0 and DM is at 8-0 (for a combined 15-0 when you cancel out the 4 games we have gone together).

Political glitterati sighted last night: We sat a few seats over from Colin Powell last night, and I will say that the man looks considerably more fit than he did when he was regularly on TV (seen here showing how big you need to stretch out your hands to hold a sign that says "United States"). Must be those tae-bo classes. Also, to the Secretary's credit, he did stay the whole game.

It gets me salivating thinking how good this team could be once the injury bug is over and if we actually got one more key player, either at short or at starting pitcher.

Think about it, last night Carlos Baerga played first base, and Matt Cepicky (pictured here from his acting days) played left field. Both looked pretty dreadful at the plate. Think what happens when you replace Baerga with Nick Johnson and Cepicky (pictured here at the Olympics) with Ryan Church. With Vidro back, that is a real line-up. I don't even mind Carroll batting 8th in that lineup, and might consider focusing on a top-level pitcher as our add-on to slide Patterson, Loaiza and Drese down and Armas out. That would be a solid lineup and a great starting pitching staff with a bullpen that has been stellar this year. Gives me goosebumps!

Finally, for you Cepicky fans, here he is oposite the Fonz.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

ERV Boxscore for July 5, vs. New York

This team has the nice tendency to rise to the occasion. After a lackadaisical loss yesterday, they come back very strong against one the best pitchers of our generation. Dexys and I were at the game, and the frustration on the faces of the Mets and their fans was enjoyable to watch.


-- Jose Vidro is still hurting. He pulled into second on his double VERY gingerly, and made a good show of it after sliding into home, just like a wide receiver who gets up quickly after a good hit. But it is nice to have him back in the lineup.

-- Speaking of the lineup, Carlos Baerga fourth?

ERV Win: Loaiza
ERV Loss: Reyes

Most Valuable Plays:

(1) Reyes groundout in the Ninth (-3.10)
(2) Wright's GIDP in the 7th (-1.84)
(3) Daubach's Popout in the 9th (-1.47)

A note about these plays: Dexys and I were trying to figure out which play would be the most valuable, and neither of us picked Reyes. But it makes sense -- he came up with runners on second and third and 1 out, down by 2. The critical runner is the one on second, and while Reyes' groundout scored a run and moved that runner over, getting him to third with 2 outs didn't do the Mets much good.

Brian Schneider all-star?

As I prepare to get completely drenched (maybe we will have a rain delay that tightens Pedro's arm!), and I contemplate whether Jose Vidro, who was activated will play tonight--my guess is that they won't want to test him on the wet dirt--I started thinking that maybe we overlooked the biggest Nats' all-star snub. For the record, I will say that I think we got the two all-stars we deserved and that while I love Nick and J. Guillen, they probably didn't get snubbed.

But did Brian Schneider? That's right, Brian Schneider. Brian isn't just our clutch hitter extraordinaire, who has a higher WV than the couple of batters that always go before him. He also has the second highest OPS out of any catcher in the National League (after the Reds' Jason LaRue, who wasn't named an all-star either). Schneider's .765 OPS is 16 points higher than catcher reserve Paul Lo Duca (who does sport the sexy .300 batting average admittedly, but far less power), and 19 points higher than starter (*cough* fan vote *cough*) Mike Piazza. Add in the fact that Schneider is known to have an exceptional glove and arm this year (46% of runners caught stealing for 2nd in the league--Lo Duca is at 29% and Piazza is a league worst 11%), and it is a no brainer.
Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the argument that Brian Schneider, while no one in the mainstream press will ever say it, was snubbed, and should have been an all-star.

Many different tidbits

I've been wanting to post about a few things but was away this weekend.

As SuperNoVa stated, this really is a team we need to start taking seriously, and I feel bad in a way that my expectations have changed so much, and I don't want to take the fun out of it. I didn't see an inning of the Cubs series because I was away, but I kept checking for score updates and listened on XM here and there...and the whole time, I must have been expecting them to win every game. Because it wasn't a felling of "hey, I hope we get a win or two here." It was more like getting really pissed when the Cubs scored at all or when we didn't get a run in--and my only explanation for that is that I am in the mindset of (a) we are in a playoff hunt and we don't want to blow it, and (b) we should beat every team we play. I just cannot imagine thinking this way back in April.

OK--note here that the above was typed before today's game and the rest is typed after. In keeping with the mentality expressed above, I am pissed that we lost today. I mean, it is just one game, but we should win any game where we go into the 7th with a lead is my new mentality. By the way, SuperNova has now lost two straight games and I am considering banning him from our seats. DM and I put our undefeated status on the line tomorrow (Tues) night against Pedro. This is going to be a tough one.

I personally would have had a hard time letting Patterson start the 7th when he doesn't seem to do well over 100 pitches and I probably wouldn't have let Sunny go into the 9th, but I am letting all that go because (a) we did just play that insane game Sunday (although I don't think that number of appearances matters all that much as long as you don't work too hard in each one); (b) Frank has done a really good job managing the pitchers lately; and (c) as you may have noticed, I haven't been riding Frank all that hard lately. How can I? While I disagree with a bunch of his gametime strategy including the crazy obsession with bunting and batting a guy like Wil Cordero 6th, I feel that arguing with the success of a guy that has us at 50 wins when half our team is injured and our Vegas over/under to start the season was 68.5 wins total will simply make me look foolish. Not only would Frank win manager of the year if the vote was conducted today, it would surely be unanimous (take a look at the NL and name one other team that is "overachieving," the criteria usually used for manager of the year votes.

