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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.