Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie : Normalcy

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Quickie : Normalcy

The Nats took 2 of 3 from the D-backs, which is probably what they should do. This included their 4th straight one-run game which might get you worried about things breaking against the Nats soon, but their one-run record (23-16) isn't crazy given how good they are, so there's nothing here. They remain 4.5 games ahead of the Braves who took 2 of 3 from the Mets.  Why do I have a hard time seeing the Braves take the pennant ahead of the Nats despite how well they've played? Because of things like last night.  Give the Braves a hardship and they'll fight against it, give the Braves an opportunity and they'll fight against that too.

Next up is the Giants. The Nats miss Matt Cain, but Vogelsong, Bumgarner, and a revitalized Lincecum are nothing to sneeze at.  If the Nats were to lose a series the rest of this month, this is the one. Every team needs a slip up here and there so I'll say the Nats only win 1 and lose a game in the standings.

Some notes :

The Nats offense has been pretty good, but let's not think this is a team that can win a blow out game.  Their winning percentage in games where the other team scores 6+ runs is .176 - about average in the majors. Their winning percentage in games where the other team scores 2 or fewer runs is .872, good but not fantastic. What the Nats secret to winning then?  They have only given up 6+ runs 17 times this year, 6 games fewer than any other team.  They have held the opponent to 2 runs or less 47 times, 5 games more than any other team.  It's the pitching. It's the pitching. It's the pitching.

Not that the offense hasn't been pretty good, like I just said.  They are averaging 4.9 runs a game in August, good enough for 4th in the NL.  Who's #3?  Pittsburgh, 5.0. #2?  The Braves, 5.1. #1? The Giants, 6.4!  Why is SF so high?  Well, why did the Nats look like world beaters for a few weeks there when you saw "In the last X weeks the Nats have scored Y runs" blurbs. A nice trip to Colorado. So now the hottest offense in the NL takes on one of the hotter pitching staffs in the league (what - I told you Nats=pitching).  Something has to give I guess.


Bryan said...

This is my fear in the playoffs, and its what sank the Phils last year:

The good/great pitching continues to be good, but gets slightly more dinged against consistentl good playoff caliber hitting.

However, the hitting, only good right now sinks in the playoffs because the difference between pitching staffs of playoff teams and non playoff teams is a gaping gulf. Non playoff teams often feature noone you fear. Maybe 1 guy, sometimes a second. In a 3 game series you can hit 1 or 2 or even all 3 of their pitchers.

In the playoffs, you are seeing a staff with 3 or 4 good guys, and instead of a 5 man rotation bookended by Joe Slumpadink, you get all 4 good guys. In a 5 game series that is a killer.

The Phils looked like world beaters last year for the same reason. Great pitching, sufficient hitting. In the playoffs the pitching mostly showed up, but the hitting took a big step back, and it beat them

The pitching will have to be really, really special for this to work in the playoffs.

Harper, I'd very interested in your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think we'll make it to the World Series if we can just sign that phenom Joe Slumpadink.

Jeff Hayes said...

Interesting post this morning. I'm glad to see you set the bar low on the Giants series.

Concerning your stats on winning percentages against teams scorign 6+ or 2 or fewer runs. I'd be interested in how that has changed since the beginning of the season. Our offense has steadily improved month by month. Has our winning percentage in games in which the other team scored 2 or fewer runs increased as the season goes on? In other words, are our stats still being dragged down by our horrendous offense early in the year?

On the question of how we'll do in the playoffs, I'm not even going to think about that. Just winning the division is a HUGE step in my mind. Of course I want the Nats to win a World Series. But, as we've all said a thousand times, we weren't supposed to get this good until 2013. All of the people who are complaining that you might only get one shot at winning a World Series are over looking the fact that this team isn't built to win one World Series in just one year. The Phillies and Braves (in different periods) are great examples of teams in our own division that are competitive every year. Who here doesn't think we'll be in that position as well, at least for the next decade or so.

Joe Slumpadink said...

I'm ready coach, put me in!

calindc said...

I watched that Mets-Braves game last night. The Mets did everything possible to lose that game, but Atlanta refused to take a gift win.
In the ninth, there was 4 walks issued (one HBP) and a bases loaded double. Even when the third out was recorded it was a swinging strike-out in the dirt that wasn't immediately picked up by the catcher. The catcher took his sweet time trying to find he ball and barely threw out the runner by less than a half-step.

Six more games against this team, yes please.

Harper said...

Bryan - I don't know. Did that sink the Phils? Really the only game they were done in by superior pitching shutting down their average hitting was Game 5 against Carpenter (who they knocked out in 3 earlier in the series).

Hmmm most teams (including the Nats) should be able to take advantage of the short staff you talk about. Where this is a concern is if you're playoff team is anchored by a 1-5 who are not special but all decent. I don't think the Nats fall into that. Certainly not with ZNN, Strasburg and a first half Gio, but we aren't going to see that. Hmmm

Anon - can't - we spent the slot money on the horses.

Jeff - Yeah I wondered about that too. I'll look at it. My guess is though there were also so very few 6+ games to begin the year because the staff was doing so damn well then.

Yes - but as I'll note tomorrow (I hope) that competitive Braves team has made the playoffs once since 2006.

Joe - Go to college, Joe! You got bad mechanics.

calndc - I believe if Hayward could have just put it in play the Mets would have found a way to lose that game.

Mythical Monkey said...

The key is making the playoffs. After that, it's very nearly a pure crapshoot. The same twenty-five guys could win the Series or get swept in the first round, almost just depending on what they ate for breakfast that morning.

Just enjoy what you get.

As Buddha, who was probably a baseball fan, might have said, "That thou mayest have pleasure in everything, seek pleasure in nothing." At least come October.

Anonymous said...

"The Nats offense has been pretty good, but let's not think this is a team that can win a blow out game..." he writes just before the Nats put up 14 unanswered runs against Los Gigantes through 5 innings. Eat crow!

Harper said...

MM - you may have to console a lot of Nats fans this October with your sage words if they don't win it all.

Anon - Minnesota scored 9 last night too. Multiple juggernauts coming together!

A Fly Moses said...

@Harper: FWIW, the offense certainly may not be a juggernaut, but it is now 5th in the NL in wOBA and 3rd in wRC+...hard to really complain about that, esp. considering we still haven't been completely healthy. Pitching is still what the Nats do best, but I don't think the offense is really a problem anymore.

Harper said...

AFM - Agreed. The offense is not a problem with everyone (or all but one) healthy.