Game #43 Strasburg to the rescue; Making sense of pitch efficiency

If the weather allows in Atlanta, Georgia, the Washington Nationals will play their 43rd game of the season. Stephen Strasburg will have the opportunity to be the stopper to end the 4-game losing streak.

Besides the complaints about the pitching, fans are complaining about the lack of energy and F.P. Santangelo commented that Adam Eaton brought that extra jolt of energy. That could be the perception and may or may not be the reality. The Atlanta Braves have been playing like a team with nothing to lose and have attempted 5 stolen bases so far in this series compared to the Nationals who have attempted 2 stolen bases. The fastest man in baseball, Trea Turner, had one stolen base on Friday, but did not attempt a stolen base on Saturday even after hitting 2 singles and 2nd base open.

The other issue continues to be pitch efficiency, Max Scherzer last night threw 106 pitches in 5.0 innings to get just 15 outs. The Nationals starters are the least pitch efficient team in the NL as we wrote about on Friday morning and during the Friday night and Saturday broadcast on MASN, F.P. Santangelo has mentioned the stats several times. Max Scherzer did not help the efficiency. The Nationals are at 4.03 pitches per plate appearance for their starters. Believe it or not, the Nationals relief pitchers are more efficient than the starters and the worst in total team pitching efficiency is actually the Chicago Cubs at 4.05 in the National League.

Last year the Nationals starters were 3.97 for pitch efficiency. The reasons for the inefficiencies could be attributed to a few factors including the change from Wilson Ramos to Matt Wieters as the primary catcher. Wieter’s former team is usually the worst in the Majors in pitch efficiency. The other factor is there is more nibbling on the edges. The umpires have also not helped. But could fatigue be a factor in the over-use of the starters?

In the National League, three of the top four pitchers in pitches thrown are Nationals pitchers. It is not an apples to apples approach as Scherzer has thrown more innings than Gio Gonzalez; however, this is to show the stress on each pitcher along with inefficiency. Tanner Roark is by far the most inefficient pitcher in the NL at 4.37 pitches per batter.

Something has to change and the warning signs were there with Roark in particular when Dusty Baker had him throw 125 pitches. As some expected, Roark has shown signs now in his last 2 starts that he can’t find the strike zone. Like with Max Scherzer in 2015 where he threw 235 pitches in back-to-back starts in June, he went from a first half ERA of 2.11 to a second half ERA of 3.72. Many thought he was over-used and was the main reason the Nats didn’t make the playoffs in 2015.

Cause and effect is real with starting pitchers. These aren’t machines that will run seemingly forever. While the bullpen is an issue, you cannot push your starters like Dusty Baker has because you get the results like you have with Roark, Gio, and Scherzer. Even the handling of Jacob Turner where he was pushed well over 70 pitches after he threw twice in relief days before.

Bill Ladson seems to support pushing the starters more and you know what they say about opinions:

Onward to today as the Nationals are scheduled to face left-handed Jaime Garcia.

Here is the Nats stats against Garcia:

Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves 
Stadium: SunTrust Park 755 Battery Avenue Atlanta, GA 30339
1st Pitch:  1:35 pm EDT
TV: MASN2, FOX Sports South, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM®  (Internet 869)

Line-ups  (subject to change without notice):

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