Nationals

Quick Links

Cardinals playing it by ear with Wainwright

Cardinals playing it by ear with Wainwright

After the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series at the end of last season, it was easy to forget they did it without one of their best pitchers in Adam Wainwright. Coming off of two consecutive seasons where he finished in the top three of Cy Young voting, the All-Star pitcher had Tommy John surgery last February, just a month before the season began.

Wainwright is back this season, in the first year since having the procedure, and has already pitched 168.2 innings. According to his manager, Mike Matheny, the team has no plans to shut him down this year and will essentially play it by ear.

Were going to go full steam ahead with Adam until he feels anything not normal. He has had a great stretch here, except his last start hes been as good as anybody. As long as he is feeling good were going to keep going, he said.

This presents a stark contrast to the Nationals and their plans with Stephen Strasburg. Heading into Sundays game, Strasburg had pitched 150.1 innings and is expected to be shut down for the season in the next two weeks. Strasburg had his surgery about six months before Wainwright, but because of several differences between the two, Matheny understands Washingtons position.

I think you have to take the whole body of work here, what hes done. If the medical people were telling us something different we would be a lot more on alert now, but everything is measuring out fine, he said.

Strasburg is at a different point in his career too, hes a younger guy. There are a lot of different factors that go into it on both sides. I understand the stance they are taking and I know Adam is behind us where we stand with him.

Strasburg has pitched a total of 242.1 innings since his debut in 2010 while Wainwright has logged 1043.0 since 2005. At 30 he is six years older than Strasburg and has proven his arm strength with three seasons of at least 200 innings pitched.

Matheny and the Cardinals will move forward with Wainwright and the skipper says he will need to see an extended stretch of rough outings before making a decision. Wainwright pitched in Washington on Friday and allowed six earned runs, his worst start in months. Before that, however, he had allowed two earned runs or less in eight consecutive outings.

It will take more than one game where he starts going in the other direction. Up until that game the entire conversation was how excited are you for how dominant he has been? You cant just take the one start and all of a sudden flip the switch, it doesnt make sense. And it wouldnt necessarily be two starts.

Wainwright has been treated like a normal pitcher this season by making his regularly scheduled starts, but that doesnt mean he has been the exact same guy. Wainwrights 3.90 ERA is the worst of his career and noticeably higher than his career clip of 3.12. Strasburg holds a 3.05 ERA, but hasnt been as strong lately as he was in the beginning of the season. The two pitchers are different for sure, but this season one has been a little more like himself than the other.

Ben Standig contributed to this report

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: