Nationals Baseball

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Some revisiting

Before the bubbly gets broken into some looking back at some pre-season and mid-season predictions

Pre-season

I didn't do as many straight up predictions this year. I did worry about Soriano, say Sammy Solis wasn't going to help the 2014 Nats, and completely dismiss Tyler Moore for what feels like the 100th time.

I did some guesses based on fangraphs projections which I rightly guessed they were undervaluing Desmond (just barely though), ZNN, the pen, and Werth. On the flipside, I was too optimistic on Bryce and not optimistic enough about LaRoche or the Nats pitching health.

I loved the Fister deal (who didn't?) but did say that if you forced me, and you'd have to because I didn't feel sure about it, I'd guess both Porcello and Scherzer would have better years. The result right now? Personally I'd say they pitched similar enough to make any call impossible. You may want to bring ERA to the comparison, but if you do that I'm bringing wins. You could also say "well he didn't pitch in April because he was injured" and I would respond "Yes. He didn't pitch in April. How is that helping him?"  In the end Fister may have pitched just slightly better but pitched a month less. Draw your own conclusion.

I said the team defense wouldn't be great and it isn't (if you think it is you shut your eyes when balls are hit to the right side of the field)

And the big one?

94-68 NL East champs - this looks pretty good.  8-5 in their last 13 would do it. (fun looking back at that post and see Braves fans argue why Atlanta would easily take the East again)

Mid-season

Nailed all but one. I guess there is still time to be wrong though.

LaRoche's BA drops : .279 at the time, .259 now
Zimm HR rate goes up : 7.4% at the time, up to 8.2% then injured.
Soriano's ERA jumps : 0.97 to 3.20
Fister's ERA climbs a bit, Strasburg and ZNN's drop a bit: Fister dropped 2.90 to 2.55, ZNN dropped from 3.03 to 2.83, Stras dropped from 3.46 to 3.37

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Quickie - Playoff managing

As much as we like to pick on or praise Matt Williams, the truth is there hasn't been much to distinguish him from your prototypical modern manager. He bats the speedy CF first. He tries to set up a 7-8-9 finish to the pen. He bunts with the pitcher or when it's close late in the game. He follows the managerial course that years and years of baseball seasons have carved out. There's nothing in particular that makes him stands out.

In the regular season this is fine. Rizzo has built a strong enough roster that when it's healthy the Nats should be able to win 90+ games under standard operating procedures. But in the playoffs things are different and require more creativity and forward thinking from your manager. For a lot of teams it's a playoff type atmosphere from August on and if you've paid attention you've seen managers unable to change their ways to accommodate the situation. I spent most of early to mid August mad at Joe Girardi for failing to pull Betances and Robertson out of their set roles in the 8th and 9th. Betances has actually faced fewer batters per appearance in the stretch run than he did earlier in the season, as he has moved into the 8th inning role. Robertson has come in before the 9th one time since the start of July. He's pitched more than an inning just 3 times in those 30 appearances. And understand, Girardi is considered a pretty good manager.

What does a bad manager do? Here you go. Ned Yost didn't use his Kelvin Herrera to get the last couple outs in a crucial situation in the 6th because Aaron Crow is the 6th inning guy, Herrera is for the 7th.

Yikes. I feel bad for the Royals but that's a guy who shouldn't be managing. Not "shouldn't be managing in the playoffs", or "shouldn't be managing in the majors", but "shouldn't be managing, should be running a car dealership". 

To be a completest there are actually two types of "playoff" managing. There's the regular playoff game, and then there's the elimination game. The regular playoff requires that forethought. This is the issue that Davey, an otherwise well thought of manager, ran into in 2012. You want your best players (primarily pitchers but it can be applied to injured offensive players as well) to be rested, but not rusty. To do so you have to properly take advantage of the days off given. Davey didn't. He gave Mattheus a 2nd day of work in Game 2, not Storen. Then afraid Storen might get rusty after the day off, used Drew in Game 3 when he didn't need to setting up the 3 days in a row situation that helped doom the Nats.  (Lessons to be learned :  If you are going to be afraid of rustiness, use all your key relievers the day before a day off if possible.  If the way the series is going sets up a possible 3 days in relief in a row err on giving the reliever an extra day of rest)

Elimination game managing requires no forethought. Everything is about the game in front of you. What's the best way to get out of the situation presented right now. Does it mean using 6 relievers in a single game? Fine. Does it mean at least trying to use your best reliever for more than 2 innings? Fine.  Typically managing is about managing assets to maximize wins over the course of a season. That goes out the window in an elimination game. You can't care about setting yourself up for the rest of the series because the rest of the series may not take place if you don't win the game. It's the ultimate extension of the philosophy that uses the best relievers in the most important spots, inning be damned. 

