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Ivan Rodriguez still not slowing down

It seemed like Ivan Rodriguez had started slowing down, which at some point is what you'd expect to happen to a 38-year-old catcher. Rodriguez entered last night 5 for 22 in May. "Hits weren't coming as often lately," Manager Jim Riggleman said.

And then Rodriguez defied convention again last night. He went 4 for 4 with a double a crucial RBI single that gave the Nationals 3-1 lead, a cushion the Nationals desperately needed with their two best relievers getting the night off.

Rodriguez is batting .393 in 96 plate appearances, which would tie him for the major league lead with Andre Ethier if Rodriguez qualified -- he's currently three shy of the 99 plate appearances it would take to qualify for the title at this point. (It's 3.1 plate appearances per team game.)

While Rodriguez is bound to regress, the 35 hits Rodriguez has already aren't going away. He could go 0 for next 40 and still be hitting .271. If he hits .250 over his next 400 at-bats, Rodriguez will be hitting .276 late in the season. So long as he keeps mixing the same rate of doubles and walks, his production this season will surpass anything the Nationals could have hoped for.

Over the past two years combined, Rodriguez batted .262 with a .688 OPS. By any measure, he had become a below-average offensive player. He was still a solid defensive player, one of the best defensive catchers all-time in winter. And he fit the Nationals' plans.

"I don't think it's a coincidence that you bring in seven World Series [participants] into the clubhouse and onto the field and the performance level goes up," Mike Rizzo said. "That was what our plan was."

Rodriguez tweaked his swing this offseason to accentuate his best attribute as hitter, his legendarily quick wrists. He shelved power -- he's got one home run, and most of his 11 doubles have on line drives to the corner, several going the opposite. He made his stroke simple and efficient and let those wrists work for him.

"He's gone through a lot of changes in his career," Ryan Zimmerman said. "He's been a guy who hits a lot of homers, a guy who hits for average. And now I think he's kind of figured out what his role is. He's willing to accept whatever he has to do. He doesn't try and do too much."

Rodriguez keeps himself in impeccable shape, so much that Jim Riggleman said, "he's preparing himself to play a few more years." Rodriguez is "always in the weight room," Riggleman said. Zimmerman called him "a tireless worker." About 19 years after he first appeared in a major league game, another label still fits Rodriguez.

Said Riggleman: "He's pretty special."

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 11, 2010; 12:14 PM ET
 
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Comments

First to say I was wrong. Bigtime. Pudge has been real special and a pleasure to watch. Great Get!

Posted by: dovelevine | May 11, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I knew he'd bring the intangibles but I think we were all wrong about how well he would be playing. I think some of the great play is directly attributable to his understanding that he is not only wanted here in DC, but NEEDED. Not only is he inspiring, but he is inspired.

Posted by: shanks1 | May 11, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Pudge not slowing down at plate, but he was gassed on his way home in the top 6th. That steal of second was a shock to his system, and a shock to both dugouts.

Posted by: joemktg1 | May 11, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure but I think he may have had to go in that situation. Something for someone to ask about?

The guy is a catcher. They aren't renowned for speed even when they are young ... sheesh.

Posted by: periculum | May 11, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

So many here probably thought Pudge was AAAA player. They like to opine on that topic. Right now probably the best catcher in the history of the franchise.

Posted by: periculum | May 11, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Hated the signing (I'm a huge fan of Flores. Didn't think his injury was this bad). Glad I was wrong though... Pudge has been awesome.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | May 11, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

You're including Carter, I take it? I won't disagree.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 11, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Pudge watched film and rediscovered what made him a great hitter for average pre-roids and that is why he is doing so well now. He stopped swinging like he was still juiced up and went back to what made him a phenom coming up, a short compact swing with a lot of bat speed. I thought he was worth the money for his ability to work with the young pitchers so any offensive production let alone leading the league in batting is icing on the cake and maybe some ice cream on the side.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | May 11, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

OK, I'll call.
What evidence you got?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 11, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Oh and can we just go ahead and DFA Bruney already, no other team will pick him up and if they do let those fans watch him throw balls against the backstop when the game is on the line. Remember all that talk in the preseason about how pitches mean and is a really intense guy who came here to pitch the 9th, what a tool. Maybe if he stopped taking himself so seriously and let someone teach him how to pitch he might actually be a pretty good reliever.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | May 11, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Canseco's book?
OK, FWIW.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 11, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

BTW (things happen fast--so just a reminder) last week the Nats had to face, Hanson, Hudson, Volstad and Josh Johnson and we won 3 of those 4 and knocked Hanson out before losing that one. That's pretty freakin impressive. I mean really inpressive!

