Nationals Baseball

Friday, July 29, 2016

Parks

Nats win. Mets lose. Marlins lose. Papelbon (and Perez and the defense) fails but Kelley comes through. Espy and Bryce have big hits. All in all a good night except for that Perez and defense thing.

On trades, some people are suggesting you are better off doing nothing. That trades can't be effectual enough (at least for a team in a good regular season spot like the Nats) to matter in the playoffs so why do them? And yet, the last 5 WS winners all made some sort of important trade and just last year the Royals made trades for Cueto AND Zobrist.  I'm not suggesting TRADES = WS. A lot of other teams in the last 5 years made trades and didn't win. What I'm saying is that  trading is not stupid just because of an overall value loss. Sometimes they work and it's always worth it to explore making your team better. Smart teams try when they have a chance.

And the Nats have tried! Last year they brought in Papelbon. That was a pretty clear gamble for several reasons and was probably not enough but it was something. And in 2013 they brought in Asdrubal Cabrera. It wasn't a game changing trade, but it wasn't a team that needed a game changing move.

Make an honest effort to get better in 2016. Don't just say "good enough" because of years you are assuming will be 2012s and 2014s that may end up be the next 2013s or 2015s.  That's all I ask.

Figure I'd use a lazy Friday to go over my vacation.  If you don't follow me on Twitter I took a few days to hit up Minute Maid Park and Globe Life.  Houston to Austin to ... well Arlington as I've been to Dallas a couple times before, will likely be again, so didn't feel the particular need for a day there and it made more sense travel wise. Got some BBQ in Lockhart, hit up LBJ Presidntial Library because that's how I roll (disappointingly only #4 of the 13 official ones - but to be fair some of them aren't exactly on the beaten path. I'll get them all eventually)

Minute Maid is a nice downtown park. It follows in the tradition of the standard new park format where you have your brick and you have your quirks, but it sort of falls flat in those regards. The quirks aren't really sensible. The train thing I know speaks to the former use of the location of the park but to an outsider doesn't feel like "Houston" at all. The hill with the in play flagpole harkens back to the days when unavoidable quirks caused dangerous play conditions, which I didn't think we wanted to get back to. They don't really detract, I liked the train, a lot in fact, but they don't make the park special in the way I think they were aiming for. Plenty of decent food, enough decent beer, and the enclosure was certainly welcome on a 100 degree day. Plus the enclosure seems to let in more light or at least give more of a view than other parks I've been to with the same feature. It's a fine park.

Globe Life I really liked. It's biggest issue is that it is not downtown, instead located in a town between Dallas and Ft. Worth in an area with amusement parks and the like. So you go to the park, not the city. But you can take a trolley there that runs from the hotels. Otherwise I think it's pretty great. It takes advantage of the space to be huge.  Expansive concourses. A Rangers Hall of Fame that goes on forever and is honestly way TOO big. Great team stores. Tons of food choices. Lots of crazy ones in fact. Great beer selection as with prices as reasonable as can be expected. The office background thingy is unique in a way that is special. I'd be kind of disappointed if they were to move to a new park. I understand the call to downtowns but I have been to enough ok parks located in city limits. Personally, I'd rather hit up a special one a little out of the city.

This makes #25 and #26. If you are curious. A quick review of my personal opinions others (some defunct) by division :

Camden Yards - Love it. You can see why everyone tried to copy it. Right size. Right touches. Feels like it was always there.
Fenway Park - Speaking of always there, a neat visit to a real neighborhood park. When I went it was also dirty, lacked amenities, and was uncomfortable to watch a game at. Like sitting on a barstool for a 3 hour performance at Carnegie Hall. But it's been like 15 years so things are probably better.
Old Yankee Stadium - All it had going for it was the field. Otherwise it was like all the other cookie cutter parks of the era. Cramped, concretey, closed concourses. If it wasn't "my" park I probably would have hated it.
New Yankee Stadium - A missed opportunity. I wanted it to be over the top and while it's big and impressive, has all you want and more, but it doesn't go ALL-IN. It's impressive but I wanted more. Greek statues of hall-of-famers. Gilded touches. Holograms. Yankee Stadium should be ostentatious. It should make you hate it if you don't root for the Yankees yet want to go back.
Tropicana - Bleh. I will say they do try their best to make it an experience. You can touch and feed rays! But there's only so much you can do with that.

