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Today's lineups

The Nationals will get their first regular-season look at Jason Heyward, the Stephen Strasburg of Hitters.

Nationals
1. Nyjer Morgan, CF
2. Cristian Guzman, 2B
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Adam Dunn, 1B
5. Josh Willingham, LF
6. Ivan Rodriguez, C
7. Roger Bernadina, RF
8. Ian Desmond, SS
9. Livan Hernandez, SP

Braves
1. Nate McLouth, CF
2. Martin Prado, 2B
3. Chipper Jones, 3B
4. Brian McCann, C
5. Troy Glaus, 1B
6. Jason Heyward, RF
7. Melky Cabrera, LF
8. Omar Infante, SS
9. Kenshin Kawakami, SP

One quick bonus note: I noticed something interesting (maybe disturbing) about the Nationals' 13-12 start. This year, they have scored 104 runs and allowed 124, good for a .420 Pythagorean winning percentage.

Last year? They had allowed 145 and scored 120 -- good for a .422 PWP.

That's pretty shocking -- last year's team was 8-17 and this year's team in 13-12, and yet based on run differential they are virtually identical.

Now, you can point to some reasons for this. Jason Marquis's 20 runs in 8 1/3 innings is a clear aberration. (Then again, it's certain Livan Hernandez's three runs in four innings also are an aberration, if not as dramatic as Marquis's floating-body-fueled implosion.) The Nationals have a solid bullpen this season, which makes a difference in close games that determine an actual winning percentage. The Nationals have also played nearly half of their games without Ryan Zimmerman, which makes you think their run totals will start to rise.

And yet, that stat still staggered me. What do you make of it?

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 4, 2010; 3:22 PM ET
 
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Comments

I think what it tells me is that this is a 75 win team at best. And while I am very happy with the way they are progressing, trying to talk yourself into much more that that for this year will leave you being disappointed with this team at season's end...

Posted by: shemples | May 4, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Did Bill James say the pythagorean record projection works for 1/6th of a season?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | May 4, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

A number of things have contributed to the improvement.
> Better team defense. The 2009 version was racking up errors at nearly a 1-per-game rate.
> Overall improvement in starting pitching. 2009 began with a rotation of Lannan, Martis, Cabrera, Olsen & ???
> Two good arms in the bullpen to begin the year. Bergmann was probably the steadiest arm of the bunch out of spring training; Where is he now - SYR.

Posted by: BinM | May 4, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I think rather than discount the team's best and worst individual performances (Marquis & Livo), it's better to discount, say, the top and bottom 10% of the team's games.

If you take away the 11-1 and 14-7 losses to Philly as well as the 8-0 and 7-1 wins over Mil and Fla, the run differential changes to -17.

Go a step further and get rid of any one of their 6-run losses as well as the 5-1 win over LA, and the differential goes to -15.

Still not great, but not as ugly.

As for last year, the 3 worst losses in the first 25 games were all by 6 runs. The 3 biggest wins were by 6, 7, and 6.

That only changes the differential from -25 to -24.

You could make the argument that last year's -25 was an accurate reflection of the team, and that -15 is a more accurate reflection of the 2010 Nats.

Posted by: fuglynats | May 4, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

"That's pretty shocking -- last year's team was 8-17 and this year's team in 13-12, and yet based on run differential they are virtually identical.

What do you make of it?"

That's why they play the game on the field and not on nerds computer screens!

Posted by: Kev29 | May 4, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

It means the offense isn't any better than it was last year.

Posted by: Brue | May 4, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Sunderland and hansenjo both made good points by Dukes being gone, but I think that they agree with me.

Hansenjo said it in the easiest ctl+c, ctl+v fashion: "So did Dukes leave a giant hole in RF? Yes. Did they gain respect around the league by shedding thier criminal rep? We will see next offseason."

Basically, the explanation for Dukes makes very little sense from a "just baseball" perspective. It only makes sense if off-field matters too.

Posted by: Section506 | May 4, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Should have read "Bergmann was probably the steadiest arm of the bunch out of spring training 2009, and where is he now - SYR."
----------------------------

Bergmann was probably the steadiest arm of the bunch out of spring training; Where is he now - SYR.

Posted by: BinM | May 4, 2010 3:55 PM

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

my Braves fan brother before getting off the phone with me: "I'm very sorry your team is going to lose their next three games."

me: "yea, they need to have a good series to get all the way up to 4th place"

http://www.instantrimshot.com/

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

Remember the Nats gave up 10 of those runs in one inning to MIL then 8 in one inning to COL. I don't recall any innings like that last year.

Posted by: lj1126 | May 4, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

@lj1126: Remember Cabrera? I can't remember if he ever had a game THAT bad, but he had some pretty horrific outings.

Posted by: moshemaizels | May 4, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Atta gal, NatsNut. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 4, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

"The Nationals have also played nearly half of their games without Ryan Zimmerman, which makes you think their run totals will start to rise.

And yet, that stat still staggered me. What do you make of it?"
***************************************
Not a darn thing. The Nats have won recently because they had a run of quality starts (8 in a row, I believe) and a duo of relievers that have closed the door to the opposition, things they didn't have at all last year. It's as simple as that.

As for not having Zim in the lineup for nearly half of their games, you're right. Their run totals will go up when Zim is in the lineup. In fact this season, they've scored 0.7 more runs per game when Zim starts. But they've also given up 2.3 runs more per game when he starts as well. What's the connection? QUALITY PITCHING!

Overall:
Nats W-L ... 13-12
Nats RS-RA ... 104-124

Zim starts:
W-L .... 6-7
RS-RA .... 58-79

Zim sits:
W-L .... 7-5
RS-RA .... 46-45
(this includes the 4 games where Zim pinch-hit, but didn't start)

Posted by: erocks33 | May 4, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Three things make this less than a shocker:
1) Like jca said, it is 1/6th of a season so you can't rely on such a small sample size.
2) We didn't have a bullpen last year.
3) We have a lock-down bullpen this year.

They still look like an 80-win team tops but probably a 67-loss team at worst. Not sure the Pythagorean theorem is too far off from that.

Posted by: Section314 | May 4, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

The Braves actually are looking to sweep us!obviously they have not paid one iota of attention to the standings or how well we've been playing, my co-workers here in the A-T-L are talking a lot of trash and selling a lot of wolf tickets, i'm just sitting at my desk and telling them to look at the standings i let my team do my talking GO NAT'S!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: dargregmag | May 4, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

The Braves actually are looking to sweep us!obviously they have not paid one iota of attention to the standings or how well we've been playing, my co-workers here in the A-T-L are talking a lot of trash and selling a lot of wolf tickets, i'm just sitting at my desk and telling them to look at the standings i let my team do my talking GO NAT'S!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: dargregmag | May 4, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Section 314 has it right. This year, if the starter fails, we bring out the dregs of the bullpen and lose by a load. If we're winning by 4 or more, we get Batista in relief and see what happens. But if it's close and we're ahead, we get C&C and win by a run or two. A good bullpen is worth a lot.

Posted by: elijah383 | May 4, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't the way we're scoring have an impact on this as well? We get a National on base then expend 2 outs to get him around and in. It's great for getting a run where needed, but it doesn't really lead to blowing anybody out.

Posted by: sirocco23 | May 4, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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