The incredible facts about the Nationals’ pitching staff keep piling up, one on top of the next, and here comes one more: The Nationals have surrendered three home runs in the first 16 games of the season. The last pitching staff to accomplish that feat belonged to the 1997 Braves, which included Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. They were pretty good.
Part of the Nationals’ ability to limit home runs so far comes down to luck. Only 2.4 percent of the fly balls hit against the Nationals have turned into home runs, which is flatly unsustainable. In the last 10 seasons, the lowest home run/fly ball rate is 6.9 percent, by the 2011 Giants.
Mostly, though, the Nationals have given up only those three home runs – allowed by Edwin Jackson, Ross Detwiler and Brad Lidge – because they usually make the other team hit the ball on the ground, if they let them hit it at all.
The Nationals have a 49.5 percent groundball rate, second in the majors, to go with a 23.7 percent strikeout rate. Last we checked, no hitter has hit a home run while striking out or hitting a groundball. Right there, that’s 73.2 percent of hitters who haven’t even had a chance to hit a homer.
It is hard to hit a home run off pitchers who throw with overpowering velocity, and the Nationals have plenty of those. Stephen Strasburg has not allowed a home run in 56 innings, since Adam LaRoche, then an Arizona Diamondback, drilled one off him Aug. 15, 2010. In 73 innings with the Nationals, Henry Rodriguez has allowed one home run.
The Nationals’ set of power arms do not allow much hard contact. Opposing batters have hit a line drive 18.6 percent of the time they have put the ball in play against the Nationals, fifth-lowest in the majors. The league is slugging .293 against the Nationals, the lowest.
In fact, the league’s slash line against the Nationals is .202/.269/.293, and all three are the lowest in the majors. And that is one more incredible fact about this pitching staff.
FROM THE POST
The Nationals were rained out, which derailed a Strasburg-Kershaw matchup but allows Ryan Zimmerman to miss only one day.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Buffalo 6, Syracuse 1 (Game 1): Bryce Harper went 2 for 3 with his first home run. Yunesky Maya allowed two earned runs in five innings on seven hits and a walk, striking out three.
Syracuse 1, Buffalo 0 (Game 2): Tanner Roark allowed no runs in six innings on two hits and two walks, striking out four. Corey Brown went 1 for 3 with a home run.
Harrisburg was postponed.
Potomac was postponed.
Hagerstown was postponed.