I'm really interested to see what Matt Williams does in the playoffs. It's easy to say he'll be like the standard manager, but truth is we don't know.  He's had little need to work outside the box this year with the talent he has and the Braves failing to put up serious competition. That kind of easy success will be harder to find in the playoffs. Who knows when faced with those stressful situations, how exactly the man will react? 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Everything pen

The commenters wanted a Drew Storen column. The commenters get a Drew Storen column!

Well, sort of. It's hard for me to do a Drew Storen column without doing a Rafeal Soriano column, too, so entwined the two of them are.

It hasn't even been 2 years since Drew Storen was beaten by the Cardinals in Game 5 and started this whole thing in motion.  The viceral reaction to vilify Storen for the loss was understandable. The long-lasting dislike though confused me, and not just because I am a soulless automaton who knows with whom the blame should truly lay with.  Didn't Storen just have a fantastic season half-season in relief and an impressive previous one as closer? Didn't he pitch 3 times before Game 5 in that playoff series being nearly perfect (1 walk/baserunner in 3 outings) picking up a win and a save? Didn't those things count? It was if after belting the game winning homer in Game 4, Werth had hit into a bases loaded double play to end a one-run loss Game 5 and suddenly fans started calling for his head.

This reaction wasn't confined to outlier fans. It extended all the way to ownership. In came Soriano on what was arguably not a Rizzo move. It wasn't a terrible acquisition in theory - "strengthen a strength" and all that, but while Soriano anchored the pen Storen blew up. It may have been lingering effects of his bone chip surgery. Perhaps he powered through the end of 2012, but he didn't seem like the same pitcher. When 2014 started there was more apprehension with Storen than hope. Over the first half though Drew re-asserted his dominance, pitching as well as he ever had. But the closer role was still out of reach as Soriano put up an 0.97 ERA. No one thought he was that type of pitcher but regardless even if he was a 3.00 ERA pitcher that would be good enough to hold on to the closer role.

But since the All-Star break, or more accurately since early August*, Soriano has been terrible. In the span of 11 appearances he blew two saves, had four other shaky save outings, and one more shaky appearance in an blow out. That was enough to put Soriano on watch and after he blew the Philly game he was out. (Lost in all this is that Clippard pitches well - remains in the 8th hole - which is why he gets pissed if he doesn't get to finish the 8th. If the Nats won't let him "graduate" to closer on merit, then at least he wants ownership of the 8th)

OK that's the history. What's the reasoning? Why has Soriano collapsed? Why did Storen bounce back?

Soriano is the easy one. It's one part regression to the mean. Remember that doesn't mean "I'm a 3.00 ERA guy putting up a 1.00 ERA, so I have to put up a 5.00 ERA from here on out to end up at 3.00".  It means "I'm a 3.00 ERA guy, so I should put up a 3.00 ERA from here on out and end up with a 2.00 ERA closer to the what I truly am than this 1.00 ERA I have now" Soriano was not a 0.97 pitcher. An ERA of about 3.00 would make more sense for him.

Of course he hasn't put up 3.00 he's put up like 7.00. The second part is Soriano is getting older and he's losing speed. All his pitches are at the slowest they've ever been. But they are just a tiny tick slower than last year and not slower than the early part of this season so there is one more component. His pitches aren't moving anymore.  Here's the horizontal movement on Soriano's sliders :

2012/2103 : let's say 3.25

2014
APR : 3.35
MAY : 3.56
JUN : 2.74
JUL : 2.71
AUG : 2.74
SEP : 2.51

Soriano thinks the sliders are up in the zone. Are they? Not really - or at least not anymore in the 2nd half than the first.

And what about the vertical movement of his sinkers?

2012/2103 : let's say 6.50, but a range of 6.00-7.50 is probably more "accurate"

2014
APR : 5.67
MAY : 6.43
JUN : 6.09
JUL : 5.72
AUG : 5.90
SEP : 5.48

You don't have to know what the numbers mean other than bigger means more movement. Soriano's sliders aren't sliding, his sinkers aren't sinking, and his fastball is too slow to be an out pitch. We'll see in a minute that less movement isn't necessarily bad, but there's no reason for optimism here. He may be hurt, or he may just be old. He did see a similar 2nd half issue with the sinker last year and with the slider the past 2 years. Either way despite his early success you can't count on him right now.