Progressive - Good downtown park. I don't remember it being very unique but I remember liking the whole downtown Cleveland experience. I do like the toothbrush lights.
Old Tiger Stadium - I get why it had to be torn down, cramped concourses, obstructed views but it basically had the bones of the idea of all the things new parks go after.
Comerica - I like all the Tiger touches. Still think it should have been a version of the old stadium though.
US Cellular - Last of the old types of parks, in fairness it really kind of does all those ideas the best you can do. It's not great but given it's now unique status I kind of liked it more than some of the more boring attempts at the new park normal.
Metrodome - Terrible. But I did meet the organist!

Safeco - Nice. A bit removed from downtown but I remember liking it. Nintendo. Sushi.

RFK - I don't know. I found it kind of fun.  There was an energy there that I liked. I'm sure that was all "new team" fun and it would have been just hated come 2010 if they didn't move out.
Nationals Park - what do you want me to say? A bigger missed opportunity to not work in iconic DC architecture, location, views. "You can kind of see the Capitol if you sit up here and look out that way!" It's fine as is but one of my least favorite of the new parks. .
Marlins Park - I appreciate the attempt at making something uniquely Miami. I like the art deco concretey of it. I'm glad they went with that crazy sculpture. It doesn't all work but it's interesting.
Shea - Kind of charmingly rundown when I went. It felt very Mets. Oh it needed to be replaced but I could get why there was a certain love for it.
Citizens Bank - It's good, probably the thing I remember most thought is that all Philly parks are now essentially located in a giant parking lot at the edge of the city.  Needs more to stand alone.
TED - If you didn't like my Nats park review, take comfort in the fact that this is the worst of the new parks in my opinion. Seems devoid of any sort of feeling, like walking into an baseball themed amusement park. Best part about it is the parking lot where you can see the section of the wall Hank Aarons HR went over.

Wrigley - Like my review of Fenway but better. Not as uncomfortable.
PNC - Personal favorite.  In general with the new parks you want to be special, have a good location, and preferably be walking distance to stuff. This hits all three. Love the size. Love the view. Would love to see a series here
Miller - Fine. Has a slide still which is honestly a must for these guys.
Rieverfront - Kind of like Minute Maid in the "what is this for" Designed to look like a riverboat when I don't think anyone outside of Cincy thinks about that when thinking about the city, maybe not even people in the city. But certainly full of Big Red Machine stuff which is good

PacBell - A close #2 to PNC. Again just a great view and location, etc. etc.
Coors - Honestly - pretty damn good. There is no real view but it's walking from downtown and feels right in some way to me. Pine trees. Mile High Seats. Rocky Mountain Oysters. Right quirks.
Petco - Another pretty good one. Close to downtown. Like the big grassy field out there. Also got a personal tour there (I was only one on official tour) so that probably biases me.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Post my vacation rundown

The Nats head out to San Francisco holding onto a nice lead in the NL East of 4 games. It isn't a safe lead, nor is it a worrying one. It's nice. The goal would be to keep that nice lead for another dozen games or so, when the schedule will make tripping up far more difficult to do.  At that point you'd expect either the Nats to pull away, or if they don't, it to be because either the Mets or Marlins are going on a tear. You can't really do much about those.

The Mets don't look like they'll be going on a tear anytime soon. They have alternated wins and losses since the break, pushed forward by an excellent pitching staff (3.2 R/G) but anchored by a dead offense (3 R/G). The Mets found themselves in a similar situation last trade deadline, 52-48 at this point in the year, when they made a series of trades to remake the offense. But that was an easy situation to fix, where the holes were glaringly obvious starting guys like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry. This season it's not as easy as guys you want starting like Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are slumping, guys you have to start like D'Arnaud haven't hit all year, and a Cespedes infusion isn't coming because he's already here.  The only real move would be to get an OF and stop relying on youngsters like Conforto/Nimmo to help but the Mets don't seem interested in dealing. They are going to roll with what they have and hope for another August miracle at the plate.

