Almost Reasonable Predictions re: the Nats and Cards

Allow me to state an obvious thing about the Nats-Cards NLDS, which is that it (i.e. the Series) is now tied at 1-1 after St. Louis’s 12-4 victory on Monday (box).

Allow me to state another (mostly) obvious thing, which is that the following predictions about the remainder of the Nats-Cards NLDS — while almost reasonable — are also almost certain to be wrong.

In any case, here they are — three almost reasonable predictions regarding the Nats and Cards:

Trevor Rosenthal Will Post the Cards’ Second-Highest gmLI Henceforth
Leverage Index (LI) is a measurement for how “critical” any given moment of a game is, where 1.00 is average and above 1.00 is “more critical.” So, for example, the most critical moment in Game Two on Monday — which featured a 2.08 LI (just over twice as important as a regular at-bat) — was when Jordan Zimmermann was batting in the second inning with Washington up 1-0 the game tied 0-0, runners on first and second, and one out. This represented the moment by which the game’s fate would be most significantly decided. By contrast, the game’s lowest LIs (zero, basically) occurred in the eighth and ninth innings, with St. Louis having established a considerable lead.

Game Leverage Index (gmLI) is a measure of the LI at the moment when a pitcher is brought into a game. As such, a team’s closer generally has the highest average gmLI of said team’s pitchers — because he is so frequently brought in to close games in late innings (when LIs are at their highest).

Here, for example, are the five-highest average gmLIs among Cardinals pitchers this season:

Name G GS IP gmLI
Jason Motte 67 0 72.0 1.71
Marc Rzepczynski 70 0 46.2 1.40
Edward Mujica 29 0 26.1 1.37
Mitchell Boggs 78 0 73.1 1.35
Victor Marte 48 0 40.1 1.24

The LI of when right-hander Trevor Rosenthal appeared in Monday’s game was 0.01 — which, that’s very low. However, what Rosenthal proceeded to do — which, that’s to throw five of his 19 fastballs at 100-plus mph and all 19 of those fastballs at 97.9-plus mph and to get swinging strikes on six (31.6%) of those fastballs — was very impressive. That performance, which only strengthened an already strong (if brief) major-league CV (22.2 IP, 28.1% K, 7.9% BB, 53.7% GB, 80 xFIP-) suggests that he is qualified for considerably more critical moments.

The Left Side of Their Defense Will Be a Problem for Washington
In a piece from yesterday (before Game Two), I looked at Ryan Zimmerman‘s awkward throwing mechanics — nor have they gone unnoticed by the TBS broadcast team and/or basically every Nationals fans. A late-inning throwing error ultimately cost the Nationals nothing in Game One; however, the threat of error still looms any time Zimmerman is forced to make a routine-seeming throw.

Also on the left side of the defense is Mike Morse, whose lack of range led directly to Cardinal runs on Monday.

Consider, first of all, this footage of Morse coming up just short on a foul ball from Carlos Beltran in the sixth inning:

Now, consider Morse’s part in this play, from two pitches later:

It’s harder to see Morse in the second clip, on account of how quickly the camera is being forced to pan to keep track of the Beltran’s home run.

Adron Chambers’ Base-Running Will Only Hurt the Cardinals
Of his 41 regular-season games played this season, Cardinals outfielder Adron Chambers entered 11 of them (i.e. basically a quarter) as a pinch-runner. Furthermore, he was coach Mike Matheny‘s first choice for pinch-running duties in Game One, replacing third baseman David Freese in the eighth inning of Game One after the latter reached on an error.

Of note, however, is that Adron Chambers doesn’t appear to be a particularly great baserunner. He’s 89-for-136 (65.4%) in stolen-base attempts in six seasons as a minor leaguer — which is to say, below the break-even point for stolen-base success against presumably inferior minor-league catchers. He’s also been below average in terms of base-running runs (-1.6 BsR) in his very brief time as a major leaguer.

Speaking very anecdotally, this seems to be the sort of player with whom managers and coaches take unnecessary risks, whether by asking them (i.e. the underwhelming pinch-runner) to attempt a stolen base or take an extra base when the probability of success is actually quite low.

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

21 Responses to “Almost Reasonable Predictions re: the Nats and Cards”

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  1. RMD says:

    That first gif should have been an infield fly.

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  2. JCA says:

    score was 0-0 when pitcher zim knocked in the first run

    “when Jordan Zimmermann was batting in the second inning with Washington up 1-0, runners on first and second, and one out. “

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  3. Anon says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ball land that close to the line and not kick up any chalk.

    Also, if Morse tries to catch the ball and it goes off his glove, it would have probably been called fair.

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  4. Todd says:

    Agreed re: Adron Chambers. I don’t know that I’ve observed him to be a poor baserunner, but I certainly haven’t observed anything that would warrant removing David Freese (or as he’s known in the postseason, DAVID MF’ING FREEEEEEESE) for his sake.

    The Cardinals have weathered the injury storm well in terms of their starting lineup, but it’s definitely hurt the bench in a big way. Matt Carpenter is a good player who could be a starter, and Skip Schumaker sometimes gets on base against RHP. But after that? No RHB worth anything, Chambers is useless, Shane Robinson is useless, Tony Cruz is a backup catcher…

    Remember how Allen Craig was a PH in the World Series last year? He’s batting cleanup this year. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because he’s awesome, but it’s illustrative.

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  5. Jon says:

    Eeek! That’s a fair point about the Cardinals bench and I want to jump the gun by two rounds. Who do they use as DH? Or to put aside the defensive questions, who is their ninth batter?

    I continue to think they should have called up Oscar Tavares. I don’t think it would have had meaningful repercussions (once the dude make the bigs, you won’t need any options). Heck, if he’s been off taking BP they still could call him up for the WS, but guys like Skip and Matt C. might take a little offense. But better them than us (sorry about the pun).

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  6. cpebbles says:

    Adron Chambers isn’t going to be stealing any bases. That would be one less sac bunt Matheny could call.

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  7. Jon says:

    Oh, and here’s a counter prediction. Carp and Lohse will tie for the Cards highest gmLI the rest of this series because the games will be pretty much over before the Cards go to the pen.

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  8. Bad Bill says:

    Chambers may not be a good base stealer, but they haven’t exactly been letting him run amok, either. He has only three attempts in the majors this year (2 SB, 1 CS). He tends to be used in situations where first-to-third speed is wanted rather than straight steals. I have no beta on how he functions in that role.

    Amusingly, they might also resort to using pitcher Joe Kelly as a pinch runner. Kelly is remarkably fast on the bases for a pitcher and was used as a pinch runner several times this year, without ever attempting a steal.

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  9. MikeS says:

    Those two GIF’s should be submitted as evidence of why defense is so hard to measure.

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  10. DCN says:

    Well, Morse is already proving you right.

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