What about Storen? That's harder. What you'd like to see is a single easily identifiable change that explains why 2013 was an outlier in comparison to 2011, '12 and '14. Sorry but I can't find one. The biggest change last year from 2011/2012 was upping the use of his change-up, but as you might have read he's using that pitch even more in 2014 than 2013. Some people are even citing it as a reason for success, saying he introduced it late last year (Storen was much better in Aug/Sept 2013). That would make sense... except it doesn't jive with the numbers. He threw his change up far more in the first half of 2013 and barely at all in August and September. So it isn't just a "change-up" per-se. Perhaps an entirely different approach to that pitch but not just that pitch. 

He threw more sliders in 2013 - but he threw a lot in 2011. He stopped using his sinker as much in 2013 in comparison to 2012 but he's using it the same amount this year. There isn't a good pitch-type reason.

Is it pitch movement? Yes that has changed a bit. His slider is moving more horizontally, but the change-up and sinker you could argue have less movement. That's not a bad thing necessarily. The issues may just come down to command.

If you look at his zone info you see he's producing a ton more swings this year than he ever has, both inside and outside the zone. They are making a lot of contact outside the zone but no more contact inside the zone. This is really good. You can read it as he's getting them to hit HIS pitches. Less movement in this case can be seen as "more controlled" movement. It's possible that the sinkers that last year were obvious to hitters are less obvious in 2014, producing more weak ground balls. It's possible that the change-ups that last year might have floated a bit and not produced off-balance attempts are staying more around the zone in 2014 and are now getting those bad swings. Add to those a slider that's biting more and you have a repertoire of pitches that all work in concert to keep the hitter from being comfortable at the plate. This interpretation lines up with having the lowest walk rate of his career.

Why does he have better control? Got me. You can read the the Pavlidis and Kilgore pieces from last year explaining his changes in delivery. Seems to me to be as good a reason as any. Even if the change didn't improve his command, it may have made him think it improved his command. That's just as good if it produces results.

So there you go - Storen column.

oh also meant to link this - Storen's approach as a closer from Stuart Wallace on the District Sports Page. It's interesting. 

*Soriano's ERA doesn't look good from Jul 20th-Aug 9th but that's all because of one hideous Miami blow-up.  Take that single game out and he was as good as he had been in the first half.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fun tracker

We don't have to think about the playoffs, (spoiler : the Nats are in) so how about some fun stuff to keep track of regarding the Nats?  

Can Span hit .300? 

Barring a complete collapse, at age 30 Span will have his best year of the 10's. Such things happen especially in easy pennant years. (I'm looking at you Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, Jarrod Saltalamacchia... basically Boston 2013) Right now Span is hitting .300 (actually .300036) so he has to hit .299 or better the rest of the year to do it. That's a little high for Span historically.

A prolonged super hot streak this year (.447 for 23 games) elevated his stats but really the Span you've seen for the other 120 games is the "real" Span.  He's can get hot, but not THAT hot (.340 in past 11 games) and he can get cold (.226 for the 15 games beyond those 11) It's a back and forth that gets you to a .275/.280 average.

We're in the home stretch so timing of these streaks is going to matter more than anything.

My bet : No.  Falls just short in the .295 range.


Will Rendon lead the league in runs scored?

Rendon bats 2nd, but his OBP isn't special and the hitters behind him are good but not great. How is he leading the league in runs scored? OK that has a lot to with PAs (he has a lot) and the situational hitting of the guys behind him (Werth - great, LaRoche - pretty good) but why not Span who has a better OBP and hits in front of Rendon? A little bit of it is Rendon's HRs where he knocks himself in, but the rest of it is just fluky. Rendon has 18 homers. In theory Span should have been on base for 6 or 7, but he was only on base for 5.  Werth has homered with Rendon on base 6 times, but Span only 3.

Anyway - Rendon leads the league a couple runs ahead of Hunter Pence. Pence is the only competition as 3rd place is 10 runs behind Hunter.

My bet : Yes. Nats are better at scoring than Giants. Giants are either in SF, LA, or SD for all but 3 of their remaining games.


Will Desmond lead the league in strikeouts?

