Hey, a win is a win. And this was a win. So what if the recaps read like it was an ugly win, procured in spite of a piffling performance by Billy Traber? Who cares if Jon Rauch squandered a lead with an erratic outing that earned him a $25 fine? It's a win. It gets the Nats closer to seventy wins or whatever.
The Post's game story focuses much attention on Rauch's recent troubles with his control. (A four-pitch lead-off walk is what prompted the fine, per the team's clubhouse rules.) Both Rauch and Frank Robinson appear keen on the reliever's struggles:
. . . Now, though, he can't [consistently throw strikes].
. . . "I can live with giving up a solo home run here and there," Rauch said. "I can live with that, because the hitter's beating me. [Rauch is second in the NL with thirteen relief homers allowed.] The walks, though, that frustrates me more than anything, because it's something I have control over."
. . . "He's not attacking the strike zone," Robinson said. "For whatever reason, I don't know."
Rauch said the problem is mental.
"I think recently, I'm just trying to go out there and do too good a job, and trying to be too fine with it," he said. "And obviously when you do that, the results aren't favorable -- and it's shown."
(My annotations were added in brackets.)
As the game story notes, Rauch has now walked five batters in the last three outings, covering 3.2 innings pitched. Rauch's recent struggles are no doubt frustrating for both pitcher and manager, and this is a situation where observation from afar---such as that done conducted on a blog---can lead to longer-view (d/b/a "statistical") context that simultaneously puts the matter in perspective and completely misses sight of the recent frustrations.
That's right: Rauch has posted exactly the same "WHIP" since the all-star break as he did before. Of course, there are two "surrendering dimensions" to WHIP---hits and walks. So let's isolate the walks for a moment:
As you can see, Rauch's walk rate has actually gone down since the all-star break. Of course, those are just "raw" walk totals. We should probably account for intentional walks, since Robinson has been free-and-easy with those this season. Adjusting for Rauch's free passes pre- and post-break, here's what we get:
|Time Period||Total BB/Intentional BB||Unintentional BB/9IP|
Once we toss out all the tables---as Bill James once said, to get rid of "the bones"---we can plainly state that Rauch has indeed exhibited better control in the second half of the season than in the first half. (If anything, it would seem prudent not to pooh-pooh the escalating home run rate, as Rauch has surrendered five homers in 29 innings since the break. Thus, his so-called "FIP" ERA is a half-run higher than the real one.)
But the pre- and post-break distinction is entirely an artificial one---and, more to the point, it's setting a different endpoint than that used indirectly by Rauch and Robinson, via the Post article. Whether Rauch's late-July and August performances combine with his current performance to give him, on the whole, better control numbers than early in the season is fairly beside the point. Despite being credited with the win last night, Rauch has failed of late. (In the last week, Rauch has walked six batters---four unintentionally---in 6.2 innings pitched.) Taking the long-view informs one that Rauch is indeed not garbage, it would also lose sight of the specific reality that Rauch pretty much has been garbage of late. It's the domain of the "analyst" (loosely defined, of course) to issue reminders of the former, but it's the responsibility of the manager to ensure corrections to the latter.