Marquee Matchup – Nats vs. Orioles

This is my first post in what I hope will become a series as the season progresses (I’ll take my cue from our reader response, or lack thereof). I’ll be picking a series each week, or maybe two, involving the leading teams, and see what nuggets I can pull out of the games or, perhaps more likely, gems that you contribute through your comments.

So, to start, I’m looking at this inter-league rivalry matchup between the NL East leader and, as the series begins, the second place team in the AL East, just a half game in arrears of the leading Yankees. It’s a four game home-and-home set, starting in Baltimore and finishing in D.C. More after the jump.

Game 1 matched Gio Gonzalez against Kevin Gausman, the latter needing just 10 pitches to dispatch the Nats in order to start the game. In the bottom of the inning, three of the first six Orioles homered as the O’s took a quick 4-0 lead they would not relinquish. Gonzalez, who had been sharp this season (1.64 ERA entering the game) has a history of first inning struggles. Here are his career results in the first inning, with many of them the worst of any inning, and often by healthy margins.

I Split G IP ERA R H 2B 3B HR XBH SB BB SO SO/W BA OBP SLG OPS
1st inning 250 250.0 4.14 129 234 49 4 30 83 7 125 222 1.78 .246 .336 .400 .736
Next worst inning 123 231 42 22 68 108 2.02 .333 .365 .698
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/9/2017.

Baltimore would add two more in a fourth inning notable on a couple of levels: Jonathan Schoop saw a 3-0 count, something that rarely happens (four times in 2016, none in 2015); and Caleb Joseph picked up an RBI, something that didn’t happen at all last year (he drove in Schoop who held true to form and did *not* draw a walk). Washington would add singleton runs in four frames as the game progressed, but the issue was never really in doubt. Final score: Orioles 6, Nats 4.

Game 2 pitted Nats’ ace Max Scherzer against the enigmatic Ubaldo Jimenez. Scherzer was Scherzer and Jimenez was on his game this night, with a solo homer the only blemish on both pitchers’ dockets through 7 innings. Jimenez was greeted by back-to-back singles to start the eighth, but when he whiffed Chris Heisey on three pitches (running his game total to 101), O’s manager Buck Showalter rolled the dice and stuck with him to face lefty pinch-hitter Adam Lind. Snake eyes! Lind crushed a 1-1 pitch to dead center and the Nats were ahead 4-1 with six outs to go. Easy to fault Showalter for staying with Jimenez for one batter too long but, in his defense, the Birds have just one healthy left-handed reliever (Donnie Hart, with all of 28.1 career IP, but a glowing 0.95 ERA), and Jimenez has handled Lind well (5 for 23) over his career. Still, Lind has almost no power against southpaws (one HR in his list 150+ PA), so it might have made sense to go to the lefty, if only to limit whatever damage might result.

But, this game was far from over. Adam jones homered in the bottom of the frame to cut the lead to two. Ryan Zimmerman doubled to lead off the visitor’s 9th but could advance no further (Daniel Murphy followed Zimmerman by working a 3-0 count, but kept watching the pitches go by as Mychal Givens delivered three straight strikes for an unconventional 6 pitch whiff). For the home 9th, it was anyone’s guess who Dusty Baker would call on to preserve the win. Bucking conventional practice, Washington’s 10 saves have been split between no less than 5 pitchers, including one by lefty Enny Romero, who got the call this night with the O’s lefty slugger Chris Davis leading off the inning. Davis drew a walk but Baker stayed with Romero despite five straight righty batters following in the Oriole batting order. Romero retired the next two before a balk, double and single plated two to tie the game. You might be thinking that Baker ought to have gone to a righty reliever after the walk to Davis (or even if Davis had been retired). Except that Romero has a rather pronounced reverse platoon edge, with .899 OPS by lefties in 160 PA, but only .668 by right-handed batters in 266 PA. That’s easily the largest reverse platoon advantage of any active southpaw with 150 career PA against left-handed batters.

