Nationals Baseball: At the half-way (well not really) mark

Monday, July 11, 2011

At the half-way (well not really) mark

Quick post today - that's just the way Mondays roll.

Nailed the weekend series and the Nats look at a .500 record as they head into the break. It's pretty exciting but it's not the stuff of dreams. Sorry. The Nats should still look at this season as they probably were looking at it in March. The last rebuilding year. One more chance to send out some veterans for some young talent. Next off season you start signing guys with the idea "can they help us make the playoffs" Those guys and those deals aren't these guys with these deals. For those still doubting it let's recap :
  • The Braves are running away with the WC. They are playing at a 95 win pace. The Nats are not going to win 95 games.
  • Let's say the Braves collapse. The Nats still sit 8 games behind the Braves. Are they going to play 9 games better than them?
  • Let's say next week Freddie Freeman takes off his Braves jersey to reveal a Phillies one underneath and proceeds to bash the starting staff with a folding chair. The Nats are still 7th in the WC. Playing 3 games better than the Pirates and a game better than the Mets is reasonable but they have to play 4 games better than the D-backs... and the Brewers.. and the Cardinals. Do you want to bet on that?
  • To put it a final way, what wins the WC if the Braves collapse? Let's be kind and say 87 games. The Nats would have to go 41-29 the rest of the way to win 87 games. That's a 95 win pace for a season. Is this a 95 win club to you? And this is a low-end estimate of what they would have to do.
The facts are simple. It's a "not this year" situation for the Nats. It doesn't mean they can't make any deal. Bringing in a CF that is locked down through 2013 or beyond makes some sense. If a top of the rotation guy is available somehow, that's fair game. Other than that though, the Nats should not waver from their aims because they've managed 3 more wins then they probably were planning on. Trade who you were gonna trade. Sit who you were gonna sit. Take time with who you were going to take time with. Don't screw things up.


Kevin Rusch said...

Yep, you're right, as sobering as it is. I do think that the team will start hitting better, and probably pitching worse, but there's more likely offensive improvement than pitching decline. And it is remotely possible that they'll be in it by mid-September.

But the end result is the same -- don't do anything differently than if you were 31-50.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

Cannot disagree with you, although my "high end" pick of 79 wins is starting to look better and with a bit more "timely" hitting 81-81 is not out of the question. With increased attendance a good possibility, the Lerners should feel free to pay over slot for this year's crop of draftees and hit the off season free agency market hard.

calindc said...

"Don't screw things up." should be their motto for the rest of this year.

September will be an interesting month for the Nats if they are going to reach 81+ wins for the season. 18 games against teams that will be playing out their expanded rosters and only 8 games against teams that will most likely be playing in the post season. If they can survive August (very brutal schedule) they should be able to scratch out a winning season.

bdrube said...

Marquis should be shipped out--assuming they get a decent trade offer. They have plenty of other options in the wings (Wang, Milone, Peacock, Detwiler) that trading him wouldn't be prematurely waving the white flag, even with Z-nn hitting his innings limit.

Donald said...

While I anticipate a Marquis start with less trepidation than a Maya start, it isn't by all that much. Even if they keep him, I'd rather see Peacock or Milone just to give them a chance.

As for the rest of the season, it's really hard to predict. The last 15 games of July are going to be interesting -- 6 road games against weak opponents and 9 divisional games (6 at home). If they do well, say 9-6, they could be in third place and have some momentum. If they come out flat, say 7-8 or worse, it could get ugly.

Anonymous said...

Hurray for mediocrity! I'm happy that the motto for the second half of this year is "Don't screw this up." This is much improved from our motto in the last three years of "What the hell? How much worse can it get? May as well try something."

To me, Marquis goes for the best offer available, but he goes. I think Nix should, too. Nix is the white flag on the season - if he goes for somebody not on the 25 man, that's trading offense for future. That said, he's played himself into having some value now, so I'd like to see him go, I think.

DezoPenguin said...

Mediocrity! It's very pleasant to see the team hovering around .500, I must say.

That said, I basically agree with Harper's post. Nothing here suggests a playoff run is possible...yet. Having identified some strengths and weaknesses, it's time to continue developing who we have, and work on plugging the holes. If we can get value back for a Marquis or a Nix, then trade them...if not, then keep them and use them. If someone's selling a ML-capable CF out there (suddenly, Peter Bourjos with LA looks very obtainable now that Trout is going into CF due to Wells and Hunter's contracts demanding that they be played), be willing to buy. "Don't do anything stupid" should be the Nats' motto.

The real "problem"...and it's rather a nice problem to have, for once, is the desire to audition the young pitchers while the guys we already have are routinely giving us plus performances.

Harper said...

KR - Not sure about that. Will look into it for tomorrow.

Sec204 - one thing - and I'll say it again - this year's FA class is weak

cal - everything is pretty set for a run at .500. It's forgotten now but that early "run" w/o Zimm was key.

bdrube - now convince everyone else about that.

Donald - kind of feels like the schedule breaks down into holding their own vs the Braves and Phillies and taking it to everyone else. Shame there are all those Braves and Phillies games...

Anon - agreed that they'll feel the Nix hit more than the Marquis. Well maybe... but even if they don't the Marquis loss means more time for players Nats fans want to see. The Nix loss means more Ankiel and Bernadina.

Dezo - nice change of pace. Even in 2005 they didn't have that young player "problem"

T. Taylor Joo said...

I'd be happy with an above .500 season after 15+ years rooting for the O's and Nats....

Wally said...

Hey, looks like your boy Rasmus is back on the market. Do you think Desi and Peacock get it done? Maybe adding Marquis, although that is too much by itself.

What say you?

Nattydread said...

If the Nats sweep the Braves in their upcoming series, will you re-evaluate?

calindc said...

If the Nats sweep the Braves in the upcoming series, the Braves should reevaluate.

Anonymous said...

Wally beat me to the punch- I was just checking in here for the "Ok, for pretend realsies, what would Harper trade to get Rasmus?" post.

My deal: Lannan, Marquis and [Coffey/Mattheus/Burnett] for Rasmus and an A-ball arm.

My thinking: crushes the hopes for .500 this year, but means you give Detwiler his last best shot as a starter, gives Peacock a place to break in and don't open any other gaping holes while giving the Cards what they need to win now (pitching, pitching and pitching). In exchange, you've got another 6-8 year piece in place for the 2014 playoff run with Ramos, Zimm, Espinosa, and Harper.

Why Lannan? Because although he's got value, he's a Marquis of the future. Relatively fungible #3/#4 guy who will pitch 200 innings of league-average ball. Detwiler is on his way to being that with potentially higher upside. Peacock has higher upside, as do several other arms in AA/AAA - and if they all flame out, you can buy Lannan-ish talent back on the FA market. On the other hand, he's an "established starter" who is a known quantity. Together with Marquis, they become arguably the two best starters in the Cards rotation or at worst, no worse than Carpenter or Garcia.

Harper said...

TTJ- I think you officially outed yourself as the Orioles jinx

Wally - maybe but if they are asking for Hellickson I think they'd want ZNN for him. They're going to hold out for something special but I would smack their GM if Peacock, Desmond, + didn't get it done.

Natty - No. Not unless the sweep was caused by injuries to three straight Atlanta starters. There are at least 3 teams I think are talent wise better than the Nats already ahead in the WC.

calindc - nice one.

Anon - If they're looking for Hellickson they are looking for potential #2s or better for Rasmus. Lannan won't ever be that.
I think it would take a Peacock + relief arm (doesn't have to be the best one) at worst.