(ed. note - "Tonight's Post Game is Up...HERE or just below "Nats Stats..")
Another week, another 7 extraordinarily painful games. There are some bright spots, to be sure, and I'll get to them. But first, we're going to tear the painful statistical band-aid off, scab and all, and dive right into the most embarrassing of the unpleasant truths. What Ails the Nats after the jump...
(Note: stats from baseball-reference and FanGraphs, as of 4/30/09)
*A fatalistic military expression along the lines of SNAFU ("Situation Normal, All [Fouled] Up"), roughly equivalent to the French "C'est la vie."
Nice ballclub... too bad about their record
Yeah, this is the worst part. All the crappity-crap we're going to see below would be so much better if only we could catch a frakkin' break once and a while. But no, the misplays, men left on base, and walks always come back to haunt us in the win-loss column. Speaking of which, the Nationals record stands at 5-16, last in the NL East, last in the NL, last in MLB... a win/loss % of .238--we're approaching Mendoza territory!
With 94 runs scored and 124 runs allowed so far, our Pythagorean W/L percentage is .364. In other words, our record should be 8-13 or 7-14 based on how much we're scoring and how many runs we're allowing. That means we're losing close games through bad luck or misadventure (mostly the latter...) and only winning when we score so damned many runs that not even our bullpen can screw it up, so the other team stops batting. That .364 projects out to 59-103 on the season, by the way--look familiar? Yeah, ouch. Even if we do as well as we "should," we're looking at a repeat of 2008 with our current performance.
Remember when our bullpen was good?
Yeah, me neither. Okay, I do, but it's been so spirit-crushingly bad this season that it seems impossible that it was ever any better than awful. Just how bad?
- Team save percentage is 33%, lowest in the NL (average is 59%). We have the second-most blown saves (6), but that's only because we've had fewer save opportunities than the Brewers (7 BS out of 12 chances, vs 6 of 9 for us--they still have the higher %).
- The bullpen has a cumulative record of 0-7 in relief, the worst in the NL, with an ERA of 5.40.
- Peripherals-wise, the bullpen has a WHIP of 1.565, giving up 1.23 HR/9, striking out 7.2/9, and walking 6.3/9, for a K:BB ratio of 1.2. Would you sign that pitcher?
- Both Hinckley and Wells are walking more than a batter per IP. In fact, the bullpen as a whole has walked only 2 fewer batters than the starting rotation--in about two-thirds as many IP!
- Ledezma and Rivera both have WHIPs over 2.0 (enjoy Syracuse!).
- Rivera and Hanrahan are both giving up about 1 HR per 3 IP.
- We're tied for most "wins lost" with 4 (that is, games where the starter left the game with a lead, but the team went on to lose).
Too many walks + not enough strikeouts = unhappy Nats fans.
At least the rotation is solid! Right? RIGHT?!
The rotation has 7 QS so far this season, ahead of only the Phillies (6). We're allowing 5.48 runs per game, again ahead of only Philly (5.60). Starters are throwing 5.2 innings per game, tied for last in the NL with Colorado. The short outings may be why we average only 86 pitches per start, which leads the NL--GO NATS! (Sorry, LOU--that was a sarcastic 'GO NATS.')
- The rotation's ERA is 4.99, with a 1.618 WHIP, 1.3 HR/9, 5.1 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and 1.3 K/BB. Would you sign that pitcher?
- Both Martis and Cabrera are walking nearly two batters for every one they strike out, although Lannan and J. Zimm are striking out 2.5 for every batter walked.
- Bright side? Martis and Cabrera are only striking out 3 batters per 9 IP... Lannan, Oslen, and J. Zimm are striking out about 6 per 9 IP.
- DC, Martis, and J. Zimm are giving up fewer than 1 HR/9 (Lannan surrenders 2.3 gopher balls per 9).
- Lannan and J. Zimm have WHIPs of 1.427 and 1.324, respectively--not bad. But the other three all have WHIPs in the 1.7 range.
So far, we have ONE pitcher who seems to be doing everything right--but he's only thrown two games so far this season. How long will he be able to keep up his drool-inciting 2.38 ERA? (Consider that Olsen and Martis have 6ish ERAs, while Lannan and DC are around 4.5.) The rotation does seem to be improving, and it's better than the bullpen. Does that seem like "faint praise" to you? It does to me.
I don't even want to hear about the fielding
Oh, you're going to hear about the fielding. Washington leads the league in errors (33) and trails in fielding % (0.972). We're first in Passed Balls (4), last in runners Caught Stealing (also 4), and 14th in CS% (22). We're 13th in Defensive Efficiency (percentage of balls put into play that turn into outs) at 0.687, and we have also used the most players as fielders, with 34 so far this season (second-most is 30). Our team UZR/150 (a measure of how many runs above or below average your combined defensive performance is over a season) is second-worst in the NL, at -8.5 runs.
- Zimmy is a bright spot at the hot corner, with an UZR/150 of +27 runs so far, 3rd in the majors (2nd in the NL). He is, however, the only bright spot.
- The heroic NJ merits only a -1.9 UZR/150 at first--a bit below average, and comparable to stone-handed Lance Berkman (-1.8).
- Normally-reliable fielders like Kearns (-26.9) and Dukes (-22.8) have struggled defensively so far this year, as have younger players like Hernandez (-28.6) and Gonzalez (-18.6), who have yet to live up to their defensive promise.
We expected some fumbles out of Dunn and Willingham, but the errors have been almost as painful as the pitching. To put it into numbers, having a team ERA of 5.15 instead of a league-average ERA of 4.42 costs us a bit under 12 games over the course of the season. If the four fielders I noted above played that much below average for an entire season, it would cost us about 9 games.
So, why shouldn't we form a mob and go throw beer cups at Clint?
Because we all dig the long ball. Craptastic as the rest of the Nationals' play is, the offense is one area that's humming along nicely. Is Zim on a team-record hitting streak, with his first multi-HR game of the season? Check! Is Big Walky on pace for 40+ HR and leading the league in walks? Check! Does every regular starter have an OPS+ above 100 (now that Guz is back at SS instead of the General)? Check!
Unfortunately, our 4.48 runs scored per game is below the league average of 4.64, only good enough for 10th in the NL. Once you get past the starting 8, it's pretty much Scrubsville; overall, team OPS+ is a slightly-below-average 98.
Can we form a mob and go throw beer cups at Clint anyway?
Well, I'm not saying we shouldn't form a mob and go throw beer cups at Clint. Mind you, that would go against Nationals Park's green image. It's going to be a tough season until the rotation finishes settling in and Manny can bang some fundamentals into our fielders and rewrite Plan Z for the bullpen... Hmm, maybe we could form another mob after we throw beer cups at Clint, and then go recycle them. See? That wasn't so hard! Plan Z, here we come!
Update: They showed ME!
As my reward for prognosticating, Friday's game against the Cards went against all the trends: JZ struggled and gave up 5 ER, the defense made no errors, the duck pond surrendered only 1 run in 3.1 IP (including Hanny fanning 2 of 3 batters faced), and the offense plated nothing outside of TAWH's HR. However, Zim the Elder extended his hitting streak to 20 games, while Zim the Younger struck out 6 and walked none in 5.2 IP (too bad about all the dingers). I'm thinking about throwing helmet sundaes at Clint next game.