Posted by: dovelevine | May 11, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Off topic, but I have a question for any and all.

One of the wonderful things about baseball statistics are their symmetry. Every out or hit recorded by a batter is also recording by a pitcher, so stats that make sense for one should make sense for another. This is what drives me nuts about this new BABIP stat. Would anyone suggest that we should figure an offensive player's value the same way - assuming that any ball put in play that does not go over the fence is "luck" if it ends up a hit? That would be ludicrous. There would be a ton of high K hitters who suddenly would look like Ty Cobb. Pitching to contact and getting opposing hitters to strike the ball on the handle or end of the bat is part of pitching, just like squaring up a nasty slider is part of hitting.

Has anyone ever seen this addressed anywhere? I'd like to get a better understanding of the rationale behind BABIP.

#4

Posted by: db423 | May 11, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm still trying to figure out SIERA which I am told may be a better way to measure the current franchise's success. As a catcher and player have to figure Pudge's stats in that area would be very, very high.

Posted by: periculum | May 11, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Major differences on the field between 2009 and 2010:
a) two sizzling guys in the bullpen, b)Livo and c) Pudge.

Livo and the bullpen were -- comparatively -- lucky calls by Rizzo. Pudge was a great move. Last year we had to make do with two crappy catchers. This year we've got a pro who not only energizes the pitchers and the line-up --- he hits like a madman.

April/May 2010 Face of the Franchise? Ivan Rodriguez!

Posted by: nattydread1 | May 11, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Not to mention his defense and work with the pitchers has been impressive.

Posted by: Tom8 | May 11, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Ooops SIERA is for pitchers not catchers or position players I guess? I thought it had to do with defense ...

Posted by: periculum | May 11, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

As for Pudge versus Carter. Carter got to the Series with the '86 Mets right?

Consider this: if this team gets over .500 ... 10 games or above a rare and almost unheard of reversal, with a pitching staff that isn't all the different from last years' (sans Strasburg at this point in the season)? I should think the better pitching end of things might be in large part due to having Pudge behind the plate?

If his offense continues as it has?

I don't think Carter ever lead this franchise to such a dramatic reversal? Did he?

Posted by: periculum | May 11, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

db423:
Think of it this way; A pitcher has three possible outcomes when facing a hitter - a walk, a strikeout, or a ball-in-play. BABIP gives a simple measurement of how well (or poorly) hitters are performing against a pitcher & his defense.

Posted by: BinM | May 11, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Regarding symmetry of statistics: OBP for batters includes HBP, right? But WHIP for pitchers doesn't include HBP, right? Just one of my pet peeves regarding the new stats (of which WHIP is one of the easier ones to comprehend).
Also, I would subtract BA from OPS, so it would mean something in terms of bases produced per AB. That, or use Boswell's Total Average instead (look it up on baseball-reference.com).

Posted by: bertbkatz | May 11, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Carter came up when they were a fairly new franchise, and the first several years of his career, the team didn't do much. By the 80s, he was playing with some pretty good teams, so it's hard to compare them that way.

Carter was with the Expos for about ten years, IIRC, and Pudge has been here for about four months, and that's counting spring training. I'm just really glad to have him here.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 11, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

"OBP for batters includes HBP, right? But WHIP for pitchers doesn't include HBP, right?"

Correct, but I'm having trouble with the concept advanced by #4 that you should be considering batting statistics in relation to pitching statistics. I understand the desire for elegance, but - as with all inferential statistics - as soon as you start slicing raw numbers up to get averages you're coming up with a value that has meaning only to a specific individual. From there, you use that value to compare to other individuals in order to reach a judgment about how individuals rank in one area of the game.

I'm not sure when it is you would want to be comparing, for example, the amount of times a player gets on base to the amount of walks or hits in an inning pitched in order to come to a judgment about which is the better player between those two.

I'm intrigued, though, so continue!

Posted by: Section506 | May 11, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

A lot of hitters could learn from Pudge also. I believe that of his 4 hits last night 2 were to right, 1 to center and 1 to left. A great clinic on going with the pitch.

Posted by: slewis1 | May 11, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I would be interested in knowing whether Eckstein played any part in this new approach by Pudge.

