Nationals Baseball: The great even-ing out

Monday, June 27, 2011

The great even-ing out

For the first half of the season there was a bit of an undisclosed issue with the Nats. They were losing a lot of close games that they should be winning. They had a huge gap in one-run games losing far more than they should have. This was helping to keep them a few games under on their pythagorean projection for wins losses. That's an imperfect system to be sure, but it gives you a good idea of about how good your team is.

Well now they've won their last 7 one-run games (and their last 2 2-run games, and their last 2 extra-inning games) Their record stands at about where it should. They are a .500 team with around a .500 record and a .500 record in 1-run games. What now?

You might think that they are actually better than that. Now that Zimm is back they aren't just a .500 team. Kilgore does point out that they've been a much better team in the past month. But it's not the offense that's making them better. They've been pretty average in that department, if that. Desmond still can't hit. Werth is still trying to outdo Vernon Wells for worst contract ever. Everyone not named Danny Espinosa or Jerry Hairston? really? Ok or Jerry Hairston is cooling down fast. How they are winning is by dominating on the pitching end, and there is nothing different about those guys then there was a month ago.

Not to say this can't be a very good staff (I suppose it can, if everything goes perfectly) but what do you think is more representative of their real talent level: an overall ERA of 3.46 or the ERA of 2.59 they put up in June? Do you think Marquis can keep up his 1.82 ERA for the month? Lannan his 1.44? ZNN his 1.05?

The pitching will shift back to a normal level. The hitting will remain about where it is, slightly below average (at least until you prove to me Werth wasn't a mole sent by the Phillies to destroy this team). The team will flirt with .500 all year, but anything beyond that... it's tough for me to see it play out.

But .500. That's good, right? You're not getting greedy for more right now are you? Damn it, you are aren't you?


Section 139 said...

Well...right now we're 4th place in the Wild Card race and just 3.5 games behind Atlanta. What if we continue to be in a similar position on about July 20th? What if it improves? Do we make a move before the deadline? I still say it may be a bad idea for the future because we'd have to give up prospects, but who knows... Do we go for it all? Too many questions. I just want to keep watching them play.

bdrube said...

At the moment, .500 is reasonable, but if they make a couple of trades... :)

Actually, .500 is pretty amazing given where they've been. It is the leading argument for why Espinosa should be the frontrunner for ROY. Beyond just his close to 30HR, 100RBI, 20SB pace, his energetic style of play and gold glove quality fielding seem to be what set the tempo during Zim's absence.

I'm really beginning to wonder just how good this kid can be. We talk about how winning teams need to have multiple star players, well if Espinosa joins the two Zims, Strasburg and Harper in that category, suddenly you have a very strong nucleus of young potential stars.

Hoo said...

Nix/Ramos have been poor in June. Not Werth poor but pretty weak all in all.

The batter of the month is arguably Roger Bernadina. .321 for the month with power is almost out of left field. In any case, he's put up superb numbers for a CF and is making his strongest case yet for a future on the 25.

The Nats offense is running on 3 wheels but it's different wheels getting hot at different times. So it's not entirely a fluke. Ramos/Nix were starts in April. When they cooled, Morse/Espi took off. Then Bernie. Everyone but Werth/Dez have had been hot for an extended period of time. If Zim can come around and be .260 with pop, the team could actually be in the wild card race in August.

BTW, I consider this post Harper going to defcon 3 on the Werth contract bust meter.

Harper said...

139 - I can't see them going for it all, but maybe they make a buyre's deal if the right thing falls in their lap. The question is if they continue with the plan to be sellers. That HAD to be the plan coming into the season. Not fire-sale, but trade off the last couple of free agents

bdrube - Espinosa is the poster boy for OBP and SLG. He and Demond had roughly the same averages a few days ago and Espinosa was helping the offense and Ian was killing it.

Harper said...

roger has had an odd month. First 10 days were typical Bernadina - low average, no walks, no pop. Then he had 10 days where he hit .450ish and hit 3 homers. Last few have been more back to normal but maintaining a decent average. Without that pop he's a tough sell even hitting .280.

But we'll see. I'll go with the high BABIP (.387) fluke. I bet he crashes until the break.

Jacques said...

I wonder how much of it is a home-away split with Bernadina re: power. He seems to be getting very comfortable with the rightfield fence in Nats Park, but not replicating the power numbers on the road. And your June splits roughly coincide with the roadtrips and homestands.

Hoo said...

I'm not sure Bernie can climb to average, but the Nats are no longer worst CF in the league. If he can keep himself around #10 for NL CFs in OPS for the year, I'll be pleased.

