Nationals

Quick Links

AL nabs home field in World Series with win over NL

harpercatcher.png

AL nabs home field in World Series with win over NL

FINAL: AL 6, NL 3

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The 86th MLB All-Star Game already was a major event before Mike Trout stepped to the plate for the night's first at-bat. That's what happens when Pete Rose is introduced on the field in Cincinnati, and then Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays all take the field together as baseball's four greatest living players.

Trout, though, certainly did his part to turn the attention to today's active players. He hammered a home run to right off Zack Greinke to lead off the game and give the American League a quick lead. The National League got that run back thanks to Jhonny Peralta's 2-out RBI single in the second, but the NL lineup was mostly stymied the rest of the night by the AL's dynamite pitching staff.

Andrew McCutchen homered off Chris Archer to lead off the sixth, but that was it for the NL until the ninth. The AL lineup, on the other hand, was far from done. Prince Fielder and Lorenzo Cain delivered back-to-back RBI hits in the fifth off Clayton Kershaw. Manny Machado and Fielder then added big insurance RBI in the seventh off Francisco Rodriguez.

Once Brian Dozier took Mark Melancon deep in the eighth, this one had turned into a mini-rout. The AL bullpen closed out a comfortable victory and thus secured home-field advantage for the World Series for the third straight season.

MORE ORIOLES: MANFRED ON PITCH CLOCK, SCHEDULING, EXPANSION

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: It took Trout all of four pitches to make his presence known once again in this event. Facing Greinke (owner of a 1.39 ERA this season), he clobbered a 1-2 pitch deep to right and over Harper's head for his first career All-Star homer. Here's the really impressive part: Trout has now hit for something of a natural All-Star cycle. He singled in his first at-bat in the 2012 game. He doubled in his first at-bat in the 2013 game. He tripled in his first at-bat in the 2014 game. And now he homered in his first at-bat in the 2015 game. How cool is that?

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: It was only one inning of relief, and it came with his team trailing in the sixth inning, but Jacob deGrom was utterly dominant on the mound. The Mets right-hander struck out Stephen Vogt, Jason Kipnis and Jose Iglesias in succession, all swinging, all on a grand total of 10 pitches. In the process, deGrom became the first pitcher in All-Star history to strike out the side on 10 or fewer pitches. Not bad.

NATS HIGHLIGHT: Harper was front-and-center in this game, batting third for the NL and starting in right field. And he wound up getting to play six innings and take three at-bats. Alas, he couldn't notch his first-ever All-Star Game hit. Harper grounded out to third off Dallas Keuchel in the first inning. He struck out against David Price in the fourth inning. And after just missing a double down the left-field line in the sixth, he struck out against Zach Britton. That's three awfully tough lefties for Harper (or anybody) to have to face in succession, but he of course won't make any excuses for an 0-for-3, 2-strikeout night. Harper's career numbers in the Midsummer Classic now stand at 0-for-6 with a walk and three strikeouts.

KEY STAT: The only Washington player ever to hit a home run in the All-Star Game remains Frank Howard off Steve Carlton in 1969 at RFK Stadium.

UP NEXT: The Midsummer Classic heads west next year, to be played in beautiful Petco Park in beautiful San Diego. Then after a stop in Miami in 2017, Nationals Park gets to host the 2018 All-Star Game. No, tickets aren't available yet.

Quick Links

5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

usatsi_10801156.jpg
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. 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Nationals trade for Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera

usatsi_10847747.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Nationals trade for Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals made the first major trade of the season this evening. 

Midway through their Monday night game against the Yankees, the team announced that they had completed a trade for Royals' relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera:

Herrera's a major acquisition for the Nationals, as the pitcher is in the middle of a career year. He's currently pitched 25 innings so far, posting a 1.05 FIP, 2.62 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. His 2.1 percent walk rate this season is a career low. 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: