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The Turning Point

Sometimes, baseball makes for a fascinating study in probability. Take Monday's 8-4 victory against the Pirates -- an outcome that gave the Nats a series split and a 4-4 road trip. In the bottom of the fifth, when Garrett Mock (4+ IP, 7 H, 4 BB) was extracted from the game, the Nationals seemed headed for a near-certain loss. The bases were loaded. Mock had just yielded, in order, a walk, a hit and a walk. Eleven of his final 16 pitches were balls. Tyler Clippard entered that bases-loaded, no-outs situation, and the Nats were already down 3-0.

My gamer goes into more detail about the turning point that followed, but I'll add the visual component, courtesy of fangraphs.com, right here.

When Clippard came in to face Delwyn Young, Washington, according to the Win Expectancy data, had a 5.7-percent chance of winning this game.

290803123_Nationals_Pirates_137138665_lbig.png

So what happened? Clippard induced a 1-2-3 double play, then escaped the inning with an Andy LaRoche pop-up. Washington scored a combined eight runs in the next two innings, helped by homers from Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman. It was a complete reversal, all started by the double play.

"For him to come in and shut the door in that situation, that was the game," Dunn said.

"That was really a huge point in the game for us," Jim Riggleman said.

"Unbelievable," Mock said. "Getting the ground ball, fielding his position, making the throw. Then [catcher Josh] Bard, if you look at the replay, he caught the ball, and he knew he had the time to make sure he was on the plate. That's a little thing, and that's the stuff that Riggs has been talking about. It's the stuff we've all been taking ownership of, and he did that, just to make sure he touched home plate... That was a turning point in the game. I think Clip did an unbelievable job, and I'm glad he picked me up."

By Chico Harlan  |  August 3, 2009; 11:33 PM ET
 
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Next: What's Left of the Expos

Comments

Chico, this post and your gamer were GREAT!! Keep it up.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 3, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Very refreshing to watch the Nats perform under Riggleman. Lots of activity in the dugout, short leashes on ineffective pitching, crisp playing. Guzman seems juiced for the first time since who knows when.

We're still overall triple A material, but at least the team's starting to hit on all cylinders, thanks to the manager.

Posted by: JohnRDC | August 3, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Clippard and Burnett look like keepers. Let's hope the contingent that is brought in during the latter season call-ups look better than the rest.

The real test, to see if this teams is really just "AAA" or "AAAA" material comes with this 6 game home stand.

Posted by: periculum | August 3, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Very good points, JohnRDC. Riggs may not be the anti-Manny, but he's a big improvement. Again, I point to leaving Clippard in to get his three innings. He was pitching well, why lift him for a hitter? Riggs is a pro who accepts only a pro's effort. Let's not forget...this was Manny's first big league gig...and it showed. I'm really now pulling for Riggs to get a full shot at 2010. Hey, Lerners: he's here, he works cheap, you will save on the long distance calls and the interviews. Give Riggs the shot. I really, really like the guy.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | August 4, 2009 12:05 AM | Report abuse

that was a manny acta like effort chico....those fan graphs mean nothing. a 5 percent chance of winning in the 5th inning?!? down 3...why not use a ouija board next time? no chicken entrails around??? come on dude

Posted by: formerlylove1 | August 4, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

"That's a little thing, and that's the stuff that Riggs has been talking about. It's the stuff we've all been taking ownership of, and he did that, just to make sure he touched home plate."

Imagine that, a Nats player talking about the manager's positive influence in post-game comments after a win.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | August 4, 2009 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Great gamer, Chico! It truly was a turnaround, in a prayer to salvage a split against the rent-a-pirates (not to mention the road trip that started 2-0).

My unscientific charts of probabilities of going .500 on an 8-game road trip sure looked a lot different after game 2 in Milwaukee than after game 6 in Pittsburgh. A couple good efforts to get 2 Ws at the end to bookend the road trip.

Sad to take so much pleasure in a .500 trip after winning the first 2, but I'll take what we can get! Clippard has been money -- throw strikes, no walks, and work quickly. Go get 'em.

See y'all at the park for Nick-nite on Tuesday.

Posted by: mo_dc | August 4, 2009 12:44 AM | Report abuse

oh, one thing that was overlooked was a couple lackadaisical (sp?) throws by Zimm. One was charged an error on Belly at first, and the second, in the 9th, cost Kensing some serious ERA points when the double-play wasn't fulfilled and the AARGHs got another run with 2 out.

