Nationals Baseball: A win is a win, but then again it isn't, but it is

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

A win is a win, but then again it isn't, but it is

The Nats have been taken to extras in two straight games by the Astros. They've won both games and that's what matters.  W's are W's. A terribly played 4-3 squeaker over the worst team in the league counts the same as a 12-0 shellacking over the best one. And yet...

The Nats are supposed to be one of the best teams in the league, so the feeling is, non-coincidentally, that they should be playing like one of the best teams in the league. Racking up extra-inning farces and scoring a few runs of young pitchers with terrible ERAs is not what you want to see.  Still it could be, and in fact it probably is, just a bad stretch.  All teams go through bad stretches, even the best, so the hope is this bleccch play by the Nats is just one of those phases. Lucky for them it's happening at exactly the right time, when they can still win because their opponent is so bad.

Two wins on the road and most fans still aren't feeling good.  Such is life with the expectations of a pennant winner.

Now on to something positive. There has been some worry about the 'pen, at least from me. It hasn't pitched well overall since the break. Tyler Clippard in particular looks really bad (WAIT! I swear positive is coming!). After blowing no saves the first half of the year he's blown 3 in the 2nd half, and has allowed a baserunner in 11 of 15 appearances (8 times he's allowed more than one). Stammen is also struggling.  But the thing is these two (and H-Rod of course) account for a lot of the poor stats and given that, the regression of the pen doesn't really matter. Not in the long run.

You see in the playoffs the starters will get stretched (one hopes) and your pen can be reduced down to a few decent guys made up of whoever is hot. Right now Sean Burnett has been lockdown since the break. Take away the Braves game (everyone has one bad game), and he's given up 5 hits and no walks and has struck out 10 in 10 innings. Tom Gorzelanny has been very effective in the same time period. Fifteen baserunners in 11 2/3 innings with only 3 XBH.  You've mostly liked what you've seen from Storen. A little wild, but hard to hit (5 hits in 7 innings - 1 XBH)  And Mike Gonzalez has been good over the last few weeks. This is all you really need in the playoffs.

The Nats pen is deep. Outside of H-Rod, who is still on the roster because he has a cannon for an arm and more importantly Rizzo will not accept defeat in that Willingham trade, every arm in that pen is talented enough to go out and throw a scoreless inning. Some arms might be getting tired, but that just means other arms are getting rest.  Some guys might go through a rough patch, but usually that means other guys are hot. Because the pen has been well-constructed, the Nats didn't have to worry about finding that one last arm during the trade season, and actually don't have much to worry about now.

In the next few weeks the Nats may lose a couple games because the pen blows it, but don't worry about it. Davey has to keep working guys in regular rotation so that come October he knows who's feeling good and who's not and how to use them properly. Expect that long leash with Clippard. When it gets to the playoffs the Nats will have their best 3-4 starters and their best 4-5 relievers on call. These guys will match up with anyone from any other team in the postseason.


cass said...

"Two wins on the road and most fans still aren't feeling good. Such is life with the expectations of a pennant winner."

Ha! I'm feeling great! The Nats are back to four games over the Braves and have the best record in baseball. I'm ecstatic!

Back in 2005, the Nats were in freefall by now. This year is amazing. Who cares if they have to squeak by the Astros? A curly W in the books is a curly W in the books.

My only real disappointment is that my favorite player won't get to participate in the World Series. It feels wrong, even if it's the right decision.

Harper said...

cass - Your favorite player is H-Rod?

calindc said...

He's actually talking about me and my amazing Eephus pitching.

Jeff Hayes said...

I bet he's talking about Strasburg.

I'm not feeling great. I'm hopeful that this is just a dry spell, but with our bats gonig quiet and Werth sitting out, there is reason to be concerned.

Sure, we have the best record in baseball, which is great. But we need to see more domination over teams like the Astros.

There is also an article on claiming the Braves are poised to catch the Nats. I haven't read it because I don't pay for the ESPN Insider service. But my imagination is running away with fears that it is a fact-laden article with compelling logic.

Hopefully tonight's game will be far less dramatic.

Wally said...