Both teams threatened in extras, with Bryce Harper ending the 11th frame by throwing out J.J. Hardy at the plate, trying to score from second on a Caleb Joseph single. In the 12th, the Orioles secured the walk-off win with a Mark Trumbo one out bases loaded single off Jacob Turner, working his second inning of relief. The win went to Logan Verrett, his second in as many outings for his new team. In his first two seasons in New York, the Mets tried to use Verrett as an occasional starter, but without much success. Among 171 active pitchers with fewer than 500 IP incl. 50+ as a starter, Verrett has the 11th worst ERA split between starting and overall ERA, with a 4.49 ERA comprised of 5.68 as a starter, but 2.90 in relief (two of the pitchers with a worse starter split are teammate Zach Britton, and Oriole nemesis Koji Uehara with a 1.04 career ERA against the Birds).

Game 3 saw Stephen Strasburg take the hill for the Nats against southpaw Wade Miley. Baltimore took the early lead, turning a hit batter and four singles into 3 second inning runs. That lead was extended to 5-1 when Mark Trumbo delivered a mammoth 455 foot two run jack in the 5th. Strasburg lasted 6 innings and recorded a 43 game score that would have been smaller if not for his 9 strikeouts. Strasburg’s game scores have been sliding steadily since 2014 when he reached 70 or better in 11 starts, that number dropping to 4 in 2015, 5 in 2016, and none in 7 starts this year. Miley limited the Nats to two runs in 5 innings of work, but needed 119 pitches to record those 15 outs; that’s the 3rd highest total since pitch counts have been recorded for 5 IP allowing no more than 2 runs and 5 hits.

The O’s were still leading by four going into the 8th inning, but that’s when the wheels started to come off. With a man on, Alec Asher took the mound for Baltimore and promptly struck out his first two batters. But, Michael Taylor took Asher’s first offering deep with a 421 foot blast, his first of the season, to cut the lead in half. On to the 9th and closer Brad Brach who has done a dandy job (8 saves, 2.41 ERA) filling in for the injured Zach Britton. Jayson Werth led off for Washington and battled Brach for 10 pitches before connecting on the 11th with a right field bomb to cut the lead to one. A Bryce Harper double, an intentional walk to Daniel Murphy and an Anthony Rendon single loaded the bases for Matt Wieters who delivered the coup de grace against his old team, singling to drive home Harper and Murphy as the Nats had their turn enjoying a walk-off triumph.

One might surmise that catchers switching teams would do well facing the pitchers they caught the season before. It isn’t going to always work out that way, but here are some examples of catchers who were apparently able to profit from inside knowledge of the pitchers they were facing:

Game 4 was to have matched two youngsters with barely 200 career IP combined, with Dylan Bundy going for the O’s and A.J. Cole for the Nats. The game was postponed, so I’ll close with a couple of observations on Bundy who is sporting a nifty 5-1 record with a 2.17 ERA, and doing so despite striking out 3 fewer batters per 9 innings than his 8.5 mark from last season. Ratcheting down the heater has apparently led to better command and control in the early going, with much improved walk and home run rates and a WHIP down almost a third of baserunner, or 3 fewer per 9 innings. Bundy started last season in the bullpen and moved to the starting rotation after the All-Star break, but managed only three quality starts among his 14 assignments, Completely different story this year, with a perfect 7 for 7 in quality starts coming out of the gate. A bit of Bundy trivia concerns his debut five seasons ago before his 20th birthday, making him the first teenage Oriole pitcher in 45 years, and just the second since Jim Palmer.

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23 Comments on "Marquee Matchup – Nats vs. Orioles"

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Tim Richards
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The word you’re looking for is “marquee,” as in the sign over a theatre announcing something exciting or important. A marquis, on the other hand, is a kind of nobleman.

Doug
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Right you are, Tim. Thanks.

Dr. Doom
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Tim, I, too, noticed the error. I just assumed it had something to do with Jason Marquis, and kept waiting for him to show up in the party somehow.

