Nationals Baseball: Pitching still awesome

Friday, May 04, 2012

Pitching still awesome

I know the focus on the Nats has shifted.  It's gone from "what a great start with great pitching" to "what did Bryce Harper do tonight?"  The kid is already being diefied by Nats fans, seemingly unable to do any wrong.  Every at bat is a great one whether he gets a hit or not.  Every hustled out is inspirational rather than, you know, an out.  Hell, he can't just be very good.  Every double is a home run that just missed.* A very good throw from a little bit in in LF to create a bang-bang play on Hairston becomes the BEST THROW EVA even though Nats fans had just seen a much better throw 2 weeks earlier from Ankiel. The kid, at 19, NINETEEN, has done well in 5 games in the majors. Why can't that be enough?**

Anyway, the real story hasn't changed though. The pitching is still awesome. They faced their 2nd decent offense and while it wasn't the complete shutdown they rendered to Houston, they held the D-backs to 10 runs in 3 games, or 3.33 R/G, about a run less than Arizona has averaged this year. During the recent 5 game slide they gave up 2,3,4,2,5 runs or 3.2 a game. The starting pitching is still particularly mind-blowing. They are 2nd in the NL in quality start % (19 out of 25 games), and lead the league in R/G given up. (and they are tied for the lead in no decisions, thanks offense!)   Basically outside of one random Edwin Jackson game they've done nothing wrong. Twenty five out of twenty-six games you'd look at the line (ignoring unearned runs) and take it. That's crazy.

The point right now is - still talk about the pitching.  It's still awesome and as long as it is the Nats still have a chance.  If the offense picks up, as it possibly could a month or so down the road, and is even just league average the Nats should find themselves winning a lot of games and might even be the new favorite to take the division. If the offense remains terrible, as it possibly will for the immediate future, than the Nats will be in a lot of close games and it'll come down, somewhat, to luck. (I know some don't believe this but it really is true. 100 years of baseball tells us great relief pitching or hitting with RISP is not strongly correlated with winning close games.) Don't let Bryce or other late-inning heroics make you forget where the games are being won.

A good team would take 2 from the D-backs and they did. A good team would take 2 from the Phillies. That's what we want to see. Really though a sweep either way is the only really meaningful outcome. Phillies take 2, they are still 2.5 games out, with the Braves likely between them and the Nats.  The Nats take two they are still only 4.5 games up and won those games at home.  Let's see what happens.

*To be completely honest, when I saw Putz's meltdown against the Nats I thought - why didn't Bryce crush the ball like Desmond? They were both terribly flat fastballs right into the batters' wheelhouse. Desmond easily clears right center.  Bryce can't carry it out. Sure, that's just one hit but despite the BP theatrics the kid does have only 4 homers now in his last 62 games. I'm not saying they won't come.  Again, he's 19. I think they will, but it is curious to me.

**Eh I know why it can't be enough, because fans are inherently stupid and prone to theatrics and that's part of the fun of sports. I've paced around the living room for many a Yankee playoff game with a mini-bat because I thought it was good luck. But as more of an outsider, man it can be annoying.


Anonymous said...

Why are you always so negative? Why are you trying to bring everyone down my man? Let us enjoy the ride :-)

Hoo said...

Give in to the Detwiler bandwagon. Join us, there's still room.

Isn't a looming story what you do with Wang? I don't think Det is moving with a sub 2 era.

Section 220 said...

"Why can't that be enough?" Let me translate it for you. And I say this with love. He's going to be our Jeter. That's why.

Donald said...

What's so fun about this is that we now have FOUR young pitchers that are all really, really good. And we've got some high-level talent in the minors.

Not sure what they do with Wang. He's just not cut out for long-term relief. But there's no way they can move Detwiler to the pen given the way he's been pitching. Any chance they move EJax to the pen? I think he's been very good but he might be better suited to that role than Wang and we'd care less about pissing him off than Detwiler.

Bryan said...

