Monday, April 15, 2013
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.