Nationals Baseball

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veteran's Day quickie

The GMs are meeting but these meetings are essentially just a starting point. Things rarely happen here in comparison to the baseball Winter Meetings and even that time frame (early December) seems to be falling by the wayside to "waiting everyone out to get a deal and if not shrugging their shoulders and telling fans 'it wasn't cost effective' and letting the analyst fans and media defend the teams actions as 'forward-thinking'"

Why does little happen here? Well part of the reason is it's so early in the process qualifying offers don't have to be decided on yet. Technically both Rendon and Strasburg are sitting on theirs.  Everyone expects rejection. As Cab, Dozier, Hellickson, Hudson, Parra, Rodney, Adams, Gomes, and Zimm all did not get QOs and are free to go where ever.  Today a quick review :

Middle Infield

Cabrera : aging MI best described as a back-up 2B/3B, and 2B is iffy. Up and down career, he was having a run of above average seasons at the plate before dropping below last year. Switch hitter

Dozier : also aging, but a year younger, 2B.  Looked bad in 2018 but rebounded in 2019 to look... well useful. Defense came back with slightly limited playing time. Bat, not so much. Pop and some patience righty who can mash lefties still (if 2018 is a fluke which seems to be likely)

Out of the two Dozier gives you better D. Offense is a mixed bag. Switch hitters are obviously real useful and with Kieboom likely up gives him a more natural back-up. But a guy that can really hit one type can be a very useful bench bat.  I'd expect Dozier back and not As Cab, dependent on Dozier not finding a starting job somewhere else which is possible.

First Base

Adams : Brought in to platoon with Zimm, Adams was a nice piece in 2018, but last year his K rate went up to a staggering 34.5% and in an environment of exploding offense didn't do much more. Mediocre fielder

Zimm : When healthy will hit veteran wasn't healthy and didn't hit. No range anymore at first. Keeping him would be an entirely sentimental move with the idea that he backs up a LH firstbaseman and as a non-starter, he can get healthy again.

If you want a ruthless move, neither comes back.  There is great sentiment though to keep Zimm but it can only work if he takes a very low salary. If you take Zimm though, it's hard to keep Dozier imo because the bench doesn't need two guys to pinch hit against LHP.

Relief

Hudson : Did everything the Nats asked him to, but a quick look at the stats suggest a guy who relied on weak fly balls? Is that a thing.  No reason to think he can't be useful in a pen but a back end role seems unlikely to match his performance

Rodney : Fun but not good last year - but good for the Nats and good in most years before last. He's a high GB guy who is wild but strikes people out.  Age is of course a concern but workload in 2019 was limited so might have one more useful year left.

Honestly out of the two I'd keep Rodney.  Rodney will likely come back for a cheap 1 year deal, where Hudson might parlay his success into something he slightly does not deserve (nowadays no one gets really overpaid). Yes, that means the Nats need bullpen help

Everyone else

Gomes : Gomes' non-option is the closest thing to a surprise for the Nats off-season so far. There was a sense he would be the catcher for a while if things worked out. But he while still solid behind the plate, his mistakes jumped out at you and with his bat disappearing for the second time in his career it was easy enough to move on if you wanted to. 

Hellickson : He was hurt and looked bad and has disappointed the Nats health wise two years in a row. Even if they liked him they can't bring him back outside of a NRI. They need something more reliable.

Parra :  After a fast start was sneaky terrible for the Nats whose best trait is "not a terrible corner OF".  I have a hard time justifying why he should be on a major league roster in 2020.  Bench coach? Maybe.

I suppose out of the three Gomes might be back, the Nats cutting him loose to try to sign him back at a contract more in line with his production. The catcher pipeline still isn't demanding any chances, but at this point maybe you try Read/Gushue just to see what you have? Hellickson and Parra there just isn't any sound justification outside of "bring everyone back" to do it. Neither should be productive in 2020.

Other than that a bunch of organizational depth was let go - no one you have to care about at all. Like really - nothing interesting. 


So I guess I've talked myself into bringing back Rodney maybe? OK. I'm fine with that.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Best postseason ever? Good luck figuring that out

So a little side note - before contract stuff mainly because contract stuff is likely to drag on at least until early December and more likely until the new year. 

The Nats had an amazing run this year. From 19-31, comebacks through multiple elimination games. There were a bunch of things the Nats did that were either rarely or never done before. Because of that there's a lot of fans and local media that want to crown this team a miracle squad who had the best post-season ever, or failing that the most improbable. On one hand, nearly every team does this in some fashion.  Either your postseason was the most dominant, or most exciting, or most crazy, etc. etc. It's what fans do.  On the other hand, even outsiders are getting into the bit.  So what does I say, the outsider's insider? Was this season the most improbable run imaginable?