Miami is closer, and the question is how long this improved pitching and team-carrying offense can go on.  I'm not very sure. A couple weeks like this happens all the time to nearly every team, but extended month long runs, the type the Marlins will need to stay in it, are something else. The problem is the starting pitching. Chen remains a disaster, which means everyone else has to be on. Jose Fernandez is a given. I'll accept that. Beyond him, maybe Adam Conley can keep pitching well enough to be the #2 to Fernandez's #1. Maaaaybe converted reliever Jose Urena can keep giving the Marlins solid 5 inning outings. and Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe Tom Koehler can remain oddly unhittable to compensate for his complete lack of missing bats. But all three? For another two months? The hitting then will have to keep it up and they just might. Stanton has gotten back in his groove which makes the whole lineup so much better and Prado is doing his Prado things again. I suppose it's possible they bash their way into the playoffs but I'm still holding off worrying about this team unless they stand a couple games out when the Nats last hard run comes to an end. Given that rotation they have to prove they can hang on.

As for the Nats fans are worried about Bryce and relief pitching but honestly the team is basically keeping on as it has for the season. The hitting may be a tweak worse since the break, the pitching in a little more of a slump, but both were Top 5 in the league so the minor departures don't drop them to any sort of level that would worry me.

If you want to dig a little deeper. Offensively what would worry me most is Espinosa. I still have faith Bryce will hit. He's never not. He hasn't reached his potential before last year but he always hit.  Espinosa on the other hand has a history of NOT hitting and a slump late in last year after hitting ok much of the year. It's completely possible, in my eyes, that he could put up an under .500 OPS the rest of the way. Normally you'd replace him with Turner or Drew, but Turner is replacing the Revere/Taylor failure in CF and Drew is out. So there isn't an answer here. Also Robinson/Zimmerman still aren't hitting either. But these are known problems the Nats have overcome. Adding a potential 3rd spot not hitting for the rest of they year in Danny would be something new.

As for Bryce, all I can do is make guesses. Everything we talked about before holds true. I checked out the zone stats since the break. He's still getting pitched low and away. He's still swinging too often at pitches below the knees and he's still swinging too often at pitches in which are not his sweetspots. But he's striking out a lot more, popping up, pulling everything. All that's new. If I were to guess I'd say he's super frustrated and just looking for anything that isn't low and away and trying to kill it. But I'm not watching film.

Pitching wise it's about the 5th starter slot and the closer. That's about it. Ross isn't healthy yet and neither Lopez or Giolito look ready to step in and be a good pitcher for 2016. But given that everyone else in the rotation seems fine if either can be a passable #5, and I think they can, then that's enough. A mediocre start every 5th day for two months isn't going to derail a season. As for the closer.... You can go different ways with this. We talked about a trade yesterday, which is the direction I endorse.* Sticking with Papelbon seems the worst idea to me. He might be beginning to lose control (walked at least one in last three outings) and that had been his saving grace. He's been hit hard all year but usually balls in plays are outs and if you don't walk guys you can survive. Still even if he regains control having a guy so prone to being hit doesn't seem like a good idea against the line-ups you'll likely see in the playoffs. Kelley could take over but he's scuffling a bit now and he's never really pitched a normal amount of innings. He's topped 55 once since 2008. What would he be like in the playoffs? You could try someone else, Treinen, Rivero, Lopez throw it at the wall and see if it sticks. Whatever is decided won't likely kill the Nats in regards to the East, it's more a matter of how confident do you want to feel in October.

The Nats aren't exactly where I wanted them to be right now, but they are close and with a little luck could be there in 12 games. Make "nice" into "safe" guys.


*Robles and Lopez for Miller is what I would do, in case you are wondering. I would not offer Turner or Giolito for anyone as I like both to be impactful in 2017 and I think you can get what you want without offering either.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Trade

What should be the cost of increasing your chances an immeasurable amount in regards to obtaining something of unknown value? 

This is the question that is at the core of every trade deadline deal. It should be immediately obvious that one cannot get an answer, as there are two unknowns in the equation. But, whether it be based on hunches and gut feelings, made up numbers, or the current set of statistics, guys who are employed in the game, or employed talking about the game, haven't let that little caveat stop them from acting like they can.

If the current set of stats guys don't deal in made up values, how do they answer the unknowable? They make assumptions. The "unknown value" of a playoff win is treated like the chances of obtaining a normal win. The "immeasurable amount" is estimated by delving into all sorts of facts and figures. How likely it will be for player A to face certain situations? How much more likely is player A to be successful in these situations than player B? All of this controlled for line-ups and ballparks and etc.

