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Home-and-home means more Mystics, Storm

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Home-and-home means more Mystics, Storm

For the second time in 48 hours, the Mystics face the Seattle Storm. For the first time in four games, Washington will play on its Verizon Center court. Based on how the locals played on their just completed three-game road trip including a loss Sunday in the Pacific Northwest, the Mystics will take any advantage they can get. Games in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle ended the way all five-road games have gone for the Mystics (2-8) this season: with a loss. On this venture, the trio of setbacks came by an average margin of 17 points, the exact difference in the 72-55 loss to the Storm (5-7).Now the Mystics seek revenge as they open a four-game home stand on Tuesday night.
Washington lost for the seventh time in eight games despite Crystal Langhorne scoring 21 points on 9 of 15 field goal attempts. Her teammates in the same game, 13 of 48 (27.1 percent). Combined with scoring only nine points in the second quarter and the Storm shooting 56 percent from the floor, Washington lost its third straight to Seattle and its seventh straight in Seattle.Adding to the frustration, the loss came in a game where the often-miscuing Mystics only turned the ball over 12 timesand helda 13-2 offensive rebounding advantage. We did take care of the ball and took 15 more shots than them, but we just struggled to put the ball in the hole, Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said.The struggles offensively were indeed a team effort.Michelle Snow and Monique Currie combined for 41 points in the one tight game on the road swing, a 3-point loss at Phoenix. Four days later, the frontcourt duo failed to score a single point.Snows four-game tear since entering the starting lineup ended with a thud as the center missed her only field goal attempt in 17 minutes of play. After making of half of her 16 shots en route to a 20 point outing against the Mercury on Wednesday, Currie missed all six of her attempts and was scoreless on Sunday.The starting backcourt of Matee Ajavon and Jasmine Thomas finished with only one turnover compared to five assists, but they also missed 14 of 19 field goal attempts. Tough game for us, said Langhorne. I felt like they controlled the pace the entire game. Our offense really wasnt clicking and things just didnt go our way. The struggles offensively have also been a constant throughout the season. The Mystics are averaging a league-low 68.6 points, just below the Storm's 68.66.Sue Bird and Ann Wauters led the surging Storm, winners of four straight, with 14 points each. Former Mystics forward Katie Smith scored nine points and had a game-high plusminus of 20.I think were playing better, but I think there is still more to go, said Bird, a member of the U.S. womens Olympic basketball team headed to London this summer.Rather than face the Storm earlier in the season when they lost six of seven games, the Mystics get a team finding its stride. At least now, Langhorne and company know what is coming up.Yes, its always nice to go back home so hopefully we can pull out some wins, Langhorne said. We know what to expect (on Tuesday) so well be ready. The Mystics only two wins this season came at home including a victory in their last game at the Verizon Center, 67-66 over Indiana on June 15. With a victory Tuesday, the Mystics will have won conseutive home games for the first time since winning five straight closingthe 2010 season regular season.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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USA TODAY Sports

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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