As we will do each week throughout the season, we will today look at Accuscore's playoff forecaster to see how the previous weeks games influenced the division's playoff race. Unfortionatly for Washington, they dropped -8.4% from last week due to their 2-4 west coast swing, leaving their chances at 10%. The Nats hope their chances will rise in the coming weeks if Stephen Strasburg finds immediate success in the bigs.
PLAYOFF SHIFTS WEEK 8
Stephen Oh on the NL EAST:
The Atlanta Braves capitalized on Philadelphia’s down week. As Philly went 2-4 and dropped over 12 points the Braves went 5-1 and picked up nearly all of Philadelphia’s loss. Even though Atlanta is only a half game behind Philadelphia as of 5/31 AccuScore still expects Philadelphia to finish the season with a 6 game lead in the NL East. The Phillies are an impressive 15-11 on the road this season (just 13-10 at home). If they start winning closer to 60 percent of their home games while winning just over 50 percent of the road games no other NL East team will be able to keep up.
That Livan Hernandez has been extraordinarily lucky this season has been well documented. Though his last two starts have hurt his stats, his LOB% (88.8%) is still ridiculous. And then there's that difference of 2.75 between his xFIP and his ERA...
Craig Stammen is the best regular starter the Nats have despite his 5.60 ERA. His xFIP of 4.09 is the lowest out of regular starters and he is being hurt by his very low LOB% of 56.6%, which is probably largely attributable to bad luck, though Stammen does have a rather low K/9 at 4.28. At any rate, his ERA should come down soon.
John Lannan is not having a good year: 15th worst xFIP, 3rd worst K/9 rate, and worst K/BB rate in the Majors amongst starters with 30 IP or more. It seems that Lannan has lost some horizontal movement on his fastball and we'll have to wait to see if it will come back. In the meantime he can stop dishing out the walks (4.20 BB/9).
Luis Atilano has the highest xFIP on the team and 12th highest in the majors (5.62). Without his worst start, however, Atilano's ERA would be 3.82 and without his worst two it would be 2.60. Because he's young, Atilano can be given the benefit of the doubt for now but he too would be well-advised to start cutting down on the walks (4.58 BB/9), especially considering his rather slow fastball.
Each month The Nats Blog will announce our Nationals Player of the Month as voted upon by our writers. This award will be determined on quality of performance as well as the impact of that performance.
The month of May was a diverse one for the club. They saw their record go as high as six games above .500 halfway through the month, and as low as one game under .500 after a rough series against the Giants earlier last week. Despite several starting pitchers either sustaining injuries or coming back to earth, the club got help from hitters who didn't have an exceptional April.
Cristian Guzman improved his batting average 100 points to hit .372/.405/.436 this month. Adam Dunn batted .309/.395/.617 with six homers in May, and topped Dunn with seven homers of his own.
The Nationals finished an unstable month on a very emphatic note. A night after a heart breaking 13-inning loss, Washington battled back to .500 by clobbering the 17-34 Houston Astros 14-4.
The Nats tacked on four runs early on the Astros ace, and potential future National, Roy Oswalt. Just moments after giving up a bases loaded double to Adam Dunn, which broke a 1-1 tie, Oswalt was ejected after arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Bill Hohn. Oswalt later claimed he was yelling at himself about the missed spot on the pitch, and not at the umpire for the call. Regardless of his intentions, he found himself in the clubhouse, and the Astros saw themselves fall apart.
Three innings later the Nationals offense exploded scoring nine runs on seven hits in the top of the seventh inning. While the Washington club was hammering the ball with two homers and a double in the inning, a major result of the Nationals success in the inning came from a comedy of errors and miscalculations by the Astros. To explain it to someone who didn't see it, one could only say it looked like the Nationals of 2010 were playing the Nationals of 2009.