When it comes to the playoffs this almost can't help but produce the conclusion that trading for someone makes a very small difference, if any at all. The difference between a good player and a great player is measured out in seasons and careers, not the span of 7 games. Luck will dominate such a small time frame. Since this part of the answer seems obvious, they move onto a more long term question. What is the value of the player received likely to be against the value of the players given up? Given the age, career arc, recent statistics, minor league projections, positions in question, etc. etc. they get a picture. Almost always the picture is the same, there is no point in trading a good prospect. The value brought in is almost always going to be less than the average value sent out.

This is a fair answer. But it's an answer to a question that was not asked. If the response was framed as such, "We can't answer the relevant question at hand, no one can, however we can provide this other information which may inform your decision" then it would be fine. However, it doesn't pay to be wishy-washy so there is no framing. This is presented as THE answer.

Of course, it isn't. We've talked ad nauseum regarding the Strasburg shutdown on how you cannot evaluate things that do not happen. History is not going to show that Aroldis Chapman improved the Cubs pen over Adam Warren by whatever the average WAR he is expected to do so by statistics. He's going to improve it by ?????  He will perform one way in the set of circumstances he sees. This is going to be a known. Adam Warren will have performed ??? in the ??? set of circumstances he would have seen. This is an unknown. We can estimate what it might be. We can make deals based on these estimates going for deals that were right at the time. But after all is said and done we don't actually know what effect a trade really had, and all we care about are deals that were right in the end, not at the time.

The question of the value of a win is tougher. What is the value of a playoff win? Of a playoff series win? Of a World Series win? Yes, gates can be estimated. Yes, apparel sales can be projected. But what is the psychic value of these things? What would it mean to the city of Chicago, to the legion of those fans, to win a World Series? What is that worth?

A numbers guy might tell you that the best way to improve your chances of that is to make the playoffs as much as you can. What they downplay though is the chances of doing such a thing. The value presented by prospects in the future in itself is FAR more variable than the value presented by a current major leaguer in the current season.  But there is a second variability often ignored, the variability of the quality of the entire team when the value of the prospects is expected to come into play. A guy like Chapman is very likely to produce in a certain way this season. The Cubs are very very likely to be in the playoffs this year and to have a good shot at being a favorite. Next year? The year after? It doesn't take long into the future, 3 years?, before things get so hazy for projections to barely be better than guesses. You might want to believe that a well-run team can provide more consistency in future estimates of performance but injuries, free agent signings, and the variability in the other teams you face in your division and conference all come into play.  Maikel Franco becomes Mike Schmidt and Aaron Nola becomes Steve Carlton and it doesn't matter if Victor Robles is a solid CF and Reynaldo Lopez is a good #3 exactly as projected. This point is very important : You can't say you are sacrificing the future when you have no idea, really no idea, what the future will bring.

This is a wordy long post to say that if you want the Nats to win this year - maybe you make a trade. It's not a question with a set answer, a clear yes or no, it's an opinion. My opinion is yes. I think a trade will help the team in the pen and in ways we may not be able to measure. That's my opinion.

If instead, you want the Nats to have the most value on their team in the future, then the answer is clearer. You probably don't make a trade. It depends on the actual offers out there but any good prospect, or set of prospects, is very likely to "out-value" whatever you can bring back. However, understand this is not saying "if you want the Nats to win the most games in the future" or "if you want the Nats to have the best chance to win in the playoffs in the future". Those, like the question at the top of the post can't be answered simply. This is only saying "if you want the Nats to have the most value in the future". That's it.

For me, in sports, value without the certainty of winning, is not worth much at all. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Chugging along

Eh.

I'm giving Bryce the homestand, but in fact I'm giving everyone the homestand** and will see where things lie come Monday.  Other than the usual, "seeing more games to form a better judgment of players" there are other, season defining reasons to wait until Monday.

The Nats have a weekend series with the Padres, who are neither a good team nor are playing particularly well. The Nats should take at least 2 of 3. That's important because the Mets have a weekend series with... the Marlins! Assuming the Nats take care of business, the only way one of these two can gain ground is if either the Marlins or the Mets sweep the other. That would put the NL East at either: 

Nats; Mia 3.5 GB, Mets 8 GB or
Nats; Mets 5 GB, Mia 6.5 GB

with closing in on 60 games to go in the season. Tick tick tick. Looking at it another way, the only way the Nats won't come out of this weekend in better shape then they went in is if they screw it up, if they lose the series or worse - get swept. It's in their hands.*

Another reason to wait it out is because we get within a week of the trade deadline at that point and that's when most of the action will happen. Up until this weekend, there has always been more time to see if player X will come around or player Y will begin to fade.  After this weekend, there is no more time. You have to have a decision in mind. You've seen 100 games. You don't want a good game or two that week to change anything. 

