An unlikely loss for Nats, Storen

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — There’s no getting around the fact that the Nationals’ latest loss, to the Rockies on Friday night, stung more than most. Needing a win to remain within 1 1/2 games of the Mets in the NL East, the Nats held a 4-1 lead through seven innings, only to see the dependable Drew Storen surrender a go-ahead grand slam to Carlos Gonzalez in a 5-4 defeat.

Just how unlikely was the loss under the circumstances?

Before Friday, the Nats were 46-3 when leading after seven innings, while the Rockies were 5-47 when trailing through seven. And since 2012, Washington was 283-21 (.931) when carrying a lead into the eighth.

According to FanGraphs, the Nationals’ win expectancy when the eighth inning began was 94.1 percent. When Storen got Charlie Blackmon to fly out for the second out with a runner on first, it ticked up to 96.2 percent. And even after Nolan Arenado’s weakly hit infield single loaded the bases for Gonzalez, it remained at a strong 89.8 percent.

Of course, it’s important to note that win expectancy is based on what has happened in certain situations throughout baseball history and doesn’t consider the quality of players and teams involved. With Storen taking the mound with a 1.52 ERA and 14-game scoreless streak, the Nats’ odds probably were even better.

“When he comes in, it’s typically 1-2-3,” second baseman Danny Espinosa said of Storen, who had allowed one home run all season. “It’s awesome. He’s been unbelievable for us this year.”

Storen entered Friday with a win probability added (WPA) of 2.74 this season, third-best among MLB relievers, according to FanGraphs. WPA tracks changes in win expectancy from play to play and credits players with increasing their team’s chances, or charges them with hurting it.

When Storen threw Gonzalez an inside fastball that caught too much of the plate before rocketing over the right field wall, it dropped the Nats’ win expectancy from 89.8 to 26.8 percent in the span of a few seconds. That massive swing left Storen with a WPA of -0.663 for his one inning of work.

That’s the second-lowest mark by a Nats pitcher this season, behind Casey Janssen’s -0.686 in a loss to the Reds on May 30. It’s also the second lowest of Storen’s regular-season career, following a -0.959 he put up against the Phillies as a rookie on Sept. 19, 2010, when current teammate Jayson Werth reached him for a walk-off homer as part of a four-run outburst.

“Just had a couple guys get on base for various reasons and I make one bad pitch, have a fastball come over the plate to a really good hitter,” Storen said of Friday’s loss. “It’s the nature of the business.”

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