It's hard to figure out!

First let's go to two points that are generally brought up. The Nats came back from 19-31 record to make the playoffs. The Nats won 5 elimination games after trailing.  What does that tell you? Well it does tell you that they did things that were never done before. But in terms of improbability are we looking at it the right way?

It's true that precious few teams overcome a start as bad as the Nats do to make the playoffs (forget about win the WS for a moment - these things follow separate rules and should be seen as two distinct things imo).  But there's a good reason for that that has nothing to do with the fortitude of the team involved. The vast vast majority of teams, pretty much all, that start as bad as the Nats did fail to make the playoffs because they are bad teams who lack the talent to do so. That's not the Nats. The Nats are a good team. Most pundits and projections had them in or near the playoffs. So what's really strange isn't the fact they made the playoffs but that they bungled to the start they did. Should they be "rewarded" for this?  Given praise for the fastest clean up of a mess of their own making? It seems kind of weird to me. This isn't to make coming back from 19-31 less impressive a feat, the run after that is remarkable, but I want to make sure we understand the 19-31 wasn't some arbitrary burden given to this team. They did this. Part of their season was crashing so hard that they needed a tremendous run. That is not good. That should detract from their accomplishments, not add to it.

That same sort of "how'd they get here" should be taken into account in series and games as well, though to a far lesser extent. Good teams shouldn't start seasons bad, but series where good teams against good teams will create elimination games for someone, and every team will have to comeback in games regularly. So there's far less of a "detract" component here. But there is a reality that needs to be injected. There is a chance that the Nats win every series they are in. There's a chance they win it in 4 games, 5, 6, 7 and a chance they lose it the same. The improbability of what we end up seeing is really the chance that they ended up at this point (and won) + the chances they could have lost earlier MINUS the chances they could have won earlier.

Let me elaborate. The Nats beat the Astros in 7 games. The improbability of that (in the sense the Nats won) is not only the chance that that happened, but it also has to add in in the chances a negative outcome would have happened, the chance the Astros win in 4,5,6,7 games. But on the flip side there was a chance the Nats could have won in 4,5,6 themselves. That they didn't do that has to work against them.

If you follow this way of looking at it you get a more fair idea of "improbability". It's far more improbable that a significantly worse team sweeps 4 games in a row than an equalish team wins a 7 game series. That should be obvious, but the mind doesn't always work like that. We see a bad team buzzsaw as inevitable, a good team fighting to the end as catching breaks and needing miracles.

This kind of thought process can also be expanded to individual games. What combining the odds for all the Nats comeback wins does is tell you what are the chance the Nats would win all those games coming from their point of lowest chances. But it's not the chances they would win all those games apriori. The first tells us how improbable it is that we saw what we saw. The second one tells us how we should judge a team for the outcomes. You don't get a benefit for falling behind in the latter. You shouldn't do that! It's not good!

What you may be able to glean from the above is that the most exciting things in sports often involve a team doing something wrong and coming back from that. But we often dismiss that first part - that they dug a hole and focus only on the latter. If we're being completely fair we need to take the whole thing into account.

What are the most improbable series then? The ones where the worst teams best better teams quickly. The 88 win 2014 Giants who racked up a 11-5 record never once playing a team with a worse record. The middling 2003 Cardinals who did the same after an 83 win season, ditto the 2000 87 win Yankees. The 74 As, the 88 Dodgers, 90 Reds. I know I know these aren't FUN series in general. There's no excitement to be had with a Yankees team cruising to title number 4 in 5 seasons even if objectively the team they put out there shouldn't have been able to do that. But you didn't ask about fun and it's not how this postseason is being framed. It's not that the Nats wouldn't be somewhere up there - the opponents they beat were very good and they had to go through a lot of rounds - but the actual advantage the other teams had in a short series with the Nats staff? It's muted. So maybe the Nats aren't even Top five, maybe Top 10 in pure "improbability"  (Now of course to do this properly you'd have to go back and calculate all the odds of all these series somehow. I'm not doing that.)

In the end though - this is a lot of words that are kind of missing the point. It's not that you REALLY care what's the most improbable series - even though that's what ends up being said and annoying me - you care about what's the most... crazy? fun? Entertaining? series.  And that has to be measured differently. That has to be measured with comebacks and elimination games won and long series and historical importance. And clearly this Nats season would be up there for that.


If you dig a little you'll see that a lot of playoff winners had some adversity - either playing better teams, or winning elimination games so it'll take time to rank them all. Like scratch at a team... 1980 Phillies and you see a CS with 4  straight extra inning games - the last two being Phillies elimination game wins and a WS that features a ninth inning comeback to win G5. A team with a huge history of being terrible winning their first title. That's pretty good!