We've dealt with Ian's issues before, but suffice to say he's striking out a lot.  Still it's MLB in 2014. Everyone strikes out a lot.  Ian's 171 is only good enough for #2.  Marlon Byrd is #1 at 172 and both Stanton and Howard are within 3 of Ian. It's anyone's game.

My bet : No. Nats will give Ian some rest down the stretch cutting his ABs enough that either Byrd or Howard will pull away.


Will Strasburg lead the league in strikeouts?

The reverse of Desmond because K's here are good! Strasburg is currently 2Ks ahead of Cueto and 5 ahead of Kershaw. Kershaw strikes out very very slightly more guys per inning than Strasburg, while Cueto has pitched more innings .Normally you'd have to go Kershaw - he also pitching a lot of innings per start and he'd be well ahead if not for missing those first few weeks, but it's not an even race from here on out. Strasburg pitches tonight, Cueto tomorrow, Kershaw not again until Sunday.  Barring some moving around to ward off the charging Giants, Clayton should get one less start than the other two.

My bet: Yes. Strasburg is the only guarantee for getting four starts (Cueto should get #4 on the final day but who knows if the Reds will bother putting him out there for a meaningless game and him up around 240 IP). 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Who do you want to face?

I totally called that. Where's my prize?

Nats win. 8 games up, only the most ardent pessimists are not calling it. In the commentary talk shifted to who you want to play and who you don't want to. It's a mostly silly argument. At this point any team that gets into the playoffs is good and could take 3 of 5 from the Nats. It's not like "oh this team, that'll be a piece of cake".  At the same time you do have preferences based on your own team.

The Nats strength is its starting pitching.  Against a weak offense, like the Braves, they can dominate and win a series all by themselves. They don't give up home runs and they don't walk people (well Gio does). Maybe you could say they don't go deep in games but they haven't had to. I expect in the playoffs that would change. The worst thing you can say about the pitching is that they let the ball get put in play (only 7th in Ks) but the defense of the Nats is pretty good, with the exception of down the right field line. The relief pitching is good, too, but a little less reliable as the Nats are now leaning on a lefty waiver pick-up in Thorton and a closer in Storen who 6 months ago no one had any confidence in.

While the Nats also have a very good offense, they don't have any dominant bats. They are often quieted completely by the upper echelon of starters. (I know, "Who isn't?") and beat up on other arms. They don't have any strong righty lefty preferences and have good balance between power and patience. If they have a weakness it's that they don't get a ton of hits (8th in hits, 8th in average, 5th most Ks). They would match up pretty poorly against the Nats staff actually.

So I'd say the Nats ideal opponent would (1) have no dominant starter so the Nats bats can possibly break out, (2) their pitching in general would be inclined to give up walks and homers, (3) have a weak offense reliant more on homers and walks then hits so the Nats pitching can possibly shut them down completely, (3) have an offense that does worse versus RHP because the Nats are stronger from that side of the mound.


Dodgers

The Dodgers are the match-up that everyone wants to avoid because they have THE dominant pitcher in Clayton Kershaw. In a 5 game series he'll pitch twice and the Dodgers will be heavy favorites to win both those games meaning you have to win the other 3. Of course after Kershaw you have Greinke who Ks a lot of guys and isn't homer prone, and Ryu who never gives up homers and is pretty good with the walks (ok with the Ks). It's tough the see the Nats scoring a ton of runs in this series

Offensively the Dodgers are a hits and walks team which is somewhat good for the Nats but not a perfect match-up. They do better versus right-handed pitching. I don't see the Nats shutting the Dodgers down completely in a series.

Cardinals

The Cardinals  have Wainwright, but he's not Kershaw. He's death to home runs but can walk guys sometimes and doesn't K guys. All the Cards guys you'd expect to see in a short series (Lynn, Wacha) kill homers in fact. But they are wild and only Wacha can strike out a bunch. The Nats have a chance versus these starters.

The Cardinals offense hasn't been able to get off the ground, but they'd have a chance against the Nats as they work on hits and not walks or homers. I mean really no homers at all, last in the NL. They have lefties but given the lack of power I'm assuming the RF line would be ok and splits show they don't hit RHP all that well.

Giants

Bumgarner should be a mini-Kershaw versus the Nats. Doesn't walk, doesn't give up the homer, Ks a lot of guys. He could win two easy. Hudson, as we've seen many many times, does OK versus the Nats but since he can't work the strikeout like he used to he can be beat. Anyone else pitching doesn't specifically worry me, but overall the staff has very good control which takes away a Nats strength.