The upswing of the Nats maps rather nicely to the replacement of Ankiel for Bernie. Bernie's bat has actually been a plus for the month and while it won't last hopefully it will bridge to Werth/Zim hitting.

Anonymous said...

Here's the other "even-ing out"...Home/Road games. Nat's have still played the second fewest home games of any team in the NL (and 3rd fewest in the bigs). They have three more on the road in LA, then 11 straight at home to finally even out the home/road tally at 46 a piece before the break. Given that, they really should be 3-5 games over going into the break, with the chance to be better.

Harper said...

jacques - maybe he is hitting ridiculously well at home. Then again, it is only about 75 plate appearances and he has a crazy BABIP (like .450). I guess we'll see because he will be starting during the long home stretch before the break.

Hoo - if Werth hits...

Anon - sounds fair. Who would have thought a Pirates Nats series in early July would be of any interest?

Bryan said...

The problem with trading "prospects" - as Section 139 puts it - is this (for me at least):

I worry that you trade prospects at the end of July just as the hot hitters cool and the pitchers come back down to earth a little. Your hoped for run at the wildcard dissolves as the traded-for player makes nary a ripple against the wave of back-to-earth fallout.

Now you've traded away prospect (and some 2012 returns) for a .490 record and no playoff run, when trading away vets and getting prospects would have gotten you the same thing with a brighter 2012.

Trade away, I say.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

Do not become a Buyer!! The NATS can become a Non-Seller (Boswell's term) if they want, but do not trade any prospects. I, for one, will be happy with 79 wins.

Anonymous said...

Nats are on a great run. Luck, pitching and timely hitting have been a big part of it. They blew 3 leads on Friday and still won. Yesterday they win 2-1 on a great pitching performance. Thursday they won 1-0 on another great pitching performance. Even the game they lost on Saturday, the starter pitched very well.

If they can stay in contention for the next 30 days, then I think they need to make a move and pick up some bats.

Werth is a .270 hitter hitting around .230... Look for improvement. Zimmerman is a .290 hitter hitting around .230 .. Look for improvement.

The pitching will most likely fall apart a bit, but the offense will pick it up.

This team could get the NL Wildcard. It is still early. Nobody in the NL except for Philly is really looking like a playoff team. So yes the Nats (heck even the Pirates) are playoff contenders at this time.

Donald said...

I'm with Sec 204. It would be great to make the play-offs with the crew we have. But I wouldn't trade for a rental. Even if we make get the wildcard, we're not likely to get past the Phillies anyway.

kick me in the GO NATS said...

Honestly I've been waiting for the shoe to drop since Riggs left. I think I saw it tonight. Burnett should not have been pitching to all those right-handers. He struggles to get them out with an OPS against nearly 200 points higher. Johnson must not know the team/players very well (and frankly looks old and weathered), so we are probably in for an adjustment based losing streak. I hope I am wrong, but I wont be. It has been more than a decade since Johnson managed a team. Several more since he managed in the NL. The game has changed a lot since then (steroid era is over, drugs are gone). So we will be lucky to finish at .500 this season. To bad I thought we were going to seriously reach the wild card when Riggs was around.

Donald said...

@Kick me -- I think you might be a little too hard on Davey. Apparently Clippard was out with arm fatique and Storen was at his grandmother's funeral so the options were limited. He had already used Mattheus and Rodriguez. I guess he could have used Coffey instead of Burnett, but I don't think that's so cut and dried to predict failure. After all, Burnett was our closer last year and seemed to be recovering his form the last few times out.

Harper said...

Bryan - the counter would be "How much brighter would 2012 be. Prospects usually don't pan out to be all that much". Of course I agree with you but that's what thye'll say.

Sec 204 - and happy you shall be

Anon - in 30 days you'll be at the tail end of the trade deadline. Not sure who will be available. Decision will have to be made at the All-Star break. Also it could be a real weak trading period in general.

Donald / GO NATS - "Arm fatigue" or requested to be sat by a team he's going to be traded to? Hmm. HMNMM?

kick me in the GO NATS said...

Donald- you may be right, but Burnett wasn't great against right-handers last season either and that is why he got only 3 saves in 2010. Our primary closer last year was Capps and then we gave the job to Storen. Burnett was just a fill in closer during an arm issue early in the season if I recall correctly. Burnett is very talented. I think he is one of the best lefty vs lefty guys in the game. He is good enough not to ruin us when he fills in at other rolls when the game is not on the line. But if he faces nothing but righthanded bats in a situation like last night he is not being used correctly.