Zimm, even though you made a couple good plays, you gotta buy Kensing dinner for that one!
(and speaking of good plays, that Cedeno at short is pretty special on the D side - not so hot at the dish though).

Posted by: mo_dc | August 4, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Has anybody noticed that the Nationals do not SUCK under Jim Riggleman? It has only been 19 games, but they are 8-11 (.421) since the All Star break.

In case you were wondering, or forgot, the team was 4-15 in their first 19 games of the season under Manny Acta.

Posted by: ZAMBEZI | August 4, 2009 5:41 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the home run, Dunn. However, watching you play first base is a horror show. The official scorer was very generous to you tonight. It will be interesting to compare Marrero's current defense at first (where by all accounts he is learning a position) to what Dunn exhibits for the next two months.

Posted by: driley | August 4, 2009 6:10 AM | Report abuse

Turning point indeed.... after this 4-4 road trip, we are only 24.5 games out of the wild card!

Hope springs eternal!

Posted by: kevinx | August 4, 2009 7:16 AM | Report abuse

Just throwing this out there: according to even to Jim Riggelman himself, they're not doing anything Acta wasn't doing already. Personnel, personnel, personnel.

And evenm that, we can't be sure of, since Acta also had an 8-11 stretch from April 22 to May 12.

To be clear: I have no problem with Riggelman succeeding and becoming a better manager than Manny Acta was. That would be a great thing. But it's really important to stay grounded in reality and to set objective measures so we can reflect on what has really happened, not just have a "shampoo is better!" back and forth.

Posted by: Section506 | August 4, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

ZAMBEZI - The Marlins are coming to town so this may be Riggle's true test. The Nats just can't seem to beat these guys.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | August 4, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Uh oh! The Nats lead in the Bryce Harper Derby has slipped to only eight games in the loss column. Time to do some scoreboard watching.

Posted by: twinbrook | August 4, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Zambezi - Have you noticed that there is no one in the bullpen from when Manny managed in May? Have you noticed that last night Tyler Clippard didn't fall backwards and balk in a run with the bases loaded like he did in Houston? What, was Manny pushing him backwards then and Riggleman holding him up last night? Must've missed that.

Posted by: flynnie2 | August 4, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Chico, when you reference your gamer in NJ, can you help make sure they include the link to the gamer itself? Makes it easier to go read it, and I'm sure your bosses would love the higher click through and time spent on the site.

Posted by: ckstevenson | August 4, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Chico, when you reference your gamer in NJ, can you help make sure they include the link to the gamer itself? Makes it easier to go read it, and I'm sure your bosses would love the higher click through and time spent on the site.

Posted by: ckstevenson | August 4, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

--

Or you could buy the dead tree and contribute to Chico's kids' college fund... I know, I know, why buy it if they're dumb enough to give it away for free... But someone is going to have to pay for Chico's fangraphs subscription.

Posted by: cdstej | August 4, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I am as excited about last night's win as anybody, but can we tone down the "Riggleman for permanent manager" talk please? The man is 530-663 in his managerial career. That's only a .444 winning percentage. It may be better than Acta, but I'd prefer somebody with a history of winning and good baseball. The Nationals are 8-11 under Riggleman- still under .500 (.421 to be exact). I really have higher expectations than this (long term anyways) for the Nationals and for the next Nationals manager.

Good luck to Riggs- I think he is an improvement over Acta for this team and I'm happy to see he appears to have given them a shot in the arm (figuratively speaking- I do not think he's giving them steroids) and a kick in the behind. But as a long term solution, lets look for either an experienced, proven winner or somebody who will be a winner for years to come. Riggleman fits neither of those categories.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | August 4, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

"I think he is an improvement over Acta for this team and I'm happy to see he appears to have given them a shot in the arm (figuratively speaking- I do not think he's giving them steroids) and a kick in the behind."

Of course not. If he was giving them steroids it would be a shot in the behind!

Posted by: Section506 | August 4, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I don't think anyone is getting too carried away with this really. I think it's just a relief for us to be watching the team play at it's natural level rather than way below it.

When Riggleman says he is doing nothing differently that is probably just a gentleman being respectful of his former co-worker.

The Riggleman change is more likely down to simply with a change comes a fresh start and the players no longer feel they are carrying around their past failures. I'm sure he is a good coach but there are a lot of good coaches.

