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Entries in Washington Nationals (15)


For what it's Werth

There's somethin' happenin' here

What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a bat over there
Tellin' me, I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound?
Everybody look what's going down

With all due respect to Stephen Stills who wrote For What It's Worth for Buffalo Springfield, led by the bat of Jayson Werth, the Washington Nationals are making an, albeit late, drive for the postseason and everybody should be looking what's going down.

Jayson Werth is an important veteran for this Nationals team and in 2011 and 2012 he was hampered by injuries to both wrists and simply didn't produce at the level that was expected of him when he signed a seven-year $126 million contract with Washington.

This spring, Werth looked like he was finally getting his strength back in the wrist that he broke early in 2012, but in his first 27 games of the season, April 1 to May 2, Werth was a .260/.308/.400 hitter with four homers and 10 RBI.

Not really what manager Davey Johnson was expecting.

Then came the hamstring and the DL

Werth went on the DL with a hammy and he came back on June 4 and was a little rusty. By June 4, his average was down to .244, his OBP was .297, and he was slugging .378.

But Werth is not Carl Crawford

Unlike Carl Crawford in Boston, who struggled with his big contract, new team, high expectations, and low deliverables, Werth blamed neither the fans nor the media.

Werth took on the mantle of leadership in the struggling Nats clubhouse and got to work.

As his health returned, Werth's confidence at the plate began to grow as distinctly as his signature beard.

This is Werth's half-season

From June 15 to September 15, Werth has played in 81 games, exactly half a season.
Jayson Werth 6/15 - 9/15
Jayson Werth 81 338 287 103 18 57 59 .359 .610 .441 1.051

Werth has made a transition

Werth over the years has become more aggressive at the plate. He's not working and and waiting for the walk and while his whiffs are up this season, they are still lower than when he was more passive at the plate.
Jayson Werth 2010-13
Jayson Werth 2010 .296 .532 .388 27 22.5% 12.6% 4.9%
Jayson Werth 2011 .232 .389 .330 20 24.7% 11.4% 3.6%
Jayson Werth 2012 .300 .440 .387 5 16.6% 12.2% 1.7%
Jayson Werth to 9/15/2013 .322 .536 .398 23 19.3% 10.6% 5.5%

Don't minimize how much better Werth feels

Physically and psychologically, Werth is doing better. You can see it in the number of flyballs that are flying out of the park and his home run/fly ball percentage and the distance on his homers.
Jayson Werth's Return to Power 2010-13
Jayson Werth 2010 15.2% 400.0
Jayson Werth 2011 12.7% 401.4
Jayson Werth 2012 5.2% 399.0
Jayson Werth to 9/15/2013 20.2% 405.2

Judge Werth by the company he keeps

Worth's had the third best OPS in the majors since June 15, trailing only MVP candidates Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout and leading MVP candidates Hanley Ramirez, Andrew McCutchen, Chris Davis, Paul Goldschmidt, and David Ortiz.

That is heady company.

The Nationals were a 33-33 team through June 14, and have been 46-37 since.

No it hasn't just been Jayson Werth, but without his resurgence they are making October golf plans now.

So, hey children, what's that sound?

It's sound of Werth's cracks off the bat.

Peter Gammons: Premium Pitching in the NL East

It has become eminently clear that the National League East is becoming the pitching division.

This was the discussion that began among some Padres players, coaches and front office people now after having faced the Met’s Matt Harvey, Miami’s Jose Fernandez and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg.

“Those three have the best stuff of any starters in the league,” said one official. And as the comparative debate went on, there were actually a few opinions that Strasburg actually was third on the list in terms of pure stuff.

Here’s how the Friars have done against the three pheenoms in 2013

April 3 – In the second game of the season, the Padres faced Matt Harvey and he was brilliant. He threw seven innings allowing only an Everth Cabrera single in the 4th. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out 10.  

July 1 – The Padres had similar struggles against Jose Fernandez. The Miami marvel pitched eight innings allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out 10. “All I can tell you is that Fernandez is already special,” said Padres hitting coach Phil Plantier. Two of his hitters compared him to Felix Hernandez. “His changeup isn’t there yet,” said one outfielder, “but Felix’s changeup wasn’t fully developed until he was 25. This guy is 20.” And since June 1, Fernandez is 5-4, 2.72 with 21 hits allowed in 40 1/3 innings.  

July 7 - Despite striking out six of the first 11 batters he faced, the Padres roughed up Strasburg getting to him for seven hits and four runs in six innings of work. Strasburg walked two and whiffed nine and allowed one homer. On May 16, Strasburg broke a five-game personal losing streak when he held the Padres to three hits and two runs (one earned) in eight innings.

“Don’t underestimate all Strasburg has gone through,” says one general manager. “He’s had to cope with being Stephen Strasburg, with everyone across the country watching his every start.” The Padres are 0-4 against the three this season.

Beware the Marlins

“The Marlins can be good in a hurry because of their pitching,” says San Diego manager Bud Black. “We faced (Nate) Eovaldi. He sat 96.” Jacob Turner is 22, and developing and with Henderson Alvarez thrown in with Fernandez, Eovaldi and Turner, as they return home Monday to begin a pre-All Star series with the Braves and Nationals, they are aware that since going 13-41 through May 30, the Marlins are 19-14 and loom as a major factor in the National League East race. Atlanta has 13 games remaining with Miami, Washington 12.