It's another decent offense (these are all playoff teams so they'll be good) that gets hits. The Giants are even less walk reliant but do like the home run. Given that, I'd expect a playoff that would be a continuation of their meetings this year. Sometimes the Giants would be shut down completely, other times they blow up. They scored 1,2,2,2,6,7,10 runs in Nats games. They are either going to be able to hit it out that day or not. They don't have significant splits.

Pirates

The Pirates staff is very wild and survive with a measure of power control. But just a measure, they still aren't better than average in giving up the homers. They lack an ace and instead rely on solid pitching from good but not great arms to win enough games. I think the Nats could really punish this squad. 

The Pirates have a special bat in McCutchen who can overcome the Nats pitching, and otherwise they are good across the board. They walk, hit for power and just hit in general. The Nats can counter some of that but I'd expect the Pirates to score some runs. They hit RHP especially well as their 2nd best hitter Neil Walker is a huge homer threat against righties (17 of his 19 homers) and Ike Davis is completely useless versus lefties but a fair threat versus righties. I'd expect a lot of 6-4 type games in this series (Nats favor of course)

Braves

The Braves pitchers can be walk prone, but they are ok with the K and good with the homers which is why they seemingly match-up well with the Nats. Still it's hard to see the Nats being shut down for a series by this set of arms. If they can maintain a little patience they should score a few runs.

That should be enough the win because the Braves offense is terrible. They strike out a ton, don't hit, and aren't good with the power, meaning they rely on walks and luck to score runs. That won't work versus the Nats. They also hit RHP much worse than LHP so that's another thing in the Nats favor. Seriously, if it wasn't for the history you'd LOVE a match-up versus the Braves.

Brewers

The Brewers seem to be dying and it's easy to see why. Their pitchers give up a few walks and a ton of homers and don't strike anyone out. The starting pitching is perfect matchup for the Nats. If for some reason the Nats got into their pen the story flips. A ton of high K guys a few of which are hard to homer off of. Overall they actually give up very few walks but it's more a story of only having one guy prone to walking people, as it is having a few that walk no one, so I think the Nats would find their way on base just fine in a series.

The offense is homer heavy and not much else, which the Nats should be able to handle just fine. While they are a righty-heavy lineup they don't show much in regards to splits.


OK so based on the above how would I rank them from most want to face to least? Being completely honest and cutting out "experience" and the like :

1. Braves - there's no reason the Nats shouldn't hold that offense to 0 or 1 run in 3 out of 5 games.
2. Brewers - The Nats should be able to score a good amount of runs and assuming the Nats starter that day isn't particularly homer prone, should be able to shut the Brewers down.

3. Pirates - There's a gap here as I'd expect the Nats to beat the Braves or Brewers quickly. Now we're in 5-game territory. I flip-flop the Pirates and the Cardinals because I think the Nats have the same measure of edge versus either. Why #3 for the Pirates? I expect higher scoring games in this series and I like luck to factor more for low-scoring games.
4. Cardinals - It would probably be a low-scoring series but the Nats are the better team and match-up ok so should win. Still when you are talking 3-2 a bad bounce can make all the difference.

5. Giants - I would right now make the Giants a toss-up.  Bumgarner is good enough to dominate the Nats if he's on and Hudson to keep them in it. If their offense is on that series the Nats could get swept away. If it's off they Nats could do the sweeping. This series could swing all over the place.  Now if Bumgarner has to be used for the one-game play-in I still put them as my 5th team but they drop back into the Pirates/Cards territory.

6. Dodgers - I think the Dodgers have the edge over the Nats assuming Kershaw pitches twice. If it's after a one-game playoff then it's more a 50/50 scenario. Still this is the match-up I don't want in a 5 game series.

I'd say the ideal scenario for the Nats finish with the best record, the Dodgers falter and fall into one-game playoff where the Braves or Brewers knock them off (Pirates out in this scenario). The Nats beat up on them and take on the winner of the Giants/Cardinals who went through a 5-gamer  with either Wainwright or Bumgarner pitching twice. Make it happen Fate.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Monday Quickie : A now we enter... the place where we realized endgame happened at least 2 weeks ago

I've already called the NL East (for good reason) but some of you might be holding out. Six head to head games left! Six!

