Nationals Baseball: Monday quickie

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday quickie

This isn't a big deal

As much as this sucks, these things happen. You lose games you are supposed to win and you win games you are supposed to lose. This includes being swept by your rival. It wasn't at home, but remember last year in mid-September the Nats got swept by Atlanta, when even one game would have salted away the division. Did it ruin the season? Nope. What about the 9-0 comeback game for Atlanta?  Did that send the Nats into a tailspin from which they never recovered? Nope. So it sucks, but it's not the end of the world. You can easily win a division with a couple of stinkers like this. If you want an example a couple years ago the Yanks started 1-8 (also 2-10) versus the Red Sox. That included two straight times getting swept in NY. The Yanks won the division. The Red Sox missed the playoffs.

While getting swept looks bad, really what you want to know is if these were competitive games.  The first two games were. A break here or there, some smarter play, and the Nats could have won either or both of those. The Braves are not substantially better than the Nats, even at their hottest. It sucks that that's all you can take positive from the weekend but it's still an important positive. They will be competitive with each other. Let's see what happens

But it's not nothing either

You can't dismiss what happened this weekend entirely though.  For the Nats in a vacuum the losses aren't a terribly big deal.  Let's say you think the Nats are a 95 win team in this tough division. What pace are they on right now?  94.5 wins.  If you assume they play out the 150 games remaining like a 95 win team they will still win 95 games. This isn't crashing into a wall, it's slowing down over a speed bump.

The problem though is the wins weren't in a vacuum. They lost and Atlanta won. Forget about pace right now. Atlanta is not going to win 149 games.  But what if you had Atlanta pegged as a 91 win team and they play out their remaining 150 games to that effect. (Ignoring that the first 12 might suggest they are better than that).  How many games do the Braves project out to win?  95.

That's the problem.  The Braves fast start has given them a leg up on the division, or at least equal footing. They'll have bad stretches, but it's going to be hard for the totality of bad vs good over 150 games to erase an 11-1 start entirely. The Nats didn't hurt themselves, but they did help the Braves.Which I guess is hurting themselves...

What's up with the pen? 

The starting pitching was good enough to win 2 games and no one thinks yesterday's Gio is the Gio we'll see most of the year. So the onus for the losses, on one level falls to the relief corps. Is there anything to be worried about here?  Possibly.  It's too early to worry for sure but I'd keep your eyes on  Clippard and Soriano.

At this point you hope to explain things with an unlucky BABIP. That's not the case with Clip.  His BABIP is at .143.  That's actually lucky.  The problem with Clip is that he's getting hit hard with almost nothing on the ground (7% GB, 60% FB) and his control is off, 5 walks in just over 5 innings. This is one of the hardest working arms in the business over the past 4 years and one that didn't look sharp to end last year. (8.00+ ERA in Sept)  Could he be getting tired/injured? 

For Soriano it's not the mileage, it's the years.  He's losing speed on his fastball and it's down almost a full MPH this year from 92.2 last year to 91.2 this.  Slow start? Perhaps but it's been on the decline since 2007.  Baseball is a game of inches and 1 MPH slower is a big difference.

Depressing fact of the day

Since last Labor Day the Nats have only won 2 of 8 series vs teams that finished 2012 over .500.


JonQuest said...

I defended Davey a little when he pulled Strasburg earlier in the year since I felt that it was early, but I also said that I wished Davey had given Stras the opportunity to prove that he can go deeper into games this year which is one of his goals.

I'm not going to defend Davey regarding Detweiler. When your #5 pitcher is cruising, has enough gas to at least get through 1 more inning, and his spot in the lineup isn't an issue.. let him pitch. I just don't understand the logic there of pulling him out. Help me understand?

The manager essentially let him have a good outing, but took away his chance to briefly carry the team. Stras will have many moments like that over his career, but I feel like Det is not the type of pitcher that will have a lot of chances to be great. He'll be good a lot. Let the man have a day to pick the team up when they need it.

Eric said...

"Let the man have a day to pick the team up when they need it."

To be fair, the team didn't need it at that point. They had just swept the White Sox and were up 4 - 1. There was no indication the Nats needed a pick me up. They were cruising...

JonQuest said...

I get your point, but the bullpen was used pretty heavily to get the sweep: 4 innings, 2 innings and then 4 again. I trust Davey and I know sometimes you make the best decision, but it just doesn't turn out for the best. I just don't understand the motive on that one.

Harper said...

JQ - 7 IP, 90 pitches and Davey's preference to leave them wanting more. Really that's going to be a sticking point as we move forward. Pulling guys early just so they leave happy is not going to cut it.

Would I have let Detwiler go another inning? Yes. Short leash and all (you don't want him up to 110 when there's no reason for it) but let him see if he can set them down quick and save one pen arm an inning. But I can't fault DAvey too much. like Eric says, it looked like they were cruising to an easy win and 4 in a row. You are kind of on automatic at that point.

Harper said...