Posted by: JohninMpls | May 11, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

506:

I made my point clumsily. I did not mean to intimate that BABIPs for pitchers and hitters should be compared in order to measure their relative worth.

My point rather is that you cannot use a premise to measure pitchers that can't also be applied to hitters - i.e. that so much luck is involved in determining whether all balls put in play are hits or not that you should come up with a stat (BABIP) that eliminates them.

That's my beef.

#4

Posted by: db423 | May 11, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Pudge is one of the many good stories about this team this season and one of the most unexpected. I hope he can finish the season in good shape and hitting .285. Bruney did the job last night. I think he bought himself a few more appearances. I wonder if rain is in the forecast for NYC tonight.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | May 11, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

>>I wonder if rain is in the forecast for NYC tonight.

Sunny skies in NY today. Looks like it could be a rainout tomorrow though.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 11, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

"My point rather is that you cannot use a premise to measure pitchers that can't also be applied to hitters - i.e. that so much luck is involved in determining whether all balls put in play are hits or not that you should come up with a stat (BABIP) that eliminates them."

Luck is probably not the best term to use in characterizing what the BABIP stat is about. Randomness or chance would be better, because what the stat is really for is to isolate a factor that the pitcher has absolutely no control over - namely whether a ball that gets hit inside the park will be an out or not - and use it to illuminate another pitching stat, BA Against. A high BAA on its surface would look bad, but if it is accompanied by a BABIP that is significantly higher than the statistical norm then it's not as bad as it looks. On the opposite end, if the BABIP is significantly lower than the norm then the BAA is probably worse than it looks. In both cases the reason is that a particular BAA is really not sustainable in the long run if the accompanying BABIP is not close to the norm. Basically what the BABIP is for is to tell you which direction the BAA is going to go as it regresses to the mean.

And actually, although I don't think anyone does it you could use a batter's BABIP as a way of determing whether or not his average is sustainable in the long run, all other factors remaining the same (i.e. no change in K rate, walk rate, etc, which as it happens also is the case on the pitching side of things.)

Posted by: nunof1 | May 11, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Here is a preferred sabermetric device used by some of us historians to determine success: W = 18; L = 14

:)

Posted by: lowcountry | May 11, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Hendo seems to think SIERA has some validity as a measure for a team like the Nats in place of "luck". I think he does something similar for a living so its definitely worth considering:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=10027

With that in mind, we have invented a new statistic, Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average (SIERA), which corrects the problems with old estimators while adding a few more realistic assumptions. This was done first by un-foiling all of the individual components in QERA while making an adjustment for the issue with the ground-ball denominator issue, and testing to see which interactions and squared terms were relevant by using multiple linear regression analysis. Essentially, we changed the GB/BIP to (GB-FB-PU)/PA and evaluated all of the terms in the exponential regression, removing those with insignificant p-values; while the QERA formula only shows three variables, un-foiling the formula reveals several more. We identified two terms that were not useful: the squared term of walks, and the interaction between walk and strikeout rate. The squared terms on strikeout and ground-ball rates were both significant, and we also found important interactions between walks and grounders and between whiffs and grounders that have strong effects on run scoring.

As a result, SIERA accomplishes the following:

Allows for the fact that a high ground-ball rate is more useful to pitchers who walk more batters, due to the potential that double plays wipe away runners.
Allows for the fact that a low fly-ball rate (and therefore, a low HR rate) is less useful to pitchers who strike out a lot of batters (e.g. Johan Santana's FIP tends to be higher than his ERA because the former treats all HR the same, even though Santana’s skill set portends this bombs allowed will usually be solo shots).
Allows for the fact that adding strikeouts is more useful when you don't strike out many guys to begin with, since more runners get stranded.
Allows for the fact that adding ground balls is more useful when you already allow a lot of ground balls because there are frequently runners on first.
Corrects for the fact that QERA used GB/BIP instead of GB/PA (e.g. Joel Pineiro is all contact, so increasing his ground-ball rate means more ground balls than if Oliver Perez had done it, given he's not a high contact guy).
Corrects for the fact that FIP and xFIP use IP as a denominator which means that luck on balls in play changes one's FIP.

Posted by: periculum | May 11, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Right on lowcountry!!

Posted by: dargregmag | May 11, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

lowcountry, Esteemed Monarch of the Descriptive Statistic!

Interesting point on symmetry, #4, I'll have to mull on that one a bit.