Good post, it captured my sentiments well. It feels like you are being optimistic on the bullpen, though. To flip it around, since the ASB, only Burnett and Gonzalez appear to be pitching well. Everyone else is either wobbly or poor. It has made me wonder if Rizzo should figure out a way to DL a couple of guys now for two weeks, to give them a shot of rest heading into the stretch run. Seems like Stammen and maybe Clip could use some time for rest, but I am not sure how to manage the 40 man (or who could help up here - Perry? Garcia? Can't see Maya helping, despite looking ok lately)

blovy8 said...

The team needs a few more early runs, especially in that ballpark, then you'll barely notice the bullpen for a awhile. I await the offensive explosion. There will be some rest available in September with some call-ups.

Evan said...

@Jeff: The article seemed to boil down a lot to that the Braves have been really hot and their pitching is somehow good despite underperformance and injury, while the Nats starters are falling off (Gio) and Stras will be shut down. He also forecasts that the 'pen will continue to struggle, so he says the Braves will gain an advantage in pitching down the stretch. Meanwhile, offense is no contest as the Braves simply put up more runs, particularly from the Catcher spot. I think at some point he also mentions concerns that whenever Desmond returns, he won't have nearly the same production.

In all, I'd say the article had some points, but I wasn't convinced that the Nats were going to get blown away by the Braves in September either.

Kenny B. said...

I agree that the way to view this is that the Nats have hit a rough stretch at the perfect time, when a rough stretch still gets you wins. If they can finish out the series strong and get a sweep, I'll feel confident about our pennant chances. If we end up 3-1 against the Astros, with that third game looking good and the one loss another close one, then I'll still feel good. If we finish 2-2, or an ugly 3-1, then we can have our worry session.

And of course, it all depends on what the Braves do. 4 games up in the division feels pretty cushy in August, so I'm not complaining.

Also, can we talk about how well Detwiler has pitched lately? I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop there, but it keeps not dropping.

cass said...

I feel bad for the guy who has H-Rod as their favorite player. That'd be really frustrating. He has such great stuff that I could see someone falling for him.

In all seriousness, though, I always imagined Strasburg starting Game 1 of the World Series. I'll be extremely happy if the Nats make it that far, but it'll be weird to have someone else start that game.

Speaking of favorite players, though, I recall that Jake Peavy was Strasburg's. It's got to be surreal for him to be hearing Peavy's quotes about his shutdown now.

Jeff Hayes said...

@Evan - Thanks for the rundown. Sounds like a lot of guessing going on in that article.

Anonymous said...

Anyone worried about the Playoff bullpen? Assume that we start Jackson, Zimm, Gio, and Detwiler. We need 8 guys in the bullpen. If we add Lannan thats 4 lefties or god forbid Strasburg pitches in the playoffs, thats Detwiler which gives us 4 lefty relievers. I think the team needs another RH relief pitcher. Hopefully they pick one up from waivers and do not put HRod on the playoff roster.

Froggy said...

I'm in the a 'win is a win' column as Harper mentioned a few months ago, an April win is as good as one in September. That said, it does look like some of the guys are getting a little tired or the league is figuring them out.

I was going to say I get nervous in the head to head games with the Braves, but post ASB Hanson has a 7.45 ERA and although Hudson is pitching 3.16 post ASB, he is over 8.50 against the Nats.

Except for Hudson, the Braves hitting is keeping them in games, not pitching. And in spite of a tired BP, our pitching is better and will get us to the post season.

Nattydread said...

After Clippard blew the save in Game 1 vs Houston, it was impressive to see him get 2 K's with a man on third. Even though he didn't have his best stuff, he didn't choke either.

Froggy said...

Which kinda speaks to Strausburg innings limit...what's to say that Rizzo and Johnson are not limiting his innings now as opposed to doing it on the back end of the season? I think if we get to the post season there is no way he doesn't pitch.

blovy8 said...

I don't think the Nats need 12 pitchers in the postseason. Usually someone gets left out and you add a bat or a situational guy, like a fast runner, home run hitter, or some weird guy who matches up well against the opposing team. You never know, they might have DeRosa and he finally does something useful.

Barring injuries it would seem to be:



Some writers can't let go of their predictions, so they have to figure out a way for Atlanta to still win.

DezoPenguin said...

Explain something: ever since the start of the season, Rizzo has said Strasburg is on an innings limit. Johnson has said he is on an innings limit. Both have said Strasburg will pitch his normal turns in the rotation until they shut him down for the year. The media (from the blogosphere through ESPN) has called on them to do otherwise. Thus far, they haven't said anything other than the former and they certainly haven't deviated from the latter.