On the mound rookie Luis Atilano improved to 5-1 on the season, despote his 4.70 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. On the day, Atilano allowed six hits over 6.2 innings pitched and allowed three earned runs with two walks and a strikeout. While he put his team in a position to win today, the rookie is still struggling with his lack of control. The righty has walked more batters than he has struck out this season, his sinking fastball isn't inducing
Matt Capps saw his ERA come back to Earth in May, after posting a 0.68 ERA at the end of April. He still pitched well, though, with an xFIP of 2.26 and 0 walks; his 5.73 May ERA can be explained by team-worst's in BABIP (.343) and LOB% (51.7%). He remains a good option with an xFIP of 3.36, second on the team. Expect his ERA to remain about the same as his 8% HR/FB and .335 BABIP regress to the mean.
Sean Burnett had a strong May, averaging over a strikeout per inning and posting an xFIP of 2.76. Burnett's high strikeout rate (9.2 K/9) should help him raise his LOB% (68.2%) or at least lead to getting more innings than Miguel Batista.
Which brings us to Miguel Batista who may make the Nationals regret demoting Brian Bruney very soon. His team-worst 0.78 K/BB is also bad enough for 3rd worst amongst MLB relievers, (John Lannan has the worst spot locked down amongst starters at 0.69 K/BB) and his ERA is set to explode any day now because that ridiculously low .208 just can't be sustained much longer. His 5.77 xFIP (which adjusts for his fairly unlucky 14.7% HR/FB) is 9th worst in the league.
The last bullpen highlight is reserved for Tyler Clippard who is striking everyone out (10.19 K/9). He's getting extremely lucky with his HR/FB (4.7%) and his LOB% (88.1%), but since he's throwing fast (91.8 mph on average versus 90.5 last year) it might be a good idea to keep giving him innings.
The Nationals bullpen may be getting a bit lucky right now: Doug Slaten, Tyler Walker, Capps, Burnett, and Clippard all have xFIPs above their career averages. If Soren and English can pitch well and the veterans can maintain their success, however, the bullpen should be all right.
The Nationals fell to the Padres last night in San Diego by a score of 4-2. Mat Latos bumped his record to 5-3 by going 6 innings in which he allowed 4 hits, 2 runs, and struck out 8. J.D. Martin, making his season debut, got the start for Washington and was equally as good going 6 innings 4 hits, and 4 runs…only 1 of them earned.
An error charged to second baseman Adam Kennedy allowed the Pads to get a stranglehold on the game in just the first inning, as Nick Hundley took a Martin pitch over the fence in left center for 3 runs. The Nationals defense has been killing them all season, and last night, it may have cost them the game. That’s one of the things that separate the good teams from the bad. You have to take advantage of the others teams mistakes, and that is why the Padres are off to their surprising 29-20 start.
The Nationals responded in the next half inning by putting up 2 runs thanks to a run scoring hit by who else…Adam Kennedy, and an RBI by Wil Nieves. These would end up being the only runs the Nats could get all night as the Padres bullpen only allowed 1 hit in their 3 innings of work. Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams, and Heath Bell each came in for one inning and racked up 4 total strikeouts, giving the Padres pitching 12 strikeouts for the night.
After Martin’s great start, the up and down Miguel Batista came in and tossed 2 innings of hitless ball, striking out three and only walking 1. After a underwhelming performance in April, Batista has actually enjoyed some success in May, lowering his ERA to 4.31, which is still absurdly high for a relief pitcher but it looks as though he may be turning the page with a string of four consecutive scoreless outings.
The key play in this game was obviously the Kennedy error, but you cant point all the fingers at him for the loss…Washington still had 8 more innings to overcome the miscue but could not capitalize. Latos has emerged to be a top tier starter in the league and is only 22, we will be hearing his name a lot in the years to come. San Diego’s bullpen has the third best ERA in baseball at 3.04 and leads the league in strikeouts with 169, so you have to get to their starters early. Unfortunately for Washington, its not going to be an easy task as they try and avoid a San Diego sweep, as the Padres are sending out the pleasantly surprising Jon Garland and his 2.10, hopefully the Nationals will remember to pack their bats with them for this game.