My personal favorite and one that I put above the Nats is the 1985 Royals. They had knocked on the door and lost some heart breaking playoff games in the CS and WS in years past. They clearly had a horrible offense (look for yourself) and faced two legitimately 100 win teams in the CS and WS (ok one was 99). Then proceeded to win 6 elimination games, 3 in each series, including a bottom of the 9th walk-off comeback in Game 6. 

That's the only one just looking off the top of my head I'd clearly have ahead of the Nats. This was a team that shouldn't have made the playoffs and once in shouldn't have beat either team. The Nats were not as good as the Dodgers and Astros but if you look at the stats they were almost equal teams if you could eliminate the pens and the Nats found a way to do that.

Would they fall beyond Number 2?  I don't know. Lots of stuff to look at.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Wednesday BLAST

So work emergency hit on Monday so that never got done and now we're even further out so I'm just going to blast through everything so far and we'll talk about it more later

Game 7

I talked about before that usually to win in the playoffs you have to be lucky and good.  In game 7 the Nats were as lucky as they ever were and as good too.

The Nats MO in the WC, NLDS, and WS had been fairly simple. Have the starter go as long as possible so you only have to use Doolitte, Hudson, and the starter on off-day to close it out.  On the other side, wait until the other guys make a mistake and CRUSH them for it. Hader early after Pomeranz was cruising? CRUSH. Urias faces Rendon with a open base then sticks around after Soto to face Kendrick? CRUSH. Kershaw faces Rendon, nobody goes out to settle him? CRUSH. Pull crusing Maeda use Joe Kelly... didn't crush! Use Joe Kelly for second inning DESTROY.  Let Cole face Soto after a walk and two single in the inning? SOTO CRUSH. Try to get Verlander his win, then replace him with Pressly - like their 4th best reliever, don't pull Pressly after giving up lead? CRUSH. Try again to get a gassed Verlander with WS win CRUSH. *  That's like seriously almost all their playoff wins in these series.**

Game 7 was different. First off the pitching performance wasn't good. There had been wobbles in the past in the wins. Early inning tests that were either passed or lucked out of before the starter settled down and carried the team as long as they needed. Max didn't wobble. Max was kind of bad. We talk about Max having a gutty performance but it wasn't as gutty as we normally describe it. Usually when we say "gutty" we mean a guy not having it but still pitching in a way that gets the other team to do what he wants. But Max didn't do that. Max threw a whole lot of batting practice fastballs and got very very lucky. Just the two out hits : Second inning - line drive... right at Soto.  Third inning - 400 ft fly ball... to the deepest part of the park.   Fourth inning - line drive... right at Robles. Any one of those could have broken the game open.  Hell he almost got it again in the 5th where Correa smashed it but a full extension Rendon came inches from snagging it.  He did get a couple outs here and there that were big on his own but just a couple. Most were smashes that went to the right spots.

But the Nats weren't catching a huge mistake either. Grienke was doing great keeping the Nats off balance and was making things easy for Hinch. So the Nats needed to win against good performances. And they did. Rendon hit a pitch out, but it was the pitch, pretty much, that Greinke wanted to throw. Look at the replay and it might have been a couple inches more in the middle but he wanted an in the strike zone changeup and he threw it and Rendon didn't get crossed up. He hit it out. Then Soto after catching a break on what should have been trike one, and swinging at a curve out of the strike zone to even the count watched four almost identical pitches to the second one go by. He wasn't going to bite.  Hinch probably made the wrong move here. Whether you believe it as pulling Greinke, with his low count and effectiveness, or you believe it wasn't going to Smith/Osuna/Cole instead of Harris he did something wrong. BUT Harris didn't. He made the pitch he wanted. It was a pitch that you normally pull over for a DP if you don't guess, and you line into RF if you do. But hit a homer? No. You don't do that unless you do everything right. Kendrick did. 

After this the game reset to the normal MO. Harris pitched Cabrera into the shift (mistake) and Cabrera took what he gave him. Hinch panicked and pulled him for Osuna and who threw 12 pitches and forced Hinch to make a bigger mistake - keeping Osuna in the game. He almost got out of it but then came the middle of the line-up again. Soto got a hit. Game over. All while Corbin and Hudson hut the Astros down.

The Nats had to get as lucky as they ever had been to survive what should have been a brief and brutal Max start. They had to be as good as they could be to work a Greinke on his game and get him out and then take the best the Astros could give them (at least on that pitch) and win the game. They did both and now they are Champions


Oh wow - spent a lot more time on that than I thought.  SPEED RUSH

Was Stras' posteseason best ever? - No!