Posted by: soundbloke | August 4, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

"that was a manny acta like effort chico....those fan graphs mean nothing. a 5 percent chance of winning in the 5th inning?!? down 3...why not use a ouija board next time? no chicken entrails around??? come on dude

Posted by: formerlylove1 | August 4, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse "
------------------------
those probability odds are drawn from a huge data sample, all MLB games over decades. Your comment is drawn from a smaller data sample - your head.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | August 4, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

If any of you need a reason to root harder for the Nats against the Fish today, just read this:

http://brightorangeseats.com/2009/08/04/how-can-one-team-be-so-bad-oh-right-its-the-nationals/

And as for a manager next year, I am totally for Bobby Valentine. The man can pull a young team up from the depths, even if he can't put them over the top for a championship.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | August 4, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I doubt Bobby V would be manager. Afterall, we are talking about the cheap Lerners. Bobby V's price is too high. Think: retaining Riggleman on an interim basis for another year at his bench coach salary.

Posted by: dclifer97 | August 4, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

>Have you noticed that last night Tyler Clippard didn't fall backwards and balk in a run with the bases loaded like he did in Houston? What, was Manny pushing him backwards then and Riggleman holding him up last night? Must've missed that.

Posted by: flynnie2

Riggleman pushed him forward. The way you're supposed to.

Posted by: Brue | August 4, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

>To be clear: I have no problem with Riggelman succeeding and becoming a better manager than Manny Acta was.

Posted by: Section506

That's very generous of you. A german shepherd with a Nats hat on would be a better manager than Acta.

Posted by: Brue | August 4, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

We mock that which we do not understand...

Those fangraphs are collected and analyzed for thousands of MLB games.

And as for the situation, what the fangraphs is saying is - that, down 3-0, bases loaded, no outs in the fifth inning - out of everygame that was in that situation, only 5.6% of the teams that were losing at that point went on to win the game. Or about 1 out of 18 games.


--------------------------------------
that was a manny acta like effort chico....those fan graphs mean nothing. a 5 percent chance of winning in the 5th inning?!? down 3...why not use a ouija board next time? no chicken entrails around??? come on dude

Posted by: formerlylove1 | August 4, 2009 12:29 AM

Posted by: comish4lif | August 4, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Good one dclifer97.

Anyone who doesn't see and feel the difference under Riggs isn't watching the same games as I am. Some of the players have changed but so has the team's attitude and Karma!

Bobby V would be a good choice and provide some entertainment value. I Remember when he was thrown out of a game as the Mets manager and an inning later showed up in the dug out with a mustach and glasses "disguise."

Posted by: alm1000 | August 4, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

So far, of the two, I think interim Rizzo has done far more to deserve a long-term deal than interim Riggs. Not saying Riggs shouldn't be given consideration, but his body of work here is small and his record over the long haul doesn't suggest he's the guy. But Rizzo has proven (to me anyway) that he deserves a chance to build this thing.

Posted by: cdstej | August 4, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Wow...harsh stuff...probably written by a pimply 16 year old who uses the power of the internet to use fancy words like cluster**** without getting sent to his room.

_______________________________________________________

If any of you need a reason to root harder for the Nats against the Fish today, just read this:

http://brightorangeseats.com/2009/08/04/how-can-one-team-be-so-bad-oh-right-its-the-nationals/

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | August 4, 2009 10:31 AM

Posted by: TimDz | August 4, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Nats are playing so much better under Riggleman. First time poster here, wanted to share a Strasburg petition that's going around and I stumbled upon (I didn't create it, a friend showed me). I think we get him signed, but I still think it's fun to see Nats fan support the cause anyway.

http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/signstephenstrasburg

P.S. Anyone going to tonight's game?

Posted by: signstrasburg | August 4, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"Anyone who doesn't see and feel the difference under Riggs isn't watching the same games as I am. Some of the players have changed but so has the team's attitude and Karma!"

You could also be one who doesn't believe attitude has any meaningful effect whatsoever on outcomes, over the aggregate. In fact, you might believe attitude itself is more properly explained as a dependent variable to W-L than the other way around. If you believed such a thing, you might look at the recent stretch, recognize it is not outside of the experience already had by the team this year, and want to reserve judgment some time until more data is gathered.

Or you can just love the attitude and enjoy it. Just don't assume if others enjoy the game differently they're automatically wrong.

Posted by: Section506 | August 4, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I bookmarked that page to go back and comment when we take 2 of 3 from the fish.

Fry the fish!

I'm going Thursday and of course Saturday for Dunn Bobblehead.

Posted by: alm1000 | August 4, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I've had a heck of a time signing into this place...... but am finally here. I just want you to know I've been watching the Nationals since they came to D.C. I love the team for personal reasons as well as their spirit. I am still sad about Nick Johnson and I wish him the best. He was my favorite -- great baseball personality and attitude. I will watch the game today and hope to comment in here occasionally. I read this everyday! Go get 'em, Nats!!!

