What follows is the second installment of our stats preview series, this time featuring the Washington Nationals. The Nats are coming off back-to-back losses to the Braves, the latter of which came with Max Scherzer on the mound. Thankfully the Mets will avoid facing him, but the starting pitching will still be something to watch in the series.
Starting Pitching: Nationals starters threw the most pitches per start of any team last season (99.7). Their top four pitchers were all in the top 20 in average pitches: Gonzalez-third, 103.4; Roark-seventh, 100.5; Scherzer 17th, 98.1; Strasburg-20th, 97.6. By comparison, the Mets were in the middle of the pack at 90.3, with deGrom leading the way (fifth overall, 102.2 pitches per start). Perhaps part of the reason for these heavy Nationals workloads was out of necessity, as Washington faced bullpen issues before shoring up the back end at the trade deadline. The Nationals’ pen should be on steadier ground now, and they have Dave Martinez replacing Dusty Baker as manager, so their pitching management could see changes this season. In the first week of the season, though, they are still in the top third of pitches per start, so look for their starters to hang around for a while in their three games against the Mets this weekend.
Doolittle’s Fastball: Speaking of those bullpen acquisitions, closer Sean Doolittle’s fastball velocity (94.91 mph in 2017) and movement (5th most vertical movement among relievers last year at 11.28 inches) point to a solid pitch, and the results back that up too. Doolittle had the second highest swing rate (61.3%) and second highest popup percentage (23%) on his fastball last year.
Roark’s Foul Percentage: Tanner Roark’s fastball foul percentage last season (54.8%), suggesting his stuff might have been just good enough to throw batters off, but not good enough to put them away. He had divisional company at the top of the leaderboard, as Robert Gsellman led the majors in 2017 in fouls per swing on fastballs (55.6%).
The Good: Trea Turner led the league in Stolen Base Runs in 2017 at three, while only two other players (Cameron Maybin and Byron Buxton) had more than two SBR. The closest Met was Nori Aoiki (.24).
The Bad: Washington catchers were below average in Framing Runs (-6.4) and Throwing Runs (-1.6) last season. The one positive was their above average Blocking Runs (1.6). (Mets catchers were at 9.0, -2.8, and 0.5, respectively).
The Ugly: Ryan Zimmerman’s Fielding Runs Above Average (-11.4) was 10th worst in the majors last season. He has the worst 2017 FRAA among still-employed first baseman.
Mets’ Way too Early Check-In
Jacob deGrom’s horizontal fastball movement was down in his first start. Last year he averaged 3.2 inches, while Saturday he averaged just .2 inches. It is way too early to be drawing conclusions off of one start, but it is worth monitoring to see if the movement starts to rebound over his next few starts. (His vertical movement was basically identical to 2017).
Photo credit: David Kohl – USA Today Sports