Was the Nats post-season the most unbelievable ever?  - Maybe! It's harder than you think to make that judgement! But I'd guess it's in the Top 5 of the multi-round playoff time frame (50 years) for sure. 

What about postseason stats in general? - Way too influenced by appearances to be anything but trivia.

Strasburg opting out - He should. He can get more. (I think he stays)

Rendon to FA - He's looking for Arenando + and he might get it (I think he leaves)

Celebration - Honest take - feels like a Caps imitation. But a completely deserved one. Every team should do this. 

White House stuff - Hoo boy. Just get in and get out. Don't do that.

I think that's all the big stuff. I can expound on anything but I think the Rendon/Stras stuff is of the most immediate interest. 


*Looking back it's amazing how many of these suboptimal choices came against the middle of the Nats lineup. Rather than treat Rendon/Soto as the two MVP type of terrible problem to get past, teams treated them as something they could get by. They could not.

**The one win - yes ONE WIN that didn't follow this for the vast chunk of the game was the G1 win over the Dodgers. The Nats just scored on Kershaw and won the game early.  The G2 blowout against the Astros was going to follow this but after exploding it - it didn't need to and the other arms got a chance to get in. Yes, I know Rainey was used for like an inning here in these games.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Champs!

Enjoy yourselves. I'm going to bed!


Update : You are still champs! And will be for at least a year or forever depending on how you want to look at it.

Anyway just wanted to let you know I won't be posting today and tomorrow (and if you follow me on Twitter I probably won't be on there much) Why? Well because after you win it all there's a tendency to mythologize what just happened. For the Nats that means making a legit great story into The Greatest Story Ever Told. That doesn't mesh with a contrarian soulless automaton. I'll just want to pick out the things said that are wrong. I can think of a few dozen already. And that's just in Boz's column!

But I imagine no one wants this when they are trying to celebrate and there's all off-season to do such things so enjoy the next few days, go to the parade if you can and I'll see you... well probably Monday.

Game 6 recap

Last night I learned no one wants to hear the technical truth when riled up by emotion. It won't be any different today but I wouldn't be a soulless automaton if I shied away from your irrational anger. We'll start with the controversial play then if you are still around, talk about the game. You can skip to ON TO THE GAME if you are the type to get riled up.


So the rules officially state that a runner has to be in his lane - in foul territory before he tries to touch first base - in order to not to interfere with throws to the bag.  Now you are probably thinking runners don't usually run like that and you'd be right, because over the years umps have focused on the "not interfere" part of the rule.  It's nearly impossible, outside of running into the first baseman, to interfere with a throw from an infielder based on how you run from home to first. That accounts for the vast majority of groundballs.

It doesn't NEVER come into play though. When a ball is hit in front of the plate, especially near the first base line, the runner does need to run as noted. And over time baseball has developed a kind of set of rules for this play.  The runner runs in a way to try to force a bad throw. This usually means right on the foul line, or just to the right of it, but it's the runner's discretion. The fielder (usually the catcher or pitcher) decides to throw it as they want. Because nearly always the first baseman and the fielder can line up an unimpeded throw that usually means they try to throw past the runner. But if they feel the runner is really in the way of an easy throw, they will throw it into the runner as a way to show the umpire that the runner was in the way. Usually when you see this the ball is pretty close to the plate and the runner is near the grass.

Ok so where does this leave the play last night? Well Trea chose to run completely inside the foul line. This was probably, as I noted, to try to force a less comfortable throw, but it is possible that this is just how he always runs. I go with the former because in part the ball was hit far enough from the plate, really a few feet will do, that Trea knows there's a open sight line between the fielder and the first baseman. And the Astros do as teams normally do, they try to throw past Trea. But there's a bad throw and it ends up at the middle of the bag just as Trea is crossing it. By letter of the law this is what happened :

- Trea ran where he was not supposed to
- Trea interfered with the throw

so it's an out. It just is. Even though Trea wasn't looking to physically block the throw (at least it doesn't seem likely he was) and the Astros weren't trying to make a play that Trea was interfering with, what ended up happening on the field WAS interference.

Now they probably should have just let it go for the reasons above. It's only a bad throw that forces the issue so you rule in a way you can throw some vague interpretation at and everyone isn't happy but most people shrug and move on because everything else about the play was how baseball is played. But once they called him out, they couldn't go back on it. They called the rule as is written.

The best analogy I can come up with is making a left hand turn while driving. Almost everyone (but not me!) will cut off part of the other lane while making a left hand turn if no one is in that lane.  Hell, they do it if you are in the lane and not pulled up all the way. Technically this is a crime. You are in the other lane. But no police officer would ever ticket you for this unless the offense was egregious.  The point of the rules is to avoid an accident and if you are just cutting off a little bit, well that's hardly a cause. Now let's say you are making your normal left hand turn and someone comes in in that lane not paying attention and hits you. If the accident takes place in that lane you are at fault. And you'll get charged with it to! Even though it was only caused by the other person not paying attention. Even though as soon as your wreck is cleared away people will keep doing the same thing. You were somewhere you weren't supposed to be. You were in an accident.