David P
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In the other post, we were talking about one-sided trades. But I was also thinking of the trade of Jimenez to the Indians, which seemed like a big trade at the time but ended up being much ado about nothing. When he was traded midway through his age-27 season, Jimenez had 18.8 career WAR. Since the trade? Only 3.7 WAR. Meanwhile, the Rockies received two former first rounders as the key return. Alex White produced -0.7 WAR post-trade and is now out of baseball. Drew Pomeranz has bounced around and struggled with injuries, putting up 6.8 WAR. He’s still only… Read more »
Richard Chester
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Bob O’Farrell was the NL MVP in 1926, the only year in which he received any MVP votes.

e pluribus munu
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Doug, I like this idea very much. It has a limited focus, which means you could actually do this without burning out, if you wanted to, and it has that Game Notes texture of mixing game accounts with comparative and historical information that makes what you write really interesting, and something we can pursue further through the links. Great choice of series, too. Thanks!

Doug
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Thanks epm

Kahuna Tuna
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Two more for the list of catchers who hit well against the team they’d played for the previous season:

Shanty Hogan: 1928 vs. Braves – 81 PA, .386 / .463 / .586
Earl Battey: 1960 vs. White Sox – 92 PA, .333 / .391 / .556

John
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I like the idea of this as a continuing series. I’d like to suggest even that you might want to preview an upcoming series. Another suggestion: Wrap up this weekend’s Cubs-Cardinals tilt.

David P
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Nats are scoring an incredible 6.15 runs per game, a pace of 996 runs which would put them close to the NL record of 1004 runs set by the 1930 Cardinals.

Right now they’re being held back by their bullpen and its 5.40 ERA.

Voomo Zanzibar
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Bernie Williams seriously got shafted with that tropey Core Four nickname.

WAR Leaders, New York Yankees, 1994 – 2003
Cherry picking the decade starting with their first 1st place finish (damn you strike) until their last WS appearance for awhile:

45.6 … Bernie Freakin’ Williams
40.4 … Jeter
35.1 … Andy Pettitte
26.3 … Mariano Rivera

23.7 … Paul O’Neill
22.7 … Jorge Posada (not a starter until 1997)
20.4 … David Cone
19.8 … Roger Clemens

18.2 … Mike Mussina
17.2 … David Wells
16.3 … Orlando Hernandez
15.1 … Tino Martinez

14.1 … Wade Boggs
11.9 … Jason Giambi
11.6 … Ramiro Mendoza
9.6 …. Alfonso Soriano

Voomo Zanzibar
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WAR Leaders for the Yankees’ 5 Championship seasons: 1996 5.6 … Pettitte 5.0 … Mariano 4.0 … Bernie 3.8 … O’Neill 3.4 … Boggs 3.4 … Kenny Rogers 3.3 … Jeter 2.9 … Key 2.8 … Cone 2.7 … M Duncan 2.6 … Gooden 2.4 … Wetteland 2.1 … Tino -0.3 . Posada 1998 7.5 … Jeter 5.8 … O’Neill 5.3 … Brosius 5.2 … Bernie 4.8 … Wells 4.0 … Cone 3.6 … Orlando H 3.2 … Tino 2.9 … Mendoza 2.9 … Posada 2.8 … Mariano 2.8 … Knobs 2.6 … Irabu 2.4 … C Curtis 2.4 …… Read more »
no statistician but
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Good a place as any for this comment: After 37 games Bryce Harper and (or) Ryan Zimmerman rank 1-2 in the NL in oWAR, BA, SLG, OBP, Hits, Total Bases, RBIs, and OPS, Harper leading in some categories, Zimmerman in others. It probably won’t last, My memory may have failed, but it seems like it’s been a long time since two position players on one team were so dominant.

Daniel Longmire
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It looks like we need to keep an eye on Caleb Joseph for a different reason now: he has not drawn a walk in 75 plate appearances this season; the record is 156 by Ed Walsh in 1907.

Most of the players with more than 100 plate appearances are pitchers, although there are some notable exceptions, such as the immortal Craig Robinson (148 PA), a middle infielder with the 1973 Phillies.

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