Posted by: susandea | August 4, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

This may not be popular but I would still like to see what is out there for Dunn. Willigham could cover first, or even Belliard, until the end of the season and Dunn may still fetch a really quality long term piece.

Posted by: soundbloke | August 4, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I've had a heck of a time signing into this place......
>>> You are actually Strasburg?

but am finally here. I just want you to know I've been watching the Nationals since they came to D.C.
>>> Hopefully you still have your sight

I love the team for personal reasons as well as their spirit.
>>> The everlasting spirit of a team in the cellar.

I am still sad about Nick Johnson and I wish him the best.
>>> You'll fit right in.

He was my favorite -- great baseball personality and attitude.
>>> Obviously, he had to go

I will watch the game today and hope to comment in here occasionally.
>>> Probably under multiple userIDs

I read this everyday! Go get 'em, Nats!!!
>>> Incidentally, you may be the most positive Nats fan ever.

Posted by: dclifer97 | August 4, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Great to watch a major league team do what is more then expected. Make plays, do the little things, beat the tar out of the ball, make pitches count and win.

Not saying that there has be a evolutionary change in management styles but its becomong obvious that Riggs has a plan every night and its beginning to pay some dividends. 56 games left, if they split and win 28 it makes them even with 2008. Not the best scenario but think back a month or so ago and this team was on pace for 120 +/- 5.

Mets,Braves, Marlins should start to take some notice, next year will be different.

Great job Chico!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | August 4, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Jim Riggleman's W/L record barely tells the story as he has been the recipient of very bad teams.

Jim took over a bad Padres team in 1992 and then the baseball strike hit.

He went to the Cubs in 1995 and took over the Cubs from Tom Trebelhorn when they were last place and took them to the playoffs in 1998. Back in those days, the Cubs were a low budget team.

Then he had mop up duty last year with the Mariners.

When a manager has the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs (circa 2000-present), Mets, Dodgers, Angels, then you can probably judge them more effectively by Won/Loss.

Based on a 162 game season, Jim basically has 7 full seasons under his belt, and he has a career .444 Win % which conicidentally would have put the Nats this year in that 72 win mark (based on 162 games) which was where the experts expected the Nats to be (70-75 wins) in the pre-season predictions.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | August 4, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Soundbloke-

I'm with you as far as trading Dunn if the right deal is out there. But please don't bring up Ronnie Belliard as a viable option for...well, anything. Ever again. I don't want Ronnie Belliard to play Ronnie Belliard in a play entitled "Ronnie Belliard: I Am Ronnie Belliard" at this point. Tell your kids: Just say "No!" to drugs. And Ronnie Belliard.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | August 4, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to show NJ we appreciated him tonight, but after that, I just pray he doesn't help beat the Nats. It'll be a challenge, with Josh Johnson going for the Fish, who I've come to hate (OK, part of it is envy -- see Sheinin today).

Posted by: nats24 | August 4, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

susandea: Welcome to the zoo. Please don't feed the animals (except for Flynnie, who merits full care and feeding).

Posted by: Bethesdangit | August 4, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

While I'm not sure I agree with the sentiment, this made me laugh pretty hard:

"I don't want Ronnie Belliard to play Ronnie Belliard in a play entitled "Ronnie Belliard: I Am Ronnie Belliard" at this point. "

Posted by: Section506 | August 4, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Do you realize that since Davey Johnson was booted out of Baltimore in 1997 after leading the Orioles to the playoffs, the Orioles have never had a winning season since.

The O's current Manager Dave Trembley in his 3 seasons with the O's has a .423 W/L %.

This is just a good comparison to Jim Riggleman to see what the team to the North is at.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | August 4, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

What is your correlation, GoingGoingGone? Are you suggesting baseball is magic?

Posted by: Section506 | August 4, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Cheeseburger

Absolutely hilarious. I was just thinking of someone backing up Willigham at 1st is we trade Dunn. Throwing names out there if you will.

Posted by: soundbloke | August 4, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

"if we trade Dunn"

Oops.

Posted by: soundbloke | August 4, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

While I'm not sure I agree with the sentiment, this made me laugh pretty hard:

"I don't want Ronnie Belliard to play Ronnie Belliard in a play entitled "Ronnie Belliard: I Am Ronnie Belliard" at this point. "

Posted by: Section506

+++++++++

me too. huh-LAR-ious!