I saw some calls for robot umps after this. Robot umps wouldn't save this. Robot umps would make it worse.  Prepare for a guy called out on a throw from 2nd because his foot was on the wrong side of the foul line 60 feet up the bag. I saw some calls of bias. Bah. Crazy conspiracy talk. I saw some calls to change the rules. OK but everything I saw tossed out adds more room for interpretation by the umps, not less, which would only lead to more problems. Did he intend to interfere? Is there a clear path from the fielder to first? Don't make things greyer in my opinion.

ONTO THE GAME

Strasburg adjusts - Strasburg said he was tipping in the first and he did things to adjust for that. I guess that's possible but if so I want to know what the sign was for hittable middle middle fastballs and why did they put that sign down, because that's what Springer and Bregman hit. Based on pitch selection and location it seems the actual narrative is Strasburg leaned on his curve more, using his fastball as a secondary pitch inside and out (so misses would be balls not crushed) to keep the Astros off balance. One of the key moments in the turnaround was 2nd and 3rd with Altuve up. Three straight swings as if he was throwing a fastball. Three straight offspeed pitches. Strikeout.

Could the Astros have adjusted? Yes but. I say that because usually when you adjust in this case (think about facing Corbin) you take and you make them walk you. But Stras has control of his curve so this will only lead to a lot of swings in counts from behind. So you can sit on the curve, try to hit it, and force him to throw fastballs again. But here you are asking them to hit a good pitch enough that he gets into trouble, and it's not like Stras is never throwing a fastball, so you are going to behind on some pitches you want to hit. It's a tough situation when a top notch pitcher has his stuff going. Stras didn't have everything right but one pitch, when its as good as his curve, is enough.

The Nats thrive when they don't have to make tough bullpen decisions because what they have is a lot of choices that run from ok to bad, nothing great. Once again the starter kept tough decisions off the table

Hinch gets emotional - The Astros went into last night with two goals. Win the Series. Get Verlander off the World Series schneid. But to do the latter Verlander needs to go at least 5 and he was surviving innings. He should have been on a quick pull in the 5th and when Eaton got hold of one to tie it up, he should have been pulled. But Houston wanted to give their veteran guy his W so he stayed in.  He got Rendon out but hung another one to Soto. Another homer. He STILL wasn't pulled at this point (which really shows you what they were doing) and Kendrick nearly put one out in right field.

The playoffs in general, and definitely the World Series, is not time to be sentimental. If a guy doesn't have it he needs to go.  Let this be a lesson for the Nats to take to heart tonight in case Max doesn't look right.

Dueling bat carries - don't care in the least.

Home field fails again  This marks the 6th game in a row the home team has lost and that has never happened before in the World Series. The Astros are in particular having a hard time at home if you go back to the ALCS. Scoring an average of 3 runs a game at home, but 5 1/3 on the road.  We know there has never been a 7 game WS road sweep. Well I checked and there hasn't been a 7 game road sweep of any kind in the baseball playoffs or any series that started with 6 straight road wins at all.

There have been only 5, by my count, 5 game series that started with 4 road wins. We'll go through all of them

The first was in 1981 where the split season East winner Yankees took two in Milwuakee from the East winner Brewers, who promptly took two back.  It was a tight series with 5-3, 3-0, 5-3, and 2-1 scores.  In game 5 still in NY in this 2-3 format series, the Brewers started with a 2-0 lead but the Yankees came through with 4 in the 4th started by a 2 run shot by October hero Reggie Jackson. The Brewers would close to 4-3 in the 7th but the Yankees would hit another homer to go back up by two in the bottom of the inning, then put the game away with two more in the 8th.

The Yankees were in it again in 2001 against the A's in a 2-2-1 format. They lost two at home, Oakland did the same (G3 was the flip play* where Jeter's backing up of an errant throw in the 7th preserved a 1-0 lead that would hold for the final score) but in this format the Yankees would have the final game. Oakland would take a 2-0 lead but the Yankees would tie it up in the bottom of the second. They'd tack on another in the 3rd and 4th, Oakland would get one in the 5th.  Mulder would get replaced by Hudson who would give up a solo shot in 1 1/3. Clemens was replaced by the Yankees pen who would shut it down and they'd win at home.