So what, other than wishful thinking, makes people think that they WON'T shut down Strasburg? What indication has there been that they have any desire to or thought of deviating from the predetermined plan?

That said, the good news is that thus far Detwiler refuses to pitch badly and Lannan has been good in his spot starts. And Harper's right about the bullpen: it's good top-to-bottom with Clippard, Storen, Burnett, Stammen, Gonzalez, Mattheus (who for some reason doesn't ever get mentioned?) and Gorzo; it's probably the best 'pen in all of baseball taken as a complete squad.

Anonymous said...

When the Reds were on their 10 game winning streak and everyone thought they were the best team in baseball, 2 of the wins in that streak were against the Astros in Houston where they came back twice against the Astros closer in the 9th inning (Fransico Codero who is now on the DL). Just win.

Ben said...

If anything, it is even better to win while playing like poodoo than to win while playing well because you know things will only get better. As long as you are winning, whatever the little league plays that hand it to you, all that matters is playing well at the end of September.

Also, does anyone really wanna see Gorzo in a playoff game? I know I don't. So lets all agree to leave him off lists of why the Nats bullpen is great just in case Davey learns how to use the internets.

Lee said...

Yup. A win is a win is a win. What has been a consistent theme all season...get us into a game late with a lead or a tie. Other team's pens will lose to ours more times than not. And here we had some scheduling luck...our pen hits a rough patch, but we are playing the Astros. I'll take a tie game against this bunch in the 8th every time if that is what is being offered.

Anonymous said...

I think it's far more likely they stretch Strasburg to 170 innings than they shut him down and bring him back in the playoffs.

And a curly W is a curly W. Next goal, 25 over .500.


Angels12 said...

Sparky Anderson once said "any team, no matter how good it is, will lose one third of its games. Any team, no matter how bad it is, will win one third of their games. It's what you do in the other third that counts"
These games this week are that "other" third.

Finally, nothing beats NOT having to use your bullpen......Gio gave the Nats bullpen exactly what they needed tonight from a number one, a complete game night off.

Harper said...

calindc - you aren't going to be on the post-season roster? I hope you still get your ring.

Wally - really wobbly? I think Gorzo has been fine. I don't think Davey be up for DLing an ok arm and replacing it with trash just to get a little rest. Think he'd prefer to work it out on his own. I think the best bet for rest is stretching out some of these pitchers an inning more. I guess you can use H-Rod more but the Nats need to get into some blowouts.

Evan/Jeff - Sounds like the article is really missing a key component - time. If the Braves don't make a move between now and the end of the next series there may not be enough time left to catch them without a dual worst month / best month situation.

Kenny - Yes, let's hold off scheduling worry sessions until the Braves get closer.

cass - well maybe he can throw out the first pitch? I'm sure Strasburg wants to pitch but I'm also sure he's going to do what they say and not comment on it.

Anon - No worry. You need 8 guys in the pen but you don't have to use them all. Get good SP and you can limit down to your best 4 or 5.

Froggy - I want to be really excited for that Braves series, hitting v pitching, NL East on the line. The Braves play against the Nats and during the year is making it hard though "Too bad"

I still say Strasburg sits.

Nattydread - even when he's off he's not terrible

blovy8 - nah I think you'll have 12 guys. I think Davey likes a deeper pen and the lineup doesn't necessarily need to be PH for.

Dezo - None. Which is why I've always agreed with you - he's going to get shutdown. We don't konw when but before season's end.

Anon - Fair point. A week from now these games will either be forgotten or Nats fans we'll be grateful they got them. No one looks back and curses bad wins.

Ben - For one batter maybe. More likely if you see Gorzo in a playoff game it means a starter got shelled. so no - don't want to see him

Lee - only thing is bas play rarely lasts just one series.

Chaos - Yep, no way you shut him down to bring him back. I think that would be even worse for an arm. 25 over? This year has been so good it may make next year hard to live up to.

Angels12 - actually I think games v the Astros fall into the winning 1/3rd.

cass said...

I'm well aware he won't be able to pitch in postseason, definitely not the World Series. I think this is the correct decision. I completely agree with Rizzo, Boswell, et. al. (And I rarely agree with Boswell...)

But it still feels wrong.