I just can't imagine a Phils sweep. For that to happen, Kendrick has to outpitch Strasburg tonight, or at the very least, the Phils offense against Stras has to outhit/score the Nats O against Kendricks.

Could that happen, sure, especially that second scenerio. But Kendricks is 0-2 with a 6+ ERA for a reason. Even the Nats should be able to get the 3 runs it takes to win this game. And its important that they get this win because its the "easy" one.

After that it gets trickier because Kendricks is by far the worst of their pitching. The Phils offense has found a bit of life but haven't seen pitching like ours.

In order of liklihood: I) Nats take 2, II) Nats sweep, III) Phils take 2, V) Phils sweep.

No, I didn't mess up the roman numerals. Yes, I really think a Phils sweep is that unlikely.

traderkirk said...

The rule of thumb regarding prospects is if they have demonstrated BP power but have lower than expected HR numbers, look at their doubles. If they have a lot of them, it means as they age they will translate many of those into HR.

Consider fellow #1 overall selection Adrian Gonzalez.

37 doubles vs 17 HR at age 19 in the FSL.

Age 20 season at AA 34/17.

Age 21 season at 3 levels 20/5

Age 22 at AAA 28/12

Then Age 23 at AAA 17/18

I don't think the principle changes just because Harper is (so far) doing it at the major league level.

Kenny B. said...

I'm not as super-psyched about Harper as ESPN and the MASN commentators are, but I have to say that watching him play is exciting. That's not because he's a threat to go deep every time he's up, but because he so clearly relishes the clutch at bats. Most baseball players have this super-steely robot demeanor (not unlike this blog), but when Bryce is up, I'm into it because he's into it. That will fade as he gets more experience, but there's no doubt that he's got a spark. And why wouldn't he? He's 19 freakin' years old!

Also, he'll have ups and downs in his career, but for now it looks like he is Major League-ready, and barring injury or substance abuse issues, he will get better for the foreseeable future. And as a Nats fan, it's really exciting to me to think that both our #1 picks from the bad years turned out to be the real deal. That gives me faith not only in the players on the field, but in the organization--the scouts, the front office, everybody.

Now is a time to ride high as a Nats fan. We're on top of the division, our pitching is fantastic, and our team is remarkably young, so this isn't nearly as good as the team will be in seasons to come.

Of course, if we make the playoffs this year, we can start the countdown until Rizzo gets a fat offer from a more spend-happy club.

brendan said...

The pitching is still awesome, but how can the Nats continue to win with arguably their three best bats out of the lineup (Zimmerman, Morse and Laroche--this year)??


That's like, what, more than 40 percent of your team's run production!

Anonymous said...

Are you still hating on the kid? That is sad, he's proven that he is for real, and that you and everybody else was wrong for saying he wasn't ready. Deal with it.

Bryan said...

Brendan - I don't think the Nats need to "continue to win" missing those bats. They just need to tread water until those bats return in a month or so. That's what their great start earned them: they don't need to "win," just tread water for a while.

Froggy said...

Pitching is awesome, Detwiler is staying right where he is. Maybe Jackson goes to the pen when Wang comes up. All good 'problems' to have regardless. I say live in the moment and enjoy the ride while we can. Harper is a cocky 19 y/o KID but he sure is fun to watch and you can't argue the energy that he brings to every AB or play in the OF. I think he inspires all those 'older' 24 and 25 year olds on the team to put out just a tiny bit more. Re the homers vs doubles thang, I'll take 1 or 2 doubles a game anyday.

It's amazing that we are doing as well as we are with no starting 3,4,5 hitters on the card.

I know you were a Nix hater last year Harper, but don't you miss him now? ;-)

Harper said...

Anon - I read a bit of Natitude in your response

Hoo - He got a bit lucky that his damn burst after an error. He didn't pitch great that day but it hasn't been reflected in his ERA. Still it's getting harder to deny it right? End of May I'll get back

I think they can (and will) stretch out Wang with minor league "rehab" all the way until the break.