In 2010 we got out first all road win series as the Rangers and Rays battled it out in a generally unmemorable series, still 2-2-1, each game won by at least 3 runs. The Rangers won two in Tampa fairly convincingly but not inspiring, the Rays did the same to the Rangers, with Game 3 being arguably the best game of the series. The Rangers carried a 1-0 lead into the 6th a 2-1 lead into the 8th before the pen gave up 5 in the last two. But they'd win that 5th game in Tampa chipping away at David Price holding a lead for all but a few outs in the b3 and t4 where the Rays tied it up.

After not seeing it for years we'd get a quick return of it in 2012. The Reds and Giants would go all road (poor Dusty). Much like the 2010 series the leads were gotten pretty early and held making for a even but uninteresting series, except for Game 3. Game three was pitching dominated. The Reds took a lead in the bottom of the 1st, the Giants tied it up in the top of the 3rd and then dueling zeros through the end of 9. In fact the Giants were no hit through 5 2/3rd (they scored bc of hbp, walk, bunt, sac fly) and from the run scoring single in the first the next hit by either team was that no-hitter breaker. There would never be a serious threat and the Giants scored their run with two groundball singes, a passed ball, and then an error. Ugh. The Reds didn't recover and 2-3 series would end with a 3 game sweep in Cincy.

The last time we'd open a 5 game series (2-2-1 format.  Can't they stick with one?) with four road wins was a complete turnaround from these last two - the vastly entertaining Blue Jays / Rangers series from 2015. Homers, a 14 inning game, and the final one which featured a wild 7th, a controversial call for the Rangers, giving them a 3-2 lead** and a statement FU homer by Bautista with a bat flip and then bench clearing.  Ah so good. Anyway the order was two in Toronto by Texas, two in Texas by Toronto, but the Blue Jays getting the only home win when it mattered most.

So 5 5 game series that opened with 4 road wins. 3 home teams taking it, 2 road teams. Some close, some not. Some entertaining, some not so much. What happens tonight?



*Here it is! This was a total Henley send. If he hits either cutoff man Giambi is out by a good 10 feet. Even missing it I think Giambi just beats out a 4 bouncer to the plate. Terrible send 

**Russell Martin hit Shin-Soo Choo's bat on a throw back to the mound. Odor scampered home. Since he was still in the box it wasn't a dead ball and he also wasn't trying to interfere the Rangers were given the run (correct call!) but the fans threw trash all over the place and delayed the game. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Some history

You may be doubting that the Nats can come back. They look terrible and they are heading back to Houston. But to cheer you up - or at least not kill your hope - let's see what history says.

Has a team every come back to win 2 games on the road to win a series? 

Yep. Sure. It happened just a couple years ago when the Cubs won it all winning the last 2 in Cleveland.  Before that it happened a handful of time 1979 (Pirates over Orioles), 1968 (Tigers over Cardinals) 1958 (Yankees over Braves), 1952 (Yankees over Dodgers), 1934 (Cardinals over Tigers), and 1926 (Cardinals over Yankees)

No that isn't a lot but a lot of World Series don't end up 3-2 to begin with, closing out at 4-0 or 4-1 so onto the the next question

How many times has the series ended up 3-2 with the home team needing just one win and what happened then?  

By my count it has happened 27 times. 7 times then the road team was able to come back and win which is just over 25% of the time (25.9%).  This kind of makes intuitive sense because if you discount homefield and assume the teams are equal a team will win two in a row about 25% of the time.

Out of the remaining 20, 15 times the home team won game 6 (last time was 2013 Red Sox over Cardinals) and 5 times the home team lost game 6 only to win game 7 (last time 1997 - Marlins over Indians).

So overall the home team wins it in game 6 about half the time, loses the game 6 about half the time then splits Game 7 results.  All what you would think would happen given a large enough sample.

How many times has a team lost three in a row and won the last two? 

Three times by my count. The 87 and 91 Twins and the 01 Diamondbacks.

How many did it happen on the road? 

I need more time, perhaps you'd like to ask another question?

Are you avoiding answering? 

Ha! hahahaha. What makes you say that?  Me avoid answering... ha! It is to laugh!

maybe

So it's zero. 

Yes, it's zero.  I mean you can work it out yourself as none of the teams in the two groups I mentioned are in both. In fact the whole 5 game road team sweep is very rare.  It was done, as you have probably heard, in 1996 when the Braves won the first two in Yankees stadium only to get swept in Atlanta and then the Yankees won Game 6 at home to win the series. And that's it.

Ok.  So what are you saying.

In the history of baseball no team has ever won two games on the road to win a World Series after losing three in a row at home.

OK but they have won two on the road.  

Yes see above, first question.

And they have won two in a row after losing three in a row

Also yes, that was just a few questions ago

So it's not impossible

Not at all.  We've only been in the position for this to possibly happen once before so doesn't tell us much.  Really I'd go back to just winning two in a row and figure your odds from there.