After these games the Nats will go on the road to Cleveland, SF (who'd I expect to right themselves a little by then), and then Arizona. The D-backs aren't good but I don't automatically assume games at the end of a road trip are going to be easy, especially a Cleveland to SF to Phoenix road trip. Then it's CLE and SF at home. This is the tough stretch, where if the Nats are going to stumble in the second half, it's most likely to happen here.

That's why this Padres series matters a little bit more. Timing wise, and given the current NL East situation, it is at a point that can make all the difference. If the Nats are 3.5 and 4 games up after this weekend, then a stumble during the tough stretch could put the Nats in a three-way race. Maybe you are more likely to make that trade to try to ensure this doesn't happen. If the Nats are 6.5 and 7 games up come Monday I wouldn't even worry about a stumble. It would take a crash really for a chasing team to pull even. The team would be more likely to let the trade deadline pass.

Finish it here. Nats - win the series, so you can muddle through the tough stretch, so you can glide to the finish.


*If I were a Nats fan, what would I root for this weekend? Obviously a Nats sweep - then honestly a Marlins sweep. The Marlins are the 2nd WC right now. If they were to sweep the Mets and the Dodgers didn't tank, the Mets could find themselves FIVE game out of the WC on Monday morning. That's a team that has no reason to make a trade and I want the Mets, with those arms and with last year's run still giving them hopeful thoughts for this year, out of it. 


**Who else is of interest? Espinosa is slumping out of the gate, was playing over his head, and had a terrible 2nd half last year. Robinson/Zimmerman and Taylor/Revere haven't shown any reason to believe the 2nd half will be that different than the first. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nats and their choices

Let's cut to the chase.

The Nats have the money and the prospects to pick and choose what reliever they want. Do they want Aroldis Chapman? They can get Aroldis Chapman. Do they want... I don't know... Tyler Thornburg? They can get Tyler Thornburg. There is nothing stopping the Nats other than what seems like the small chance of a possible outbidding by another team.

What does this mean?  It means that on August first, when we look up and see who the Nats have on their team and probably most importantly, in their bullpen, it means this is who the Nats chose to go into battle with.

Now perhaps by "the Nats" we don't mean everyone in the organization. The team is a chain, and first and foremost it is run how the owners want it to be run. Next is Rizzo, who has shown over several years he can put together successful teams. Then it's Dusty, a winner as a manager riding a first year out 1st place season, much like Davey did in 2012 or Matt did in 2014. It's possible, given that chain, that Dusty won't get what he wants, or Rizzo won't get what he wants. It's not possible though that the Lerners don't get what they want.

I bring that up because I want to remind you that the Nats payroll this year is 20 million less than last year. This is why I say, "they have the money".  This shouldn't be a make the other team eat salary situation like nearly every Nats trade in the past for a veteran at the deadline has been.  There is no need. But that is assuming the Lerners are ok spending that much.  Remember this is a group that told us they were "topped out", that made last year sound like a singular season in terms of money into the team. Things can change, sure, but it's something that we have to be aware of.

There's a brilliance in spending less and letting the assumption that it would be spent at the trading deadline run through the fanbase. You could have a bad season and be so far behind that trading for a high-price FA makes no sense, which means you don't have to spend more money. You could have a great season and be so far ahead that trading for a high-price FA makes no sense, which means you don't have to spend more money. You can call-up all your young talent to help the team and if they perform in that short while you can convince yourself you don't need to trade for a high-price free agent, which means you don't have to spend more money. 

The Nats are not so far ahead that they can simply run with what they got. They are close, but not there yet. They are trotting out young players. Many in the fanbase hope it's for a trade, but it may not be. It may be getting them ready for important roles down the stretch.  If the Nats roll this way that's fine. But remember that when Reynaldo Lopez or Felipe Rivero are staring down Brandon Belt instead of Andrew Miller, it was the Nats choice. They deserve all the credit if it ends up working, and all the blame if it doesn't.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Give Bryce the homestand

Inside. That's the answer. 

What's the question? What happened to Bryce and will he ever be BRYCE again?