People have mentioned Chad Cordero for potential Cy Young candidacy. Let me say right now that is absurd. If you have starting pitchers that are dominating like Clemens and Willis, you vote for them. However, what I wouldn't find absurd if he kept up his pace, especially the one run saves, is a Chad Cordero for MVP candidacy. This is one of those rare cases where you could make a better argument for MVP over Cy Young for a guy--especially if the Nats make the playoffs and his competition is either out of the playoffs or a Cardinal (player, not pontiff).

As there have been many games lately of teams within the NL East playing each other, a real brain-teaser has come to mind: who do you root for when two division rivals play? When we played various games back in the day, especially ones involving elimination, my buddy Andy and I always had opposite strategies: My strategy was to weaken every opponent to have the maximum overall lead and then to pick off the weaklings one by one at the end. Andy would go for the weakest opponent and kill him off and then move on to the next weakest one. Therefore, if you go by my view, if the Marlins play the Braves, you root for the Marlins who are a couple games further back. If you go by Andy's theory, you root for the Braves, hoping the Marlins get so far back that they are out of contention and you only have to deal with the Braves. I'd be interested in hearing peoples' views on this.

Well, I think that's it for now. I have a Craig Biggio HBP-related post but I think I will save that for tomorrow and a separate space.

ERV Boxscore for July 4, vs. New York

Look, when you're inserting Jamey Carroll in the 2 slot to pick up the offense, it's a pretty bad sign. And when the guy who was hitting there (or not hitting, as the case may be) isn't benched, just moved down to the 7 slot where he gets one fewer chance to strikeout, it's time to despair. When we all looked at this lineup last Tuesday night, winning 6 straight seemed delusional. As with much this season, our imaginations can become reality.

Speaking of reality, this series is important, and a split is essential, otherwise we give the Mets hope that they can get back in the race, and we have enough competitors in the East.

ERV Win: Hernandez & Offerman
ERV Loss: Kim, Wilkerson & Bennett

Most Valuable Plays:

(1) Offerman's Single in the 9th (3.29)
(2) Cameron's Single in the 7th (2.18)
(3) Wright's Double in the 7th (1.78)

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Political Philosophy of Brendan Donnelly

Our favorite cheater, Brendan Donnelly, was quoted in Saturday's Washington Post (in the AL Notes section) as complaining about law and order in the MLB. Brendan appealed his 10 game suspension for the pine tar incident. He received a 2 game reduction in that sentence, but that wasn't good enough. ''If this were a court of law," he said, "I would be free on a technicality. Instead, this is a dictatorship, where one man rules."

Yes, Brendan, you've touched upon a hallmark of totalitarianism -- making sure lawbreakers don't get off on technicalities. That is, when the secret police happen to be in the mood for a show trial.

But I'm sure he had the Angels bloggers nodding in approval with that one.

Game Chart for July 3 against the Cubs

I'm still not sure exactly what these things show, but here's the chart for yesterday's game against the Cubs. Basically, the farther above the line, the more chance we had of winning the game at that point, and the farther below, the more chance the Cubs had. Note that the dip in the 7th was Burnitz's long drive to center that Wilk caught against the wall -- the line goes down assuming a double, then goes back up when Wilk catches the ball.

We see a tight game which we were slowly building to a victory, then everything changes and we get O.J. Simpson's polygraph.

Taking Stock

This post will blatantly violate the ubiquitous warning that "past performance is no indication of future results." The Nats are an unbelievable 50-31 at the 81-game midway point. If they play in the second half like they played in the first, they will end up 100-62. But here are some other past performances that might indicate the Nats future:

If they play like they played at home (29-10), they will end up 110-52.
If they play like they played on the road (21-21), they will end up 91-72.
If they play like they played in June (20-6), they will end up 112-50.
If they play like they played in May (14-14), they will end up 91-72.
If they play like they played in April(13-11), they will end up 94-68.
If they play like they played versus the NL East (16-13), they will end up 95-67.
If they play like they played versus the NL Central (14-8), they will end up 102-60.
If they play like they played versus the NL West (8-4), they will end up 104-58.
If they play like they played versus the AL (12-6), they will end up 104-58.
If they play like they played with Vidro (14-12), they will end up 94-68.
If they play like they played without Vidro (36-19), they will end up 103-59.
If they play like they played on Sundays (9-4), they will end up 106-56.
If they play like they played last year in the 2nd half (39-42), they will end up 89-73.

But just to keep us honest,
If they play like they played against the Reds, they will end up 50-112.

Friday Morning Figures for Halfway Point

Through 81 Games:

ERV Boxscores for July 1, 2 & 3, at Chicago

Sunday, July 03, 2005

ERV Boxscores for June 28, 29 & 30, vs. Pittsburgh

Sorry for the "Baseball Digest"-like frequency of the boxscores lately. We'll be back up to date by the end of the night. Here's the Pittsburgh series:

Friday, July 01, 2005

Misleading Fact of the Day!

Right now on the Nats' clubhouse at ESPN, there is a blurb that reads:
The Nationals are 10-5 since acquiring 2B Junior Spivey from Milwaukee on June 10 for pitcher Tomo Ohka. 'Everyone here wants to win and we have one goal in mind, and that's to get to the playoffs,' said Spivey, who has two game-winning RBI for the Nationals.

Mind you, that 10-5 record is a dropoff from the Nats' previous 15 games, in which they went 13-2. The Nats are three games worse with Spivey on the team!

Not to say that I think the Nats are actually worse with Spivey, but my intelligence was so insulted by that particular factoid that I had to share.

[Geek Speak for "end of rant" You see, in HTML, you have "tags" for text, like "b" for bold. You "close" the "tag" by putting a slash in front of it, like "/b" to end the bold text. Thus, by saying "/rant", I am "closing" my "rant" "tag." It's very funny, believe me. There are people all over the Internet laughing hysterically at my cleverness.]

[Worst. Bracketed Paragraph. Ever.]