With regards to BABIP specifically, I also have a problem with it, but not because of luck. Luck is really just chance, and, over a long enough period of time, should be normalized among players (i.e., no one is luckier than anyone else).

I DO have a big problem with it because it relies on so much data outside the control of the individual. Specifically:

- Fielder ability. Playing a game with Zim and Desmond on the left side is going to substantially reduce BABIP over playing with Kennedy and Guzman, for example.

- Ballpark size and shape. BABIP will be higher in Citizen Banks Park than at Citi Field, since so many more balls are catchable.

Posted by: Section506 | May 11, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

The numbers and stats Pudge has this season are great. What else is great are the invaluable lessons (if they're paying attention) his teammates are getting by witnessing his work ethic, how he goes about his business in preparing to play the game.

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 11, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I'll have to say when they signed Pudge i said another StanK get the people in the stands signing, but Pudge has been invaluable to this pitching staff forget his bat(that's a bonus) it's the confidence that he gives these young guys and when he and Livan are the battery's opposing hitters don't stand a chance i'm hoping that Flores can come back this season so he and Pudge can work together.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 11, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

... have shown us that strikeouts have a diminishing return as you accrue more of them, ground balls have an increasing return the higher your tally, and ground balls are more beneficial to pitchers who allow more walks or balls in play, especially because fly balls are more detrimental to pitchers who allow more runners on base.

Posted by: periculum | May 11, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"Randomness or chance would be better, because what the stat is really for is to isolate a factor that the pitcher has absolutely no control over - namely whether a ball that gets hit inside the park will be an out or not - and use it to illuminate another pitching stat..."

That's my point nunof. How can anyone say that a pitcher has "absolutely no control" over whether the balls put in play against him are hits are not? If a pitcher consistently locates his pitches and changes speeds, the ball will not be hit as crisply; therefore more balls will be caught. Of course a pitcher has some control over that. The point is that over the course of a season, the "luck" evens out. That's why I think BABIP is useless.

#4

Posted by: db423 | May 11, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Off-topic: Phillies handed three extra home games. Thanks Bud :-/

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5180700

Posted by: Kev29 | May 11, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

"I DO have a big problem with it because it relies on so much data outside the control of the individual."

That's the whole point of it. Look at factors outside the control of an individual, compare the individual's score with the statistically normal score, and then you have a measure of how much of that individual's assessment (based on other stats) is due to factors within his control, and how much is due to factors outside his control. The theory being that if you look good (or bad) primarily due to things outside your control, then you're not really as good (or bad) as you look.

Posted by: nunof1 | May 11, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

We sat right behind the camera well at the home dugout Sunday. Rizzo/Lerner/Kasten to the left of me, dugout to the right, on deck hitters sort of in front depending on where they stood. When the players were milling around before the game, when Pudge came out he just had a presence about him that drew my and my wife's attention. He carried himself like somebody special, in a good way. I wish I could describe it better, but it was obvious that this was somebody who mattered, who knew how to lead, and loved it. His bearing was the same throughout the game. Rizzo definitely knew what he was doing to bring some intangibles to the team.

Another guy who impressed in a different way was Livo - utterly relaxed, teasing the ball boy by acting like he was going to beat him to a foul ball, having fun.

Posted by: utec | May 11, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Off-topic: Phillies handed three extra home games. Thanks Bud :-/

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5180700
------------------------------------------

Waiting for one of the usual suspects to jump in now and try to pin this on Kasten.

Posted by: nunof1 | May 11, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the Toronto fans will arrange bus tours to attend the series in Philadelphia?

Posted by: lowcountry | May 11, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

These are still home games for Toronto. They'll just be played in Philly, in front of 40,000 Philly fans and this guy from Toronto who got a job in Philly.
But they will be played with a DH, with Toronto batting in the bottom of the inning.

This is Kasten's fault for not insisting the G20 summit be held to Philly.

(Instead, he went on Philly radio and invited all the Philly fans to Toronto for the summit)


Off-topic: Phillies handed three extra home games. Thanks Bud :-/

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5180700
------------------------------------------

Posted by: Sunderland | May 11, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Re Phillie's extra games. That is just absurd. So, if we have foreign dignitaries in DC (not that THAT would ever happen!) we have to give our games up to Philly or NY or some other "safe" place? Ridiculous! Or is Bud saying that the Canadians can't manage security? They sure had no trouble managing the Caps!