Pelfrey made his MLB debut way back in 2006, and made some spot starts in 2007, but has become a mainstay in the Mets rotation starting in 2008. Up until this year, Pelfrey struggled; there was no doubt about it. Right when he seemed to be turning a corner, another issue came up, whether it be not being able to avoid the big inning, or his balking fiasco he endured last year, but in 2010 he has finally found himself and is pitching with confidence. I can confidently say that they Mets have two aces at the front end of their rotation with Pelfrey and Johan Santana. Perhaps it has been Johan's tutelage that has turned the page for him, or maybe the other hall of famers he has been surrounded by throughout his career. Names like Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, and Billy Wagner have all strolled through the Mets clubhouse at some point during Pelfrey's career, so he likely has picked up some knowledge from all of them. Mets fans haven't seen a pitching prospect grow before their eyes like this since Doc Gooden, they were due to have one come sooner or later.
The NL East is shaping up to be the most intriguing pennant race of the year, and I can guarantee that the team that comes out on top will be in large part because of the performance of their bullpen. Florida is lucky to be at .500, let alone 3 games out of first place, but they can thank the injured Jimmy Rollins and disappointing Phillies for that. Taylor Tankersley had pitched in the past for the Marlins with some ups and downs but was a decent arm out of the bullpen, but unfortunately, he missed all of 2009 with elbow problems. It's nice to see him make a return to the majors. "Tank" is only 27 and is likely going to be thrown right into the mix to salvage the bullpens rough start. With lefty Renyel Pinto being placed on the DL with hip problems, Tank...being a southpaw himself, will eat up some of his innings.
If you were to tell me that the Phillies would come into Citi Field and get shut out not once, not twice, but threes times, I would have wanted that fifteen seconds of my life back. What makes matters worse is that they didn't even have to face Johan in any of those games, instead they got R.A. Dickey, who was making his second appearance for the Mets, Hisanori Takahasi, the 35 year-old rookie, and Pelfrey. Is this the same Phillie lineup that is dominating the all-star voting? This seems very similar to the scenario that the Mets faced last year and early this year with the absence of Jose Reyes. Without a spark at the top of the lineup it impacts everyone else. Rollins supplied the energy of the dominant Phillie teams of recent years and they are suffering the consequences without him. Now that Reyes is coming back to form, the Mets have been winning...maybe leadoff men have more importance than we thought?
In a game that was protested by Washington, the Nationals played with the most conviction they have had in weeks.
After San Diego starter Clayton Richard had retired the Nationals in order in the first half of the first inning, manager Bud Black realized his own mistake. The official line up card had listed Adam Russell, not Clayton Richard as the starting pitcher for the nights game, the only problem was that Russell was not only not on the mound he wasn't even in the same city as he had been demoted to AAA that day. As a result, manager Jim Riggleman declared the Nats were playing the game under protest.
They didn't need it.
For the second start in a row John Lannan looked like the pitcher that made him the clubs best starter in 2008 and 2009. The lefty pitched seven strong innings, scattering seven hits and allowed only one earned run. While Lannan only struck out one batter, he overcame one of his biggest deamons of the season by walking no batters on the night.
The 25-year-old had struggled with his command this season. A pitcher who made a career off of painting corners and making batters chase junk, Lannan has had poor command over his pitches this year, forcing him to make up for missed strikes with pitches over the plate. In 10 starts this season he has a career high 4.20 BB/9, which is terrible, and his 2.91 K/9 is also the worst of his career. While Lannan may be able to live without the strikeouts, he can not live with the walks.
Things are looking up for the lefty, however. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in his last three starts.
The Nationals bats came out to support Lannan early Friday night. Josh Willingham helped give the Nationals an early lead with a fourth inning three-run homer, and Ian Desmond extended that lead to 4-0 with a solo shot in the seventh inning. While the Nationals only recorded six hits on the night, they managed to score five runs with only eight runners reaching base total.
As you can see the Nationals took control of the game until Matt Capps had a terrible 9th inning.
-Lannan was the most valuable pitcher with .207 WPA
-Willingham was by far the most valuable hitter with a .313 WPA
-Matt Capps escaped with a .030 WPA despite his roller coaster performance, but that's only because he made big outs, despite the fact that he was the one who put himself in the high risk situation.
-Entering the 9th inning the Padres had a 3% chance of winning. At the worst of Matt Capps' performance, they had a 47% chance of winning. That's the opposite of a closers job.