Posted by: NatsNut | August 4, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Here's a question: if Dunn went to the waiver wire, and was claimed by two teams with identical records on the day they issued the claims, who would have priority?

What if their records changed while negotiations were ongoing, before the deadline?

Posted by: Section506 | August 4, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"I don't want Ronnie Belliard to play Ronnie Belliard in a play entitled "Ronnie Belliard: I Am Ronnie Belliard"

I can nommunates cheezburger for Post Uv Da Dai?

Posted by: Scooter_ | August 4, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

GoingGoingGone-

Even if he inherited bad teams and he took the Cubs to the playoffs, then he had a losing season, then he lost 94 games. Then they won for a season, then they lost 95 games. I don't know what the difference was in those years he went to the playoffs, but I would prefer a manager who can win more consistantly than that.

Yes, winning 1 out of 3 years would be an improvement over the current state of affairs, but I want to see a .500+ record more than 1 out of 3. Maybe Riggleman can do better with a bigger budget, but the Nats clearly are not offering that right now. Lets try somebody who offers a better chance at success.

Another thought on the future of this team: I don't want to see a whole lot of similarities between 2009 and the 2010 organization. I want a different coaching staff (as the guys in place have been around for either 1 or 2 seasons as the worst team in baseball) chosen by a permanent manager. I want that manager to be chosen by a permanent GM. I would prefer a baseball GM take over all baseball responsibilities and let Kasten back off and get back to selling tickets and guiding budgets. I also want a re-vamped team on the field. There must be some carry-over (Zimmerman, hopefully Morgan and Flores, probably Dunn and Hammer but I would like to see either or both traded) but for the most part I want a team, manager and coaching staff that looks very different from the team and staff that lost 103 games last year and likely 110+ games this year. I don't understand this desire to keep the losing pieces around- they've done nothing positive for the last 2 years.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | August 4, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

and may I say, I wasn't a big Partridge Family fan, but I loved you in L.A. Law.
*************
susandea: Welcome to the zoo. Please don't feed the animals (except for Flynnie, who merits full care and feeding).
Posted by: Bethesdangit | August 4, 2009 12:02 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 4, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

ooooooh, good one!

*************
those probability odds are drawn from a huge data sample, all MLB games over decades. Your comment is drawn from a smaller data sample - your head.
Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | August 4, 2009 10:07 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 4, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

cheeseburger no can haz post-of-dai. iz to errly.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 4, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

OK, if JiM says so, I guess it's late enough.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 4, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I worked with a guy like that once: giving the staff a kick in the arm and a shot in the behind was his management style. Excellent at twisting butts and kissing arms, too.

*************
"I think he is an improvement over Acta for this team and I'm happy to see he appears to have given them a shot in the arm (figuratively speaking- I do not think he's giving them steroids) and a kick in the behind."

Of course not. If he was giving them steroids it would be a shot in the behind!

Posted by: Section506 | August 4, 2009 9:36 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 4, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

@Susandea: Welcome to NJ. You'll find a few other optimists like you in the group, such as Natsfan1a1 and Nats_Lady. You WILL be in the minority though... lots of jaded Nats fans in here.

@Sec3: She WAS great in LA Law, huh? Good to have her back.

@Cheeseburger: Possibly the post of the year. Still laughing. Co-workers are looking at me funny.

Posted by: outsider6 | August 4, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

not much left of this post, but there's a new one dawning.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 4, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

ugh- that name was not meant to be a reference to ICanHazCheezeburger! I set up an email for subscriptions so I didn't deal with spam mail in my regular email box, and I must have been hungry when I chose the email address name. Now, WaPo won't let me change my user ID to something else.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | August 4, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Cheeseburger - I see the cup as 1/2 full and was definitely torn as far as Manny Acta's tenure went as I thought he did the best he could do.

To me, I look pre-season at the 25 man roster coming out of Spring Training and predict the W/L for the year.

I expected a 73 win season and went on record with that because the Nats had to face the toughest AL division this year with the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, etc. so I didn't see how they could win much more than 75 games given the bullpen and question marks on the starting pitching and the lack of defense.

Now struggling to get to 60 wins may not even be doable given the record Riggleman inherited, but given where this team was just 2 weeks ago, 60 wins would be a huge accomplishment with 56 games on the schedule.

So 60 wins would require a 26-30 for the rest of the way.

I think if Riggleman got you that he deserves a parade in his honor!!!!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | August 4, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

OMG!! I just found all these responses and the humor in here....... lol.... I SHALL

Posted by: susandea | August 4, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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