Mitchell Parker’s analytics tell an even better story

Here is the thing, Mitchell Parker could easily be 9-0 if his team gave him run support. Here’s a pitcher who set a Nationals’ record from the start of a career to go 10 starts without giving up more than 3-runs in a game.

In fact, Parker could be the best pitcher on the staff if they pitched him analytically to pitch two times through the opposing batting order. The analytics on Parker have less to do with pitch counts, and more to do with the eye test and watching the opposing player contact and his level of effort.

For instance, last night Parker had no-hit stuff going with the great defense behind him, and with a 2-0 lead you could see in the 6th inning that Parker probably was nearly done as he gave up a 103.1 mph double to start the 6th inning for the first hit of the game. That hit would have been a home run if the batter had more launch angle. Instead it was a ground-rule double of 360 feet. The next batter roped a 101.6 liner that fortunately didn’t have enough launch angle and was snagged by CJ Abrams. The next batter hit a gapper that centerfielder Jacob Young caught on a sliding catch. The next batter topped a center-cut fastball for a 100.3 mph grounder right to Abrams. The 3-outs had batting average expectancies of .800, .490, and .310 respectively. Add that to the double and Parker lucked out. He was probably done after 5.0 innings even though he had a low pitch count — he just pitched his 3rd game in 11 days and a career high 100-pitches and then 98-pitches in the previous two starts. So after seeing that contact, why was Parker sent out for the 7th inning?

Analytics teaches you that you should get more with less — if you do it right. We proved that out with how the team had been pitching Trevor Williams (until his last start of 95 pitches without extra rest). Basically, they had been pulling Williams before he faced the heart of the opposing batting order a third time. This year, he has been averaging 5.16 innings per start on 83 pitches on average, versus last year, averaging 88 pitches and just 4.81 inning per start. So with throwing less pitches on average, they are getting more innings and his ERA is an incredible 2.22 versus 5.55 last year. What’s interesting is that they veered from the plan on Williams’ last start, and he pitched through the opposing batting order 2.6 times with no extra rest on 95-pitches. Today, he’s on the 15-day IL with a forearm strain.

The Nats seem to be following the analytics on every pitcher but Parker, and they probably missed the warning signs on DJ Herz‘s debut start when the kid was amp’d up and throwing his highest velos of the season. He was also pitching for the first time this year on four-days rest. They sent him out for another inning and his encouraging start was gunked up by two runs scoring on his record by the bullpen. His ERA jumped form 4.50 to 9.00 and the Nats lost the game. Again, you get more with less.

On Parker, if you look at his start over the weekend in Cleveland, he didn’t have his best stuff, giving up a season-high four walks, but he was gutting through it. In the first inning of the game, he had bases loaded and two outs and induced a popup behind shortstop and Ildemaro Vargas stopped tracking the ball and allowed it to drop in for a two-run hit. Think about how good Parker would be if that ball was caught, and he wasn’t sent out for the seventh innings the two times against Atlanta. Well, we can tell you that his ERA would be 2.47.

Last night’s 2-0 lead evaporated, and the team had top reliever Hunter Harvey warming in the 7th inning — but was never used until the 8th inning. Why? You know the story, Harvey gives up 3-runs in the 8th inning and the Nats lose their 4th straight game. The 2-0 lead evaporated when Parker gave up the 2-run homer to the same batter, Adam Duvall, who hit the 2-run homer off of him last week in Atlanta in the same 7th inning. Like déjà vu or Groundhog Day — and you could see it coming from 1,000 miles away — but the Nats dugout couldn’t see it coming from 95 feet away?

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