Beware the NL East

“What is happening in the National League East is that it is becoming a power pitching division,” says one veteran NL scout. “That’s one reason it’s so hard for Ruben Amaro to throw up his hands and trade off a Cliff Lee or (Jonathan) Papelbon.

It’s hard enough right now. But think a year from now what the Braves, Marlins, Mets and Nationals are going to be throwing at the Phillies.” With their impending television deal, the Phillies cannot afford to throw Jesse Biddle out there behind Cole Hamels and promise the world that in time they’ll retool their starting pitching to the point that they can match up with their four division rivals. If the Phillies can get a semblance of the great Roy Halladay back with Lee, Hamels and Biddle, they can and likely will be contenders.

The Braves are always going to have good pitching. Mike Minor is 25, Julio Teheran 22, Alex Wood 23, Kris Medlen 27, Brandon Beachy 26 with the depth potential of Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm and the great closer in Craig Kimbrel.

The Nationals are going to spend the next few years building around Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez.

Then there are the Mets, with the potential in 2014 of a staff that brings back flashes of 1969 and 1986 with Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard (2-0 in Binghamton with a 23-4 strikeout-walk ratio in 18 innings) with a very good depth chart of Jon Niese, Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee, none of whom will be older than 28. Oh yes, don’t ignore Rafael Montero, who two years ago was in the Dominican Summer League and in 2014 could be well be in the young, powerful Mets rotation.

Time will tell in the NL East

The National League East has been a division that slipped through the hands of the Mets, passed on to the Phillies and has always been within grasp of a Braves organization that develops pitching and players and does not dabble in the high risk, high publicity, high reward world of free agency.

It has had stars, and with Bryce Harper, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, et al, and will for at least for a while have Giancarlo Stanton, even if Marlins ownership cannot get him to buy into their promises.

Time will determine the Strasburg/Harvey/Fernandez debate, as well as the development or wear on each young pitcher’s stuff. But as the debate rages as to who is the best potential pitcher east of Clayton Kershaw, it is clear that this is the division that will be dominated by big arms until we fully know just how good, or great, the three phenoms turn out to be.         


Decline, Illustrated. Featuring: Dan Haren

Once upon a time, Dan Haren was what, in baseball, could only be referred to as a horse: 33-34 starts, 200+ innings, and each one, valuable. He flew a tick under the radar pitching for no-name teams in Oakland and Arizona, but when a pitcher is good, people will notice. 

Dan Haren is also the kind of pitcher that you could call, "unlucky." In his 11 years as a major league starter, he's never won more than 16 games. He's also had six seasons where he lost 10 or more games, with career highs of 13 in 2006 and 2012. And considering his 4-8 record this year, chances are that he will set a new career high (low?) by the end of the 2013 season.

But pitchers' won-loss records are silly. They are hardly the proper barometer for evaluating a pitcher's current performance. Nor is it right to use pitching wins and losses as a predictive tool for future performance.

So then, what should you use for predicting future performace.

You can use xFIP, which might be the best predictive pitching stat available on the interwebs.

xFIP stands for Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. It's a stat that holds pitchers accountable for the things that they can control (walks, hit batsmen, strikeouts and home runs). It assumes league average fielding and league average HR/FB rates. It is one of the best stats available for predicting a pitcher's future performance. For a more detailed definition of xFIP, go here.

Dan Haren's current xFIP for 2013 is 4.09. Which is far less unsightly than the atrocious 5.70 ERA he is currently carrying around on his back. But a 4.09 xFIP would be a career high for Haren.

But stats like xFIP are still foreign to a majority of the baseball loving population.

So how about this?

How hard is Dan Haren being hit this year compared to, oh, let's use 2011 and 2008?

In 2008, Haren was an All-Star who finshed the season with an ERA of 3.33 and an xFIP of 3.16. He also had a WAR of 6.1. In other words, Dan Haren was fantastic in 2008.

In 2011, Haren had the second lowest WHIP of his career at 1.024, an ERA of 3.17 and an xFIP of 3.29. He also set a career high for single season WAR with 6.2. In other words, Dan Haren was also fantastic in 2011.

But let's illustrate this better with pictures, shall we.

Dan Haren 2008 SLG% Against.

 Dan Haren 2011 SLG% Against

Dan Haren 2013 SLG% Against

Look at how much redder this season's map is.

The slowing of Haren's fastball 

  • In 2008, Haren's fastball topped out at 96.3 MPH, and averaged out at 91.1.
  • In 2013, Haren's fastball has topped out at 92.3 while generally sitting at 89.2. 

Those two to three MPH of difference can be huge, especially when a pitcher is not locating his pitches as well as he did five years prior. 

Some pitchers, as they've aged, have learned to adjust to their diminishing velocity.

Last year, I thought that Haren was entering into the decline phase of his career, but held out hope that he would fade slowly in the same way that Kevin Milwood faded.

This year, I know that Dan Haren is declining. But it doesn't look like the Milwood comp is going to hold water. It looks like Haren's career is going the way of another comp of his according to Baseball-Reference, Doug Drabek. Both of whom (Drabek and Haren) were dependable and outstanding pitchers through their age-30 seasons. They also both fell of a steep cliff afterwards.

Drabek held on until he was 35. As for the 32-year old Haren, with the way that teams are starting to pinch every penny that they can, I fear he won't make it past next season.  

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