I mean really, this is just ridiculous. If you let them, the security people will shut down the world in order to eliminate all possibility of risk. That may be in their natures, but it doesn't mean the rest of us should acquiesce. Tell the people to get there two hours early and let them play ball!

Posted by: NatsFly | May 11, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I got baited by nunof1

Posted by: Sunderland | May 11, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

They should at least play the series in Montreal. I'd be pissed if I were Canada.

Posted by: Sunderland | May 11, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

As a condition of playing those games in Philly, stadium security should be instructed to tase any fan who boos during O Canada. That should neutralize the park long enough for them to get the game in.

Posted by: nunof1 | May 11, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Or Buffalo . . .
_______________________
They should at least play the series in Montreal. I'd be pissed if I were Canada.

Posted by: Sunderland | May 11, 2010 3:25 PM

Posted by: lowcountry | May 11, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

My post of the day candidate:

Here is a preferred sabermetric device used by some of us historians to determine success: W = 18; L = 14

:)

Posted by: lowcountry |

My kind of post, lowcountry!

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | May 11, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

#4, I agree with you that BABIP is a useless stat to the extent that people think it just reflects luck, and not a pitcher's skill. I'm linking to an article from the Hardball Times that I think gets to the point you are suggesting. BABIP is not simply reflective of luck, because pitchers can do a good (or bad) job with respect to command and changing speeds, and pitchers can thus influence the *type* of contact that a hitter gets.

To suggest that BABIP is simply reflective of luck over which a pitcher has no control would mean, essentially, that Greg Maddux was just lucky his entire career. And to the extent there is a "luck" aspect to BABIP, I agree with you and 506 that it should even out over time. I guess the question there is the time horizon.

Here's what I think is the money quote from the article linked to below:

"Chalking up BABIP as merely the result of chance outcomes does disservice to pitchers’ skill at preventing solid contact, which is the essence of pitching. Tossing a coin is chance, not skill, because you can’t control the result by how you flip the coin. Pitchers demonstrate skill in their control over the hardness of hitter contact, which indirectly but positively affects outcomes on in-park batted balls.

"BABIP inevitably includes a random element because of the many unpredictable external events involved in a putout. After a recent loss to the Giants, Tom Glavine complained that “When their guys are hitting ground balls, I’m doing my job. I’m just not getting the results. There’s nothing I can say to make people understand when you go out there, do what you want to do, make the pitches and you don’t get the results.” That’s BABIP luck, the disconnect between pitching skill and batted ball outcome."

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/a-different-look-at-babip/

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 11, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

They should at least play the series in Montreal. I'd be pissed if I were Canada.

Posted by: Sunderland | May 11, 2010 3:25 PM
_____________________________________________

Most of Canada hates Toronto.

Posted by: KilgoreQTrout | May 11, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Those Toronto v. Phillies games should be played at a neutral site. I can't believe the other NL teams are allowing Bud to do this.

Posted by: summerandwinter | May 11, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I like where Pudge stands next to Riggs in the dugout, he's treated as another coach, Riggs said he would listen to anything that the guy had to say. I think he lets Pudge be his mouthpiece to the umps sometimes, like down in Fla. when he let Pudge give it to the home plate ump about balls and strikes, knowing full well that if he (Riggs) did it, he'd be gone. And last night where he huddled the entire infield on a situation with two outs, I forget who was pitching. Next pitch they get out of the inning. And think about it - Pudge has been in the bigs longer than a lot of the umps have (19 yrs.), so he has to carry some clout. Let's see if Olsen gets those low strike calls tonite>

Posted by: Brue | May 11, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Applauding nunof.
Great post.


As a condition of playing those games in Philly, stadium security should be instructed to tase any fan who boos during O Canada. That should neutralize the park long enough for them to get the game in.

Posted by: nunof1

Posted by: Sunderland | May 11, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Can I take a time out to say that this by far my most favorite discussion on Nationals Journal this year? I'm just identifying myself, so that when we're all at a cocktail party you know who to avoid getting stuck talking to.

Posted by: Section506 | May 11, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

You guys who are statheads do find time to attend games don't you?

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | May 11, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Ivan has done better than I ever imagined by his 2nd half stats are usually much worse than his 1st half stats

Both him and Livan will NOT keep producing like they are so we better not live off them doing what they are doing up to now.

It won't happen with their age

Posted by: Bious | May 11, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

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