Sec 220 - I guess that makes sense as they'll both play for the Yankees at some point. I kid! I kid! (for now)

Donald - This is how it's going to be until 2015! Four years! Soak it up!

on Wang I said before he'll come back at a snail's pace and they'll hope the situation clears up by the break. After that... My guess is a trade.

Bryan - Phils sweep is the most unlikely but I think if they can take this one it'll change things up. Put some pressure on the Nats that they haven't had so far. Maybe that'll mix things up.

tk - I've never heard that. Makes sense. Anyway it's not like I'm saying he can't hit homers (I think he'll hit a ton) I'm just not sure if he can hit them this year.

KennyB - Bryce is having fun, you're having fun, team will be good for the forseeable future, ok you got me, this does sound like someting you can get swept up in. Perhaps I've just been up in my Ivoty Yankee Tower too long to understand the fun of coming up.

brendan - well if the Nats are holding teams to <4 runs a game then it's really a crapshoot even with a terrible offense. Every team can at least average 3, even bad ones.

Anon - it's been 5 games. and I believe what I said was basically "He didn't earn it but who cares. This won't ruin him if he can't hack it"

Froggy - What? I was a Nix fan... well that's not the right word, but I did like him. Sure I wanted him traded but that was the smart move. The guy is totally a useful platoon player though.

Now Mike Morse - that's the guy I was totally wrong about (though I didn't hate him. Someone you could say I hated that plays... probably Desmond. You could say that. I've been down on him from Day one)

Ollie said...

Harper: "The pitching is great."

Anon: "Why are you always so negative?"

Try reading the article dude.

Anonymous said...

Ollie - maybe YOU should read, he is being negative about Bryce Harper in the article.

Ollie said...

"The kid, at 19, NINETEEN, has done well in 5 games in the majors."

Yes. So negative.

Anonymous said...

Three cheers from here for the souless automaton! Another opinion-provoking (won't grant "thought" to some of the responses)piece and it's tough to argue with "Pitching still awesome". But now the kid is stepping in to lead off the bottom of the 9th and 35K are makin' some noise. How can you not love this team? Every game a tightrope. Can't wait until they're indisputably good, which isn't quite yet....Bryce K's on ball 4


Nattydread said...

Finishing close games is not just about luck. Its about efficient bullpens on D and productive at bats on offense. This is why the Nats are doing well in one run contests.

Thats how we beat Philly last night. In the last 5 innings, the Nats wore out the Philly bullpen. Schwimmer had to take one for the team (58 pitches)because Werth, Harper and finally Ramos made him pitch.

Froggy said...

I was surrounded by Filly fans last night and it was oh so sweet to watch their super wide asses walk back to their trailer parks in Maryland all dejected.

...ah...the little things in life...

*I forgive you Harper for being wrong about Nix, Morse and (fingers crossed this year) Desmond. That being said, it is a long season and you will probably end up being right.

Natitude dude!

Anonymous said...

I definitely have to give the Nationals their due. As an O's fan, I am glad they are doing well. The Nationals are long overdue for a good season plus a postseason bid and this is great for baseball. The National Landscape of fans say they are done with certain teams that get in the playoffs all the time.

Froggy said...

Except for the Kid stealing home, once again no run support for ZMN and what can you say about Hamels other than he was filthy. We might have the best rotation and pen in the NL East, but boy did Davey leave Perry out there flapping in the 9th or what. I wonder what time the bus to Syracuse is leaving tomorrow...because I don't care if Werth is hurt Nady needs to be on it.

At least we won both home series.

Harper said...

Ollie/Anon - obviously Anon wants an article that is 100% positive. I don't usually write that way (or 100% negative either) since things are rarely going all right or all wrong so he's going to be disappointed frequently.

Nattydread - "Finishing close games is not just about luck. Its about efficient bullpens on D and productive at bats on offense." If that were the case than we'd see 1-run/2-run win record vary positively with things like bullpen strength and hitting with RISP but no we don't.

Chestnut Street said...

So, carrying around that mini-bat in the living room, you were rooting for the Yankees, or against the Yankees?