You see pretty much all last year and through the first three weeks of this year Bryce was an super MVP force. Then it stopped. It's been 3 months now and while we've seen glimpses of the old Bryce and it hasn't been as bad as you might think, he still hasn't gotten back to those levels. He hasn't been close. So what happened?

Some people will claim that it had to do with where he was being pitched. That he was being pounded low, away, and primarily low & away and that was keeping him from hitting. That is true, but the problem with that is he was pitched that way all last year. (All these things are courtesy of Brooksbaseball.net.  Go there. Use it. Praise it)



See? I mean he did walk 124 times last year, 50 times in the last 2 months alone. And yet he didn't hit like he is now. So if it's not what he's seeing, it must be how he's reacting to it. Here is where he swung at pitches last year.

 

He jumped over anything in the strike zone. He was moderately aggressive on pitches over the plate that may have been high or low, less aggressive with some middle zone pitches inside and out. Has this changed at all?  Well let's look at how he swung from 4/26 when PETE MACKANIN not Joe Maddon you goddamn sycophants, started the "walk Bryce" craze, through mid June.



In possible reaction to the over-walking Bryce has been a little flummoxed. He let the top of the zone go in favor of turning on anything that he can reach. If it was in, he was going for it.  But like almost everyone Bryce's power comes from when he can get those arms extended. Take a look at the isoSLG from last year


Outside of that fluke area up and in it's all out over the plate. HRs per BIP show the same thing. During his down period (and it was a period with a BA around .220 with a .320 SLG - which is bad) Bryce was looking in, turning on inside pitches, but in the end, that's not where his power lay. He may have had some bad luck with the BA but he wasn't going to be BRYCE swinging like that.

So why do I say give him the homestand? Because Bryce has been swinging better recently.


He still might be favoring the inside pitch a bit too much, but he really stopped swinging at pitches off the plate inside. That helps.  Next is probably getting back to going after those "arm extended" pitches. He still might be a little gunshy on pitches low but in the zone. He's generated no power from those and he should. This is what I'll be looking for in the homestand; continued taking of pitches on the hands and attempts to drive pitches over the plate at the knees, while not chasing pitches lower and more outside than that.

That sounds hard and it is. What separates the good from the great is understanding the difference between the pitches you can hit and the pitches you can hit well, and adapting your approach to maximize the number of swings on those. That means taking a pitch you can hit that's a strike early in the count to wait for one you might be able to hit better later and taking a walk then if you get nothing else. It means being able to tell the difference between a strike low on the outside corner and a slider that keeps going, Bryce was here in 2015, can he get back to it? Because this is what teams are going to pound him with until he proves he can.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday off!

Not for me, but for the Nats which makes pretty much no sense.  There's no travel (for the Nats). The large bulk of the players / coaches / etc just had 4 days off. I'mn sure it's a Dodgers coming from Phoenix thing but still come on, MLB, schedule better.

The Nats keep on keeping on . They nearly swept the Pirates thanks to Muprhy's heroics but end up with the series win and the same lead they had 3 games earlier. Now there isn't ~72 games for the Mets / Marlins to make a run there are ~69.  Tick tick tick.


The pitching looked great coming out of the break. Strasburg pitched well, which was most important after the held out of AS Game moment. No issues to speak of. Roark and Max both were great. Now comes the rest. The pen pitched admirably in the 18 inning game - it's just one game but it's better than not pitching well.

On the offense side things were not as sunny. Zimm is out. Muprhy had one at bat. Rendon got sick. Werth and Bryce both have stumbled out of the gate. Despite the RS it was actually a very poor hitting series where the offense was made to look better by Stephen Drew, some timely hits, and some helpful Pirates errors. They would have still likely won two games, given the dominance of the pitching but it's something to keep watching in the Dodgers series.

As a public service : If you can't watch the Nats tonight - what should you watch? No, not the RNC.  Who watches conventions? You should watch more baseball, of course. Tonight there is only one marquee game - Mets v Cubs and it's really not even close. The next most compelling game is probably Cleveland v Kansas City, but while you were watching the Nats, the Indians opened up an 8 game lead on the Royals (the Tigers are closer). I suppose if you stretch interest as far as it will go you could watch White Sox / Mariners as being swept would likely turn the loser into sellers. Jose Fernandez is pitching, so is Chris Sale. There you go.

Be back tomorrow with something more meaty and substantive, I hope.