It's true - if the Braves sweep the Nats in those six games, it's a dogfight for winning the division. But that's what it would take. The Braves go 5-1? Not good enough. That would make up 4 games on the Nats leaving the Nats with a 3 game advantage in their other 15 games (and Braves 13).  If the Braves were super hot in those other games too and went 10-3, the Nats would have to go 8-7 to drop into a tie. (in other words you'd be having the Braves go 15-4 and the Nats 9-12 to end the year).  No, 5-1 won't do for the Braves. Leaves too much still in other teams hands. No it has to be 6-0.

And you know what? Why would you think the Braves could do that? Their offense is 14th in the NL. The Nats starting pitching staff has the 2nd best ERA in the majors and that's only because Kershaw is Kershaw. #2-#5 the Nats are the best. Someone will shut out the Braves or at least hold them to one run. You rarely win games where you score one-run. You can't win when you don't score yourself. Their bats don't have it in them to otuscore the Nats so in probably 4 or 5 of the games they need their starter to pitch a gem. That's too much to ask of a pitching staff that is good, maybe even very good, but not team-carrying great.

That's why it's over for the Braves. They can't sweep the Nats and if they can't sweep the Nats, they can't win the East.

What to watch tonight then? DET/KC in the only premier match-up for the next few days. MIA/MIL is the next best set, which quickly doesn't matter if Miami doesn't win tonight. CLE/LAA would be the third choice but really - why aren't you watching DET/KC?  It better be a blowout. (or maybe you are a NY Giants or Lions fan and are excited by how bad the other teams in your division look)

Yep Nats v Braves in September doesn't even make the watch list outside of fans of these teams.

(Sadly looking ahead the season ends with a whimper.  It's likely no two teams playing for something will be playing eachother in that last series. Fluke of the schedule. The 2nd to last series though holds a lot of potentially interesting games so I'll hold out hope for that)

Friday, September 05, 2014

Stream of Nonsenseouss

I looked into Ian Desmonds's eyes as he stood in the batters box.  DRIVE.

I looked into Jordan Zimmermann's eyes as he leaned forward on the mound. FOCUS.

I looked into Anthony Rendon's eyes as he inched in, waiting for the bunt.  DETERMINATION.

I remember the last time I stared into this team's soul to gauge whether they were ready to take the next step.  It was October of 2012 and what I saw left me somewhere between frightened and revolted. Gio Gonzalez's eyes? APATHY.  Ryan Zimmerman's? DOUBT. Jayson Werth's? FEAR. Despite leading the majors with 98 wins, and taking Game 1 of the NLDS I not only knew they were going to lose, I knew that they SHOULD lose. They didn't deserve to win anything. They weren't a team. They were a collection of cowards who happened to get lucky over and over and over and over and over again.

I was proven right the next year when they failed to make the playoffs, a clear indication of a team that couldn't play the right way when they had the weight of a target on their back, something that all true winners need to be able to do. Not only was this bunch feeling the pressure of being the lead dog and trying too hard, they were thinking winning would just come to them and they weren't trying hard enough. It takes a special team of failures to manage that double.

It continued into 2014 when they sputtered around for the first half of the season just because they had a couple of boo-boos. They would go on to take 1st place soon after and my feeling for them started to turn a little. Still, I could tell they still wouldn't fit in the World Series. They might end up winning a lot of games and making it, but it wouldn't be right, you know? Even if they could find success through talent, this wasn't a championship TEAM. They might earn it on the field, but they hadn't earned it yet in their hearts.

It wasn't until they started winning ALOT did I see the change in their demeanor, in their manner, in their very essence. Shows of anger after big outs no longer meant the players were letting emotions get the best of them, they now meant the the players cared. Fun celebrations and smiles in the clubhouse were no longer displays of being content with minor successes, they were signs of looseness on the big stage. It takes a trained baseball mind who has spent years watching the sport to notice those changes, but they were apparent to anyone that knows this wonderful game.

It was then after that big 10-0 run that I saw that they were finally a team that if they ended up in the World Series I wouldn't retch with disgust at their good fortune. Teams don't luck into winning a lot. You don't just bring together your roster healthy for the first time all year, expectedly play better in every aspect of the game, and wins follow as if the baseball gods sprinkled fairy dust on you.  No, winning like the Nats have recently... that's a sign of something bigger, something your fancy WARS and BOBOPs can't measure. It's a sign that this group of dirt dogs and red asses is utterly and completely, in the depths of its very being, A World Series Team.



Unless they start losing a bunch or get swept in that first playoff series. Then they are losers who tricked me.