And what do you figure the Nats odds are? 

Around 20%.  I like Strasburg better than Verlander but the Astros have been playing better and are at home so I make that 50/50.  I give the Astros a slight edge in G7 with Greinke, et al. looking better than Sanchez/Corbin et. al.  .50 *.40 = .20.  The full guess would be

Astros in 6 - 50%
Astros in 7 - 30%
Nats in 7 - 20 %



OK I'll get out of my fake conversation here to talk about odds.  I feel like this is how most people view odds.

50-55%  : Coin Flip
56-59% : Gaining Confidence
60-80% : Calling it
81%+ :  Would take a miracle for the other outcome to happen

As someone who works with odds and numbers all the time this is very frustrating because that's not even close to how I think of it.  I'd say it's more like

50-59%  : Coin Flip
60-75% : Gaining Confidence
75-95% : Calling it
95%+ :  Would take a miracle for the other outcome to happen

Like at 75% you are at a 1 in 4 chance that the other outcome happens. That's like flipping a coin twice and getting two heads.  It's not rare at all. In fact it'll happen 1 in 4 times. But something is broken in the collective public's head and they hear "Seventy-Five percent?  That means you think there is no WAY the other thing happens!" and when the other thing does happen (which will occur on such things again about one in every 4 times) you get "You're so stupid! You don't know what you are saying!" It's frustrating because we know exactly what we are saying. It's the public that doesn't understand it and doesn't try to.

Sigh.

Ok. Back to the series so I give the Nats a 20% chance of winning it. To me that's in the early stages of  "calling it". What does that mean? It means I would bet on the Astros but I wouldn't feel great about it. It means I'd be very mildly surprised if the Nats pulled it off. That's what it means.So if you are looking the other way - you can bet on the Nats and there is still hope. The Nats winning it all would only be a mild surprise. That's the reality of the situation.

Now that still isn't good. You don't want your team winning to be a mild surprise. But it's not bad.  The Nats making the playoffs after their start was a bigger surprise than this would be.* It happened. You've gone this far.

What do I worry about tonight. Like I said two days ago, I worry about Stras' heavy workload. I'm a pitch count guy, not a days off guy** and those pitch counts are among the highest he's had in his career in back to back games, maybe the highest. I worry that Hudson doesn't look good and Corbin didn't look good and the Nats are basically down to Doolittle in terms of relievers they trust at like 90% or better right now. So to win the Nats are either going to have to get what to me would be an unexpected pitching performance from at least two guys or they have to beat down Verlander. Honestly, I think the latter is more possible.

Why, if I feel this way is it still at 50%? Well like I said I don't like Verlander, so I think the beat down potential is real even with this offense struggling. I also think, it's baseball. The worst starter on the worst team against the best starter on the best team probably wins that game 1 out of 10 times. Line drives for them don't go where they need to. Seeing eye hits for you do. And this is nowhere close to the worst starter on the worst team. It's a maybe slightly tired great starter on a struggling but very very good team.

Anyway there you go. Enjoy it as much as you can. Hopefully the Nats win and if not, they don't fade out early though that's more my wish.  I don't know how you'd prefer a loss.


*I don't buy the crazy low odds you hear for the Nats playoff odds nadir but I was hovering around the 10% level where not quite a miracle was needed but I could have been pretty easily convinced to bet against the Nats. We were pulling out "OK here's the ONE path to playoffs" which even thn only existed under the theory the NL would be bad enough to put a ~90 win WC team out there, which we were assuming would happen but had no guarantee. Then it did! But the Nats didn't need it! Anyway... 

**I've said with the 100 pitch count nearly universal now MLB should go back to a four man rotation.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Emergency Game 5 Post

Game stuff here! (Sorry. I got a family of little soulless automatons to take care of)

It's Ross and Ross is ok. As a starter he's pretty good. His splits basically say that once around really good (because it accounts for his terrible relief outings).  Twice around ok.  Three times around uh oh!   So figure he will give the Nats 3 good innings and then.... ? But not a 7 inning masterpiece.

What's also going to matter a big deal is what's going on on the other end. If the Nats can't score then those PH opportunities loom large and might cut off a decent Joe early. Expect him to bat once if doing well but not twice.

OK go to it.I'll update underneath as the game goes on.

Post Inning 1.
So Max vs Cole and Stras vs Verlander set itself up as an awesome 1 & 2 games in this now 3 game series. But it didn't happen.  That's too bad.  Before that you probably liked the Astros again to take the series if only because that last game takes place at home.  Now you really do. But baseball is funny.  Even huge favorites tonight I bet the Nats chances are below 1/3rd.  They have a decent chance of winning tonight.