Also - you have to remember that since being reinstated into the rotation Det's been an 85-95 pitch pitcher. Was 4-1 vs a rival the time to stretch him out? Again I would have, but I don't have an issue pulling a guy after giving up a hit or walk. Davey seemingly does. He prefers to pull after something good. (or at least that's what he's said this year)

cass said...

That was painful. Oh well. Wild Card teams have won the World Series before.

Donald said...

No need to panic yet. The next few series are going to be interesting. The Nats have 2 easy series away and 2 hard ones at home(Marlins, Mets, Reds, Cardinals). The Braves have a relatively tougher time of it, I think (Royals, Pirates, Rockies, Tigers). All but two games against KC are away for the Braves. If we can gain a game or two during this stretch, we get to the rematch in Atlanta at the end of the month. The Braves can't keep up their current pace, so they are bound to have some let down. Hopefully they get swept in Detroit while we are sweeping the Cards.

Kenny B. said...

The performances Atlanta is getting from Upton, Gattis, and Johnson have to be fluky, right? They can't be as good as they looked against the Nats.

Erich said...

I feel like the first couple of games have revealed a flaw in the pen. Someone out there isn't going to the player he was 2012 or earlier.
Essentially, I don't buy that all will bounce back. A couple of guys have caught bad breaks -- they bounce back. At least one guy is pitching like his new self and that's concerning.
I think the next couple of series are going to reveal who that is.

Anonymous said...

With so much focus on the Phillies and how awful an experience it was from 2007-2011 to go to Nats Park and have to deal with the visiting Phillie fans, is there a worse team to lose to at home than the Braves? The tomahawk chop is insufferable, and NOT EVEN THEIR OWN - the dominant mid-90s Braves teams stole it from FSU when the Seminoles were a powerhouse in football in the late 80's and early 90's.

Anonymous said...



Also, I forgot to ask if anyone else noticed the exact moment the ball stopped looking like a beach ball to Harper and he returned to being a 20-year old without a full year of major league service under his belt: the first AB right after the HR on Friday, a strikeout on 3 very fugly looking swings at offspeed junk. I dont think he has a hit since and has not looked the same since. Depressing. Hope he gets it back quick.

Erich said...

Yeah, I'm thinking Clippard as well.

Froggy said...

I'm trying to recall of the last 4 or 5 Strasburg outings I've watched when he actually was the 'dominant' pitcher everyone hypes him up to be. I'm not giving up on him, but I have finally taken my rose colored glasses off for sure. Yes he can throw the ball really hard and get people to miss, but when he keeps running the count up to 3-2 on the majority of hitters, it gets easier to guess what is coming next, and hence the reason they are shwacking the snot out of him.

And as to Davey never letting guys go past 7, I mean 4-1 lead and only 90 pitches? When IS there a better time to put your purse down and let the guy SHOW you he can do it?

Seems like a whole lot of other clubs don't have a problem with it.

Anonymous said...

Great article!!!!

Booyah Suckah! said...

Hey Harper, this is off topic, but is there some fancy sabremetric stat out there that adjusts a pitcher's opposition batting average based on the season-long batting average of the batters that pitcher faced? It seems to me that you might have two pitchers with the same Opp. BA but one of them faced the Mariners or the Astros 4 or 5 times a season and the other was facing the Braves or the Reds 4 or 5 times. Not all Opp. BAs are created equal.

Froggy said...

See how easy that was Davey?

Let the guys pitch out of trouble and you get complete game wins. Now ZMNN knows what 9 innings feels like.

Problem with my own comment is, if the game had been 6-0 and ZMNN had given up those 3 runs, there is no way he would have left him in to finish.

Harper said...

cass- booo!

Donald - relatively tougher. I think the key is to worry about what's in front of you - hope the other stuff works out. Sweep Miami.

Kenny B - Certainly fluky to the degree that they are playing but don't dismiss them entirely. Upton could be a stud (he has before), Gattis is an unknown that might be very good and Johnson... well he's a decent 3B if you need one (and they did). They have quality players.

Erich - well it happens. That's why you've got to plan for it and the Nats thought they were by bringing in Soriano and maybe promoting Mattheus/Stammen if nec.. We'll see how it works out in the log run.

Anon - right now I'd say losing to the Marlins at home would be worse... for entirely different reasons of course.

Anon #2 - yep that's his last hit. You can blame the K but he followed up with an 11 pitch walk and worked Kimbrel to 2-2 in the 9th. More reasonably - the kid ain't hitting .380. Had to come down sometime.

Forggy - a bit too hard on Strasburg, I think. He was dominant in the first game. He was dominant in the 2nd to last game last year. Real problem is he's mixed in a few stinkers. The test won't be pitching great - he can do that. It's avoiding pitching awful in between

Davey is Davey. No one has that issue except for him

Anon - thanks!

BS - Best bet is probably baseball-reference's RA9avg. Really though if you want to compare on this you use RAA. I'm still not convinced there isn't some double smoothing going on here and early in the year one bad outing against a bad team can throw things all out of whack.

Froggy - or if ZNN had been 10 pitches higher. Or if it hadn't been the Marlins. Or if the bullpen just hadn't gone through a bad and heavy stretch... It's a circumstance thing, I'm afriad

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