Even if they don't Stras is the pitcher of the post-season and can come through in two days easy. So don't fret.  Well fret, it is the series and you may be down 3-2 but don't become despondent.  It's far from hopelesss

So far Joe looks to be doing what I thought...

Mid 2nd

Gotta put kid to bed now.  Joe's kind of all over the place, which isn't unexpected with such a long layoff.  The homer pitch looks like a sinker in the spot they wanted but just not sharp. He then proceeded to K Correa on a armpit high fastball he missed his spot by 12 inches.  So he's hit or miss on stuff. Hit or miss on location.  If he gets one or other it can work, but it doesn't always. The homer was a hit on location and a miss on stuff.  If it's a miss/miss that's a problem.

Post 5

Well that all sucked.  I will say that pitch to Correa? More likely a ball than a strike. Sorry.

You got what you wanted from Ross to a point.  2 runs in 5 would have been fine.  4 isn't great but you'd take it and hope your team could score enough to stay in the game.  Though right now Doo and Hudson should be in to make sure it stays close. Not these guys. 

End 6

So now we get Doolittle? Well I guess better late than never. And yes I know it worked but that's not the point.

Mid 7 

SCORE SCORE SCORE. DO SOMETHING

End 7 

Soto is so good and Cole is getting iffy.  The bad calls have been a problem but the Nats are still in this game. Despite Ross starting and going through the B-Team they are still in it.  If the bullpen can hold this they can get back around to Rendon and Soto - at least if they are going to have a chance to win it they will 

Top 8

Dammit.  Hudson hasn't been perfect but he's come up with the big out seemingly every time. But not tonight. A weird "Shouldn't Eaton have been closer there?" double eventually led to an RBI single and the slight momentum the Nats had dashed.  Gotta get two here imo

End 8

Sigh.  There was a brief moment of SPringer looking like he was going to let that ball over his head and roll around the corner but after he caught that... Sigh

Top 9

Well that's enough for live posting.  This was going to be a rough game Ross v Cole and it was.  Not immediately but one big step at a time.


Now what happens?  A game I take as a coin flip, with the slightly better in the post season Strasbrurg vs the slightly better in the regular season Verlander. A game the Nats can win and would win 5 out of 10 times if played 10 times. I worry, because Stras has been used so heavy recently, but what can you do? You have to believe.

If the Nats can win this game then Game 7 is madness. Will Max be ready. If not then Sanchez and Corbin and literally everyone vs the same sort of group from the Astros though they get to start with Greinke.   It would be fun.  Let's get there

Friday, October 25, 2019

Prep Day

The World Series is in Washington DC!

If you can't go, and I assume you can't because no one has offered to take me, then I suggest going out and enjoying the build-up for the game. Especially today with everything around the team being so positive. Tomorrow could be the same or it could start to skew into worry depending on the outcome and if it heaven forbid gets to 2-2 - you don't want to be out and about staring into the worried eyes of other Nats fans.  Get out there! Dance to baby shark! Wear your oldest Nats gear to prove how real a fan you are!

Tonight features Greinke vs Sanchez.  Greinke is still looking for a signature performance in these playoffs.  He had a terrible start against the Rays giving up 6 runs (3 homers) in 3.2 IP.  He had a meh first start against the Yankees (3 runs, 2 homers in 6IP) and a hold on one the second time around (1 run, 4 walks, in 4.1).  He's a mix-em up pitcher now who contrast well against Verlander and Cole but has recently failed in the playoffs against better bats. He can hit for a pitcher though so he's a good choice to hold off until today.

Sanchez has had the opposite playoff experience. He had the performance the Nats needed against the Dodgers (though the game would be blown up by the Nats pen later) and a masterful performance against the Cardinals.  It's hard to say what exactly to expect. The Cards game was a mastery of keeping a team oddly pressing off-balance. The Dodger game was surviving some shaky situations (bases loaded 2 outs in 1st, gave up 2 out hits in every other inning) with strikeout stuff.  The Astros are more like the Dodgers than the Cardinals so tonight may be more about surviving than keeping them off stride. But who knows? Unlike the Game 1 Cardinals, no one would be shocked if a back against the wall Astros team would be pressing and swinging early.

It's the third coin flip game in a row and the Nats have called it right twice. Now they are at home and if they call it right now they'll get what has to be considered a favorable match-up next with Corbin vs.. Miley?  Bullpen?* and then Max again who has a chance to win any game he's given.

Worst case scnerio for tonight would be something tha forces Davey to use Corbin but still ends up in a loss, negating the advantage they have and praying that a completely stale Ross can keep the series from getting back to Houston.


*I say this even though I know the Astros hit lefties great. Corbin is better in DC and has to be considered better than whatever the Astros throw out there.